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Hope Springs: A Tribute to My Dad

By Joe Aylward :  14/01/2010 :  Comments (11) :
My Dad, Tom Aylward, is quite simply the best person I know. Utterly unselfish, generous, self-educated, funny as buggery — he has guided me from childhood into adulthood generously, providing me with principles and ideals that I hope I can pass onto my two kids.

His love for all things Blue made it an easy path for me to follow. Before we became successful in the mid-eighties, he would regale me with stories of heroes that to me were more the stuff of myth and legend... of Dave Hickson and Tommy Ring, through to Alex Young, Labone, Temple and a young Joe Royle banging 'em in from everywhere. Heady stuff compared to the general mediocrity that Everton endured as the Blues tore into my consciousness between 1978-83.

I felt I had been at the games he talked to me about, had shared in the successes of the club and the people who supported it — which, in turn, fostered a hope that would sustain me as the other mob won everything left right and centre, that we would return to glory once more, playing the sort of football that merited the School of Science analogy.

This well of hope was refuelled for both of us, witnessing our glory period in the mid-eighties. As an 11-year-old child, there were images for me from our Championship year that have sustained me through some dark times since – the way we took apart Man United 5-0, the Sunderland game, which I believe was the finest footballing display I have ever seen by an Everton side, Graham Sharp’s volley at Anfield, and the unrestrained joy of our supporters running onto their pitch in mad jubilation, the horror of Adrian Heath being hacked down by Brian Marwood, replaced with the joy of watching Andy Gray banging them in with some kamikaze headers — not to mention Watford, Rapid Vienna and our title day against QPR.

Yes, winning trophies was wonderful. But I guess what I learned from me Dad was that the way we won the trophies through the way we played our football was even better. To not only love your football team but to love the way your football team played is probably as close to heaven as you could get on this planet.

Times changed. We moved to Adelaide, Australia, in 1986 shortly after the World Cup (my most enduring memory of the World Cup was not any of the games but watching the Gary Lineker and Terry Venables love-in on the BBC panel shortly before his move to Barcelona was officially announced and being sick to my stomach). Going to the match most weeks was replaced by second-half radio commentaries on the BBC World Service and the occasional weekly highlights package which never had its own timeslot.

Reading about Everton’s gradual decline during this time was awful; seeing it when I returned to the UK on holiday in 1993 was even worse — watching a dour Everton outclassed by Sheffield Wednesday and Chris Waddle at home.

As TV coverage improved in Australia, it became clear to me that my love for Everton was undiminished but I could not love the way they played. My Dad, who had gone to virtually every game from the late-fifties to the mid-eighties, home and away, became disillousioned. He would still watch the blues on telly, but he would find himself turning off the game at half-time, giving a version of the way they played that would make Tony Marsh blush, on the phone to me the next day.

The upturn of our fortunes in recent years has been tempered for me by the way we in the main have played our football. On The King, committed and not easily broken down, with some occasional flashes of very good football. On the flipside, we’ve also at times played extremely shite, in particular against the Sky 4, and especially away from home.

I got a phone call from my Dad at 3am last Sunday morning. He was out of breath and sounded a little incoherent. My initial concerns for his health were soon allayed by the whoops and “get in!!!” he was yelling. Pienaar’s goal. The breakaway, the pass by Timmy and the execution by Peanuts. My 71-year-old Dad, excited again, passionate again about the team he had loved... and realising he still did.

We stayed on the phone together, watching the last ten minutes, talking about how we had played, the way we had played and how proud we both were. Arsenal’s equaliser, whilst disappointing, was to me almost immaterial. Our team had made us proud again. Hope rekindled.

Now I know we will play terrible again. I’m also realistic enough that performances like what we produced last Saturday will be more of an exception... but here’s the thing: It shouldn’t be. Last Saturday demonstrated to me that we can play intelligent, passionate football against the best teams in the country. I hope I’m right. I hope there’s more to come. And I think my Dad, for the first time in many years, hopes so too.

Up the Blues….

Reader Comments

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Tony Hyland
1   Posted 14/01/2010 at 05:50:20

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Joe, it would appear that we have two things in common, actually more than that but the first is that we live in the same country and secondly that your Dad and I are of the same era which meant that we watched the same vintage club football at Goodison starting in for me 1952.

Although at that time we were in the old second division things rapidly improved and like you and your Dad I have seen some great stuff by our team since those days.

I’m sure that no Everton fan ever enjoys it when we have resorted to so called hoofball etc. and that is as it should be but looking at the game at Arsenal this week I could see that at times we did to the Gunners what they have been doing to us for the last decade and boy did it feel good.

I’m sure that we will at times revert to the ugly stuff but I believe that the Blues turned a corner at the Emirates and all things being equal in addition to Moyesie doing his bit namely reinforcing how they did play against possibly the best footballing side in the Prem. I really believe that our beloved team can put in for this second half of the season. All the very best to you in Adelaide Joe and please pass them on to your Dad.

Tony I'Anson
2   Posted 14/01/2010 at 09:08:18

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Great article, Joe.

I think "it became clear to me that my love for Everton was undiminished but I could not love the way they played. My Dad, who had gone to virtually every game from the late-fifties to the mid-eighties, home and away, became disillousioned" hits the nail on the head for many of us.
Laurie Hartley
3   Posted 14/01/2010 at 10:10:46

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I really enjoyed your article Joe. Some of the happiest times off my life were spent with my dad (Len Hartley) following the Blues. He loved Everton from when he was a boy. When I was just a boy myself he would tell me how he used to listen to the match on what he called a crystal set which apparently was an early form of radio. Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton, Ted Sagar etc.

Perhaps my fondest memory of all was when he let me sag off school on the afternoon of the FA cup replay with Sheffield Wednesday in the 60’s. He picked me up from the bottom of the street that the school was in. I kid you not; the car we travelled in was a Ford Zephyr with the rear wings just like the ones in Z cars. Off we went over the Pennines to the match with two of his workmates who were Evertonians. We won 3-0. Happy days!

My dad passed away 4 years ago now at the age of 82 but his love affair with Everton continued right to the end of his life. In later years when I visited him from Australia where I now live, he would always tell me “Laurie - we will be great again”.

The last game I went to with him was when Arsenal beat us 4 -1 at Goodison about 5 years ago. He would have been proud of them against Arsenal last Saturday – I was.

Keep the faith Joe - and enjoy the banter with your dad.

Laurie Hartley
David Bodian
4   Posted 14/01/2010 at 13:52:51

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Very good article and thanks for letting us share in your family history. Thanks also to the other contributors who commented. We have a rich history at Everton. Let’s hope and pray that we have something pleasant to remember from this Saturday’s game against Man city! COYB.
Tom Hutton
5   Posted 14/01/2010 at 14:49:47

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Joe, an article which I am sure most of us relate being born blue, my dad was a blue, I don’t remember anything being forced on me to be blue it just happened.

My first game was Bristol away in the early 80s with my brother, one on each set of parental shoulder’s. Since then, I've been to various games with my dad who sadly passed away in 2007.

We have seen some rubbish and some great perfomances but still the loyalty pervails. I feel sure that me dad would have been proud of the perfomance put in against the Arse, I was and our disection of perfomances is missed after both good and bad.

Jimmy Daly
6   Posted 14/01/2010 at 16:07:53

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I can remember my first game, it was sometime in 1963, I was 12 and it was against Fulham. Roy Vernon scored a hat trick. My dad had come over from Ireland a a young man in 1949, and followed EFC. It was therefore a no brainer that I was destined to do the same.

We lived in Ellesmere Port and I remember the process. Bus from Overpool Road to Woodside. Ferry over to Liverpool. Bus to the ground. I believe the total cost back then was less than a fiver.

We made that trip at least 20 times a season, until he branched out and bought a car. Vauxhall Victor with the license plate, 528 KNM. Now we went to nearly all the home games. I was smitten then, and continue to be smitten, through thick and thin.

I left England in 1970 and have lived abroad ever since, residing here in the States since 1988. I never miss a game that is televised and follow dilligently on the internet. I plan my trips back to the UK around EFC home games.

My father taught me a lot of things about life, not least, the meaning of working hard and grasping every opportunity, but, also how to be an Evertonian. It was my father who taught me the game, despite never kicking a footy ball. The good times, once more, are just around the corner.

Peter Laing
7   Posted 14/01/2010 at 16:22:37

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Great article Joe, full of heady nostalgia and a story that I can relate to being born in 1974 myself. I too was a kid during the glorious mid-80’s period of success, the school I went to was predominently full of arm-chair supporting RS, the small band of fellow blues though in our year made up for what we lacked in numbers with passion and full on commitment to the boys in blue. Brian Labone’s sentiments ring true in that one of us is worth twenty of them.

Great to hear that you can follow the blues in Australia, would love to emigrate myself and have the trade and qualifications to do so but one of the reasons that stops me is Everton! I know, sad!

Laurie Hartley
8   Posted 15/01/2010 at 01:47:20

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Off topic I know but are you John Laing’s brother (ex Woodchurch Estate Birkenhead)?
Richard Osborne
9   Posted 15/01/2010 at 21:51:48

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Fantastic, Joe! Great article and one that I can empathise with. I only moved to Canada this year and am still trying to preoccupy my life with things to take my mind off missing my family and EFC!

I chat with my mom and dad every weekend on Skype so I guess it makes missing them a bit more bareable! Watching the game on Soccer Central or some jarg web site is hardly the same as a throat shattering roar, whilst sat anywhere at Goodison (though I hear they are in short supply at the moment!).

Similarly, I owe my ’Blue Blood’ to my dad. He was an apprentice at Everton from 1968-1970, without making the grade unfortunately. However, as a kid, his stories of Howard Kendall, Joe Royle, Colin Harvey, Gordon West et al, used to fill me with wonder.

He’s in the process of writing his memoires of growing up in Everton Valley, then Kirkby, playing for Kirkby Boys, scoring a hat-trick for Everton ’B’ against Liverpool ’B’ then getting sent off for lamping a certain large-nosed former Liverpool and England centre-half!!

I’m glad your old fella has got his fire back and long may it keep burning! I’m sure it never really went away in any case, it never does! Good luck to you in Aus. Keep the blue flag flying!!
Richard Porter
10   Posted 16/01/2010 at 12:01:03

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I’m not fortunate enough to remember the glory years like some of you. The first game my Dad took me to was just after my 11th birthday in 1992, a 2-0 defeat to Man U.

However, my Dad instilled our history in me to such an extent that he would tell me teams and formations from the 60s and the 80s- I could have named you the full Everton team from the 85 ECWC final off the top of my head even before this year’s shirt came with it printed on, even though I was only three years old at the time.

We still go to games, me, my Dad and my sister. Not all the time, but normally around ten times a season, plus reserve games at Widnes.

In my time, success has been rare, but I still have some strong memories from that time, the pain of a 5-1 defeat to Norwich haunting me until I finally saw us destroy someone by a stronger margin (7-1 v Sunderland).

My inherited obsession is now such that last year, when on holiday in Raleigh, NC, I spent a morning wandering up and down the city’s main drinking street, looking for a pub with the Fox Soccer Channel, in order to watch the Boro FA Cup game.

I may never have seen Everton win the league, I may have to make do with an FA Cup win and another final, but somehow I still do it.

I now also have a second footballing love, though, and this is one that I introduced my Dad to, rather than vice versa: Lancaster City, of the Unibond League. A nice relief from the stress of following a Premier League team, a club where the players go back to work on Monday, and drink in the pub with the fans.

Just call us two-club men.

Richard Osborne
11   Posted 16/01/2010 at 14:55:34

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Richard P - My wife is from Heysham and I’ve often thought about going to an LC or Morecambe game when we are up at her parent’s. Never been though. It’s a bit of a long way to come from Toronto now!!

I’m about the same age as you, though I think my earliest EFC memories are around 86-87. I do remember us winning the league and my dad going mental!!

You’re right, our generation (30 and under) have seen very little success and it always amazes me that we still have so many younger fans following us. You can tell there is something special about EFC as it would have been oh so easy for fans of our age to follow the dark side.

I hope the board sort out the financial mess and accept some outside investment (a whole other topic!) and we can challenge properly and regularly for silverware once more.

Give the youngsters something to be proud of!

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