Everton 80s legend Derek Mountfield recently spent some time chatting with student journalist Paul Warner about his time at the club, the relationship he still has with it nearly 30 years on and life after football.
Between 1982 and 1988 Derek Mountfield was an integral part of the Everton line-up. He was present during one of the most successful periods for the club and spent 6 years helping to defend our goal, while also scoring plenty up the other end.
The stories I grew up listening to from my Dad were mostly about the 80’s and the successes that we had, and are part of what has made me so infatuated with the club today. As youngsters, we’ve all had those dreams where we’re in the crowd at Goodison and by some miracle we get picked to come on and play. Over the course of 4 years, Derek did just that and went from watching in the stand to representing Everton during a period that is now looked back on as one of our best.
“When I was stood on the terraces in 1978 and saw Bob Latchford score his 30th goal, we ran on the pitch celebrating like lunatics. You wouldn’t have told me that 5 and a half years later I’d be walking out on the field at Wembley in an FA Cup final and helping them win a major trophy. For me, to be part of that team was brilliant. Being an Evertonian, it was superb. I never ever dreamt when I was in school that I could do what I did in football but I had an opportunity. I look back at those times with immense pride, immense joy and immense satisfaction.”
Derek was a blue way before signing for Everton in 1982 and did what most young Toffees never get the chance to do in actually signing for, and being a first team regular for the club. Scoring at Goodison Park is something that not many of us will ever get to do and I was eager to find out what the experience was like for him.
“It was nice just walking out on Goodison, scoring was a bonus. My first goal was away at West Bromwich Albion, then I scored at home to Ipswich in a 1-0 win and it was just an amazing feeling. It took me 3 or 4 goals before I actually scored at the Street End, which was the most pleasing thing. Most of my goals came at the Park End, and those days that was for visiting fans so I think it took my quite a way in to my Everton career to score my first in the Street End. If I remember rightly it was the quarter final equaliser against Ipswich to make it 2-2 with seconds left of the game, so to see the Park End start singing your name- there’s not a better feeling in football.”
For Derek, being a part of the team that was so successful in the 80’s was a brilliant achievement and the squad is often referred to as being one of the best to have represented the club. He explains that as enjoyable as that label is, it can sometimes be a bit of a curse: “I’d love to get down to Wembley to win a trophy and get away from that tag of being part of one of the best, if not the best team to play for Everton. It’s sometimes a noose round your neck. It’d be nice to be the 2nd best team to ever play for Everton because it means they’ve moved on to bigger and better things and we’re regular trophies hunters.”
Even during a period of time where we haven’t come away with the points that I think we deserved, it’s still a massively exciting time to be thinking about what our club is capable of in seasons to come. The Liverpool and Tottenham games were blips, and we’ve been unlucky to not have picked up a few extra points, especially in the latter game. The Crystal Palace game should have got us back on track but Mother Nature had different ideas about the way it was going to pan out. Derek explained to me what he thinks about the season so far and how well he feels we are doing in this transitional time at the club.
“Well, so far so good. We’ve surprised a lot of people and a lot of Evertonians are surprised at how we’ve done. There’s a big difference in the mentality of the players and also the fans I think as well since David Moyes left. We’ve only lost 4 games all season but we’ve lost points where we should have gained points. We’ve had a number of draws, but if you’d have said we’d be in the top 6 at this stage of the season when we heard that Moyes was going and didn’t know who was coming in, we’d have jumped at it.”
“It’s been a progressive season but we’ve got to keep progressing now. We’re all delighted the way it’s going but the next step is moving on again in summer. We’ll have to wait and see but so far this season I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen.”
During his time at the club, Derek was known to be a very attacking minded defender and even scored 14 goals in one of his seasons at the club. He explains what it’s like seeing our defenders be able to have a similar kind of attacking mentality and push forward: “We’re playing a different kind of football to what our fullbacks have been used to over the last however many years. I think Martinez is telling Coleman that if Baines is attacking down the left, you get to the far post and score some goals, and all of a sudden Seamus has scored 6 this season and he’s getting in positions where our fullbacks have never gotten in general play. We all know what Leighton can do with his free kicks and that wonder of a left foot. We don’t just have to rely on our strikers to score goals; you can get goals from all over the park and that’s what we did in the 80’s. We had strikers scoring 10 plus goals, wingers scoring 10 plus goals, me with a fair few and Gary Stevens scoring a fair few. You need to spread goals around and the team and we seem to doing that.”
After leaving Goodison Park, Derek travelled to Birmingham to spend the next three years of his career representing Aston Villa before moving on to Wolves, Carlisle, Northampton, Walsall and Scarborough. After a brief spell in management he decided to leave football behind and focus his attention on something different: “I left football in 2001, with not much behind me apart from a bag of memories and a bag of medals. I did a couple of qualifications in the fitness world then spoke to the PFA, and they put me in touch with a Sports Science degree, so in 2002 at the age of 40 I went to University.”
Derek graduated with his degree in 2005 and went on to work around the Wirrall, coaching children in all different sports: “Now I do self-employed sports coaching within mainstream and special educational needs schools, looking after their P.E. lessons for key stage 1 and key stage 2 and I absolutely love it, it’s great fun. I’ve got loads of different qualifications over the last 10 years from hockey through to basketball, handball, tennis, rugby and so on so I’ve got loads of different qualifications and I just enjoy working with the children.”
As well as coaching, Derek is heavily involved with the North West Special Olympics and works as an ambassador to promote the charity and let people know what it’s about.
“When I say Special Olympics, a lot of people say ‘oh the Paralympics?’ and I say no, they’re funded by the Government. The Special Olympics are adults with learning difficulties with an IQ of less than 75. They can’t hold down jobs, they can’t do a lot for themselves at times and they don’t get any funding at all so if I can raise the profile of the Special Olympics, both in the North West and Great Britain and make people more aware of what these athletes can do then I will, because some of these people are phenomenal people. If I can help them get some money in and put them in the right direction for funding then I will do. I’ve had a wonderful 5 years being involved with them.”
From speaking to Derek it’s obvious that he is a realist and that whatever the outcome this season, we’ll have done better than a lot of people would have predicted when Moyes’ departure was announced.
“If we get 6th we’ll have had a good season. I think top 5 are pretty much sorted out now, if we get 7th we’ll have done well because of the changeover in styles. We’re currently in 6th, and I think we’d happily take 6th place. If we can scrape 5th it will have been a marvellous season, but if we can get to Wembley in the FA cup final, you just never know. We’re all pleasantly surprised at how we’ve done this season. Yeah some of the football hasn’t been marvellous, but some of it’s been brilliant. It’s been the same for many, many years at Everton. We take the rough with the smooth- as an Evertonian we have to take the highs with the lows because we’re Everton and we do things our way!
“I’ve got one ambition left in my life and it’s to see my team, which is Everton, actually lift a trophy. When I was a youngster growing up, they were very few and far between and since I’ve left there’s only ever been one and that was the FA cup in 95, and I’d just had an operation on my knee so I couldn’t get down there.””
Although it is obvious that Derek looks back on his time at the club with great pride, he says he does have one regret: “I’d loved to have been with my mates dancing round the terraces in Rotterdam or Wembley, singing and chanting and getting pissed. They don’t understand how I feel, they say ‘you were there playing the game’ – Yeah but you were getting pissed and having fun! Putting all the downsides of not being a fan, being a part of that team was absolutely fantastic. It was a great 4 or 5 years at the club.”