Renowned author Jim Keoghan’s latest project has been to trace Everton’s great number 9’s through time.
As he opens “There is something about Everton and that ‘Number 9’ shirt” and expands that the number 9’s sit as an “incongruous presence” amongst the “skill and grace” mythology that underpins School of science maxim.
To be an Everton number 9 is to inhabit a “big, strong and unyielding presence” but also footballers who were not just defined solely by the above but were also “skillful footballers blessed with attributes in the finest traditions” of the club.
The book then goes on to look at 9 centre forwards, who spanned just under 100 years of the clubs history. While each is slightly different, what binds are the characteristics outlined above, being a powerful totemic figure who allow supporters of the club to live vicariously through them. While some very fine forward pre Dean (Geary, Parker, Southworth & Bertie Freeman to name but 4) don’t make the final cut, it is a very fine list and leads to a very enjoyable read.
Each strikers achievements (most commonly goals and games) are presented at the beginning of each chapter, yet this chapter is more than just a clinical evaluation of each’s performance. There is a story behind each, and it’s clear that Keoghan has gone to copious lengths in his research to really get under the skin of each player, not just as a striker, but also as a man.
There is joy to each story, but in many cases there is also sadness. We remember each footballer for what they achieved, and each of the 9 chronicled are totems for the football club, but behind each of them is an individual story. What it leads to is almost a fascinating social history, about football and how it has changed and adapted over time through the axis of each of these forwards.
The writing throughout the book is informative and highly accessible, and has the quite rare quality of being able to translate quite complex ideas and themes and put them across in a manner that the reader can associate with and enjoy. Keoghan has written a number of books about Everton, and all share this rare quality and provide a fascinating social history about the fabric of the club, and the shared experience we have as supporters. Even if you are aware of who these players are and you may have been fortunate enough to watch them play, to me this book is a worthwhile addition to your bookshelf and will challenge and inform your memory of them and is therefore a worthwhile read for any football supporter.
Jim Keoghan is the author of How to Run a Football Club, Punk Football,Highs, Lows and Bakayokos (Everton in the 1990s) and Everton’s Greatest Games. A long-suffering Blue, Jim has been watching the club since the early 1980s, enjoying and enduring decades of pleasure and misery (mostly the latter) at Everton’s hands.