Ronny Goodlass – Blue Nose
I have a huge collection of Everton related books – autobiographies, biographies, club histories, stats books etc. Must be around 150 of them. They vary in their quality, from the engrossing biographies by the likes of Rob Sawyer and James Corbett, to autobiographies that are sometimes quite self absorbed, smug, often ghost written affairs that often carry factual inaccuracies. I know Graham’s views on autobiographies – he is not generally a fan! But in my hunger for anything blues related, I still buy them and display them with pride. In the case of ‘Blue Nose’ I have a vested interest as I have spoken to Ronny many times and see him as a great ambassador for our football club and an all round good guy. And there is the added bonus that in buying the book, I am helping his worthy ‘Health Through Sport’ charity.
This book is an autobiography of a footballer but could equally be classed as the memoirs of an Everton fan. His love for our great club is evident all the way through from the first page to the last. I don’t think I have read a book by an ex Everton player that speaks more lovingly of the Toffees, or is spoken through the eyes of a fan as this one, not even those by other ex players who grew up as Everton fans. Sometimes when reading the match snippets of games he played in you aren’t entirely sure if Ronny was playing or watching – it is a real labour of love. For a man sold by the blues as a player and ‘relieved of his duties’ as a youth team coach at the end of the Joe Royle era, there is no bitterness expressed, just a ‘c’est la vie’ attitude.
For younger readers who don’t know much about Ronny, he was a flying winger who provided a lot if the crosses for Bob Latchford (before we signed Dave Thomas). Ronny came through the youth system at Everton alongside the likes of Mick Buckley and George Telfer, scoring 40 goals in 185 games at all levels. He played 51 times for the first team, scoring twice, including playing all three games in the 77 League Cup final and providing the cross for Bryan Hamilton to score only for Clive Thomas to disallow it in the infamous 1977 FA Cup semi Final. After leaving Everton, Ronny was pretty much a pioneer of playing on the continent for NAC Breda and ADO Den Haag in Holland before returning the England to play for Fulham, Scunthorpe, Tranmere and Barrow, as well as a short spell in Hong Kong. After hanging up his boots, he coached at Everton under Joe Royle, with the likes of Michael Ball, Danny Cadamarteri and Richard Dunne under his tutelage. Since then he has been heavily involved with his charity ‘Health Through Sport’ and works on Radio Merseyside as a pundit, known for his honest opinions.
As you might expect from an autobiography, it starts with tales of Ronny’s youth and growing up in Everton, before his family moved to West Derby during the times of the ‘slum clearances’ (a term Ronny is not overly fond of). This part of the book particularly strikes a chord with me as my dad always regaled me with stories of growing up in Rupert Grove and the surrounding areas and always makes me wish I had listened even more intently to his stories. It may not have been the most glamorous of locations but held great memories for my dad, as it does for Ronny.
We learn of Ronny’s progress through his school teams, playing for Liverpool Schoolboys and eventually England Schoolboys and I was amazed to learn that one game had an attendance of 75,000. There is a lovely story about the day he was presented with his England Schoolboys cap at school – the previous boy from the school to have received a cap being David Pegg who sadly lost his life in the Munich air crash.
There is a great tale of how Shankly and Paisley visited his house and tried to get him to join the dark side. But his dad was having none of it saying ‘he’d never be able to watch a football match again’ if Ronny went to the Reds! Perhaps if the fathers of the likes of Carragher, Owen, Rush and Fowler had adopted the same attitude then there might have been a Reds loss and blues gain!
Ronny of course joined Everton and the book is full of stories of the great characters at the club like Labone, West, Ball and King.. His fellow apprentice, Stan Osborne, related similar tales in his superb book ‘Making the Grade’ which was a great insight into the life of an apprentice footballer and Ronny’s stories are no different- funny, engaging and slightly eye opening! Throughout the book we hear little stories, some of which have been rumoured previously, some are new to me, but nearly always related in an affectionate way – even the infamous Mr Bernie Wright! Though Ronny has a less than positive viewpoint on a certain Samuel Allardyce!
The book uses press cuttings as well as Ronny’s own commentary on games. We get an insight into life in Holland and the differences in the preparation for games and the cultural side of things at that time. The time he spent in Hong Kong is very interesting, including the time he spent a night on the lash with Bobby Moore, George Best and his (and my) hero, Alan Ball. Sadly, in those pre smartphone days, he has no photographic evidence of many of his fabled encounters – including meeting a young 18 years old destined for greatness called Ronaldo! Or the time he and his dad spent an evening with Alan Ball Junior and Alan Ball Senior, the stuff of dreams for any true blue.
Ronny has spent the past 22 years working for Radio Merseyside as a match summariser and there are many tales of his life on the road including one incident where it was nearly RIP Ronny! He clearly views this post as his dream job being able to make a living out of watch his beloved Everton.
The book also includes contributions from his former team mates and friends that he introduces as if a speaker as a meeting “thanks for that, Willo”. One lovely testimony for him is by the Everton Chaplain, the Rev. Harry Corbett who talks about Ronny’s time as youth coach at Everton and him wanting the young players to be good people as well as good players – a ‘concern for the whole person’. Ronny clearly is a man with a good heart, as evidenced by ‘Health Through Sport’. This is a registered charity that he founded in 2005 ‘to deliver football coaching to vulnerable and disadvantaged youngsters across Merseyside’. Ronny believes that every child matters and whatever their background they can make a positive contribution to society and achieve economic wellbeing. The work that this charity has done and continues to do is remarkable and a credit to the man and all of those who are involved.
Blue Nose, ultimately is a love letter to Everton written from the perspective of a fan and an ex player & coach. It achieves its aim of being his ‘football story from every angle’( terraces, dressing room, radio), it is open, candid but not bitter (not even towards our rivals!) it is an enjoyable read. If there is any criticism it would be that it isn’t always sequential- it does jump back and forth a few times – but that did not affect the pleasure I got from reading it. I wish Ronny every success with the book.