English striker Steve Bloomer can be considered to be the world’s first great football player. Prolific in front of goal in the late 19th and early 20th century, he achieved legendary status at Derby County and scored goals at an astonishing rate at international level, setting a record that would last several decades.
Steve Bloomer’s career began with Derby County in 1892, and he would enjoy two spells at the club over a period of more than twenty years. In his fourteen year first spell at Derby, he was the leading scorer in the English league five times and helped the club to reach two FA Cup finals, although they were unsuccessful each time. In 1895, he made his international debut for England on his home ground at Derby and scored twice in a 9-0 win over Ireland.
Bloomer’s finest international achievement came in 1896, scoring five goals in a 9-1 win over Wales in Cardiff. He scored a total of 19 goals in ten England games from March 1885 to March 1889.His international career ended in 1907, the year after he left Derby to join Middlesbrough.
Winning only 23 caps for England due to the limited number of internationals at the time, Steve Bloomer scored 28 goals to set an English record that lasted until after the Second World War. Although reasonably successful in four years at Middlesbrough, scoring more than sixty goals, the move was a disaster for Derby who were relegated without Bloomer and in 1910 they re-signed him for a second spell.
Steve Bloomer led Derby to promotion in the first season after his return, and would spend four more years at the club before ending his playing career in 1914 after more than 500 games for Derby which brought a record 332 goals, a record which stands to this day. Having retired, Bloomer moved to Germany to coach Berlin Britannia, but shortly after he took up the job the First World War began and he found himself imprisoned in Germany.
Returning to Derby after his release to join the coaching staff, Steve Bloomer spent another five years at the club before becoming coach of Spanish club Real Union Irún in 1923. He led the club to famous victories over several of Spain’s top clubs before returning again to Derby in 1925 as assistant coach, also working as a journalist before his death in 1938, aged 64.