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The Story of a Love Affair

By Peter Roberts :  21/10/2009 :  Comments (7) :
Let me tell you the story of a love affair which began 15 years ago. There are two protagonists: a 9-year-old boy and a football club. The boy had grown up largely without football in his life but had begun following it that summer with the World Cup, watching Sweden score their way to the semi-finals and eventually 3rd place, a dreadlocked Henrik Larsson making his impact on the world stage, the likes of Brolin and Schwarz, both to become Premier League players, showing why they had the ethic to become part of one of the world's best teams.

That autumn, the boy's father took him to his first football match. The team had begun particularly badly, having just survived relegation the previous year. They were up against a side from the Midlands who, like them, were going to be fighting relegation that season.

The boy's favourite player, a Swedish left-winger, would be playing. The boy was as excited as if the family was getting a puppy. Parking in a car park next to some parkland near the ground, walking across the ground where the club had begun their story, walking up to the big stadium (40,000 might not seem much now but for a 9-year-old, it's still fairly impressive). The wall of noise as the kid walks up the steps and sees the pitch for the first time, it still gives him goosebumps to this day. He takes his seat next to his father, watching the players warm up and kick a ball about.

The game kicks off on the dot of 3pm. Now the details of the game is hazy for him, but he remembers three things — the opposition score with a bicycle kick, a player signed temporarily from Scotland makes his debut, and at the end, his Dad asks the steward if he can walk onto the pitch, to which the steward obliges. On the pitch, he gets a sense of just what it would be like to play for this club, his club.

As you have now no doubt guessed, the boy in question is me; 15 years ago last week, my Dad took me to Goodison for the first time. 15 October 1994. We played Coventry City and lost 2-0. That, the pitch walkabout and Duncan making his debut are the only three things I can now remember from the match. My Dad recalls how he cried on the way home as we were doomed to be relegated for the first time in his life.

Fifteen years to the week later, I was sat, in the same ground, in the same section (Lower Bullens) watching the Everton side I have grown to know and love play another side from the Midlands who will probably go on and fight relegation. Those dark days of fighting relegation are now, gladly, behind us (so much so that it's getting to early January when I ask my Dad for Easter eggs as Everton have already got 40 points!).

Our team has come on so much since those days of Mike Walker and players such as David Burrows, Earl Barrett and Stuart Barlow. Sometimes, we forget about that. Sometimes, the team of today lets us down, as they did on Saturday, and as they did 15 years ago, by losing to Coventry. But Everton is like a marriage — however much you want to break away and cheat on it with a younger, more beautiful partner like Arsenal, something keeps dragging you back. That's love for you.

Here's to the next 15 years — and I truly hope that I'm sat here, taking my kid to the game, and realising just how crap we were in 2009 compared to the now.

Reader Comments

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Ciarán McGlone
1   Posted 21/10/2009 at 16:15:44

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Osman will still be getting a start...

Sorry, couldn’t help it.
Dave Wilson
2   Posted 21/10/2009 at 16:47:16

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And we’ll all still be watching this space.
Peter McHugh
3   Posted 21/10/2009 at 17:07:27

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.....and Kopites will still be saying this is the year they win the league !
Steve Pugh
4   Posted 21/10/2009 at 19:14:28

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And with a bit of luck Rafa will still be their manager.
Howard Don
5   Posted 21/10/2009 at 20:02:27

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Peter, Your post reminds me of when I fell in love with the same lady also at about 9 years old. My uncle took me to see Everton v Preston North End around 1960, it was 4-0 to Everton. I remember a flying winger called Mickey Lill, but most of all it was the atmosphere, it was magical to a young boy.

As you’ve probably gathered though this lady is not easy to love for a lifetime. She’ll take you to the heights of ecstacy for a while, then leave you so distraught at times so you think she’s no good for you. Friends and family will say "why do you bother" but somehow you’ll always come back and take whatever she dishes out to you then, for a while, she’ll be wonderful again. I’ve spent some of the best times of my life in her company and other times she’s sent me home in despair.

Now she’s even thinking of moving house to a different neighbourhood I don’t really fancy and they say she’s planning to go for the cheap look instead of her old but classy appearance and now maybe, just maybe this is the time to finish it once and for all. But who am I kidding I’ll follow her, I know I will, she’ll write to me in July as usual and I’ll agree to see her once more and it will probably end in tears again.

But after the tears who knows maybe she’ll be the old magical lover again and take me on one of those trips to London or Rotterdam, she’s even mentioned Hamburg this year. Either way she’s never going to let me go and I don’t have the strength or the will to finish it.

At the end of it all who wants an easy lover like those currently resident in Old Trafford, Anfield and Highbury? They are ladies of easy virtue who’ll take on any hangers on for their money and an easy ride. Me, I’ll stick with my Grand Old Lady for all her faults.
James Stewart
6   Posted 23/10/2009 at 09:31:12

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I hope Moyes is not here then thats all i can say!
Peter Roberts
7   Posted 24/10/2009 at 23:07:20

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Ironically, Howard, my love affair with Everton began approximately five months before my first match - on May 7th to be precise. No doubt people here need no reminder of the game played that day. I remember my Dad telling me not to tell him the Everton score while he was working in the garden (he couldn’t bear the tension, especially when we went 2-0 down). The joy on his face and the scenes on the TV drew me to Everton so much, even at one of the lowest points in this club’s long and proud history.

The highest has to be the FA Cup win the following year, followed closely by finishing above Liverpool in 2005. The FA Cup Semi against Utd is a third, such is the few number of high points I’ve had to experience with Everton in my childhood. So I’m grateful to Moyes for restoring the good times and bringing us to a level where we are disappointed if we draw rather than ecstatic on the rare occasion we do win (as infrequent it was in the 1990s)

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