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Goodison Park celebrates its 125th birthday!

Today marks 125 years since the Grand Old Lady hosted her first game

Everton v Stoke City - Premier League
Goodison Park at her most recent outing
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

This article was first published on September 2nd, to commemorate when the first game was played at Goodison Park. Everton will mark the 125th anniversary this Saturday when the Toffees take on Tottenham.

The history of Everton’s stadium is woven into the story of the club’s early days that led to move away from Anfield to a patch of land known as Mere Green Field, described at the time as having 'degenerated from a nursery into a howling desert'.

Goodison Park was the first purpose-built major football stadium built in England, back in 1892. The original venue cost nearly £5,000 to build at the time, with the two open stands seating 4,000 each and the covered main stand holding 3,000 fans. That original investment is equivalent to over £585,000 now due to inflation over the years, but for perspective, the price tag of the Bramley-Moore Docks stadium the Blues are looking to move into rumoured to cost up to £300 million.

From the story on the stadium’s history -

The publication 'Out Of Doors', reported in October 1892: "Behold Goodison Park! No single picture could take in the entire scene the ground presents, it is so magnificently large, for it rivals the greater American baseball pitches. On three sides of the field of play there are tall covered stands, and on the fourth side the ground has been so well banked up with thousands of loads of cinders that a complete view of the game can be had from any portion.

"It appears to be one of the finest and most complete grounds in the kingdom, and it is hoped that the public will liberally support the promoters."

In the first ever football match played at the Grand Old Lady, Everton beat Bolton 4-2 to inaugurate the stadium.

It was only a couple of decades later that Goodison Park as we know it started to look like the present. Again from the Everton site -

The Goodison Park of today really began to take shape after the turn of the century, beginning in 1907 with the building of a double-decker stand at the Park End, costing £13,000. In 1909, the large Main Stand on Goodison Road was built. Costing £28,000, it housed all the offices and players' facilities and survived until 1971.

The architect of the two-tiered stand was Archibold Leitch, with the front balcony bearing his criss-cross trademark, a design that can still be seen on the Bullens Road stand and has been used in kit designs as well.

Another major change came in 1926 with the addition of another double-decker stand on the Bullens Road side opposite the main stand, once again designed by Leitch with his criss-cross patterns.

The innovation did not end there, however the next one was an idea from Aberdeen in the 1930s. Following a friendly at Pittodrie where the first ever dug-outs for coaching staff were made, Everton borrowed the idea and soon every other venue in England and then across the world featured covererd dug-outs for coaches and substitutes.

The floodlights at Goodison first came on for an Everton vs Liverpool friendly game in October 1957, which would be an unbelievable event now. The year after, Everton installed undersoil heating to melt frost and ice but that promptly overflowed the drains, so new drainage pipes had to be laid in 1960.

The Grand Old Lady was then used at the biggest stage in 1966, hosting five games of the World Cup, including the quarter final between Eusebio’s Portugal against North Korea, and the semi-final between West Germany and the Soviet Union.

The design changes did not end there, and in 1971 the double-decker Main Stand was torn down and replaced by a new three-tiered Main Stand, at the cost of £1 million (nearly £15 million today). It was nearly twice the size and was one of the largest in the United Kingdom for decades after.

However two safety-related legislations led to a reduction in the capacity and look of the stadium. The Safety of Sports Grounds Act in 1977, reducing it from 56,000 to 35,000. Following the Taylor Report after the Hillsborough disaster, the paddock, enclosure and Gwladys Street terracing were all converted into seated accommodation.

Presently, the ground capacity is 39,572 with only cosmetic changes taking place at the stadium in the Premier League era as the club focuses on finding and moving to another home.