Left winger Bobby Evans was born in Chester, on the English side of the border but of Welsh parents. He started his football career with junior clubs Bretton in 1900 and Saltney Ferry Works in 1902. In December 1904 he moved to Chester but played just one League and one Welsh Cup match for the club (both against Wrexham) and returned to Saltney Ferry. He was then spotted by the Welsh professional club Wrexham for whom he signed in the summer of 1905, in time for their inaugural season in the Birmingham and District League. He made his debut for Wales in a 2-0 victory over Scotland on 3rd March 1906; this was followed by a 1-0 defeat by England a few days later. These performances attracted the attention of First Division Aston Villa who signed him in the summer of 1906 for a fee of £30, and he made his Football League debut for them at Preston North End that November.
Whilst at Villa he continued to add to his tally of Welsh caps. Despite this, he made only occasional appearances for Villa, playing 10 matches in 1906-07 and seven in 1907-08 when Villa finished runners-up in the Football League, scoring 4 goals in total. In the summer of 1908 he moved (with Peter Kyle for a combined fee of £1,100) to Sheffield United where he soon became an automatic first choice player. He continued to appear for Wales until by 1910 he had ten Welsh caps with two goals to his credit. He had played four times against England, the 1-0 loss in 1906, the 1-1 draw in 1907, the 7-1 loss in 1908 and the 1-0 loss in 1910. His final appearance for Wales was against Ireland on 11th April 1910 when he scored twice in a 4-0 victory.
It was then discovered that, although both his parents were Welsh, he had been born on the English side of the border in Chester and was therefore also qualified to play for England.
The Courier reported in January 1911 as follows:
“ENGLAND AND WELSH ASSOCIATIONS ARE AT LOGGERHEADS OVER ROBERT EVANS.
“The choosing of R. Evans (Sheffield United) to be outside left for the ‘Whites’ in the international trial match at Tottenham on Monday next is likely to lead to complications. Evans played for Wales against England in 1906-7-8-10, against Scotland in 1906-8-9-10, and against Ireland in 1906-10. Thus the possessor of ten Welsh caps has at last been chosen to play for his place in an English side. The ground for this action is the belated discovery that Evans was born in Chester, which is on the border of Wales. In the International Board agreements it is stated—’In international matches the qualification of players shall be birth. In the case of British subjects born abroad their nationality shall be decided by the nationality of their fathers.’ According to custom, then, Evans is an Englishman. He has played four times against his own country. The doubt now is whether he will be able to play for Wales again.”
He then made four appearances for England, all at outside left and all as a Sheffield United player, in 1911 and 1912, including 3-0 and 2-0 victories against Wales. He scored his only England goal on his debut against Ireland on 11th February 1911 at Derby’s Baseball Ground, an 87th minute strike that proved the winning goal in a 2-1 win.
A regular for Sheffield United over seven seasons, he was also a member of The Blades’ team that won the FA Cup Final in 1915 when they beat Chelsea 3-0 in the so-called “Khaki Cup Final” at Old Trafford immediately before the onset of the First World War forced the suspension of peacetime football. After 39 goals in 216 appearances for Sheffield United he retired from playing professionally during the First World War, after joining Tranmere Rovers later in 1915, and after the War he turned out for non league teams Sandycroft, Crichton’s Athletic, Saltney Ferry and Brookhurst.