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What's the score?

By Kevin  Crean :  24/03/2009 :  Comments (9) :
On 14 May 1966, ?Shirl? got that late goal that proved to be the winner. The kopite sandwiched between Bob and me went straight over the back of the sofa and hit his head on the wall. To this day, he swears we threw him into the air.

After the match, I walked home, as for some reason all the buses were full. I remember cars hooting outside the ?Miller, and people in blue and white dancing at the top of Kremlin Drive. It was so easy to be part of the action. Indeed, only ever knowing life in the ?Pool made it impossible to imagine being divorced from the fortunes of our team. After all, if you couldn?t see the match live, you could always stand outside Goodison and listen. If it was raining, we?d go into Bob?s house, which was close enough to the action for the vibes of an Everton goal to bring a soot fall onto the living room carpet.

Yet growing up and moving into the world of work made it a lot more difficult to keep up with events, especially if you were a Blue who?d gone to live in The Solomons. The islands are very far away... so far that. if you travel west from the UK, by the time you have reached the archipelago, you?ve started to come back. There I was in a mid-Pacific world of the 1970s, without TV, video or even a reliable phone link. We depended on the BBC World Service or snail post newspapers to bring us news. Did it matter being isolated? Well, maybe not, for Everton were not doing much to get excited about ? not until, that is, they made it to Wembley.

Sadly the 1977 League Cup Final was dubbed the most turgid in history. Worse still, those Blues supporters not rendered immobile by the lousiness of the first two games, saw us get beat in the third. I can still recall the Echo?s photo of a miserable Terry Darracott set against a backdrop of jubilant Brummies. That copy of the paper must have been sent by biplane, as it took two weeks to reach the islands.

1977 didn?t get any better, even if I was now sitting on the white sands of Ontong Java atoll, a few degrees south of the Equator. All we had to do was beat Liverpool to get into the FA Cup final, and I needed to get the score. A Peace Corps friend obliged with a short wave radio-set. Funny on World Service, how they all seem to speak as if they have their noses pinched between their fingers. We lost the station, but not before the nasal bleat from the commentator told us that Liverpool had got a third to put us down and out.

As we all know, in the years that followed, Everton bumped and ground along. If there was any soot on Bob?s mother?s carpet, it was caused by the victory howls of the away fans. Anyway I moved on, swapping life in the humid tropics for the blasted heat of the Mexican desert. This time I?d got my own radio, but it didn?t help. We made it to the semi-final of the Cup again in 1980, yet there was more disappointment. It started well enough with Brian Kidd scoring, but then he got himself sent off. That was all the encouragement West Ham needed to first equalise, and then finish us off in the replay.

A year on and the Blues were in the foothills of another Cup run. Yet there was a big obstacle: we?d drawn Liverpool in a fourth round tie at Goodison. Unfortunately I was once more overseas, marooned this time in Tegucigalpa, with no way of finding out the score. Our survey team though had been invited to the British Consulate, surely they would know? They didn?t. In desperation I chatted up one of the secretaries who?d come along for the Scots Country dancing, that was to follow our reception. She obviously didn?t follow football, beyond knowing that in Liverpool we were all mad. Despite that she offered to find out the result, and whilst doing so put two and two together to come up with five.

A few minutes later she reappeared to tell me the news, bad news. They?d lost. She saw my despair, but blundered on telling me that some player called, ?Henry Vivaldi? had scored the winner. As if to confirm all she had heard was true, I set off doing the Gay Gordons, between the plates of cucumber sandwiches.

The awful dancing was all in vain, as we didn?t make it to the final that year, but did in May 1984. The trouble was I was working in an isolated corner of an isolated continent. Everton v Watford didn?t mean much to the rank and file in Angola; however, a Danish Evertonian came up trumps and finagled a video of the match. There we were in Luanda, lobbing down the local beer and watching Andy Gray head the ball out of the keeper's hands, whilst Elton put his head in his.

The mid 1980s brought some of our finest hours, and I was able to enjoy several of the 1985 triumphs at first hand. However, in early May 1986, I set off once more to Africa.

It was just two days before Everton were due to play the Reds in the Final, but what did that matter to the people of Mauritania? We sat in a depressing hotel in Nouadhibou. There was no TV, and worse still, the government had tightened up on selling alcohol. It was just like that famous song from ?Os, ??there?s nothing so lonesome, there?s nothing so drear...? In keeping with the gloomy lyrics the only other customer in the bar was an overdressed lady, nursing a tonic-water and a black eye...

Anyway back to the dinner. The hotel boasted an excellent range of dishes, but the reality was it was a choice between camel?s liver and ham salad. What the hell, I thought I?d be adventurous. After all, we were in the count down to the Cup Final? ? They managed to find a French doctor to treat me. I was lucky he had all the right stuff. Even so, I was still too sick to join the others sipping orange juice and listening to the match on the World Service.

Yet my colleagues didn?t let me down. They kept me going with bulletins on the game. With just a few minutes of play left there was a tap on the door of my hotel room. The marketing expert, a Kopite from Basingstoke, started off. ?You look green. You should have ordered liver like the rest of us.? The second comedian, another Red by correspondence course, did what the food poisoning hadn?t done, and added the coup de grace. ?Ian Rush has scored again. It?s all over.?

It just got worse for, as we all know, the early nineties were tough for Evertonians, and I, like many others, discovered the power of prayer. What a relief then in 1995 to be free of relegation, and in the last four of the FA Cup. Only Jürgen Klinsmann?s men barred our way to the finals, but the odds were stacked agin? us. The footballing world was banking on the Premiership?s aristocrats sending us Dogs of War away with our tails between our legs.

On the day of the semis, my wife and I were in the Californian coastal town of Seal Beach, and were once again out of touch with the action. The game came and went without any news. Surely the best place to try and get the score was a bar? We fetched up at a small saloon close to the beach. It had wall-to-wall TV, but it seemed to be all golf, American football, basketball... no? wait a minute. There it was, a single screen showing Matt Jackson taking a throw-in. And at the bottom right-hand corner of that golden vision was the score Everton 1 Spurs 0.

The replay of the game rolled on, and so did the glasses of Michelob dark... We were now 2-1 up, but there was more. I did a star-jump to celebrate Amokachi?s first. The barmaid nervously unfurled a ?we-don?t-want?any-trouble-in-here? smile. However, she joined us in a celebratory drink when, a few minutes later, our boy got his second and she realised I was too far-gone to cause any bother.

By the time the final came about, I was in Lisbon, but within reach of TV and already airborne when Paul Rideout headed in the rebound, spraying my spare escudos all over the other customers.

This May I?ll be far away from the Blues, but thankful that in 2009 the excellence of modern communications means that wherever we are, we can be linked to our club?s fortunes.

So now it?s up to us to sort out United, and then hand out capital punishment to whoever else makes it to the final. I hope I?ll be the one to bring down the soot in a living room somewhere in Kansas.

Reader Comments

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Andy Fletcher
1   Posted 24/03/2009 at 17:31:28

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Great stories, Kevin, it must have been so difficult and frustrating trying to find out the score before satelite TV and internet.
Alasdair Mackay
2   Posted 24/03/2009 at 17:55:34

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Correct me if I?m wrong, but the only season you spent back on Merseyside since the 70s was 1984-85?

Can someone get this guy a job in Liverpool?
Howard Don
3   Posted 24/03/2009 at 20:49:10

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Like you Kevin I spent years as an expat but there are Blues everywhere to bond with. In Mauritius in the early eighties me and a guy called Laurie Knight formed the local EFC supporters club, the highspot of our time there was, I think, the Imre Varadi derby win. Then I was transferred to Abu Dhabi in the Emirates and by shear coincidence Laurie’s company sent him there too.

We spent a bomb flying back for the League cup final against the RS which nearly ended in divorce for Laurie made worse by the 0-0 draw. However we had a good night out and my mate who’d got us the tickets got his leg over with an American bird in our Hotel that night so not a total failure.

The following year we stayed in touch half frustrated, half delighted, as the Blues won the League and got to The Cupwinners cup final. I was in mid air for the Bayern Munich game, got back to Abu Dhabi late and spent ages trying to get a commentry on the game not realising everyone was in a flat along the corridor watching it live on some local TV channel.

Rotterdam was a step too far both for Laurie’s marriage and getting away on leave so local expat Blues and others assembled in a flat for the televised final. First half coverage was fine then they switched to prayer time for about 45mins. Bedlam ensued with frantic phone calls home to check the score and we eventually watched it on delay. Heartbreak followed in the cup final against United as we watched with assorted Cockneys, Brummies etc as the Blues just couldn’t quite complete the treble.

A few weeks later all assembled at my flat to watch the RS at Heysel. We couldn’t get reception without holding the ariel out of the window 10 floors up and eventually left it hanging there. It fell off and landed on some local’s car bonnet parked below, we hastily cleared up the evidence and scarpered back upstairs to watch the unfolding disaster.

I was back home for the second half of the next title winning season in 1986, but the rest is of course history English teams banned from Europe, Howard left and our beautiful team headed for breakup thereafter.

loved my expat days but still regret missing most of the best period in my life of supporting Everton.
Eric Myles
4   Posted 25/03/2009 at 02:32:25

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I know how you have been feeling Kevin.

From 1982 to 1994 I was off and on in the desert of Saudi Arabia in the days before Internet and worldwide live coverage. The few satellite dishes that emerged there late on were owned by Saudi princes and were regularly shot at by the religious police. I?d almost forgotten about football and when I emerged... well, you konw what?s happened since then.

For my sins, since then, I?ve been stuck in Thailand, another hardship posting but someone?s got to do it.
Brian Waring
5   Posted 25/03/2009 at 18:16:45

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You poor buggers! How did you lads cope stuck out in them terrible places, the Solomon islands, Mauritius and Thailand?
Roger Osborne
6   Posted 25/03/2009 at 21:19:05

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You should try residing in Lewisham, maybe then you would have justification for some complaint. Palm trees and paradise it ain’t.

But for all your jetting around, it did bring back some memories, the Trebilcock/Temple final was a bit too early for me, but I remember like yesterday the Kendall years even if it was short lived.

Paul Daly
7   Posted 26/03/2009 at 04:42:09

Report abuse of the best things ever published on here. Great Stuff....
Kevin Crean
8   Posted 27/03/2009 at 16:46:40

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Glad I awakened all those raw memories from Saudi, Mauritius, Thailand and Lewisham. Howard, sounds like our lives had a lot in common! Let?s hope we?ve got more to feel isolated from soon!
Wayne Instone
9   Posted 19/04/2009 at 09:43:25

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I am at work in Egypt, and desperate to see the game on TV, does anyone know if it being shown and by who??

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