This is another old piece I wrote for When Skies Are Grey in April 2016.
It refers to all those things that remind me why I love my club so much. The things that make me so proud of them, even though we may be a shambles in the pitch.
For the World Cup in 1970, England issued an LP (a 12 inch vinyl record, younger readers) called ‘The World Beaters sing The World Beaters’. It was the England World Cup squad, which included the likes of Ball, Labone, Wright and Newton, ‘singing’ the hits of the day and more. Mostly MOR tosh sung badly, but to a 9 year old like me, whose musical taste had not yet developed, it sounded great. My parents bought it for me and it was encased in a ball shaped packaging. To listen to it now would make me cringe but listen I did to this ‘sing something simple’ style crud. One song’s lyrics I can still recite now was ‘There’ll always be an England’. Dependent upon your leanings, it’s either a proud anthem or jingoistic nonsense. The lyrics went:
“There’ll always be an England
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me’
Hopefully there will always be an Everton, as well. But it’s the last two lines that ring with me, with regards Everton. We all like to think that no one loves Everton more than ourselves. And we all display our love and loyalty in different ways. Sometimes fans can have an inflated view of their own loyalty and disrespect other fans loyalty. Is a fan who goes to every away game but not home, better than one who only goes to the home games. Does wearing every replica kit ever produced make you a super fan? We shouldn’t play our loyalty off against each other, suffice to say we are all part of one big blue family, and other cliches. Bringing another mantra to mind, we literally are born not manufactured – even if that ‘birth’ took place later in life. For example, my father was a blue so Everton is all I have ever known. My friend Paul had no Everton connection. He was from Manchester, his dad was a Man U fan who naturally wanted Paul to follow suit. But despite the fact that Everton were just a middling Premier League side in the early 90’s this was the team Paul came to support and has dedicated the last 24 years of his life to.
So just what ‘is’ Everton and what does Everton mean to different people? To some it may just be the present side and how they perform on the pitch but I suspect most people are like me and it is a whole, indescribable package of things that make up the Everton we love. We come to it usually from the standpoint of the match itself and evolve into loving everything about the club. Let’s face it, that is what gets us through the bad times often. So, at the risk of this sounding like a Hollywood acceptance speech, here are the things that spring to mind when I think of Everton and the things that make me go who-ooo-oooo-ooo.
Everton is Goodison Park. The Street End, The Park End, Main Stand, Bullens, all of it. I love Goodison and will be in tears when/if we leave. Like any true Evertonian, I have such a strong bond with it. From my first game in 1970 to the present day, I can still get tingles down my spine looking at the ground and the surrounding areas. It is no longer the great majesty it was, more a tired old lady and no amount of makeovers can restore that old beauty. But Goodison under the lights and rocking with a full house roaring loudly is an unforgettable and spine chilling experience. Likewise the surrounding area. It is no place of beauty but it is still part of the fabric of Everton, from the chippies to the pubs, the school, the houses, they are all intrinsically linked to our great club. And while we are on the subject, Everton is the pubs that surround the ground. The Winslow, the Spellow, the Royal Oak and further afield, The Taxi Club and the myriad of pubs on County Road. Blues will all have their favourite hostelries, and they make up the usual match day routine of many a Toffee. Should the blues ever leave Goodison, it is hoped that the ground will be close enough for these pubs to remain part of that match day experience. Ultimately Everton is also the grounds we played at previously be it Stanley Park, Priory Road or Anfield (though the less said about that in view of its current incumbents, the better)
Everton is..Liverpool. Liverpool, the Great Northern city that so many of us are rightly proud of. Despite the attempts to disguise the fact by certain sections of the red supporting media (the brochures for the Capital of Culture being the worst example, as well as parts of the red echo) there are two teams in Liverpool and we are rightly proud to have been the first team to have represented the city in league competition (they didn’t exist in 1888, of course). Everton is the Liver Bird. The symbol of our city was on our title winning medals in 1892 but sadly we didn’t put any real claim on it, they did and people now associate the liver bird with them. It’s not theirs. The Liver Bird is the symbol of the city and we have as much right to it as they do.
Everton is the players that take to the pitch every week, that we encourage, that give us joy and frustration. It is the squad and management who currently hold all our hopes and dreams (and generally not delivering at present but…)
It is all the staff who work for the club, not least of all the Ambassadors Sharpy, Snods and Diamond, as well as Darren Griffiths who is a great representative for the club. It is also Bill Kenwright. Like him or not, he is the embodiment of an owner fan, and maybe too much of a fan but no one can ever convince me he is not a true Evertonian. When I think if Everton I often think of Bill.
Everton is of course the great players who have graced our club throughout our history. Dean, Sagar, Young, Ball, Labone, Latchford, Kendall, Harvey, Reid, Southall….. So many great players whom we have loved. And of course the great unloved players, be they Bernie Wright or Brett Angell, still form part of the Everton story. Then there are the managers… The Great (Kendall, Catterick) the Good (Royle, Carey) the not so good (Bingham, Lee) and the dire (Walker, Buchan)…. Where RM fits here is open to debate but unlikely to be the first two…And then the Chairmen from the likes of Will Cuff to Sir John Moores and Sir Phillip Carter.
Everton is the trophies we have won. Nine league titles, five FA Cups and a Cup Winners that we won so gloriously in 1985. But there should be so many more. And that’s why Everton is all the injustices we have felt over the years. Whilst our neighbours have run with the devil and had the luck of satan, we have so often been denied the chance to capitalise on great teams, great performances, through a combination of rank bad luck, rank bad refereeing, the actions of others and dodgy circumstances. Two title winning teams in 1915 and 1939 could not maintain that momentum due to the outbreak of war. When peace returned, the sides had broken up. The 1928 side mysteriously were relegated two years after winning the title. The 1970 side should have dominated the 70’s. Why they didn’t is a mystery to anyone who saw that fantastic team. World Cup fatigue is cited as one reason. Other players had played through injuries that were to plague their career after then. And Manager Harry Catterick’s health deteriorated rapidly. A massive factor, in my opinion. The mid 80’s team, as we all know, was denied European competition through the actions of our neighbours in Heysel. And consequently broke up, and we have never got back to that level since. Seven years after Heysel the money spinning Premier League started. We may have been still in the PL but were no longer a force so missed out on the money making aspects that the likes of Man U and Arsenal were able take advantage of. There was also the ‘one club, one city,’ rule in the 60’s and 70’s that denied us several stabs at Europe. When our neighbours mock our limited record in European competition, that really grates knowing that a combination of that rule, and the post Heysel ban, has denied Everton at least ten seasons of European competition. Ten seasons at least. Ten seasons to establish a European reputation in the way they and Man Utd did. Ten seasons at least because success often begets further success. Exposure on a large stage increases the visibility of the club, increases the fan base, increases the revenue streams. And without the European ban – who knows where we would be now?
Of course, it is the loveables that irk our ire the most and the referees that always seem a central figures in our most contentious derbies. Thomas, Robinson, Clattenberg Poll and Atkinson are names that immediately spring to mind. But maybe the bitterness that springs from such injustices makes us even more uniquely Everton? Stops us from being the smug, condescending type of fan or club that LFC are? They call us bitter and of course we are! We have a lot to be bitter about! But aren’t they bitter about Man U? And thankfully we no longer sink to the low of singing about Munich or Hillsborough. And it is as Everton that we stand by our neighbours against the injustice that was Hillsborough and support the 96.
Everton is St Luke’s. A sad part of leaving, if we do, is no longer having a church in the corner which makes our club unique. And of course Rev. Harry Ross, a wonderful man who exudes ‘evertonism’. St Luke’s is also the base for the exhibitions pre match by The Everton Heritage Society. These people are awe inspiring in their devotion to the blues and do so much to keep our history alive. Their unstinting work, recognising and supporting former players, ensuring headstones are preserved for former blue heroes is the envy of so many other clubs. The likes of George Orr, Paul Wharton, Bren Connolly, Billy Smith and Richard Gilham. They have taken the lead from one of the Great Evertonians, Dr David France, whose collection of EFC memorabilia is mind boggling.
Everton is of course, Everton…the Chilean version. The Ruleteros Society have worked unstintingly to raise awareness of our brothers across the Atlantic, and who can forget the Everton v Everton game a couple of years or so back. And there are Everton clubs in Uruguay and Argentina.
Everton is our heritage and our history. As the song goes, we have a lot of history and a lot to be proud of. A lot of ‘firsts’, many (but not enough) trophies, plenty of records. All of this is to be cherished and through the great work by the likes of Dr David France and the Everton Heritage society, it is kept alive.
Everton is the fanzines that have been produced over the years. Each of them has a special place in EFC folklore- The Blue Wail, Gwladys Sings the Blues, Satis?, Speke from the Harbour, Blue Blood and of course When Skies Are Grey. Being biased, I would always says our fanzines have been the best. But I also know other teams fans who have subscribed to our fanzines and given great feedback about them. Everton has also been the various websites such as Toffee Web and the wonderful Blue Kipper. Nowadays it’s more about Facebook groups such as The Taxi Club Group, or Toffee TV produced by Ped and Baz
Everton is our celebrity fans. Other clubs may have had celebs following their club that simply cause embarrassment – our loveable neighbours have had an array of beauts aligning themselves to ‘the ‘mighty’ reds’ over the years not least of all the Tory loving Tarby and Cilla, and, ahem, Saville. By and large we have celebs following us who have a certain degree of credibility, like Tony Bellew.
Everton is the songs we sing. And maybe also the songs we don’t sing! Whether a simple ‘Everton’ or ‘we shall not be moved’, perhaps ‘when you’re smiling’ or ‘Grand old team’ we put our own unique slant on each song. But our fans are quite bullish and immovable as well, so none of the ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ type nonsense from Evertonians, we are better than that. We can be very contrary when we want to be.
Everton most of all is the fans, so many unique and diverse characters. From Eddie Cavanagh in the 60’s, ‘The Windmill’ in the 80’s, Lcab and Speedo Mick these days.
It’s the songs we sing, the banners that are funny but are never as ostentatious and self aggrandising like our neighbours. It is our refusal to compromise. We don’t like change. Remember when they tried to change Z Cars for ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’? Or introduce music after a goal is scored? Cheer leaders? Kits the fans didn’t like such as the bib kit? The awful badge a couple of years ago? No, Everton fans are a vocal bunch when we don’t like something. Many a new initiative has floundered if the fans didn’t like it. Not for Everton, this manufactured type of plastic fan that you see at Crystal Palace. Designated shouting sections. Manufactured flags. Everton fans will decide what we do, we will not be told. And to be fair, by and large, the club listens. Everton fans are quite unique. Ok everyone says that about their fans but I do believe we are. We always sell our away allocation, Goodison is nearly always full (and but for the obstructed views, I would bet it would be), but it is on the big occasions when Everton fans really excel themselves. Think about Elland Road three sides full of blues in 95. Or over 10,000 at Lille. And the majority of that fanbase is local. However, that is not to denigrate blues fans from further afield. And we have fans all over the world. It isn’t just the redshites who can say that. They may not be scouse or even from Lancashire but our fans tend to adhere to the well used maxim of born not manufactured. No fair weathered fans amongst our fanbase. A hell of a lot of pessimistic moaners maybe but I suppose that is what Everton does to you!
In my case, Everton currently is the lads I sit with or near to at the game in the Lower Gwladys.. Paul, Rob, John, Ben, Mo, Ste, Gaz and others. It is the guys I meet in the Taxi Club or the Winslow, Mick, Dave and co. It is the brilliant Chorley Toffees fan club, and the great times we share on the coach to and from the game, and particular our European tours like Lisbon and Lille. It is our local friends the Croston Blues. It is all the fans I have met or known over the years like Snowy, Daryl, Mark and Rob. It is my dad, who was my match going companion for 17 years until his untimely death in 1987 having watched Everton become champions again.
Everton is so many things, to so may people. Everton to me, is a life long commitment. I entered into a none negotiable contract at a very young age to follow them through thick and mainly thin times, with no remission for good behaviour. It’s almost a burden at times, it’s a life sentence. It brings me misery. It puts me into almost deep depression at times. It also gives me the highest of highs. Bayern Munich. Rotterdam. That Jagielka pen in the 2009 semi. A good win will put me up in the clouds and enable me to face any challenge out before me. I cannot escape, nor do I really want to. I am an Evertonian and Everton is me. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
By Trevor Edwards