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Fans Comment
Patrick Hart

A tale of two Evertons
23 April 2006

It seems to me that there are two Everton Football Clubs.  There is the "warm" Everton, to quote former club physio Jim McGregor, speaking at the launch of Bob Latchford's fabulous book '30'.  And there is the Everton that unfailingly manages to extinguish expectation.

The first-mentioned is a club you can fall in love with time and again.  The more you delve into its history and tradition as a pioneering footballing force, the prouder you become of being born Blue.  This Everton inspires a heart-felt devotion.  This Everton was on display at the Former Players' Foundation function which, last Friday night at Liverpool's Holiday Inn hotel, heralded the arrival of Latchford's goal-laden tome.

Latchford in some ways personifies the lovable EFC and certainly the Everton of the 1970s.  Arguably undervalued by the football establishment at large, he was a class act who, for all his achievements, remains essentially modest.  He said, on Friday, that the true purpose of the book was to record for posterity a slice of Evertonian history.  A number of his team-mates were present at an event that celebrated their Everton story and it was touching to observe the camaraderie between them, a bond which appeared to have survived the passing of nearly three decades.

Latchford and Co Martin Dobson, Dave Thomas, Mike Pejic, Ronnie Goodlass, George Telfer, Gary Jones and the man with the magic sponge, McGregor each took their turn on the microphone and spoke about the club and their colleagues with a passion that puts today's professionals to shame.  Nor did they hide their disapproval of many features of the modern game, player and Everton Football Club.

I don't think it was a case of men whose time had gone begrudging their successors their days in the sun.  I do think they showed more feeling, spirit and humanity than can be observed around 21st-century elite football.

They genuinely cared about each other and about Everton.  It might have come from a group of old-stagers but,  to me, it was possibly the best Evertonian performance of the season.  There was a class about these men, and they talked with an eloquence that few of today's players seem able to muster.  Nor were they slow to voice their disgust at the way in which some of their current counterparts are "in it for the money", "for themselves", or both.

Rightly, they were saluted on a fantastic night.  I was only four years old when Latchford scored his 30th goal, but having read the book and then met the protagonists, I have taken them to my heart.... and Everton too.  Jim McGregor left the Blues in 1979 for a long stint at Manchester United.  He said our club was special because it had a warmth about it.  Latchford, meanwhile, noted that only Everton, or at a push Newcastle, could have fans so loyal to their former players and so mad about their team.

Perhaps the class of 1978 were glued together by success they were, after all, title contenders in at least two seasons and were denied a breakthrough cup win by an abominable refereeing decision and by two freak goals.  They also contained a number of big-money signings (Latchford and Dobson among them) mingled with died-in-the-wool Evertonians who had followed the path of Mercer, Harvey, Labone and Lyons from academy to first team.

Indeed, they had many qualities which have been sadly lacking at Goodison Park during the Premiership era.  The Everton of Dr David Marsh, of Peter Johnson and of Bill Kenwright cannot hold a candle to the one that came back to life on Friday night.  The Everton that we Evertonians hold dear has been criminally neglected, both by its guardians and by the wider football world, for at least 15 years.

We are told that Everton are making progress under the care of chief executive Keith Wyness.  We are told that Everton's financial problems are becoming a thing of the past.  We are told that Everton are in safe hands with the Kenwright-Moyes axis.  Why is it then that Everton are lagging behind smaller clubs like Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers in the Premiership table?  Why is it that Evertonians are absolutely dreading the prospect of the summer and another agonising transfer window?

When Fulham can hold on to Papa Bouba Diop, Steed Malbranque and Luis Boa Morte, and Blackburn retain the services of Craig Bellamy, and Bolton Kevin Nolan, how come Evertonians must again contemplate the prospect of parting company with their best players?  Between May and August 31st, we will face speculation linking the likes of Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Joseph Yobo with moves away from our club.  These men are the blocks on which we should be building a stronger Everton.  Even Matteo Ferrari could be included in that number.  Yet why is David Weir more likely to appear on any retained list than the classy Italian?

Everton have been far too easy prey in the transfer market for far too long.  The people who should be standing up for our club have consistently let us down.  Why should this summer be any different?  Bill Kenwright's unwillingness to share, or even hand power to willing investors could be one reason why not.  A divided boardroom, another.  It is very wrong. 

So yes, there are two Evertons.  The one fills your heart; the other breaks it.
Patrick Hart


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