Over the years I?ve been privileged to attend every Hall of Fame dinner at the regal Adelphi Hotel for the benefit of past players and local charities.
It?s going to be very hard to sum up these gatherings of the Everton extended family, the past and present players of our famous club, but I?ll try.
These events were unique in the football world born yet again from the mind of David France, many famous clubs like Bayern Munich and Barcelona have since copied the theme.
I best described these nights like the Nuremberg rallies but these crowds joined up for the love of their club, their players and their game that gave them so much pleasure away from the burdens and toils of life.
It didn?t matter that the present team was below par, for us what mattered most that we had seen and tasted the glory years and these players present where part of those days, they made it happen for us.
These are nights to thank and honour those sitting at the top table. Imagine World Cup, FA Cup, European Cup and League Championship winners having dinner with you.
In a massive stately like room packed to the rafters with Evertonians there is a genuine warmth, bonding and passion of all things Blue. We in the congregation of this mass of stars come closer to our heroes than at any time in our lives. There are too many players and managers to name here who have experienced the Hall of Fame treatment but what a team you could create out of them. It?s like Championship Manager over the eras ? now there?s a thought for a best selling game
I may never have seen some of these past players play but in the eyes of the older Blue?s there I saw what their heroes had achieved. Grown men with tears on their cheeks unbelieving that they were dining in the same room with a plethora of Everton greats. Some kneeling in awe, others standing on tables creating a noise level of Everton songs to harm your eardrums. I often thought blue petals should have been thrown as the next all-conquering hero was introduced into the gladiator?s arena.
The wine and the beer flowing like a Roman orgy.
Many of the congregation had thought they had gone to heaven for one night with an array of stars gathered to be once again in the midst of their adoring crowd. The disbelief on the faces of past players with the adoration they still received after all these years. We identified more with these humble gentlemen who donned the Royal Blue jersey. I have a rule of thumb that, the older the player is, the nicer the person they are.
At the end of the night you expect the roof to open and Peter Pan to take us all to our Blue Heaven above.
I?m sure Dixie, Vernon, Lawton and all were there with us as we joined hands in celebration. If you could bottle what the atmosphere in the room is like, especially the first, take it to the game with us we could be masters of the game again.
These nights cry out loud and proud WE ARE EVERTON!
This excellent idea has helped so many ex-players. Not only for their worn out limbs and finances but having their batteries charged for the coming months ahead spent in rooms not filled of jewels and too many cars to drive but memories of when they played in the Royal Blue shirt and the respect and love that came their way. They felt special again yet humble.
So many highlights of these nights but a few unforgettable memorable moments include Gordon Watson walking in carrying in the FA cup after the previous year arriving in a wheelchair.
Leslie Ball in her last days from her hospital bed telling Bally to go away for just one night to be amongst his people to help him through their pain. Bally singing Everton songs. Labby uttering the words of ?twenty reds are only worth one Blue?. Alex Young making the only time I can remember the room silent by just being there hovering with his winged heels. Dave Hickson saying he?d break every bone in his body for his football team but he would die for Everton.
Open the Adelphi gates ? we march to Wembley tonight to punch the air of what this great club is about, the Everton army, better when roused than any Invincibles thrown against the Spartans...
Thank you, Dr David France for masterminding these unforgettable events... and Brian, Tommy and Roger for taking up the baton in later years. Sadly, all good things come to an end and this will be our last supper but our memories of these great nights will be never-ending. Raise a glass tonight for all our past and present heroes and give thanks you were born an Evertonian, from the cradle to the grave. We are all part of the Hall of Fame. Happy days indeed.
On too the last of these great nights, the following is a report of pandemonium again.
Inducted into the very last Hall of Fame was a hard call as they will be accompanied by so many past Everton heroes but those who got the vote from the fans for these cherished places were Tony Kay, Bill Kenwright, David Unsworth, Graeme Stuart and the man who came from Rangers to give us hope and keep our respect when it seemed mission impossible to keep us up along with Joe Royle?s belief, our talisman of the nineties... Duncan Ferguson. There were also two places for Ben Swift Chambers and Arthur Riley Wade who were at the forefront and birth of our great club.
I came to the Hall of Fame dinner early to drop off David France's Magnificent Obsession book for the top table that night. I found myself in the lift with our World Cup winning player Ray Wilson ? what a gentleman and so humble, he loves these nights... often the last man standing.
I spoke with Brian Snagg and Roger Kenyon about this being the last ever Hall of Fame induction they said they were sad but wanted the event to go out on a high and not peter out to a damp squib, many ex-players were getting too old now to travel and unfortunately in ill health. They wanted these special nights to be remembered fondly.
I was told they could have sold this last night three times over but getting a venue suitable in Merseyside would have been a problem. I had a sneak preview of the hall before the Everton family arrived, the chairs and tables where so tightly packed that all was needed was tomato sauce poured in for the sardines sat there!
Before the event, we went into the VIP lounge below the hall. In comes Duncan in a silk mobster's suit, looking a million dollars. The room went quiet, every girl present swooned ? even the men wanted a picture or autograph off him, like Duncan was a god. Tell me after this entrance he is not an icon to so many. Duncan?s head was spinning like the exorcist, pleasing everybody for a pic and signing. Watching, I thought he had the patience of a saint, something he never was on the pitch.
Rhino and Jags
Unsy came in and spotted Jags ? they had a hug as they were teammates at Sheffield Utd and obviously got on. Two rising young stars entered: Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling. Dan made John Oster look old when he played for Everton. You realise when you see these young players that they are still kids but huge expectancy from us all in the coming final weeks to make this season go out on a high. I remember being told Chelsea offered Jack a million-pound house in Chelsea to sign for them but he choose to stay at his beloved Everton.
Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling
As the last group photo was taken on the steps, I thought to myself that Brian and Roger were right about finishing these nights as you could see the diminishing numbers of distinguished ex-players in attendance. Gathered there for the last night included Jim Pearson, Ray Wilson, Ernie Hunt and his syrup, Howard Kendall, Gordon West, Dai Davies, Dave Clements, Tony Kay, Fred Pickering, John Bailey, Gary Jones, Jimmy Husband, Derek Temple, Graham Stuart, David Unsworth and the star of the night, Big Duncan.
Duncan and Derek Temple
In the Grand Hall, the fans waited drinks in hand to see in the last night. Billy Butler was the MC for the night again. Over the years he has made us all laugh with his quips. I?ll always remember his ?organised chaos? quote describing the nights because at times they are ? which I suppose made them so eventful, the rawness of it all.
Brian Snagg then was introduced to make the first of many emotional speeches of the night thanking everyone over the years and the passing of many of our greats, Brian told us not to be sad; it?s been a great adventure, so raise a glass and cheers to the Hall of Fame and our past players.
The Big Yin with Brian Snagg and Tommy Birch
Then came the introduction of the players for the night?s top table. Everyone loudly cheered but the roof nearly came off when the Big Yin was introduced. As he strode in, he punched the air like so many times on the pitch... It was a stand-on-your-chair moment and get the digi camera working to capture the return of Big Dunc.
It took five minutes for the singing to stop for Duncan before Billy Butler could get a word in. The room was boiling now... literally, the sardines where nearly cooked. There were no fans to keep the temperature down but hundreds of fans of all things Everton.
The Top Table
Into the gladiator's room came Phil Jagielka, who received the Player of the Year award. He told the crowd that they hoped to give them something to shout about at the end of the season. Then, for the first time, a joint Young Player of the Year award to Dan Gosling (plus the Goal of the Season award) and Jack Rodwell. ?Who put the ball in the red shite?s net, super Danny Gosling. Super super Dan?... With players like these, our future is bright.
Our adopted Scouser, Peter Lupson, who has had his new book Across the Park just published, spoke glowingly of two people who formed our history. Peter gave a talk and insight into two of the new inductees: Reverend Ben Swift Chambers, who literally set our ball rolling, and Alfred Riley Wade, a member of the first Everton team and later a director of the club. A more in-depth piece on these great men can be found here.
Next person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Bill Kenwright; Howard Kendall, our most successful manager, gave Bill his award. It was then our Chairmen?s turn to speak to the audience gathered. Bill said it was a great honour to receive such an award. "For over sixty years I?ve watched Everton but I have never been so proud of our team this season.
"When I look around and see the likes of Tony Kay being inducted, I remember saying my prayers to the FA about Tony. He had paid his dues, let him come back home (Tony had banished himself too Spain at the time and was harshly given a life ban around the world for alleged match-fixing) and be amongst us again.
"Tony came to Everton from Sheffield Wednesday for then a British transfer record and with his help we secured the title in 1963. So many older Evertonians have told me how good Tony was and but for the ban would have been in the England team that won the World Cup, he was that good ? hard as nails to boot.
"When Tony came to receive the award, he was emotional, you see Tony still can?t understand all the adoration he gets after all these years. He is not alone in this as it's endemic of many past great players. Tony just kept saying, 'I can?t believe it, you are wonderful people, I just love Everton.'
"Tony, you may have had a reign too fleeting with Everton but you definitely left a mark ? like on so many attackers of the day..."
Tony Kay and "Talking Blue" author, Becky Tallentire
Speaking about David Unsworth, another inductee to the Hal of Fame, Bill remembered him being transferred to West Ham on the Friday but Unsy wanted to stay for the next day's home game and watch us in the stands. Bill said to him, "You will be back, son". Twelve months later, he was collecting coaching badges on the way, so who knows... Unsy may be back in another capacity.
Next, Bill spoke of our Diamond, Graham Stuart; "We all have heroes ? David Smallman was David Prentice?s... one of mine is Graham Stuart, who we owe our pride and respect still in this city after That Game against Wimbledon."
Up went the chant, ?One Graham Stuart, there?s only one Graham Stuart.? ? We will never forget that day, Graham, thank you.
One by one, the new inductees stood up to receive their awards. Brian gave Graham his award first. Again, a speech from the heart came from Diamond. He said he felt humble as he was only with Everton a few years... "When I left this great club, I received a letter from Bill, thanking me for what I did whilst playing here. I now have that letter framed on my wall ? it will always be close to my heart. I will never forget the fantastic performance of Unsy against Mark Hughes in the Final and Duncan was our talisman. Joe Royle was a great manager, he made us believe in ourselves. Howard Kendal I have the utmost respect for ? he brought me to this club and I will be forever in his debt. Howard told me to think champagne and drink champagne. I hope we are drinking it in May!"
Then came the turn of Rhino who received his award off Roger Kenyon, a very good centre half of the seventies, now living in Chester. Roger said that, after Labby, for any centre half at Everton, he was an impossible act to follow. But this lad was a great centre back and goalscorer for Everton.
Rhino said he was incredibly proud and privileged to wear the Royal Blue shirt. "It was a fantastic occasion back in 95. I now go back to Everton as a fan and will be at this year's Cup Final." Rhino looked as fit as a fiddle. I?ve met this lad a few times and he was always a great ambassador of the club. I can remember him sitting in the Gwladys Street with his kid watching a game, I think it was against Bolton, the surrounding crowd were in awe but respectful except for the chants of Rhino during the game, which had the rest of the ground a bit confused but joining in.
Then came the icing on the cake for so many gathered here tonight ? the induction of the Big Yin into the Hall of Fame. Bill said he saw the effect in the VIP room earlier, that the big fella had on Jags, Dan and Jack ? they looked at him as if he was a God.
Up went the roar ?Duncan, Duncan Ferguson!!!? Bill said, ?We should have still been in the Champions League but know we were robbed of Duncan?s Goal?!
?We?ll drink a drink, a drink, to Duncan the king, the king, the king, he?s the leader of our football team, he?s the greatest centre forward that the world has ever seen?!
We all know the story about Duncan being sold to Newcastle by Peter Johnson and when Bill took over the club he wanted to heal some wounds ? one was getting the big fella back with Walter Smith's blessing. Bill spoke to Duncan who was unhappy in the land of the Magpies... although he did sing like a canary up there. Bill asked him to come home and wear the Royal Blue shirt again. Fifteen minutes later, Duncan rang Bill back and said ?I?m in the car ? I?m coming home?
Howard Kendall stood up to give Duncan his award and told us the following:
"I first came to notice Duncan whilst he was playing for Dundee Utd. Jim McLean was the manager at the time he told me that many managers had enquired about Duncan but he wanted to play for Glasgow Rangers. Jim said, 'Do you know much about Duncan? We fine him more money than he earns!' Duncan was 17 at the time. When I made him captain," Howard said, "he scored a great hat-trick and was a natural leader on the pitch. He doesn?t like publicity and won?t talk to the press but we had him on Club Call once for 1½ minutes we made three and a half grand funny thing was no one could understand a word he said!"
"He invited me to one of his children?s christenings... I was the last to leave and as I walked across the lawn, Duncan grabbed me to give me a hug ? I fell over, 'Are you alright boss,' I said, 'Thank fuck I?m not a burglar!' "
Howard went on to talk about the funny times gone by, being the Everton manager; if you get the chance, go see Howard at a dinner near you ? he will make you laugh. I was speaking to Howard the other week at a Frank Bruno do; I told him I always remember when he told his classmate at the time, Bryan Ferry, to stop combing his hair as it will eventually fall out! Then came the moment so many had waited for press this link for the Big Yin?s speech; he had tears in his eyes at the end...
"I only played for Everton. That?s what happens, if you play for Everton, you just forget the rest"
I took this from a fan's site about Duncan ? I think it sums him up very well. A new hero to so many at the time we needed one of the more skeptical a drain in finances. The only thing I will say to this is that Duncan?s injury was serious ? a flattened nerve in the base of his spine. Did anyone ever see Duncan getting treatment on the pitch? I can?t recall ? he soldiered on; Ronaldo and others, take note.
Sometimes it is not about goals, appearances or how much you feel a player applied himself whilst at Everton. I'd defy ANY Evertonian not to watch this video and not know for a nailed on FACT that Duncan "gets it".
We are old enough to remember better days, maybe better players and more success... To many, Duncan is as good as it's ever been, whilst Bob Latchford was and still is the ultimate hero to many Blues it's only confirmation that you don't actually have to win things to be an Everton great.
To see Duncan speak with an obvious passion ? something that not every player can fathom ? for the goals he scored at the absolute moment they were needed, for the fact that he gave kids living through a barren period the belief that somebody actually cared when he played, what's the point in watching Everton as a kid if you are not allowed to have a hero? What right has anybody to tell you who can and who cannot be your hero?
We remember the look on the kids faces when he scored against United... tell us you wouldn't die to be the man who gave us that moment. We always said the same about Andy Gray, if we ever had a chance to play for Everton we would play like them... 100%. To see opposition players visibly shrink when Duncan was introduced as a sub is something very few Everton players have achieved, I doubt there are many who have achieved it at all throughout football. Sheer presence, the untouchable "something" that sets the greats apart. Whatever it is, Duncan had it in spades... judging by that speech, he still has.
I know Alex Young often laments "at times, maybe I didn't push myself enough" ... maybe Duncan can be accused of the same by some, but when it was good, it was second to none.
Evertonians need heroes; we've had pretenders, we've had dreamers, we've had "legends" five years too late... but we have a top shelf of absolute 100% greats.
"When you have played for Everton, you forget the rest... the others are nothing, NOTHING!"
GET PAID BIG MAN...
Welcome to the top shelf!
Here is a link to this great new site with some great T shirts available:
When we went pre-season to Aberdeen, we stopped off at Stirling for a few lemonades. Unbeknown to us, Duncan?s Mum and Dad lived 50 yards away. When the fans realised this, down went the pints of lemo and the coach full of Evertonians embarked on a pilgrimage to Duncan?s parents' house. I wrote an article on in at the time... Good Deeds, about when Evertonians went to their Graceland.
Fans were putting the pebbles they found in the garden in their pockets as a memento. Duncan?s parents were fortunately in and they were the perfect hosts, letting the fans see their son's medals and shirts. I was still in the bar and my mate Barry said, "Ian, go and see if Duncan?s parents are alright... and get the lads back ? we're going soon."
As I walked up, all the neighbours were out to see what all the fuss was about; give the lads their due, they were very respectful. As the last lad left, I said jokingly to Duncan?s mum, "Have a quick look around to see if anything?s missing." I then had my own little tour, had a drink off Mr Ferguson, and told them about their son's good deeds for the local charities ? you see, at the time, it was 'Duncan Disorderedly' this and that, all over the papers, but his donations behind the scenes were never publicized.
Howard Kendall then received another award for getting smashed... no, I mean to replace the one he got smashed last year. Phil Neville got an award for his captaincy this season and David Moyes got one for being David Moyes. Roger Kenyon and Tommy Birch got awards off Brian for their help on these nights.
Next came the Alex Young award, to be presented to Dr David France for all his Evertonian works. David could not be present due to ill health and asked me to receive his award on his behalf. After Duncan?s speech, it was an impossibly hard act to follow, there were a few boos for me as I had to escort Ernie Hunt (with his syrup), away a few minutes earlier, when he would not let Howard get a word in edgeways... or they just did not like me? C?est la vie.
Ernie Hunt in disguise
This is what I said about Dr Everton after receiving the award from Ray Wilson; thank you, Ray:
"It is an honour and indeed a privilege to accept this award for such a special man and Evertonian. As you know, David is not in good health and not well enough to travel although I would not be surprised if he walks through those doors any minute now. But, unbeknown to him, his long suffering wife Liz has hid his passport.
"I often ask 'How will people be remembered?' ? well, this great Evertonian has certainly left his mark on all of us. He is the reason, with Brian, Roger and Tommy, that these fantastic nights came to being and why we are here. I remember the first like it was yesterday and likened it to the Nuremberg rallies.
"In a nutshell, we wouldn?t be here tonight without him.
"These nights not only serve you fellow Blues to meet, dine and pay tribute to our heroes but, for the players themselves, past and present, to remind them how lucky and privileged they were to have donned the Royal Blue jersey. Everton are not just any club, as Moysie says, we are the People's Club.
"If you cut David in half, he would have EFC running through him; even tonight, David has commissioned a DVD and badges for a keepsake.
"He wrote 16 books to tell the Everton story. He is the life President of the Shareholders Association, even now helping to forge links with our namesakes in Chile.
"He founded and created the world renowned Everton Former Players Foundation so we could take care of them, since copied by the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
"He secured out heritage, and that of Merseyside football, through compiling the greatest collection of football memorabilia in the world ? The Everton Collection.
"David France is Dr Everton.
"He is the Evertonian?s Evertonian
"He is one of the greatest Evertonians of all time.
"David may never have played for Everton but he has certainly played his part in keeping our history and proud traditions for the world to see. He should be in the Hall of Fame for his tireless work in promoting our club."
I did an interview with David a few weeks back and he truly is Everton nuts but comes across as so humble; it was titled Don't Thank Me ? Being a Blue is My Reward. It says everything about the man.
"David is confined to his sickbed in America but asked me to read his speech to you. It's the same one that he read at the Blue Kipper Awards last year.
"It reads... ?Kopites are Gobshites?. Let's hear it for Dr Everton loudly so that he can hear you in America ... ?Kop-ites are Gob-shites? "
Even on the night he was not there, David had commissioned Tabacula to make 700 DVDs depicting all the players who have been at the Hall of Fame Dinners, in their caricatures ? it was narrated by Alan Jackson of Radio Merseyside and is a great keepsake, together with the badges also provided.
The entire top table were given his latest great book titled Dr Everton?s Magnificent Obsession, a must-read for all Evertonians.
Local comedian and massive Blue, Mickey Finn came on to try and stem the flow of songs and try his act on. After sssshhhing for five minutes, Mickey could finally get his act under way... Uep it was one of those mad nights again. Mickey told us there was a new version of Spot the Ball in the Echo ? it's called Spot the Scouser on the Kop!
He went to a gig in Wigan last night via the motorway, where the last mile was cobbled, there was a Securicor van parked up and on the windscreen a note read ?There are no pies left overnight in this vehicle?!
Try and catch Mickey on the circuit ? he will make you laugh. I first met Mickey at an away game at Blackburn when they still had their cowshed end ? I think Amockachi scored the winner that night and someone broke his leg ? anyone know who it was?
Next came the auction of Everton signed shirts ? Louis Saha's, Tim Cahill?s, Joleon Lescott's, Marouane Fellaini?s and Leon Osman?s ? together with some Everton signed pictures. A tidy sum was raised for local charities, including Clare House, Alderhey, and the Everton Former Players foundation.
Ray Wilson and Derek Temple
How fitting it would be with the memories of so many greats who have assembled in the past in this great hall that we bring the cup back? This decade has been too long not to win any silverware but on these nights we win again our reward of being a Blue. So thank you David France, Brian Snagg, Roger Kenyon, Tommy Birch, Barry Hewitt (who looks like he is having a nervous breakdown trying to organise the crowd ), and everybody else who made these nights so memorable ? including the fans gathered there and the club for allowing players to attend.
ps: Brian Snagg is a good man; I mentioned the plight of little Jimmy Oliver ? a young Evertonian from Southport who has Leukemia. Straight away, Brian was writing a cheque for a donation before I had finished telling Brian about our little Blue soldier.
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1 Posted 04/04/2009 at 09:51:02
2 Posted 04/04/2009 at 10:20:16
3 Posted 04/04/2009 at 11:28:57
4 Posted 04/04/2009 at 11:51:53
I was one of the lucky ones to get a ticket for the final dinner and better still, a VIP ticket. Just to see the big man running through the doors of the VIP longe with autograph hunters trying to break the lines of security guards was something to be seen. Then having to go the toilet and grown men offering me £50 for my VIP ticket to get a picture with the big man shows you how much he is idolised by Evertonians.
This was my third Hall of Fame Dinner and all of them have left me with memories that can't be taken away. A big thank you to all the people who made this night the best. X
5 Posted 04/04/2009 at 14:30:38
BUT, how much we miss Bally and Labby. True, true greats along with Alex. I look at the Goodison pitch and miss them so much.
6 Posted 04/04/2009 at 14:26:55
7 Posted 04/04/2009 at 15:26:59
8 Posted 04/04/2009 at 17:58:59
Apologies to earlier readers as I hadn't finished the formating and whatnot. My editing program keeps crashing and I finally gave up with it last night. From Ian's script, it's never very clear what's him and what's "reported speech" from the various heroes and gathered dignitaries, so please forgive me if I have got the quotes in the wrong place anywhere.
The last fix I needed to attend to was the bit where Ian says "I took this from a fan?s site about Duncan..." That is from the 1878 The Originals website, as the inset link indicates, and since I have figured that out, it is now clearly indented.
9 Posted 04/04/2009 at 17:56:23
10 Posted 05/04/2009 at 10:54:35
Everton till we die!
11 Posted 05/04/2009 at 16:16:55
12 Posted 05/04/2009 at 18:29:32
Yet again a brilliant piece of work. !!
13 Posted 05/04/2009 at 18:55:26
14 Posted 05/04/2009 at 20:04:42
15 Posted 06/04/2009 at 11:06:20
16 Posted 06/04/2009 at 12:46:06
17 Posted 07/04/2009 at 14:23:48
18 Posted 08/04/2009 at 20:37:34
19 Posted 09/04/2009 at 12:08:04
20 Posted 17/04/2009 at 22:15:28
If the Big Fella? was playing on Sunday, Rio wouldn't even get off the bus! Duncan I love you!!