Steve Bloomer - Football's First Superstar
Steve Bloomer (1874-1938) played inside-right for Derby County, Middleborough and England. 1892-1914. His story as a man is an inspiration and his uniqueness within the history of football places him deservedly as the first superstar, unequalled 100 years on.
Steve Bloomer's watching after statue is unveiled at Pride Park
He was the epitome of the old adage that the first yard in football is in the mind. His quick thinking and reading of the game meant that although a slightly built man, he terrorized defences. His strength and ability to shoot accurately and powerfully with both feet meant he could score from almost any angle once he had found space.
By 1905, when he set the England scoring and appearance records which still stand, he was a national institution and internationally renowned. Bloomer made his England debut in 1895 against Ireland, aged 21, scoring twice. He bowed out against Scotland in 1907, scoring once... from the halfway line (the ball barely touching the ground yet never rising above the knee!). He scored in each of the first ten internationals. His 28 goals in 23 appearances for England were a record until 1956 and he is still second only to Jimmy Greaves in the all-time scoring records in the top division, over 100 years since he last played.
Steve Bloomer stands astride two very different versions of the game in the history of football. Street Football, the violent ‘game’ that was played by entire parishes through market towns and usually resulted in serious injuries and often fatalities before finally being banned in the middle of the 19th century and Association Football, the more artistic gentleman’s pursuit. In Bloomer’s day, the division started and ended between the two separate strands of football – street football for the poor, and the founding and organization of the F.A. for the rich. Steve Bloomer was one the minority of prominent footballers from an impoverished background yet he achieved a status worthy of respect from all to bestride the gap between the two.
Both Steve’s father Caleb and his mother’s father were nail makers. Caleb worked at an iron foundry - a blacksmith, as was to be his son Stephen. In Middle English a ‘blome’ was an impure ingot of iron, later known as ‘bloom’ It had to be passed through a refining process and the man in charge of that activity, not entirely surprising, was a ‘Bloomer’. When the Bloomers moved from the Black Country to Derby, nationally as well as locally, the game had developed among the moneyed classes and the industrial workers at the same time. Out of college reunions on one side (Old Etonians etc.) and the new half holidays granted to workers on the other, the game that begins and ends with a handshake grew quickly from those shared Saturday afternoons and The FA was formed in 1863. Football has now grown to be the planet's most culturally vital game unites 208 nations and 6 billion people.