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David France's Belt of History

In my idle sojourns through the little corner of America that is known to the cognoscenti (and countless hoards of Mircorsofties) as the Pacific Northwest, I had the most unexpected pleasure of running into the great man himself. No, not Bill Gates, but Dr Everton. David France, BSc MSc MBA PhD, now lives in hermit-like seclusion with his feisty Toffee Lady on a beautiful but strangely desolate rocky promontory overlooking a natural harbour on one of the many islands that form the San Juan archipelago, where Puget Sound meets the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Well, Americans don't actually call it an archipelago... there's probably a reason for that. But I digress.

I had become concerned over the past months, hearing little from the icon and quintessential Evertonian, father of such incredible initiatives as the Former Players' Foundation, the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame, and of course, the Everton Collection. So concerned was I that he was somehow slipping silently away, after withdrawing from the exhausting tasks he had taken on, I even resorted to checking out what Wikipedia had to say about him...

Quite a lot, as it turns out. But of course you can't trust such sources, and there is nothing to beat a good old chin-wag with the loquacious maestro himself.  I know David has followed Everton in sickness and in health ? that applies to both the club?s condition as well as his own. Unfortunately, he has been sidelined for the past few years and has been in and out of hospitals on the US mainland throughout the past 12 months.  He has been humbled by the support and best wishes of his fellow Blues and overwhelmed by their kind words.

Slipping away... I could not be so wrong. In addition to these astounding personal achievements for the cause of Everton FC, David has become over the years the most prolific author of Everton books. The list is simply mind-blowing in its breadth and depth, from the arcane Toffee Cards to the apotheosis provided in a beautifully illustrated text of pure adulation to the football god himself: Alex Young ? The Golden Vision.

So, it was fantastic news to hear the master inform me that he has not been idle these past many months... he has in fact been working hard on the semi-autobiographical masterpiece that will surely surpass all his other seminal works, and live forever as the greatest memorial to him and the subject of his lifelong passion, the players at the very heart of Everton Football Club for the past 132 years.

Everton Crazy! This incredible tome ? now approaching 900 pages! ? will feature a description of every player... that's EVERY PLAYER who has appeared in five or more games for his beloved Blues. Not only a description, but also a faithfully rendered caricature etched by his long-time illustrator, Peter King. These pen pictures provide a brilliant adornment of the text that, at a stoke of the gel-pen, transcends the limitations of old grainy sepia prints and flat dated black-&-white photographs. They even up the playing field for an elegant and egalitarian visual memento of each of these 750 immortalised heroes in Royal Blue (... and some in Shocking Pink).

Publication is set for next year, and the print run will be limited. We hope to provide information on advance orders for this tremendous work closer to the publication date.

My interactions with the munificent Doctor Everton could not have been more timely... for he went on to inform me that Visitors to Goodison Park this Saturday afternoon will note that the Grand Old Lady is dressed in a stunning array of images extracted from his collection. The Everton Timeline is like a tidemark of history, wrapping around Goodison, resulting from David France?s lifelong labour of love. I've taken the liberty to rename it ?David France?s Belt of History?. After all, it is intended to keep our hopes up...

Bill Kenwright, Philip Carter, Robert Elstone and all their staff should take a bow for embracing David France?s legacy and increasing its accessibility to the people who matter ? the young and old members of the Everton family attending at the Old Lady for matches this season. It should put a swagger into the stride of all Evertonians and enhance our pride in celebrating Goodison as one of the last of the traditional football stadiums. With Archibald Leitch?s distinctive ironwork in the inside and David France's stunning Belt of History on the outside, the Grand Old Lady is well-equipped to thumb her nose in the direction of Stanley Park.

The timeline demonstrates the richness of our past and his foresight in securing our heritage for generations of Evertonians into the future. Former UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, put it perfectly last year when he stated that all Evertonians owe Dr France a huge debt of thanks for the passion and the meticulousness with which he has prepared his wonderful collection.

After sipping some delicious and fruity wine from the rich vines of Central Washington, we returned to the subject of his mammoth Opus Grande: This is his sixteenth Everton book. The working title is ?Everton Crazy?. The accuracy of this title was confirmed recently by a leading US journalist who asked for his thoughts on the Merseyside derby. David volunteered: ?Blues versus Reds is humility versus arrogance; loyalty versus entitlement; and art versus pornography.? He responded: ?You Everton crazy!?

Dr Everton added, ?I am Everton crazy. I wish I was more ashamed. But I'm not. I know many Blues, much crazier and much better Evertonians than me, who have not missed a game in decades. I regret that I?ll never make the 1,000 Club. But I suppose that my tally isn?t too shabby given that I?ve spent the majority of my days in North America.?

The book is part autobiographical. He was encouraged by those who claim to know about these things that his Everton story is worth telling. His old friend, Brian Labone, recommended that, given David?s health problems, he had better get his adventures down on paper before he meets the Big Blue in the sky. So, despite his selective memory and occasional exaggeration, he has recounted his journey in the company of Everton and the Everton family ? from Widnes in the industrial North West to San Juan Island in the Pacific North West ? even though his rear-view mirror often doubled as a kaleidoscope.

?I dictated my story from my hospital bed using voice recognition software. I?m amazed that it can ignore my lisp and interpret my flat-vowelled accent. It never yawned in my face but I must admit that on occasions it switched into hibernation mode.?

Drawing on these experiences, he has offered his observations from the 800 or so games he has attended and the men he has met through his initiatives related to the Hall of Fame and the Former-Players? Foundation. The bulk of the book illustrates and profiles 750 men from Everton's rich history.

It has been a once-in-a-lifetime project. Let?s be honest, it is unlikely that any other individual, never mind football club, would spend 14 years illuminating the men who made football what it is. He has be working with the award-winning artist Peter King in completing one original drawing a week for 14 years, that is every single week since the early days of Peter Johnson. To date he has completed illustrations of every man who has played 6 or more games in the League as well as the men who made 12 or more appearances in the pre-League era. The 750 portraits, when placed side by side, will stretch around all four side of Goodison Park.

Some of the men are so obscure that there is no photographic evidence of them even in the Everton Collection. As a result, he has had to track them down at London?s British Library, Oxford?s Bodleian Library and in the archives of other clubs. These men have been hiding for generations.

The book is a monster. I?m told that the 900 pages will weigh in excess of 5 kilograms. The publication date is around August or September 2011, hopefully to celebrate the start of our defence of the Carling Cup or the opening of the Everton Museum in the much touted Park End development.  Something we can all look forward to.

And with that, I parted from the great man, like a poor lost soul leaving the inner sanctum of the Vatican, having kissed the ring of our great spiritual leader.  Let us know what you think of the Belt of History girding the sturdy loins of the Old Lady.. Send us some pictures!.


Michael Kenrick     Posted 21/08/2010 at

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Reader Comments

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Kevin Hudson
1   Posted 21/08/2010 at 00:13:34

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Fantastic article Michael ? enjoyed that... The Everton Timeline does look lovely, it makes you really proud.

"Blues versus Reds is humility versus arrogance; loyalty versus entitlement; and art versus pornography." What a guy.

Thanks for sharing.
Aiden Doyle
2   Posted 21/08/2010 at 00:31:25

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Well, I have absolutely no idea what to get my dad for Christmas this year, but it looks like next year is well and truly sorted. Thanks for the heads up.
Brendan O'Doherty
3   Posted 21/08/2010 at 01:33:05

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Very enjoyable read Michael - a humbling experience for the rest of us when you see David's level of dedication.

Looking forward to the book.
Jamie Crowley
4   Posted 21/08/2010 at 02:58:45

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I have to agree with Kevin: that quote is simply priceless.

Priceless and dare I say 100% accurate.

Great article.
Mat Parks
5   Posted 21/08/2010 at 06:36:59

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I know this is off topic...but then again perhaps it isn't. Take a look at this - the man, the legend, Alan Ball
http://www.vimeo.com/8691291
Matt Traynor
6   Posted 21/08/2010 at 07:09:20

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Michael, you lucky old so and so. I know many on here have had the privilege to meet Dr France, but many of us would love to.

I hope in some parallel universe that they immortalise all those fans who give their time, energy, money organising everything from coach trips from far flung places, tickets, memorabilia, trips to Chile, visits from Chile, and of course websites, and anything else I've forgotten about.

So, minimum 5 appearances eh? Tough on Espen Baardsen (but not those of us who watched that game). I wonder if another thread could be for those who won't make it into the book, and if any of them are memorable for the right reasons?
Ian Stewart
7   Posted 21/08/2010 at 09:42:37

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Blues versus Reds is humility versus arrogance; loyalty versus entitlement; and art versus pornography.?

Something tells me a new banner will be at the next derby!
Gavin Ramejkis
8   Posted 21/08/2010 at 09:23:35

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Matt, Pat Jennings was Everton's most capped player never to have kicked a ball brought in to cover Southall's injury for the 86 FA Cup Final
Bob McEvoy
9   Posted 21/08/2010 at 11:38:08

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Michael .Excellent article .
Paul Traill
10   Posted 21/08/2010 at 12:17:55

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Excellent reading Michael...and great to hear you're doing so well David. I look forward to the 'monster'.

All the best.
Tony I'Anson
11   Posted 21/08/2010 at 12:21:23

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Can we not encourage David France to post a video blog on YouTube.com so we can all see and listen to the man for a few minutes. It will become an internet phenomena.
Tony I'Anson
12   Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:05:59

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS4sj4vCAyM

more of this please David.
Mike McLean
13   Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:05:08

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Great idea about the blog, Tony. Perhaps Michael could persuade him?
Mike McLean
14   Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:12:17

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Oh - and apart from a banner at the Derby, it should be plastered over the main entrance in letters six feet high!
Dennis Stevens
15   Posted 21/08/2010 at 16:44:45

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You're very fortunate, Michael, to be granted an audience with the great man ? I truly envy you! Please keep us informed about the progress of his next book, I hope there will be an opportunity to subscribe via Toffeeweb as I'm sure many of us would willingly do so now ? even if publication is over a year away!

The books I already own that are from the pen of David France are, to say the least, above the usual standard of football books generally. I wish him all success in his endeavours, not least his health concerns, we all owe 'Dr Everton' a great debt.

Alan Kirwin
16   Posted 22/08/2010 at 11:47:31

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Thanks Michael, a wonderful piece.

And of course thanks David for all that's been done, and still to come.
Afzan Yusuf
17   Posted 23/08/2010 at 07:59:49

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Michael, for me this not just an article but more of a tribute to a great man himself. The only Everton book I have is "School of Science"... but this 5kilos book I really want one...
Like they said... If Yer Know Yer History"...
You guys at TW also deserve a credit. I still remember the day when TW gave an intensive coverage of the David France's Collection... Will Everton buy it... won't they... the intense lobbying to secure it... the RS man in Ferrari and bla bla bla....
We might not win a trophy in years but this collection is a testament to our existence which counts more than many things in footballing world.

COYB!!!
GJ Butler
18   Posted 26/08/2010 at 14:21:49

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Ok, it's hard to sit on the fence when it comes to our chairmen, Mr Kenwright, and sure, there are things at Everton that infuriate me but, on the whole, if I had to sit on one side, I'd sit in the 'for' camp. He obviously loves the club but just doesn't have the finances to get us where he wants.

That said, I was shocked when looking at the official site at pictures of the 'Goodison Timeline Launch', to find there in the background is a picture of him standing alone, clapping. The absolute vanity and gall!

Now the for/against crowd will say he has/hasn't the right to be there but personally I would have thought it should have been just pictures of players on memorable Goodison nights. I haven't yet seen the timeline, but can someone confirm if there is a picture of any other great chairmen in our past?!

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