Graeme Holmes* is an Everton season ticket holder whose globetrotting, groundhopping activities make our own Pete Sixsmith seem like an armchair supporter. He’s at a match as a neutral most nights to add to those huge number of Everton games he’s seen over the past 38 years. He has obviously come across Sixer on his travels and it is that connection that introduces him to Salut! Sunderland. Welcome, Graeme …
Salut! Sunderland: Hugely impressive at Southampton, is Ronald Koeman showing signs he can turn Everton into the force it once was?
Graeme: Yes I think he is – I think he has used this season to see what he has and give the current squad a chance – he only signed Bolasie (who got injured early on), Williams to replace Stones, Gana and Steklenburg as a back up keeper pre season, and has added Lookman and Schneiderlin in January.
He started off with mostly Martinez’s players, and playing a similar formation, so at times we have been taken back to last season when our tactics didn’t work, and we had no plan B, but he is now trying other players and other formations, and I can see the summer to clear out the players he doesn’t want and hopefully start next season with the players he wants.
And after the Kenwright years, is Farhad Moshiri the kind of investor you want, and with sufficient ambition for the club, as majority stakeholder?
All the signs so far point to good things. I think some supporters expected us to be the new Chelsea and Man City straight away and just spend a fortune on players – but he seems to be going about things in a calm and measured way, changing things gradually, and assessing everything before just throwing money about. He is not high profile either which is what I would prefer.
Lukaku and Barkley grab the attention but who else has been crucial to recent improvements in results and performances?
Coleman has been a solid performer all season weighing in with some vital goals. Gueye started off very well in centre mid and looked like our version of Kante, and Barry has been very solid, but made us a bit too defensive at times. Bringing in some of the young players has been a master stroke as they have fitted in well and even contributed in a positive way. Davies, Holgate and Lookman all look good prospects for the future
And where are there still weaknesses? Do you still want Lamine Kone from us?
Although we have two decent keepers, neither is what you would call top class. Williams and Baines are slowing with age, and Funes Mori always seems to have a mistake in him, so I guess Kone would still be on the radar. We definitely need other options up front, as an injury to Lukaku would cause us endless problems, and despite us starting with four wide players, I don’t think he is convinced about any of them, so we have plenty of areas to improve.
What do you make of David Moyes and his recruitment of so many past Everton players – Rodwell he inherited but now Pienaar, Gibson, Anichebe, Lescott and Oviedo too?
Sometimes managers go for players that they know and can trust rather than gamble with the unknown. It can work and it can fail. I remember Howard Kendall buying half of our team when he went to Man City and it worked for him.
As for the players that you have bought from us, Pienaar was great with Baines down the left a few years back, but injuries meant he was in and out of the team. Gibson has looked good when he plays, but would play for three games then be out for two months.
Anichebe was strong and powerful when he came into the team in 2007, but again injuries and inconsistent performances meant that he never held down a regular place. Oviedo is remembered for his winner at Old Trafford a few years back, but he was never going to be a regular in Baines’s place, and he also had a broken leg to recover from – so along with Rodwell, you have ended up with all of our injury prone players, but I wish them well for you. I was amazed that Osman and Hibbert didn’t turn up at the SoL again [Perhaps Osman would have fallen over his own feet again and mysteriously been awarded a penalty – Ed]. Lescott did well for us though until his head was turned by Man City’s millions – not sure if he is past his best now though
Lots of other links between our clubs – Peter Reid, Kevin Kilbane, Saha, Rodwell and more. Who stands out in the memory for good, bad or amusing reasons?
Peter Reid did great for both clubs as a player for us and a manager for you. Memorable meetings for me was our 4-1 home win on the way to winning the League in 1985 (I took my mate with me who is a Mackem, and he couldn’t believe it in the first minute when Ian Wallace put you ahead – I told him there was a long way to go and that it wouldn’t last).
There were the two headed goals from Andy Gray and Brace’s (don’t forget him in the links between the clubs) superb pass for Trevor Steven’s goal. There were Tony Cottee’s four in the ZDS match, and we have also scored five, six and seven against you at home. I enjoyed standing on the icy Roker End terraces for our Boxing Day win in 84, but remember getting a hammering on Roker’s last day in 1997, and losing at home when Michael Bridges got two. I didn’t go to the SoL last season as it was inevitable that we would get a hiding. The amusing stand out was Aruna Kone scoring a hat trick against you last season – he hasn’t scored many others for us.
What have been your highlights as an Everton supporter?
Seeing us win trophies has to be the highlight and in particular 1985 when I thought we were invincible. We just seemed to have the ability to beat anyone at home and were free scoring as well, and in away games, if we went behind, you would always feel we would come back.
We had a superb team and squad and won the League and Cup Winners cup, and lost the FA Cup in the final, just 3 days after returning with our only European trophy. If we had played it a week later, I would have fancied us for the treble. Any victory against Liverpool is also enjoyable.
And the lowest points?
The two seasons where we flirted with relegation and stayed up on the last day has to be the lowest – they have never gone down in my lifetime, so had results gone against us on those days, who knows what would have happened and where we would be now.
We have had many poor seasons (like many other clubs) as well. Not having won at Anfield since 1999 is also something that needs addressing, and losing in four FA Cup finals out of six were also low points (but I am realistic to know that I have been lucky to see some good times and some other clubs supporters have never had the chance to experience anything similar).
Who, from a long list of Everton greats, gave you most pleasure or would have done had you been old enough to see them (feel free to mention Dixie Dean!)?
My Dad tells me about watching Dixie as he came to the end of his career, and Alex Young was one of his favourites from the 60s. I wasn’t old enough to see the title winning team of 1970, and they broke up very soon after, which denied me the chance of seeing Alan Ball. A Saturday job cost me from seeing lots of Bob Latchford’s 30 goals in one season, but the 1985 team was something special and collectively have to be my favourites. Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, Psycho Pat, Brace, Sheeds, Tricky Trev, Reidy, Sharp and Gray stand out. Since then my favourite would probably be Tim Cahill – never an outstanding footballer, but his ability to score goals from midfield was great to have.
And who ought to have been allowed nowhere near Goodison?
All clubs have a few of these and we are no exception. Claus Thomsen, Marc Hottiger, Brett Angell, Paul Gerrard spring to mind from the playing point of view and Nicky Barmby and Abel Xavier for other reasons (they left us for Liverpool).
Is our time finally up and if so, why?
I hope not and a few weeks back, I felt with a goalscorer like Defoe in your ranks – supported by Anichebe and Borini, you would score goals, but your inability to defend was always going to be a problem. I don’t get this as the one thing Moyes did for us was improve us defensively. With Hull, Swansea and Palace changing their managers, that was always going to create a reaction, plus they had the chance to buy players in the January window. It hasn’t worked for Palace yet, and not sure how long the good results at Hull and Swansea will continue, but Boro can’t score, and Bournemouth and Leicester are in freefall. While there are more teams involved, there is always a chance, and you need to win your games against the teams around you
Natural follow to that: name the bottom three, and also – less important to SAFC – the top four.
Leicester, Boro and Hull. Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham and Man Utd
Other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region, Moyes?
I have always liked Sunderland as a club going back to that dark night in May 1977. I remember the contrived result and being gutted that we had helped relegate you. Walking home, I saw disconsolate Mackems and I have always wanted you to do well since. I went to Uni in Leeds and quickly made friends with two Mackems who went to the games, so I would also go up with them if I wasn’t watching Everton. I likened Roker to Goodison (albeit a different colour) and in the 1980s they were definitely my second team, as I watched more games, visited the city and got to know more of your passionate fans.
When I was doing my 92, I ticked off Boothferry Park and Blundell Park with masses of Sunderland fans in attendance, and was denied entry to Gigg Lane when you virtually took over the ground. My greatest memory was getting onto the pitch in April 1989 to be presented with a replica of the painting of the 1894 game at Roker, which still hangs proudly in my living room. That was after I had completed my 92 grounds, and my Mackem friend arranged it with the club – I also met Bob Stokoe, which was brilliant.
Diving and other forms of cheating: so prevalent we may as well give up and just train the players to do it better, or still worth trying to stamp out?
I still want to stamp it out but the incident a few weeks back with Sterling not getting a pen v Spurs despite him staying on his feet – the pundit’s answer was ‘he should have gone down’. I dislike cheating in a big way and refs need to be more consistent with how they deal with it.
Best ref, worst ref?
I despise Clattenburg – we had a host of terrible decisions in a derby from him, but he just comes across as a poser. He should never have been given all of those finals in one season.
There aren’t many refs that I do like – Atkinson cost us the League cup last season with a mistake in the semi, and Dean is another, who just seems to crave attention. Mike Jones for giving the beach ball goal was a good’un.
Does the Chinese takeaway – raiding European leagues for the best talent – bother you?
Not really – players that go there are only going for the money rather than to improve themselves, and not many have gone so far.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Of course: it will either be 4+ to us or 1-0 to you. It’s never easy to predict which Everton will turn up, and whether Moyes will get one over on us
Bring us right up to date on Goodison and plans to move. How much of a wrench will be it be, whatever the shortcomings of the old ground, to leave?
Failed plans to move to the waterfront and Kirkby Golf Course are now in the past and a new option is to move to another part of the disused dockland, which could be more viable. It is further away from the town centre than the failed Kings Dock option, but they will need to get the infrastructure sorted for improved traffic options. The way in would still be close to the city centre, and although there is a railway station within walking distance, there isn’t much in the area in the way of pubs or places to eat (much like the location for the SoL in relation to Sunderland centre).
However, it looks more viable with Moshiri at the helm than Kenwright. It will be a wrench to leave Goodison – for all its failings it is our ground and where we have all been going for years – evening games are special as is the atmosphere at big games, and it does have its comparisons with Roker Park. We only have 12 boxes, so don’t make money from corporate “customers” and we have a lot of obstructed view seats, but there is enough space for the regulars and I wouldn’t want a ground that can look empty – which SoL has done on occasions.
* Graeme Holmes on himself:
I have been an Everton supporter all of my life and my first match was with my Dad in 1970. I have had a season ticket since 1982, and have been to almost 1,300 matches with my 400th away match on the horizon.
In 1988, I decided I wanted to visit all 92 league grounds which wasn’t as easy as it is now with games on so many different days. I was already almost halfway there, and got to the remainder within 12 months, having to miss some Everton matches (mostly away games) to be able to do it. I then got a bug which I still haven’t shrugged off to this day and have now seen games at more than 2,000 different grounds.
I have been to over 350 abroad, and have completed the top leagues in seven different countries (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Holland). The Northern and Wearside Leagues are also ticked off, but there are plenty more to visit. Watching other teams and games gives me the chance to watch the game and not be too focused on one team, but it’s the new ground that I like to visit. I go to a game most nights nowadays, and probably get to around 200 games per season.
INTERVIEW: Colin Randall
** How Wikipedia describes Athletic Bilbao’s origins: football was introduced to Bilbao by British steel and shipyard workers and Basque students returning from schools in Britain. In the late 19th century, Bilbao was a leading port of an important industrial area with iron mines and shipyards nearby. It was the driving force of the Spanish economy and as a result attracted many migrant workers. Among them were miners from the north-east of England, and shipyard workers from Southampton, Portsmouth and Sunderland. The British workers brought with them (as to so many other parts of the world) the game of football. In the early 1890s, these workers came together and formed Bilbao Football Club.