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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1 Posted 21/08/2010 at 00:13:34
"Blues versus Reds is humility versus arrogance; loyalty versus entitlement; and art versus pornography." What a guy.
Thanks for sharing.
2 Posted 21/08/2010 at 00:31:25
3 Posted 21/08/2010 at 01:33:05
Looking forward to the book.
4 Posted 21/08/2010 at 02:58:45
Priceless and dare I say 100% accurate.
5 Posted 21/08/2010 at 06:36:59
6 Posted 21/08/2010 at 07:09:20
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?
7 Posted 21/08/2010 at 09:42:37
Something tells me a new banner will be at the next derby!
8 Posted 21/08/2010 at 09:23:35
9 Posted 21/08/2010 at 11:38:08
10 Posted 21/08/2010 at 12:17:55
All the best.
11 Posted 21/08/2010 at 12:21:23
12 Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:05:59
more of this please David.
13 Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:05:08
14 Posted 21/08/2010 at 13:12:17
15 Posted 21/08/2010 at 16:44:45
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.
16 Posted 22/08/2010 at 11:47:31
And of course thanks David for all that's been done, and still to come.
17 Posted 23/08/2010 at 07:59:49
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.
18 Posted 26/08/2010 at 14:21:49
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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