Everton’s signing of inside right Frank Jefferis in March 1911 came at a time when they were still remodelling the great forward line that had served them so well through the previous decade. Jack Sharp had called time on his Everton career the previous summer and the days of Sandy Young and Bertie Freeman were drawing to a close. With their tight and well-organised defence, Everton had at one stage in the 1910/11 season threatened a title challenge, briefly topping the table in early February. But goals were a perennial problem and the board sought to redress this with fresh blood.
That month the club brought Tom Fleetwood from Rochdale, inside left Tom Gracie from Morton, Louis Weller from Chesterfield and Jefferis – for a fee of £1500 – from Southampton. ‘Everton have been making very energetic raids on certain club reserves with the intention of building up their team in its weakest department –namely forward,’ reported the Liverpool Echo. ‘Everton have a number of forwards who touch a certain standard, and do not get beyond that standard. The club’s officials, I have reason to believe, have adopted this attitude. We give every man a splendid chance to show his worth, and for those failing to come up to the proper mark we must find better exponents of the game.’
‘Jefferis,’ recorded the Echo, ‘has been the idol of Southampton for some years and he would never have been released but for his club’s financial difficulties. Jefferis is a very steady fellow, well behaved and abstemious, and maybe he is stronger at twenty-six than some footballers are at twenty-three.’ His debut came three weeks later, in a 1-0 win at Blackburn. Of this ‘early impression’ the Echo wrote: ‘Jefferis has had much experience, and can make some very neat transfer to [George] Beare. He is dainty in his movements and is an old Everton platform. Much like Wilford Toman in appearance on the field. Jefferis played a quiet game, and effectively yesterday against that able half-backs, Bradshaw.’ Jefferis played five times in the 1910/11 season run-in, scoring once. But he couldn’t propel the club to an unlikely league title and they finished fourth, seven points behind Manchester United.
Jefferis would start the first 28 matches of the 1911/12 season, and although goals were still hard to come by, by January the club had risen to second place and a title challenge was on the cards. A 4-0 win at home to champions United in January showed Everton’s title credentials. ‘This was acknowledged to be Everton’s most convincing performance for a long time,’ wrote the Merseyside football historian, Percy Young. ‘[Frank] Bradshaw scored two goals and he and Jefferis were scintillatingly brilliant at inside forward, while [Willie] Davidson was a fine outside left and [Harry] Makepeace the best wing-half on the field.’ Everton faltered in early March, but were still in the league running when they travelled to Roker Park to face title favourites Sunderland in what was effectively the Championship decider on 6 April. Jefferis lined up at inside right, but in a story that will be familiar to generations of Evertonians the team capitulated, losing 4-0. Three weeks later the season concluded with Everton runners-up to Sunderland, just three points off the pace.
What a succession of talented Everton teams through the first years of the 20th century sorely lacked was a prolific centre forward. In the exuberant Bertie Freeman they briefly had one, but the board let him go in a period of transition. But in December 1913 a fitting replacement finally arrived from Glasgow Rangers: Bobby Parker. He scored 17 times in just 24 matches in the remainder of the 1913/14 season and, reported one correspondent, ‘Parker and Jefferis displayed a perfect understanding.’ The next season Parker would score 36 goals from 35 appearances and finally edge Everton to League Championship glory.
JEFFERIS HAD sat out the second half of that season due to a knee injury but would figure in the regional leagues throughout the war years. By the time peace came he was in his mid- thirties and chances were harder to come by. In January 1920, a £1500 bid from Preston North End was accepted. Jefferis would carry on playing until nearly aged 43, combining player-coach roles at Preston with two spells at Southport. He later worked as a coach at Millwall and died of a heart attack at their training ground in 1938.