COLUMNIST JOE JENNINGS
Being an Evertonian, I have found, is almost my lifejacket, a safety. Goodison Park can be described as our cave, where we huddle together while the storm goes on all around us. Nights like the one I was lucky enough to witness only yesterday really do reinforce the years of neglect and decay we have endured. It really is truly amazing what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.
The relegation-haunted seasons of recent memory have left me pacing the floor at night, just as the splendour years have left other Evertonians walking on air. But the adversity endured and the absence of trophies has shaped me as an Evertonian, groomed me in a way that no other football club could comprehend — and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
The Goodison walls stored up warmth, and gave it out like a used oven for 120 minutes, the bear pit exemplified. It was raucous, it was intimidating, it was old school and I fucking loved it, every second of it.
I just love the Everton experience. I love being surrounded by down to Earth, honest and absolutely passionately, fanatical fellow Blues. I love it when my mate elbows me in the face when we score and pours his drink onto my programme, I love it when I fall backwards and damage my coccyx, and I love it when I knock the glasses off the face of the fella behind. None of us give a fuck though, because Everton have scored.
When ‘that’ goal went in, it was as if the world stopped. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I had been certain that penalties were inevitable, and that it would prove to be yet another in a long list of proud and poignant Goodison displays that would ultimately leave us with nothing other than a niggling voice entrenched within your mind that says “If only”.
The Gwladys Street simply exploded — total jubilation. Jumping all over and mauling each other through a wave of celebratory expletives in the Lower Gwladys, I felt tears drip down my face. I stood on my seat and raised my hands to the skies. Was God blue after all? All the years of torment, upset, irritation, disappointment and heartbreak were erased in one kick of the football. It was an out-of-body experience. I cried — with total joy — until the final whistle blew. I was just so proud of my Everton heroes.
I walked into my sixth-form this morning and I spotted the proverbial Liverpool supporting teacher. “That’s made your decade, hasn’t it?” He put his hands into his pockets, one of those aimless gestures people make when they don’t know what else to do. I just smiled and walked past, my head held high. My pride needed no word of explanation.
Perhaps I’ve reached the state of intoxication were power is said to inspire, the state in which you believe you are indispensable and can therefore do anything, absolutely anything you feel like, anything at all is achievable. That is what I feel of Everton right now. Beating Liverpool should be the springboard by which we sought to reclaim our former glories, starting with the greatest cup of them all.
Like they say, for many things there is MasterCard, or the Glazers, or Hicks and Gillett and Co but, you know what, some things really are priceless.
I wouldn’t give up what we are and what we represent for anything, not Kaka, not all the tea in China and not for all the money in the world in footballing terms. We may not be the most successful club in the land right now but we have something money can’t buy…PRIDE. Blue pride.
Your first love, your last love, your only love...the bane of your life.... all things to all men...a lifetime addiction. For me personally, I just feel proud and privileged to be a part of it, part of the greatest family there ever was.
I love you Everton.
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