In Everton history few partnerships have been as enduring or excellent as that of Alf Milward and Edgar Chadwick. The pair dominated the Everton left through the 1890s, a period that encompassed a League Championship win, the notorious split with Liverpool and move to Goodison, two FA Cup Finals and a succession of other near misses.
‘There was a personality about the famous “left wing” of the Everton team of the ‘90's that led people –especially their own followers –to speak and think of them always as a “pair,”’ recalled Victor Hall in the Liverpool Echo in 1924. ‘People always spoke of Chadwick and Milward as the “left wing!” If through injury or illness, or other cause, one or other of the two stood down, then the “left wing” for that day at least, was not playing,’ They were, he added, ‘the most brilliant left wing pair that Association football had ever seen.’
Born in Marlow, Milward had been spotted as a teenager playing football in London. He started his Everton career as an 18 year-old tyro in the Football League’s inaugural season, but his breakthrough campaign came the following year when he was ever present as Everton finished close runners up to Preston North End. He was, recalled his captain of that season, Andrew Hannah, ‘a capital forward, although one of the youngest members of the team. He formerly played in the London district, where he earned for himself a reputation, which his play here has already enhanced.’
From the outset Milward seems to have built up an almost subliminal understanding with Chadwick. He was short and powerful and aggressive and superbly direct. ‘Nothing was more entertaining to the club's spectators than to see Milward at full gallop down the touch line,’ reported Victor Hall 30 years later, ‘His arms whirling in a mad ecstasy of sheer delight, outpacing every yard the panting defence with the faithful Edgar loping along fifteen or twenty yards in the arrear and slanting in towards goal for the pass he knew would come with mathematical accuracy once Milward had reached the required spot on the goalline.’
Milward, like Chadwick, was ever present as Everton lifted their first league title in 1891, outscored only by Fred Geary. With twelve goals from 22 games, he outscored Chadwick by two. But they were friends and team-mates above all. Milward was, wrote Hall ‘an immense admirer of his partner.’
‘To him, there was no player could hold a candle to Chadwick. In the roar of an exciting game when feelings were wrought and shouting of players and spectators alike were confusing to the ear –the loud shrill voice of Milward might be heard above the din as he raced to get into position for Chadwick's pass: - “Now! Edgar” his Cockney pronunciation of Edgar's name was unmistakable, and signaled effectually, so that the faithful Edgar need never raise his eye to look for the waiting partner's position; the voice signaled it –and sure enough the pass came true.’
Although considered in many minds a homogenous unit, Milward and Chadwick differed greatly in style. While Chadwick was first and foremost a dribbler, Milward was a scrapper, direct and impatient with the flourishes that stood between him and the goal. Chadwick would help in defence, but Milward was an attacker first and last. He ‘was not a natural defender,’ wrote Hall, although he was known to deputise in goal in emergency situations. ‘His buoyant spirit called for the wild career down the wing, for the flying charge, and the flying shot to the goalmouth where Geary or Chadwick could be trusted to meet the rebound, if the first shot found the goalkeeper or the crossbar in the way.’
Milward was among the group of players to resist the overtures of Everton’s ousted president, John Houlding, following the split of 1892, and he followed his teammates to their new home of Goodison. A second title would prove elusive, although after the title win Everton twice finished third and runners up in 1895. They were also nearly men in the FA Cup, reaching the final in 1893 and 1897 – the year that Milward scored in the semi final – but further medals did not come the way of the Marlow man. On four occasions he was capped by England, scoring three times.
Always one of the most popular members of the Everton dressing room, Milward had a reputation as an extrovert character and practical joker. ‘Jovial in spirits, fond of song or story, his personality was joyous, and on train journey or in smokeroom, the tedium of travel or training was lightened by his presence,’ wrote Hall. ‘Of his jokes, practical but harmless, there was no end, [and] of his yarns and experiences one could fill a book.’ This self confidence and swagger he also carried onto the field of play.
Perhaps surprisingly the second FA Cup Final was to be virtually the last action Milward saw in an Everton shirt. The final had caused a backlog of fixtures, meaning Everton had to play four league games in eight days. In addition to this the directors saw fit to play further friendly matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Reading. It was a grueling schedule and after Milward refused to play against Spurs he was reprimanded by the board and his wages stopped. Although an apology was accepted he was left out of the final game at home to Bury and sold to New Brighton Tower that summer, still aged only 26.
He returned to prominence with Southampton in the Southern League, where he resumed his partnership with Chadwick. In January 1900 he appeared against Everton in the FA Cup first round and scored a brace as Southampton humbled his former club 3-0. Later that year he made a third, unsuccessful, FA Cup Final appearance.
‘Milward called up bright reminisoenoes that clearly emphasised the loss the Everton club has sustained,’ recorded the Liverpool Mercury of his virtuoso cup performance. ‘[He is] capable of upholding the best traditions of the game [and] probably would be delighted to resume his old associations at Goodison Park, where he has so many well wishes.’ Alas, such a return proved elusive.