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From Norwich (A) 1987 to Villa (H) 2009: Programme Sponsorship

By Tony I'Anson :  05/10/2009 :  Comments (0) :

Given the international break, I thought I would pen this for any Evertonians in their late teens, about to leave Liverpool and make their way in the big bad world.  My day out to Norwich in 1987 just sums up what MyEverton means to me and why you should cherish YourEverton match-going days while you still have them.

I’ve just Internet banked the two grand plus VAT to Everton to sponsor the matchday programme for the home game against Aston Villa on 31 October.  My justification was that it was cheaper than buying a sports car as I’ve just turned the big 40 and it will only be my 4th actual real live visit to Goodison in 20 years.  An absolute disgrace by any stretch of the imagination... so I thought the money was worth it to make up for all those years of not attending the match.

So to a story to make you all a little bit envious of MyEverton teen years.  Your dads have probably bored you to tears with Bayern Munich semi-final; league trophy wins; Cup Winners Cup; FA Cup wins; Man Utd. 5-0 home; the 2 Sheedy free kicks; the stupid cow in the main stands who cheered on the last day of one season when we needed Liverpool to lose; terraces with no seats and sitting on the freezing cold blue bar...  I could go on.

So to Norwich away, 1987, whilst doing my A-Levels and before I ventured up to the home town of Duncan Ferguson, Stirling in Scotland.  (Not 'Sterling' by the way.)  The road to Norwich is a long journey with an early start on one of those “executive” coaches. (ie, take a pee on the bus). 

So, in good preparation, I went out into Bootle town and Sully’s with my cousin Henry (a red) and had a right good party in anticipation we were bringing the title home.  My forward plan of attack was to stay in his mum’s near The New Strand as the coach was leaving from behind there at about 7:30am or thereabouts.  Our 'enry decided to stay in his auntie’s just over the bridge towards Southport Road.  Perfect.

Next morning, 3 alarm clocks going and a dreuth as rough as badgers arse, I gets up still a bit bevvied from the night before but just about able to carry out final checks before departure.  Shower – nar.  Clothes on – check.  Sarnnies – check.  Bottle of coke, unopened – check.  Merchandise (hat, cap, scalf and a badge) – check.  Contact lenses – check (phew).  Money –check.  Ticket... gasp!  Where’s me ticket? 

Where’s me fuckin’ ticket?!?!  Look again around the bedroom.... No ticket.  Check pocket, nothing.  Then, look again. And again….panic…Think, Tony think…gasp again…that bastard wouldn’t have, would he?  He fuckin’ has.  I’m gonna kill him. Our 'enry has nicked me ticket.

By now, it’s about 7am and I’ve got to leg it over the canal bridge, along Marsh Lane to get the ticket off that little red shite.  10 minutes later, gasping for breath, I’m waking up the street banging on the door, “Where’s me ticket, arsehole?!”  His uncle let’s me in and I head straight upstairs to beat the livin’ shite out of him… I mean, a joke is a joke, but some things aren’t funny.

What do I find but a whaling cousin trying to catch his breath.  He was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe.  All he could do was point at the floor . “What the fuck are you playing at, the bus is leaving in 15 minutes… where’s me ticket?  Where have you put my bleeding ticket?”  Eventually he managed to spit out “leg, leg”.

“What, what in god’s name are you on about, fucking leg”, I said, looking down at my leg… The piss-taking kopite cousin had only cellotaped the ticket to my leg the night before in case I forgot it for the match.  I had got up that morning “Clothes on – check” and only gone and pulled my sock up over said ticket without noticing.

After one final playful beating with him in stitches under his “eiderdown”, I legged it back along towards the back of the Strand to just catch the bus for Norwich.  Sandwiches – no; Drinks – no. Merchandise – no.  Hangover – yes.  Ticket – yes. bnnn

The rest of the journey is a bit of a blur as I tried to sleep it off and scrounge whatever I could off my mate Niall, a pal from St Mary’s College in Crosby (a rugby school we both attended) who just shook his head for the first few hours.  Next thing I recall was arriving in Norwich a couple of hours before kick off and glory.  Excitement was mounting as we got off the bus in the very leafy, well kept, green and welcoming market town of Norwich now covered with hoards of blue banners, scarves and hats (except mine).

“There’s a pub” said Niall.  Just enough time for a quick couple of pints as I now had the hair of the dog but unfortunately, as we started walking into this fine Norwich hostelry serving alcohol, a fruit machine was walking itself out the door being slightly encouraged by some inebriated Everton scallies whose opinion was “this is a greedy bastard machine that won’t pay out”.

We never managed to get a pint in that pub as the blue flashing lights appeared over the horizon and my next memory was being in this tight little ground in one corner behind the goal and Pat van den Hauwe scoring the only goal of the game in the first minute. We went mental and sang for the rest of the match. See the archive of the event on the official site.

After the game, we thought the team would come out after their showers to celebrate with the fans.  There were no warm downs in those days and some fans started to get a bit impatient and started to invade the pitch.  “Let’s be havin’ you!” said the copper as the scallies were hopping over the barriers.  It must be a local phrase down there.  In the end they decided, what the heck and after the less athletic had sung “Get off the goddam pitch, Get off the goddam pitch, Get off the goddam pitch,” they decided to let us loose on their hallowed turf. 

The players eventually appeared with half-empty bottles of champagne and a bunch of fans sang that song “Everton, oh we are Everton. Everton oh we are Everton”.  And that’s when I grabbed my handful of Carrow Road turf that my mum unearthed in the house the other week when I was down for a visit. 

The envelope said “Turf from Norwich away when we won the league” and there is a bunch of genuine dried-out piece of that pitch.  I think I’ll get it framed and send off to the Everton Collection.  Of course, that’s if I can find the bloody thing.  It’s lasted 20 years in my mum’s cupboard and I bring it to Stirling the other week and lose it.  I know it’s somewhere safe — I just can’t remember where.

That was a day I will never forget as part of MyEverton, so if you are moving away next year, enjoy every moment and they will still be with you in 20-odd years to blog about on ToffeeWeb.

Many years go by and I watch the results on the telly and to be honest, I was glad that I was up here out of the way not having to bear the pain and suffering of the 90s.  Then I met this pretty little blonde thing from Stirling in one of Big Dunc’s regular haunts, the Meadowpark Hotel, whilst working behind the bar in 1993. 

She ended up with me at my next visit to Goodison on a New Year’s Day for a 0-0 against QPR, I think.  The fans didn’t seem interested and the players didn’t seem interested and she never experienced the Gwladys Street roar that I loved.  A puzzled look on her face on what the attraction was said it all...  Although she did eventually marry me nearly 3 years ago.

My last matchday visit to Goodison was the 4-1 win v Aston Villa a few seasons ago which was a great result.  The place looked so much smaller than I ever recall.  Just like going back to your infant and junior school after many years away, your memory is of big buildings and the authority of the assembly hall where the brainwashing and pre-conditioned learning began.

But at Goodison, the sound of Z-Cars took me back to my first season standing next to the Everton dug-out where I once remember Andy King putting his chair right in front of me, standing on my milk crate.  Cheeky bastard, I thought whilst I spent the day watching a perm bobble up and down in the wind...  I was only about 8.

My last visit to Goodison was this August.  After some blogging on ToffeeWeb about how to make “New Money For Everton”, I came up with a couple of ideas that I managed to get Bill Kenwright to read.  I never posted them on ToffeeWeb as I thought they were really good and didn’t want any competition seeing them.  I got a gracious reply from Bill and, to my big surprise one day, an e.mail pops into my Inbox from Robert Elstone.  I couldn’t believe it.  Had they listened?  Were they going to actually take note and action of my suggestions?

I was invited down to discuss said ideas with Robert and Simon Webster, the new head of the commercial department.  I turned up, suited and booted, but there were big apologies as Robert could not make the meeting.  It was the perfect excuse though as he was out of the country buying our Bily, the Ruskie. 

I did get 2 hours sitting in one of the executive boxes, chatting away to Simon about the proposals.  I’ve promised that I will not discuss what was said, so I won’t... but they have been in touch with me a couple of times since.  I know they do have an almost impossible task behind the scenes and if you think your own job is difficult, add a fanatical and passionate customer base like we have, with an opinion about everything.

And finally, to my decision to sponsor the matchday programme.  I hope I haven’t rambled on too much.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to be just a small lifestyle business here in Stirling any more.  I’ve been here in my own business since 1993 with and more recently with Ltd., the latter of which is sponsoring the programme and launching at the same time.  Internet videos is where it’s all at and I hope to use the exposure and table of 6 people in an executive lounge to generate some good business contacts and get it all off the ground, like I have managed to do in Stirling.

If you read this as a teenager going off to University or working away or whatever, just remember that being a fan never leaves you and when you reach your 40th year, dig out your matchday programme from the 2009-10 season v Aston Villa and look out for the advert for a company run by a fellow blue called Ltd. 

We may be as big as, or a forgotten entity, but I will still have the memory of my forthcoming hospitality day at Goodison, the advert in the programme, and the signed, framed picture on my wall. The two grand will be well forgotten about.

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