John Goodall, the son of a corporal in the Scottish Fusiliers, was born in London on 19th June, 1863. Two years later his father was posted to Edinburgh, and the family later moved to Kilmarnock.
After leaving school Goodall worked as an iron turner. A talented footballer he joined Kilmarnock Athletic and made his debut for the club at the age of seventeen.
Goodall was persuaded to move south and in 1884 joined the Bolton side Great Lever. His first game was against Derby County and Goodall scored four goals in the 6-0 victory.
Goodall joined Preston North End. in 1885. He developed a very good partnership with Jimmy Ross. In one game against Dundee Strathmore, he scored nine goals in a 16-2 win. He also scored a hat-trick in Preston's 5-0 semi-final win against Crewe Alexandra. Goodall also played in the 2-1 defeat against West Bromwich Albion in the 1888 FA Cup Final.
In March, 1888, William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa, circulated a letter suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season."
In April, 1888 the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Everton and Preston North End) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers).
The first season of the Football League began in September, 1888. Preston North End won the first championship without losing a single match. Goodall, who was captain of the team, scored 20 goals in 21 games that season.
In 1889 Goodall was transferred to Derby County. The full cost of the deal was not disclosed but part of the inducement package included the tenancy of the public house, The Plough on London Road in Derby.
Goodhall is also credited with discovering the great Steve Bloomer, who formed an excellent partnership with his mentor. Bloomer later said that "Goodall took the greatest interest in me when I was a kid. He coached me, secured me for Derby County, played with me and never failed to give me valuable hints and advice." Bloomer added: “Johnny Goodall was a wonderful footballer, brilliant captain and Nature’s gentleman, but little did I think when all the fuss was made over his arrival from Preston what an influence for good was being brought into my life. I always maintain that no player has ever known as much about football and its methods than this old friend of mine.”
During his career Goodall developed a reputation for playing the game in an excellent spirit. Peter Seddon has pointed out: "The Derby County players were the new breed of hard-bitten thoroughbred professionals, mostly working class men who played for money without a hint of shame. Football to them was a job. In contrast, the Gentlemen of England were the old breed of unpaid amateurs – all highly-talented players in their own right, but mostly university-educated men of privileged background and professional standing who played for the love of the game rather than “filthy lucre”... The man in whose honour the yawning gap was bridged was Derby County’s own “gentleman professional” John Goodall, whose fine character and reputation for fair play was held in such universal esteem that he earned the sobriquets “Honest John” and “Johnny Allgood”."
In 1896 officials of the club arranged a benefit game for John Goodall. The match between Derby and a team of the best amateur players in the country, raised £277, an amount equivalent to almost two years’ wages for an average professional footballer at the end of the 19th century.
Derby County had a good FA Cup run in the 1897-98 season. They beat Aston Villa (1-0), Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0), Liverpool (5-1) and Everton (3-1) on the way to the final against Nottingham Forest. Steve Bloomer scored for Derby but they lost the game 3-1. Derby also reached the FA Cup Final in 1899 but this time they lost 4-1 to Sheffield United.
Goodall left Derby County in 1899. He had scored 76 goals in 211 games for the club. He also played for New Brighton Tower, Glossop, Watford, Racing Club Roubaix and Mardy before he retired.
Goodall also played first-class cricket for Derbyshire, represented England at bowls and was an excellent billiards player. Goodall also wrote a book on the skills needed to play football.
John Goodall died aged 78 on 20th May, 1942.
There is a story told that when Bloomer was first proposed as inside-right for the match against Ireland, about a month before he faced Scotland, a member of the International Selection Committee, our dear departed friend Charles Crump, asked: "Who is Bloomer?" Whether the story can be proved true I doubt, but there was no necessity to inquire again, for he was the free gift of Nature to football. I have seen multitudes of players, but never a more effective inside-forward in a big match.
The greater the match the better he played. This is the decisive test of a man in any sport; the capacity to rise above his normal form, to give his best when the best is needed. As he is still with us and occasionally watches a match, such as England v. Austria and a tense Cup tie, it is evident that the passing of years has not killed his interest in the game.
He and John Goodall went to see the tie between Arsenal and Derby County, his old club with which his name will always be linked, in February, 1934. How he must have longed to be young enough to have played!
When 46 years of age, in 1920, he was careful to point out that the place of his birth was Cradley Heath, which is in Worcestershire, and not in Staffordshire. His parents moved to Derby when he was five years old. He learned his football with the Derby Swifts, a club of school boys. John Goodall, who happened
to be born in London, but was brought up in Kilmarnock and became a player of the Scottish type, before he joined Great Lever and then Preston North End in its famous days, was with Derby County and saw the boy Bloomer when he was one of the Swifts.
Various people have claimed the credit of discovering Bloomer, but Goodall is entitled to it from what I heard one day, when England were playing Scotland at the Crystal Palace. If I remember rightly this was Bloomer's twenty-first appearance in England's national eleven. Bloomer said that day that "Goodall took the greatest interest in me when I was a kid. He coached me, secured me for Derby County, played with me and never failed to give me valuable hints and advice." Yes, he was engaged for 7s. 6d. per week!
In 1893 on the Victoria Grounds, Stoke, Bloomer made his first appearance at inside-right in a League match against the chief club of the Potteries. There was a vacancy and Goodall, the captain of Derby County, recommended him at 19 years of age for the position. He finished his career on January 24, 1914, when 40 years old. His club had the confidence to ask him at that age to play centre-forward against Bradford City, and he had the courage to do so.
Of course, he scored hundreds of goals. The football annuals tell us that his total in League games was just over 350, but he once reckoned them to be 450. I am not a keeper of statistics, but I do know that he was a match-winner and got 28 goals for England; eight against Scotland, eleven against Ireland and nine against Wales. His first against Scotland was in 1895, and his last in 1907.
Some of the newspapers used to say that Bloomer got his usual goal. Once it was reported that Bloomer got his goal, but that was all he did! One smiled, for a goal covers a multitude of sins on the field.
Yes, he was a great marksman, and his splendid passes were generally made with one touch. He had no time for fancy work. Bloomer, of course, made mistakes like everyone else, but he was the superior of everyone I ever saw as a scorer. A great volleyer in front of goal, he placed his ground shots at a fast pace, out of the reach of the keeper and slantwise. But the keepers used to say that it was difficult to tell which foot he would use for a shot. They have been known to say, "Steve, you would not have beaten me this time but you changed your foot."
And he had an intense admiration for G.O. Smith. The Old Carthusian, according to both Goodall and Bloomer, was so easy to play with, and he was a man without petty pride. Smith used to call out "Steve," and he made the position so favourable that in the twinkling of an eye the ball was in the net. And whether you counted it a good shot or not, Bloomer held that there was never a bad shot that scored. I firmly believe that Bloomer in many respects never had a superior.
On Saturday, January 25, 1896 a most unusual game was staged at Derby County’s Baseball Ground – a testimonial billed as “Derby County versus The Gentlemen of England”.
At face value, the contest was unremarkable. Foul weather restricted the gate to a disappointing 5,000, as Derby County ran out winners by 4-3.
And this was no thriller – in truth Derby’s well-drilled professional players, fresh from a training break at a state of the art hydropathic establishment in Ashover, won at a mere canter.
But thereby hangs the tale. The Derby County players were the new breed of hard-bitten thoroughbred professionals, mostly working class men who played for money without a hint of shame.
Football to them was a job. In contrast, the “Gentlemen of England” were the old breed of unpaid amateurs – all highly-talented players in their own right, but mostly university-educated men of privileged background and professional standing who played for the love of the game rather than “filthy lucre”.
That made the friendly fixture an unlikely one indeed, since voluntary fraternisation between the “pure” amateurs and “tainted” professionals was hardly to be encouraged.
The man in whose honour the yawning gap was bridged was Derby County’s own “gentleman professional” John Goodall, whose fine character and reputation for fair play was held in such universal esteem that he earned the sobriquets “Honest John” and “Johnny Allgood”.
So the John Goodall Testimonial was far more than just another friendly fixture – the Baseball Ground that day witnessed a symbolic moment in football history. It was the moment the posh old guard paid public homage to the common new breed – the day when professional football, hitherto reviled by much of educated society, truly came of age.