John McCormick writes: my friend and ‘Boro exile Alan Easby fixed me up with a lift from Goodison on Boxing Day, when there was no public transport, so who else would I contact in our search for this week’s ‘Who are You?’ guest. I rang Alan on Saturday morning:
‘Alan,’ I said, ‘I need an Evertonian.’
‘I’ll ask at the match,’ he replied, ‘and see if I can get you a true blue.’
Did he succeed? Decide for yourself as Bernard Walker takes us on a stroll down memory lane:
John McCormick: My first memory of Everton is our win in the cup in 1963, when I sat in the straw on the touchline, but it hasn’t always been that good. I was at Goodison in 1977 when we lost and were relegated. Have you been supporting Everton as long, and have you had such highs and lows? Feel free to make reference to those interlopers across the park…:
Bernard Walker: My first visit to Goodison was in April 1959 when I saw Everton lose to Nottingham Forest 3-1 so I learnt about disappointment at an early age. Over the years the highs definitely outnumber the lows and being anything other than an Evertonian is unimaginable. It’s also character building as whenever we seem to have a team on the verge of sustained success something inevitably goes wrong. The break up of the 1970 Championship side and the impact of the post Heysel ban from European Cup in 1986 are obvious examples.
My first memory of Sunderland is the 3rd round F A Cup tie in January 1966 which was the start of our route to Wembley. Looking back at the programme for that game I see that the three players from Sunderland I would instantly think of from my youth were all playing. Charlie Hurley, Jim Baxter and Jim Montgomery.
You are really fortunate if your Dad can take you to a Cup Final when you are fourteen, to come back with the Cup having been two goals down just after half time is a dream come true. I was also lucky enough to take my own son to the 1995 final when he was the same age, not the same dramatic scoreline, but beating Manchester United runs it pretty close.
I can’t resist saying that my first visit to Anfield was when Liverpool were in the second division and my uncle took me to see them against Charlton Athletic in 1962. I suspect it was an unsuccessful attempt to give me a balanced upbringing. There’s not much more I’d want to say about our neighbours as I’d much rather concentrate on Everton.
I remember Moyes coming in when Everton were struggling and cited as relegation candidates. He not only steadied the ship but gained respectable positions year after year. Finances are always an issue at Goodison, but could he have done more?
David Moyes was the right appointment at the right time for Everton, and I’m not someone who’s critical of him now he’s gone. He brought stability to the club and his partnership with Bill Kenwright should be a model for all clubs. The major downside of the Moyes era is that you never felt confident he’d win the big games. I think this is largely a result of his inherent caution.
What do you think of Martinez as his replacement?
Again, the right appointment at the right time, and someone who clearly gets the importance of the club’s history, and tradition for attractive football. As rings out whenever we play now, “The School of Science is Back”. He also clearly has a long term strategy and is prepared to give young players their chance.
And how far realistically can Martinez take Everton?
It’s realistic for us to get into the Champions League over the next couple of years, and win domestic trophies. While we’ll never be able to compete financially with the Manchester clubs or Chelsea, the club appears to be financially sound given last week’s results. I’d much prefer to have a lifelong supporter such as Bill Kenwright as Chairman rather than be in the hands of foreign owners.
Who are the best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Everton colours, and any who shouldn’t have been allowed to wear them?
No doubt about my favourite player, Alex Young who not only played but scored in the 1966 cup tie. Others from that era who immediately spring to mind are Brian Labone, the Holy Trinity, Ball Kendall and Harvey together with Joe Royle who’s just returned to the club working with the Academy. Of the 1980s teams Southall, Sheedy and Sharp stand out while more recently Duncan Ferguson and Mikel Arteta always got the pulse racing.
I’d not want to single anyone out who shouldn’t have worn the shirt as I think it’s more important to get behind any player who’s privileged enough to play for Everton.
Links between Sunderland and Everton include the architect Archibald Leitch and a certain Peter Reid, who is more loved than many down here might think. You’re welcome to give us your opinion of Reidy but readers might want us to focus more on players. Kevin Kilbane is one who divided opinion, as Alan Stubbs and Don Hutchinson might also have done, and now we have Jack Rodwell. Do any of them resonate with you, or have I missed someone more outstanding?
Someone you’ve missed is Paul Bracewell, a great player who never quite fulfilled his potential as a result of injuries. Less well known is Gavin McGann who never really had a chance at Everton but seemed to do well with Sunderland and then Aston Villa. There’s also Mick Buckley who died just over twelve months ago, having had a very difficult time once his playing career ended.
Peter Reid’s record speaks for itself, Alan Stubbs and Kevin Kilbane served Everton well and both seem to be doing well in management and the media respectively. Don Hutchinson was a nomad who never seen able to make the most of his undoubted ability and I fear the same about Jack Rodwell. Hopefully the current crop of young players will learn from the example of Rodwell, Francis Jeffers and others and not be tempted by the attractions of the big money at higher profile clubs where they won’t get either the guidance or the playing opportunities. There’s only one way to go out of Everton, and that’s down!
King’s Dock, then Kirkby, now Walton Hall Park. Personally, I can’t wait for the end of the Bullens Road stand. What do you think of Goodison Park and plans for a move to a new stadium?
I absolutely love Goodison Park for all its memories, history and Leitch architecture, so would be very loath to move away. I do think the city missed a great opportunity to build an iconic shared stadium at the King’s Dock, but suspect I’m in a minority here, certainly around sharing a ground.
What will be this season’s top four?
Chelsea, Manchester City Arsenal and Everton
If not mentioned, where will our clubs finish?
I hope Sunderland avoid relegation as the top division needs clubs with their history, tradition and fan base. I think this should be possible but poor runs and unpredictability may well make it another nerve wracking season.
Colin Randall, aka M Salut, has strong views on diving. Osman’s 2011 fall and the subsequent poor decision to give a penalty wasn’t quite that but it rankles. Osman could have admitted he fell but didn’t, and I’m sure you could find examples that leave you equally aggrieved. Is it time to give up bothering about such poor sportsmanship and just write it, and actual diving, into the coaching manuals?
I hate to see diving and also persistent time wasting, both referees the authorities and the clubs should have a role in reducing and eventually eliminating them.
As for Ossie I can’t actually recall his fall but he clearly has a pivotal role in games against Sunderland with his faux pas last Boxing Day and run from the half way line to score the seventh in November 2007 [ouch! JMc]
Any thoughts on one step the football authorities should take to improve the ordinary supporters’ matchday experience?
Tickets need to be at a price within reach of people on average earnings and young people. If this doesn’t happen the game will be in danger of dying over the next twenty years. If this can happen in Germany with its model of fan ownership and involvement, them why not here? The enormous increase in money from television should have been used to reduce ticket prices rather than go into the pockets of already overpaid players.
Time for your own back: your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region
Sunderland, and the North East, have so much in common with Merseyside, economically, socially and culturally. We have a similar history reflected in our shared affinity for football, albeit which much more success down here. Sunderland are what I’d describe as a traditional club who need to be in, and are needed by, the top tier of English football
Will you be at our game, and what will be the score
Sadly I won’t be there in person but think a 2-0 victory for Everton the likely outcome.
Bernard on Bernard:
I was born, bred and have always lived in the same area of Liverpool. I’m a social worker and was a director of social services for many years. Whenever I’m asked about the most significant part of my career I always refer to the response of social work to those affected by the Hillsborough Disaster. It brought together two of my lifelong passions, social work and football.
Interview: John McCormick