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Steve Bloomer: England Football Player

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss

England Caps: 23

Goals: 28

Player: 1895 - 1907

Steve Bloomer’s twelve year England career saw many records set and quite a few of them never broken. Eight times out of those twelve seasons England with Bloomer, won the Home Championship, the World Cup of its day.

Derby County

Bloomer signed professional forms for his local club, Derby County, in 1892, and scored four goals on his debut! In his second season in the Derby County line-up, he was their top scorer, and he would go on to be their top scorer for the next twelve seasons.

England Debut

In March 1985, on the way to being crowned the highest scorer in the league, Bloomer was handed his England debut in a Home Championship match against Ireland. Playing as a forward, at inside-right, he scored two goals in a 9-0 white-wash, and became a regular player.

Partnership with G.O. Smith

In the next season’s championship, Bloomer became the second of only four England players to score five goals in one match, in a 9-1 win against Wales. It was the second time that Bloomer had accompanied the famous G.O. Smith in the forward line, Smith claiming two of the other goals. Each player complimented the other as their favourite partner in the England attack.

Oddly, like Smith, Bloomer was of slight build rather than the big, strong forwards so common in those days. Although Bloomer was not a dribbler, in common with G.O. he could make goals as well as score them, using with superb vision and accurate passing. It was no wonder that they enjoyed feeding off each other.

Rocket Fuelled Boots

Bloomer could strike with either foot, with power and accuracy and from all distances and angles, often using the front of his foot, not the instep, which used less back-lift and took players by surprise. His specialism was the ‘daisy cutter’, a fast straight shot travelling just above the ground, hard for keepers to get down to.

In 1901, for once without Smith beside him, Bloomer scored four goals in one match, Wales again being the unlucky whipping-boys in a 6-0 win. This made him the first ever England player to score four or more goals on two occasions.

Unbeaten Record

This particular feat has never been beaten, although it has been equalled. And for those who point to Wales, then at a young age in the international football arena, being the opposition, surely modern players should be able to do it against teams of the likes of Andorra and Liechtenstein?

Bloomer’s strike rate slowed down in the last few years of his twelve-year England career and this coincided with more drawn matches rather than outright wins. England's record with Bloomer playing was: 23 played, 15 won, drawn 6, lost 2 (both against Scotland).

Club Move

Unusually for a player in those days, Bloomer had switched clubs in 1906, moving to Middlesbrough where he became their top scorer in two of the four seasons that he spent there. He returned to County for the rest of his playing days, retiring in 1914.

Although England hadn’t played any teams outside the British Isles during Bloomer’s England playing career, they had begun to do so with the first summer tour of the continent in 1908. So after retirement, Bloomer joined the growing trend of ex-players going to the continent to coach.

Slight Error of Judgement

Unfortunately he chose Britannia Berlin 92 in Germany, and was interned three weeks after his arrival when World War I broke out. Spending the whole war in a camp in Ruhleben, he was instrumental in forming cup and league competitions with other players of all nationalities similarly incarcerated.

Continental Success

After release, he coached initially in the Netherlands and then Spain, with great success, before returning to Derby County to coach the reserves and take on other general management posts. He died in 1938 after problems with bronchitis and his funeral was a massive occasion, the like of which Derby has not seen before or since.

Placing Bloomer in Perspective

Although 23 caps isn’t such a large number these days, in the context of the times it was formidable. There were usually only three international matches each year, as only the four home countries were regularly playing international football. To make goal-scoring harder, keepers could handle anywhere in their own half, and the offside rule could be applied when a player was still in their own half. Bloomer’s explanation as to how he scored so many goals under these strictures was simple: “I try to get there first” he said.

Top Ten Marksman

Steve Bloomer’s record as an England marksman is so impressive that he is still, over a century after his last game, in the top ten table, with 28 goals. He appears at number nine, just behind Vivian Woodward, whose England appearances over-lapped Bloomer’s toward the end of his career.

Bloomer is still one of only a handful of England players to have an average of more than one goal per game, and, with the exception of Michael Owen, who has already passed it, no current England player is within even ten goals of Bloomer’s total.

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