Everton and Me

(Article written by Grand Old Team Forum Poster ´Bluejock´)

I´ve been meaning to write an article for a while now, with vain hopes of it being considered good enough for the front page. Problem is, I couldn´t think what the hell to write about, so in the absence of anything meaningful, here´s the story of my 27 and a half year love affair with my royal blue mistress. Pour yourself a brew, grab a comfy chair and prepare to be (mildly) entertained.

I´m not your obvious candidate for an Evertonian. As the name would suggest, I´m a Jock, a Sweaty Sock, a smack addicted, Bucky swilling haggis muncher as some of you might put it. I´ve never lived in Liverpool, not even close. I spent 18 months living in the Midlands during my training with the Royal Air Force but I´ve never set up home in the North West. So, how did I end up a blue? Well, fortunately I was more committed to following the same team as my father than he was himself, his old man being a staunch red. With threats towards my being fed as a child if I didn´t support Everton, there was never any choice really.

Being brought up in the thriving metropolis of Dundee, chances to see Everton play were few and far between. My first match was as a six year old lad, when the Toffees visited Hearts for the testimonial match in honour of Hearts captain Gary Mackay, a handsome chap and no mistake. After some intensive Google searching, I´ve found out that we lost 2-0 to two Joe Jordan goals. The fact that I had to look this up should show you how much of an impression my first live football experience made on me.

Obviously my dad reckoned I´d enjoyed myself though as my first trip to Goodison followed in October of that year. Gary Lineker scoring on his return to Goodison with Spurs was no match for a Tony Cottee hat trick. I actually do remember some things from that day, the roar of the crowd, the strong smell of beer and cigarette smoke mixing with hot pies, my having to lean to either side of a pillar and a large drunk man who seemed to be asleep the whole match. If he drifted off during that then God knows how he coped with the Mike Walker years that were to follow.

Football rivalry at school in Scotland was a peculiar thing in the 90´s. Of course there was the traditional Dundee or United, Celtic or Rangers feuds with a solitary poor lad in the class being an Aberdeen fan, but there was something else, something new. With the reinvention of the Premiership, and the saturation of English footy on TV, there was a sudden outbreak of Arsenal, Leeds and Villa “fans” but in particular, Liverpool and Man United were suddenly very well “supported” in the playgrounds of schools around Scotland, where previously, no one had really been arsed in the slightest.

As most of you will recall, we were utter turd in the 90´s. This led to a concentrated bullying campaign by the Glory Glory brigade and those who would apparently never walk alone, against the poor little Everton fan whose team were either crap, poo, rubbish or sh*te, depending on the family background of the tormentor. During this period, it would´ve been all too easy to switch allegiances, to have swapped the royal blue scarf for a red one and sung the same songs as those of my friends. They´d have welcomed me with open arms, the no morals little bastards, and I´m pretty sure my dad would have understood. No one likes to think of their kid being picked on at school, and this would surely have eased the hurt of his son´s defection. So, the question is, why didn´t I?

It might seem daft, but even as a snotty nosed 8 year old, hundreds of miles removed from Goodison, I knew there was something different about being an Evertonian. You can´t put your finger on it, especially at that age, but there´s just something about us, something in our constitution that helps us rise above the cruel taunts of those around us, something in Everton that grabs hold of us and never lets us go. So I kept wearing my Everton scarf to school (obviously in the days before all primary schools got uber Nazi about sports colours) and in the winter, I ever wore my EFC bobble hat too. You know the one, you all had one. I ignored the jibes about us supposedly going down, and I never seized the opportunity to grab a slice of the glory for myself. My wee brother wasn´t daft though. He started liking football in the 94-95 season and immediately declared himself a Blackburn Rovers fan, in time for their first league title in 90 odd years.

There were some real lows through the course of the 90´s. I remember vividly, sat in the living room with the wireless on in the corner, listening to some reporter announcing our inevitable relegation in 1994. I remember the look on my dad´s face when Wimbledon´s second went in. Thank God that Hans Segers was a corrupt wee so and so because I think relegation may have killed him stone dead that afternoon. This was a man who´d seen all of Everton´s greatest moments, and here they were, meekly sliding into the abyss. And then the miracle. The relief. There´s still a patch on the ceiling in my mum´s front room where it looks to have received a mighty thump. That was my dad´s fist as Graham Stuart´s strike hit the back of the net. He had no skin on those knuckles for weeks afterwards.

Fast forward 12 months and we´re sat in the front room of some friends, watching the FA Cup Final. Everton, my Everton, in a cup final. This wasn´t normal, at least not for me. My Man United following friends sat on the same sofas, sharing the same crisps and pop, this wasn´t special to them, this was routine. They expected trophies. Honest to God, I spent the entire game sat with my fingers crossed so tightly I´m surprised they didn´t fall off through blood loss. And after we won? Pandemonium. My dad and I dancing round the room, knocking the left over snacks and drinks everywhere, my one time tormentor´s face a picture of shock, surprise and hurt. Sniff that one Paul mate, f*cking sniff that. What a day, the tension, the ecstasy, the sneaking of the champagne that the adults left unattended in the kitchen, the struggling to sleep that night through being so excited (and probably a little bit pished). So this is what it feels like to be a winner? More of that please.

We went to the Charity Shield in August, my dad, me and my Blackburn supporting brother. I don´t remember the game, I just remember it being 90 minutes of eye rape, punctuated by the best goal Vinny Samways ever scored. The main memories from that day are the sheer size of the stadium, the noise that could be generated and a huge fat man behind us that shouted “JOE ROYLE´S DOGS OF WAR, WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF” every three to four minutes. Nice chap like. If that was you, you put a smile on my face that day, let me tell you. Best of all, my wee brother ended the day as an Evertonian with only minimal cajoling from me and our dad. He´s still a blue to this day, in fact he even lurks on here. Hi Stuart. Start posting you tit!

There were plenty trips to Goodison in the late 90´s as we got older and our mum wasn´t as terrified about us being trampled to mush by a huge rampaging crowd. She obviously didn´t know that the most voracious the Lower Bullens gets is a collective tut after a misplaced pass. I´ve seen some world class players in my days watching Everton. Bergkamp, Henry, Shearer, Cantona, Beckham, Ronaldo, Drogba, Klinsmann, Di Canio, Zola and the like. And of course Farrelly, Ward, Barrett, Tiler, Cleland, Durrant, Madar, Angell and Kroldrup. In all the years I´ve been following Everton, I have to say my favourite player was Duncan. He was a beacon for us in the dark days of the 90´s, a strong, powerful centre forward that single handedly saved us from the brink a million and more times through his sheer menacing presence. And he was a Jock, so I held him in that little bit more affinity. The night he scored against United in 2005, I was on guard duty listening to the match on the radio while standing on the main gate at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, rifle in hand. Thank the lord that the safety was on, otherwise when he scored, I´d likely have put 30 rounds through some poor sod´s window in my excitement.

The last game I ever went to with my dad was Spurs away in August 2006. We NEVER win at White Hart Lane so we were slightly less than optimistic when we set off that morning. Even less so when Kilbane got sent off inside half an hour for having the tackling ability of a three legged camel. However, the Fates were smiling on us that day and Andy Johnson was bloody marvelous. A 2-0 win and we headed back to my house in Fleet as happy as Larrys.

Unfortunately, we lost our dad in 2007, early in the morning of the 25th of November. The night before he died, I sat in his hospital room with him, watching Match of the Day. We´d beaten Sunderland 7-1 and as every goal went in, he gave my hand a wee squeeze and punched the air in triumph. A mighty fine send off from the blues. He had asked that he could wear his Everton shirt underneath his funeral suit, so I imagine he´s wearing it still. When we got to the FA Cup final in 2009 against Chelsea, I cried buckets as Abide With Me was played. It was played at his funeral and it was the first time I´d heard it since. All around my thousands of blues sang their hearts out in the sweltering May sunshine. I´ve never been prouder to be an Evertonian.

In the last couple of years, I´ve not managed to get to anywhere near as many matches as I´d have hoped. I was at Wembley in April for our capitulation to the Pinkies. Let´s be honest, the match was sh*te but it was a cracking day out, bar the 90 minutes in the middle. I was also lucky enough to meet a couple of lads off here, both sound as, and lads I´d willingly sip a beer with and talk about Everton in any corner of the globe. Which brings us nicely onto the present. January. Southampton. As most of you on here know, I´m going. If you´re going too, I´ll gladly buy you a pint before the match and talk sh*te about Moyes, tactics, heroes, villains or cheese on toast. Because that´s what we do isn´t it? You don´t have to be a Scouse scally from L4 to follow Everton. As long as you show the same passion you can be from anywhere you bloody like, you´re still accepted. You´re not an “out of towner” or day tripper like those on the Kop would describe you, you´re just another blue.

So that´s Everton and me. That´s my experiences of being a blue and what it means to me. Thanks for reading. If you didn´t, still feel free to comment and abuse me as you see fit. I´ll never make a career of being a writer but it´s something I´ve wanted to share for a while so I´m glad I´ve done it.

Forza Evertonia. Up the L4 Azzuri.

Bluejock aged 27 and 1/2.

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