Of course, after moving to the US in the late 80s where football was viewed with the same skepticism as communism, the memories of Everton and its importance became less frequent. Despite our estrangement from all things Everton, there were some other pivotal moments that become etched into the psyche and still resonate: beating United in the Cup Final in 1995, listening to Everton on the shortwave radio when they miraculously came back and beat Wimbledon on the last day of the season in 1994.
But none of these memories hold a candle to the day Martin Dobson walked into the front door of our suburban house just outside Boston, Massachusetts, on a sunny day in June of 1994. My father had organized soccer camps in our town and arranged to get Martin to coach and stay in town for the summer.
Now, I have to admit, I didn't know of Martin Dobson except for what my dad had to say about him. I knew he played for Everton but that was about the extent of my knowledge. My father regaled me of stories of what a great player he was, and I'm sure he was, but I only knew Martin as a coach and as a person, and he was exemplary at both.
My father and himself got along famously: Martin and his wife stayed the entire summer and liked it so much they came back the following year to do it all over again. By this time I was 16 and had begun to develop as a footballer. In the summer of 1995, Martin invited me, along with a teammate, to a trail at Burnley Football Club. I was thrilled.
While we were there Martin arranged for us to go and see two Everton matches: home to Arsenal and home to Southampton. Although I always harbored ambitions to become a professional footballer, the thrill of getting to see Everton play overshadowed everything else about that trip.
As I have mentioned earlier Martin Dobson is a perfect gentlemen and one of the most personable and likeable people I have ever come across. He arranged for my friend and I to get into the clubhouse after the Arsenal match (we lost, 2-0) and we got to meet all the players. I met Duncan Ferguson, Daniel Amokachi, Andrei Kancheslkis, had my picture taken with the FA Cup and the Charity Shield. I was overwhelmed with excitement.
Martin knew everyone there: he introduced us to Brian Labone, who personally escorted us through the tunnel and out onto the pitch. What an amazing experience! Not only did Brian Labone himself guide us around Goodison with all the friendliness and warmth you would expect from a close friend, but we were with Martin Dobson, who was chatting with his old teammates and pals from his Everton days.
We stood in the goals and had our photo taken with Brian and then again in the center circle. To be treated with such respect and kindness was incredible and I am eternally grateful to Martin for being such a gracious host and to my dad for showing me what being an Evertonian is all about.
On a side note, Burnley weren't interested in signing me that year... I didn't care one jot.
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