Football, marathon running, academia and cheese … that’s the heady mix that sums up Lydia Bleasdale-Hill*, our Everton Who are You? interviewee. Lydia, a season ticket holder for 20 years, considers Sunderland her favourite away ground, think David Moyes will – just about – get us on the right track and rates Kevin Kilbane’s cover version of Ice, Ice Baby, whose original performer, Robert Matthew Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice, is a Texan rapper and almost old enough to work for Salut! Sunderland. Nowt to do with football but we also latched on to Lydia’s professed love of cheese (M Salut’s favourites being Tomme de Savoie, Morbier and the exceedingly smelly Livarot, plus a good strong Cheddar) …
Salut! Sunderland: We’ve had our usual bad start to the season, no wins under your old manager and an annoying transfer window. Do you get the feeling Sunderland’s time is finally up or is David Moyes the man to turn things around?
Lydia Bleasdale-Hill: I think there are enough teams in and around you to see you right, but I think it’ll be incredibly close (even with Anichebe…). I saw Pienaar talked Moyes up as a man to avoid relegation – I think there’s truth in that, but he’s going to need someone on the pitch who is incredibly intelligent in how he leads others. I’ll probably get laughed out of here on my first answer here, but a critical player for us in that respect was Phil Neville. At best he was 6/10 as a player, but he was great in keeping people together. My season ticket seat used to be near the pitch, behind a goal, and he rarely shut up (particularly in coaching younger players). He knew the approach to take with everyone – some needed a kick up the backside, others a friendly nudge – and he rarely celebrated a goal (instead, he would leg it to Moyes to get instructions for how we would set up post-goal). In his peak period for us, we would see an immediate dip in form (including organisation) when he was out of the side due to injury. I think Moyes quickly needs to identify who that player is for him (and keep players fit – hopefully he has progressed since his rumoured archaic training methods, which were often blamed for our players looking knackered at the start of the season).
What about Everton? A strong start for you, two wins and a draw. Were the club right to sack Martinez and even righter to appoint Koeman?
Right on both counts. Martinez had lost both the fans and the players last season, and I was dreading the final home game – he didn’t deserve the reception I knew he was going to get. Not a bad manager and not a bad man, but lost his (stubborn) way without a plan B.
Under Koeman it seems things have already tightened up: we don’t look panicked at the back (even when Jagielka and Williams played together for the first time) and he appears to be instilling a stronger work ethic in areas where it was needed (praising but also publicly noting who needs to work even harder).
Can you recapture relatively recent glory times and will there be pots of money from Farhad Moshiri, previously a shareholder at Arsenal to presumably hardly a lifelong Evertonian, to make it happen?
Judging by our attempts on the final day of the transfer window, who knows! We look willing to spend at least, although I still don’t expect buckets from Moshiri. Having said that, I think there has been a lot of unnecessary moaning when you look at our summer overall: a good deal for Stones, Lukaku retained, and a decent clutch of players in.
You wanted Lamine Kone as badly as we wanted to keep him. What has been your take on the protracted will-he-won’t-he saga?
I’m probably unusual in that I paid little attention – the transfer window shenanigans bore me to death.
And your other business. Did you welcome the purchase of Ashley Williams and who else is going to be important for you this season?
Delighted with Williams. Jagielka isn’t a captain for me – quite withdrawn – so having the experience and leadership of Williams will help (although I don’t expect Jagielka to lose the captaincy). Gueye looks great early doors – tidy, reads the game well, and strong – and I think Lukaku will flourish once he’s back to full fitness (although hopefully Baines will be kept on penalties in future cup semi-finals!) Steckelenburg has been an unexpected joy to have in goal.
Bring us up to date on Goodison, a ground many Sunderland fans really like as it inevitably recalls Roker Park, but obviously outdated?
We’re on rumour number 6292 when it comes to a potential new site for the ground. I’ll believe it when I see it.
What have been your highlights and low points as a supporter?
Highlights: watching Jermaine Beckford score a superb* solo effort against Chelsea in May 2011. My seven week old daughter was asleep on me – at her first game – and I’ve never celebrated a goal so quietly or gently! Having been told off by a lad I went to school with for thinking it was safe enough to take her, I’m made up I ignored his judging and can tell her about it now.
*or with a few lucky bounces, depending on your perspective
Being behind the goal when Rooney scored *that* goal against Arsenal. I heard the clink of it hitting the goal – there was a split second of stunned silence, before pandemonium.
Being adopted by various people in my stand (now the Sir Phillip Carter stand, formerly the Park End), when I started going by myself aged 15 (more on that later). They all kept an eye out for me, but never belittled me.
Others which spring to mind: Gareth Farrelly (who loved a long distance effort, which usually ended up in Runcorn), somehow managing to score a beauty (at my end) against Coventry to secure our place in the league (sorry again, Bolton fans); hearing Duncan Ferguson score against United in 2005 (on a crackly Walkman radio on a train); Gosling scoring against Liverpool in the Cup (the Tic Tac goal, which passed me by until the next morning); Cahill consistently being Cahill; Jagielka winning the Cup semi against United on pens.
Low points: given that I started supporting Everton in 1995-96, there have been a number to choose from…getting beat 5-1 in Bucharest (when I flew on a plane which had mismatched tiles on the tailwing – good old Everton travel partners); a 2-1 defeat by Shrewsbury; losing at Wembley to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final; the “murderers” chants from some of our supporters, which I hope are now gone for good.
And the greatest players you’ve seen in Everton blue (*or wish you’d been around to see)?
I would’ve loved to have seen Dave Hickson play. He was doing the tours of Goodison – and still playing football every week – well into his 70s. A lovely, humble man who had time for everyone, and who still had a vibrancy about him in his later years. I miss him a lot.
Any you’d prefer to forget?
Earl Barrett, Ibrahima Bakayoko, Per Krøldrup (I’m still convinced we signed the wrong player)
Liverpool is a city with split loyalties even within families but would you say the red-blue rivalry is still as intense as ours with Newcastle (among others)?
Tricky for me to comment on, because I’m not there day-to-day. I still hate the days before those games and desperately want to beat them, but I actually find the atmosphere at games against United more poisonous now. Half my family were season ticket holders at Liverpool and my best mate runs the best Liverpool podcast around, so I find it hard to hate them as such! I’ve also been to a lot of the Hillsborough anniversary memorials at Anfield over the years, and have taught students about it – being welcomed in my colours for those services, and doing that teaching, had an effect on my own feelings about the club as a whole.
Kevin Kilbane, Paul Bracewell, Gavin McCann, Don Hutchison, Louis Saha and others have played for both clubs and Peter Reid, our most successful manager in decades, was a star for you. Special thoughts on any of them (or others linked with both clubs but overlooked in my list)
I’m probably the only person around who loves Kilbane’s rendition of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ . He was a solid player for us.
When Saha was fit and focused on the right things, he was superb. I missed his fastest ever FA cup final goal against Chelsea, because my now ex-husband sent me a picture from a family wedding I was supposed to be at (I had lied to the bride and groom about where I was that day)
And your view of Sunderland – the club the supporters, the city and region and, if not covered earlier, Moyes?
Genuinely my favourite away day. Love the ground, great fans, and had one of my favourite ever away games there (FA Cup replay, 2012). Really hope you stay up, not least so that I can hopefully go next season – it’s one of the first away fixtures I look out for.
What will be this season’s top four?
Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea aaaaaand…Spurs.
And the bottom three (be merciless if you must)?
Burnley and Hull are my favourites – then it’s between Swansea (I think they’ll struggle to score even more than they did last season); Sunderland (sorry); Palace (wishful thinking on my part); and Bournemouth for me. I’m just hoping Watford survive, otherwise my partner will be unbearable!
Haven’t asked this in a while but your outlook on club vs country – which is more important and why?
Club. I’ve no interest in the men’s national side – I put it down to being from Liverpool (although that doesn’t explain why I still support the women’s team)
And diving? So prevalent it may as well be written into coaching manuals or still worth stamping out along with feigned injuries and other forms of cheating?
Continue to stamp out obvious cases. Personally think the balance is about right on that front now.
Not far for you to travel if I am right in thinking you are near Leeds. Will you be there and what will be the score?
I won’t be – as much as I love going, I’ll have my daughter at home that night and I’ll be focused on final marathon preparations (I’m running Berlin for Parkinson’s on Sept 25)
* Lydia Bleasdale-Hill on herself: Live in Tadcaster (between Leeds and York); usually Associate Professor in Law, but I’m on secondment to a University of Leeds institute this year (leading a research project into student resilience and wellbeing); Mum to a loud little person (Maya, 5); season ticket holder since 1996. Initially started going alone (my Dad worked away for years and there was nobody else to go with), now sit with him and the aforementioned loud little person (who has never had a lullaby sang to her, but instead knows all the words to our cleanest songs).
Cheese? Ardrahan, Cornish Yarg (covered in wild nettles), Epoisses, Reblochon. I wouldn’t like Morbier because (I think) it has some blue in it [ a nice thin streak – Ed], but Tomme de Savoie looks right up my street!
Interview: Colin Randall
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