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Holding out for a hero

By David Price :  30/07/2010 :  Comments (15) :
After the Gosling let down and the ongoing stereo- typed attitude of certain footballers in the premiership, who? As a supporter do we have as a hero, past or present? A player that you know, when he steps onto that pitch is oblivious of cameras, how much is his win bonus for today and who?s only thought was to do his absolute best for the team and his mates. Current memory always brings out the candidates, Cahill and Dunc for example. Anyone who scores against the RS could qualify as a legend perhaps, but a hero? For me, I?ve always looked for the quality in a player that?s puts him head and shoulders above the rest, not just skill and attitude, but the mark of a man, someone who can play football and inspire, someone that if Churchill?s speeches could be translated into a method of playing the game, then this player would be that man.

Sometimes it?s not a career that determines the title of hero, sometimes it can be that one moment, that when you witness it, you just know that this player is special.

My moment of truth was, like all great things for our club, in the Eighties, before the journey hit full speed, actually close to the point of derailment. Late 1983, Round 2 of the League Cup, at home to Coventry, remember it well? No, didn?t think so. There was myself and 9,000 other hardy souls on a filthy winters night. Everton couldn?t score to save their life in the league and the most popular song on the terraces was ?Kendall Out?.

It was close to depression and the sceptre of relegation was becoming a real threat. To take us away from this we had a Mickey Mouse cup to play in. The fans had voted with their feet and the expectation levels were zero. Deep into the second half, Everton were trailing one nil, we had used our substitute and shortly after,the young striker called Graeme Sharp, still trying to impress, takes a shocking challenge to his ankles and can?t carry on. Down to 10 men with less than 10 minutes to go. Sharpy drags himself to his feet after treatment and can hardly stand. Magnum thinks he should stay off, the game was lost, why risk further damage.

Sharpy beckons to the ref to come back on, Kendall puts him left wing to do whatever. This courage, this determination somehow grabs the crowd by the scruff of the neck, ala Nev?s challenge on Ronaldo. Suddenly 9,000 fans sound like 50,000. To a man, everyone is now behind the team, the team responds, on 88 minutes, Everton work a move into the box, going off memory rather than research, I think Tricky Trev equalises. The crowd are going crazy, and like the rain, Everton pours downward to the Coventry goal. Another move down the right, Tricky Trev gets to the by-line, sends in a clipped cross to the far post, from wide left, Sharpy has literally dragged himself from the touchline to the corner of the 6 yard box and dives full length to head a 90th minute winner.

Oxford away was dubbed Kendall and Everton?s turning point but without that Rd 2 ?non-event?, we wouldn?t have even got to that point. Sharpy is carried off; the match ends 2-1 to the Blues. I knew then in Graeme Sharp we had something special, some-one to be a legend, some-one to be a hero but more importantly, some-one who knew what it was to be an Evertonian.

Reader Comments

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Tommy Gibbons
1   Posted 31/07/2010 at 00:28:18

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1994 against Wimbledon and 1985 against Bayern Munich... the hero? The crowd! Players come and go, we're always there. And we're going to have to be like those famous crowds all this season to give ourselves the chance to make more history.
Brendan O'Doherty
2   Posted 31/07/2010 at 01:22:38

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"the quality in a player that?s puts him head and shoulders above the rest, not just skill and attitude, but the mark of a man, someone who can play football and inspire"

David - your words perfectly sum up Alan Ball - my childhood hero.

Perpetual motion.

Biing Wen Yin
3   Posted 31/07/2010 at 04:22:25

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David,
Perfect! Sharp is a legend!! And I agree with yor analogy. AJ did score twice against the RS but he is hardly in the ranks of a legend IMHO. Dedication, perserverance, die-hard attitude and commitment to club, management, team mates & importantly the fans ... traits of one legend
Lee Jamieson
4   Posted 31/07/2010 at 10:21:39

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personaly I followed the blues during the eighties but I was only a kid, however my hero was Peter Reid. I loved his gritty determination and always felt that he truly loved the club. As an adult supporting the blues my hero was Big Dunc. Same sort of gritty determination, he had the EFC tattoo and he was great in big games. I think it is always easier to be an inspirtional hero if you can score a goal, therfore from our current team I would have to choose Cahill. Tim has shown dedication to EFC by returning early from the world cup, he has signed his contract without debate and he has been inspirational with his goals and general play. I picked him over Pip as he can score, hasn't been a manc and he is universally admired by all which I think hinder Pip from being a true leader. Still I am gald we have two potential leaders in the team.
Brian Waring
5   Posted 31/07/2010 at 10:29:40

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In this day and age it's hard for me to call a player a hero, legend etc. They are all paid huge sums of money to do a job, have the big houses, flash cars, I just can't get past that.
Stephen Kenny
6   Posted 31/07/2010 at 11:21:48

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You could argue that when Nev smashed Ronaldo, and then came out and stated he was an Evertonian. I've never really rated him as a player but he certainly earned my admiration for that. Sadly it's hardly in the same league as what Sharpy done for us.
Chad Schofield
7   Posted 31/07/2010 at 11:01:22

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Wonderfully told David.

I am much like Lee and only a kid in the 80's and while I do remember the '84 final, this simply grew an unjustified hatred for Watford.

Big pigeon loving Dunc I loved, no love... He truly is a legend in my eyes. And regardless of the cash, Cahill has that passion.

Also love what Donovan has been saying and I really hope we get him. He's proved to be a hero for his country, and while any legend status for us is clearly a long way off (especially as he's not our player) he could be great for us. But then every player who does the shirt for us gets my support since I sat beratting Gareth Farrelly for being so shit in 1998 on the last day of the season... He's not a hero (of mine), but I will be forever grateful for saving us with that goal.

I still will make comments when a player gets a nose bleed for crossing the halfway line, Toblerone-boot chunts it to nobody ahead or blindly runs and looses the ball - but they're a lot more tempered in general.
Ray Said
8   Posted 31/07/2010 at 11:30:39

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Great success is sometimes down to strength of will or belief. Sometimes a player with less talent, skill, speed, height etc will dominate a 'better' player. Players from that era like Sharp, Reid and other less well celebrated like Mountfield and Bracewell ( who ran players like Robson off the park) dominated so called 'better' players by imposing themselves through sheer force of will to win added to their undoubted ability-i happily remember Mountfield getting over 10 goals from centre half by throwing himself at crosses and knocking defenders down like skittles.
We have a few that show something of that desire to win in Heitinga , Jagielka, Fellaini, Cahill, Arteta, Rodwell and young Coleman shows promise of having great strength of will-but up front we lack this attribute and that is were we need to make changes. Donovan shows great will to win allied to skill and he would be the answer if A) we could get him in and B) we play him up front. Saha shows very little desire or fire these days, whilst Yakubu is still a great scorer he maybe on the slide and more useful coming off the bench. Vaughan has the right mental attitude but his body lets him down and Anichibe has all the physical attributes but the wrong attitude ( he hits the ground too easy and can you ever see him dong what Sharp did?). Maybe Beckford will be the answer but its to early to judge.
The manager should start to build the attitude by refusing to use the Sky word word 'Premiership' which we have never won and is therefore a limiting term and should only use the word 'title' or 'Champions' which we have been 9 times and is therefore not a limiting term. That which we have been before we can be again.
Dick Fearon
9   Posted 31/07/2010 at 12:08:38

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Strange for a truebluebeliever but my earliest memory playing street games in Toxteth was that I always wanted to be Billy Liddell. Don't know why as up to then I had not even seen him.
Then I got to see Davy Hickson and from that point my future was set in stone.
Ball, Young, Sharp, Pickering and Latchford became favourites but the only one to pull at the emotions in the same way as Davy was big Dunc.
Ok, so he wasn't everymans cup of tea but at a time when we needed an inspirational fighter for the cause he was the one.
Phil Bellis
10   Posted 31/07/2010 at 13:27:07

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Shame on you Dick...you've been too long away mean Liverpool 8, man!
e.g. Granby Street, Princes Park, Liverpool 8 - Toxteth was just 2 nameplates, one on Park Place and other on Smithdown Road/Lodge Lane corner
John Daley
11   Posted 31/07/2010 at 13:03:59

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My childhood favourite was Peter Reid, for his non-stop effort and battling qualities, and just the way he seemed able to get all the other players pumped up. I even admired the fact that my grey haired hero had the balls to return from a long term injury lay off sporting a shocking jet black dye job.

I quite clearly remember watching a 'Sportsnight' special on tv that focused on that Everton team of 84/85 and featured Reidy and his parents. They just seemed like a really nice, down to earth family and talked about switching allegiances from the RS to the blues, with Reid saying he must of been off his head supporting 'that lot' when he was younger.

Later on, during the dark days of the nineties, Dave Watson was by far and away my favourite Everton player due to his longevity, commitment to the club and the fact he was the only one you could rely on not to fuck up. Although the constant flirtations with relegation were bad enough, things could have been a lot worse without good old Waggy.
Andy Crooks
12   Posted 31/07/2010 at 14:39:31

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After I read "Ball of fire" Alan Ball became my hero. I would like to think that even today he would be different from the rest.
Jeff Armstrong
13   Posted 31/07/2010 at 17:25:05

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Remember the night well David, it was quite soon after we had played Coventry at new year and drew a massive 13,000, back to the night in question, you are right ,when that winner went in it was like 50,000 taking the roof off, well... the old memory plays tricks does'nt it, still remember my mate next to me doing a quick Bob Azurdia though, " and Sharp, a mere passenger for the last 15 minutes, has netted a fantastic winner" none of us that night could possibly predict what the next 4 years, from that night on, would be like, essentialy with the same core of players we were actualy watching. Sharp, Steven , Reid etc Think it was an ERA of heroes.
Kevin Hudson
14   Posted 31/07/2010 at 20:41:50

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Cahill - cult hero. I would add the name of Joe Royle to the list of genuine Evertonian heroes. I think Moyes is a legend,and well on the way to achieving hero status too. ( but needs to win a trophy )
Dick Fearon
15   Posted 31/07/2010 at 22:06:21

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Phil Bellis @ 9. Please excuse my weak attempt at being posh. I used the Toxteth title because it is a bit more genteel than the Dingle.
Come to think about it, is there any real difference?
The Essex St. scuffers did not care which title you used when polishing their boots.
Ah' but that is another story and not for this site.

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