Halliwell, Bolton, Lancashire born full back Ephraim Longworth began his football career with Chorley Old Road Congregationals in 1903 and played for Bolton St Luke’s in 1904, Halliwell Rovers in 1905 and Hyde in 1906 before spending 1907-08 on the books at Bolton Wanderers, without making their first eleven. In 1908 he joined Southern League Leyton, and it was while playing for the Londoners that he came to the attention of Liverpool, who signed him in May 1910, the start of an 18 year association with the Anfield club, becoming one of their all time great players.
He made his Football League debut at Sheffield United in September 1910, playing at right back (although he played both sides) and missed only one match in their 1911-12 campaign. A regular in Liverpool’s teams before the First World War, he played in their 1914 FA Cup Final defeat to Burnley at The Crystal Palace but his career was then interrupted by the onset of the War, which forced the suspension of peacetime football for four seasons from 1915.
He first appeared for The Football League in 2-1 victory over The Southern League in Manchester in September 1912 and also played in the final pre-war inter-league match with The Scottish League, a 4-1 victory for The Football League at Celtic Park in March 1915, making a total of 6 career appearances for The Football League, and after the War he played in two of England’s unofficial Victory Internationals, both against Scotland, first in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park in April 1919 and then in a 4-3 win at Hampden Park a week later.
Resuming with Liverpool after the War, he won his first England cap in England’s 5-4 win over Scotland at Hillsborough in April 1920, making his international debut at the comparatively veteran age of 32 years and 190 days, and he subsequently went on The Football Association Tour to South Africa that summer. Longworth has the distinction of being Liverpool’s first ever England captain, when he was given the honour in only his second England appearance a 2-0 win against Belgium in Brussels in 1921. He won three more England caps in March and April 1923.
He was a key member of Liverpool’s team that won back to back League Championships in 1921-22 and 1922-23, in the latter campaign missing only one match, and helping to form one of the best defences in Liverpool’s history. Previously the club captain, Longworth actually lost his place in the Liverpool team midway through the 1921-22 season to Tommy Lucas and resigned as captain contrary to the wishes of the Board and teammates. A scribe at the Derby Day Telegraph fully understood his reasons: “When a captain is left out of the side more often than he plays what can a man do?” Left back Donald Mackinlay was appointed captain in his place in January 1922. Longworth eventually regained his spot in the first eleven and featured in the last dozen matches of Liverpool’s victorious season.
From the start of the 1925-26 season his first team appearances became more occasional, Longworth’s final game for Liverpool came in a 2-0 defeat against Birmingham at St Andrews on 21st April 1928, already 40 years old. He never scored for Liverpool in 371 appearances for The Reds, although he did manage to score three goals in 119 wartime matches for Liverpool. He revealed in the Liverpool Echo perhaps why he struggled to score goals: “Some backs love to roam and I am convinced by practical effects that they are wrong. I don’t disagree with any full back going forward when he sees the open door as it were. But as a rule it is wrong for full backs to wander. There is the vital necessity of defence to be remembered and any defence spreadeagled is asking for a peck of trouble.” After retiring in 1928, he served on Liverpool’s backroom staff as a coach for much of the 1930’s.
In 2006, despite having been retired for almost 80 years, Longworth was voted in at 72nd place following a survey on Liverpool’s website entitled ‘100 Players Who Shook the Kop’.