I started watching Everton in the glorious championship season of 1969/70, the Everton side that featured the incomparable midfield trio of Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and Alan Ball – the revered and rightly so Holy Trinity – amongst its galaxy of stars.
However, my older brother George goes back further still with the Toffees and a while ago, we sat and mused about the first time he could recall seeing Everton in the flesh. This is his memory and my pleasure to present to you:
“I could probably work out how old I was but it’s irrelevant. I was a Bolton fan and ‘they’ were coming.
The money-bags team.
The Mersey Millionaires.
If you had a good game against them – they bought you.
Bolton didn’t ever buy anything or anyone. Homegrown, all of ‘em. Proper team, reet?
I only remember three things about the game.
This titchy blonde centre-forward (‘ow could he wear a nine when he were nowt but a pipe-cleaner? Nat Lofthouse wore nine!), a winger called Scott (who’d cost A FORTUNE) who kept running round our Bolton-born Roy ‘Chopper’ Hartle like he was immobile – and a corner at the railway end of Burnden Park with the score at 1-1.
The titchy centre-forward went over to Scott, and clearly asked him to play a short one.
We laughed and taunted.
The titchy number nine then had a sizeable strop, turned his back on Scott and stormed away from him. Oh, the howls of our derision! Money-bags bollocks.
In came the corner to the near-post, and the tiny centre-forward rose like a stag in the mating season, utterly unmarked, to bury his header and run, laughing, back to Scott!
Smart Alex. The pair of ‘em.
A season later and Bolton were relegated and I decided standing, dripping, on the Burnden terraces, that I didn’t want to watch second division football.
Now, if you’ve grown up in Manchester and get to 15 years of age and you are not a United fan, you CANNOT become one, because by then – you hate them.
You hate that the papers are all in love with them, that the sports pages are like extensions of the United programme, and anyway their fans were an utterly pompous nightmare (some things never change), so I decide to hitch-hike the 28 miles from the family home in Salford, down the East Lancs Road and watch the newly crowned champions of England.
First game for me of a brand new season, August, sunshine, shirt-sleeves, glorious.
The bloke who gave me a lift dropped me at the end of Gwladys Street and, first time ever in Liverpool, I walked towards a place and a spec that would become, and still is, like home to me.
Over 55,000 saw Fred Pickering help himself to a hat-trick, Spurs were thrashed 4-1 but, the aforementioned titchy blonde centre-forward not only caught my eye, but he was transparently the favourite of everyone around me.
The man could play like no-one around him.
I fell in love with him, with the crowd, the craic, but most of all with a set of fans (The School of Science fans) devoted to the higher things in football – and on his night, none higher than this man.
Second game of the following season and Sheff Wed beat us at their place and the Hillsborough faithful chanted, ‘Easy – easy’ at us.
Our father was a God-fearing man and I hope he’d have been proud I recalled a passage from Romans: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
Sheff Wed were at Goodison the following Tuesday night.
August 31st, 1965.
Bunked off work early – got there – got my spec and watched Fred Pickering score twice but, Alex Young scored his only hat-trick for Everton.
A hat-trick of such sublime skill and artistry we were crying with joy when he thumped in his third. Joy that we’d been there… Seen it… Him.
I’ve seen Pele play, Beckenbauer, Best, Charlton etc – but believe me – nothing beats the privilege of being a Blue on the night that beautiful, beautiful man, truly a Golden Vision, was at his peak.”
For Evertonians, Alex Young was a heaven-sent footballing deity and the reverence with which he was and is still held was epitomised in the 1968 Ken Loach TV drama – The Golden Vision – a classic story of working-class blokes in love with their football club and its stars. The opening sequence alone is just magical.
Personal footnote: our George is an acclaimed stage and screen actor, and now the author of two outstanding books that I thoroughly recommend, The Single Soldier and The Soldier’s Home.
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