Long-serving goalkeeper Albert Dunlop was one of a handful of figures in Everton history whose background may euphemistically be described as ‘colourful’.
Signed by the club as a local teenager he had to wait some eight years to make his debut, serving as Everton’s number one for six seasons before losing his place to Gordon West. Off the pitch flirtations with dodgy business interests and drug taking were followed by a series of tawdry tabloid allegations made after his Goodison departure.
He was, recalled a colleague, a ‘menacing character’ and ‘troublemaker’; memories that tend to overshadow his capabilities as a goalkeeper.
Indeed, Dunlop was a fine custodian of the Everton net. He made his debut in October 1956 against the mighty Busby Babes at Old Trafford.
Up against the reigning league champions, Dunlop – with his team-mates – put in an astonishing performance as Everton won 5-2.
Never the tallest of goalkeepers, he overcame a lack of physical presence in his area with bravery and athleticism. ‘The vociferous Albert was also renowned for pointing out team-mates’ mistakes – real or imaginary – almost every time he was beaten,’ added the distinguished football historian, Ivan Ponting. Certainly in this era there was plenty of time for shouting. In October 1958 Dunlop would pick the ball out of his own net ten times as Everton fell to record 10-4 defeat.
As the 1960s dawned, a new era infused with the Moores millions, Dunlop remained a constant. But under the arch-disciplinarian Harry Catterick it was only a matter of time before he fell foul of the new manager.
THE GOALKEEPER, a former team-mate of Catterick, had already had numerous brushes with the club before Harry’s return as manager in April 1961. ‘Albert had few friends at the club and was known as something of a menacing character,’ recalled Alex Young. ‘He had always been a troublemaker ... Like most of my team-mates, I thought of him as someone to be avoided.’ In 1960 he opened a licensed club near to Goodison but was ordered by the board to sever all his connections. After Catterick’s return he sought to borrow money from the board to tide over his business interests. The board acceded to his request, but when Catterick found out he ‘reported that in his opinion Albert Dunlop’s business interests were not in the best interests of the Club, and it was agreed not to proceed with the arrangements to make him a loan’.
By then Dunlop had been edged out of the first team by West. He returned for the 1962/63 season conclusion, appearing in Everton’s last four games. When they lifted the League Championship on the last day of the season with a 4-1 win over Fulham, it would be his final appearance in an Everton shirt.
WEST was progressing well at Goodison, but Dunlop and Catterick never saw eye to eye. According to Young he ‘threatened’ the manager ‘numerous times’. When West was dropped the following season, Andy Rankin – and not Dunlop – took his place. At the end of the campaign he was sold to Wrexham, fuelling the shunned custodian’s anger.
HE WAS not long wreaking his revenge. In September 1964 Dunlop turned on his former team-mates, selling his story to the Sunday tabloid, the People. In it he included salacious allegations about drug taking among the Everton squad. He claimed that his former team-mates took Drinamyl, popularly known as ‘purple hearts’.
‘Many of the players started taking Benzedrine regularly early in 1961,’ he alleged. ‘I cannot remember how they came first to be offered to us. But they were distributed in the dressing room ... we didn’t have to take them, but most of the players did ... They were used throughout the 1961/62 season and the championship season which followed it. ‘Drug-taking had previously been virtually unknown at the club. But once it started we could take as many tablets as we liked. On match days they were handed out to most players as a matter of course. Soon, some players could not do without drugs. It became a sort of ritual for them to be handed out on Saturdays and other match days by our head trainer, Tommy Egglestone.’
According to Young, Dunlop was embittered at being sold to Wrexham ‘and swore to get even’. Years later he described the story as ‘a mindless act of vengeance by a troubled soul who had been discarded by his employer’.
MOREOVER, Young claimed that Dunlop ‘was no stranger to drugs’ and had himself become addicted. While in rehab, Young claimed, he had decided to sell his story to the People. The FA and Football League cleared Everton during investigations into the allegations, although as Ivan Waddington and Andy Smith muse in An Introduction to Drugs in Sport, ‘it is difficult to see what action the Football League ... could have taken, for though the use of stimulants was increasingly coming to be regarded as morally questionable, there were at that time no specific rules banning their use.’
Dunlop was subsequently player-manager of Rhyl. In 1979 he was found guilty of three charges of deception. He died in March 1990.