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Alex Young — 50 years a Blue

By Bob McEvoy :  01/11/2010 :  Comments (24) :

This month marks the 50th anniversary of one of the seminal moments in Everton?s history ... Wednesday November 23rd 1960 ....the signing of Alex Young.

1960 had already been an epochal year for the blues with the involvement of John Moores giving Johnny Carey unprecedented funds to improve the team. Reference the transfer in February and March of Roy Vernon, the great Tommy Ring together with Jimmy Gabriel and Micky Lill. In September we bought Billy Bingham and now the press (at least the press I read, ie the ?Liverpool Echo?) was consumed with the impending arrival of 23-year-old Alex Young, already the spearhead for 2 Scottish League triumphs and 2 League Cup wins with his club Heart of Midlothian .

I was 9 years old and an avid match attending blue. To my mind this transfer seemed to go on forever. He was coming; then he wasn?t . No doubt it was complicated by the fact that included in the deal was a left back named George Thompson . ...although we?ve since learned that Alex didn?t know George was coming until he saw him on the train.

It even got me in trouble in school; Sefton Park Boys, Smithdown Road, Wavertree, the site now houses an Aldi Supermarket. My teacher, a Miss Gilbert (I remember her name because she was a bit of a looker), queried my vacant look with:

?Bobby, what?s the matter with you?

?Sorry Miss? I replied ?I?m worried about the Alex Young transfer.?

How my mates laughed as I ducked out of the way...

Yuri Gagarin would find it easier to orbit the earth the following April but eventually Alex landed in Liverpool for a reported fee of £42,000 together with his mate George for an additional 13 grand .

Of course it soon transpired that getting him transferred was the easy bit ....getting him on the pitch was another matter entirely.

He?d arrived with a leg injury acquired playing for the Army, perhaps helping to explain some of the transfer complications. He didn?t play his first game until almost a month after signing. This was to be the home game against Tottenham; Bill Nicholson?s boys ..... Blanchflower, MacKay, Bobby Smith, already had the league sewn up and it wasn?t even Christmas. They?d go on to achieve the first double of the 20th century. But Evertonians regarded this game as a crucial staging post in measuring how far we?d come as a force in English football with our bright new team and our even brighter shiny blond bombshell of a centre-forward. We lost 3-1; we were thoroughly outclassed and Alex didn?t get a kick.

And then he was out for the next 6 weeks... Problems with blistered feet!!

This was getting me down. We buy a large piece of the jigsaw to cement our strive to football hegemony and then he can?t play because he?s got blisters. Much issue had been made about his Greek God like appearance (Edinburgh = Athens of the North ) and in our History books you could see his likeness to the images of Alexander the Great (technically not Greek I know). But you couldn?t imagine the Macedonian Marauder temporarily halting his strive for Ancient World domination because he had hurty feet.

The Liverpool Echo letters page was full of homemade remedies for Alex?s problems. Soak in vinegar, brine, your own urine. I made the last one up but you get the gist.

When he returned at the beginning of February we were crap . Alex played 8 consecutive games which we won 2 and drew one. He missed a 3-0 away defeat to West Brom and then returned to the side on Good Friday in a 3-1 away victory against Blackburn scoring 2 goals, his first league goals for Everton. Vernon got the other. In the remaining 6 games we won 5 and drew one finishing the season in 5th place. Alex played in 4 out of 6 scoring a further 4 goals. With 2 games to go Harry Catterick had become the club?s manager. Maybe footballing hegemony wasn?t a pipedream,... and about a month or so later St John and Yeats rolled into Satan?s lair.

The following season?s start was fitful ( traditional ? !!) .Vernon was in and out of the team and in the first 10 games we won 4 and lost 6 . Alex was playing but nothing gelled. On the last Saturday in September Vernon returned , seemingly ready for the fray and we stuffed Arsenal 4-1 . The following week we played Forest at home . I went to this game and still have vivid images of Young being simply mesmerising. He went past players at will with an ease that defied belief and Forest were no mugs . We won 6-0 . I?m prepared to be corrected but I believe it was this match when we all realised we might have something special.

The rest of the season went well and we gained 43pts from 32 games . Ipswich won the league with 56 pts . Basically the poor start cost us the league.... but Young was beginning to fortify his reputation with Evertonians . Blues of all social persuasions would be leaving the ground using words like ,poise ,grace and elegance. It was surreal . Alex didn?t run he skimmed . He would put opposition players on their arse simply by moving his hips .He wasn?t blessed with great pace but he was quick enough to go away from defenders once he?d bamboozled them. He had a powerful shot in both feet ,had an awareness of other players around him that was uncanny and his ability to hang in the air and bury a header , outjumping blokes up to 6 inches taller than him was phenomenal (in modern terms ,aerial-wise , Tim Cahill is a good comparison) .

Young scored 14 goals in 40 games and Vernon 26. The team had the best defensive record in the league. Catterick had tinkered with the line ?up during the season sometimes playing Frank Wignall at centre-forward with Young at Inside-right but most blues supporters wanted the Young/Vernon combo and in the last 6 games with these two in tandem we amassed 10 pts in the last 6 games scoring 19 goals . Catterick had off-loaded the 30 year old Bobby Collins to Leeds in March and replaced him with a grafting Dennis Stevens from Bolton ...not the most popular decision and we?d acquired a 6ft plus goalie in Gordon West , thus ending our love of midget keepers.

But there were problems ; we?d only won 3 away games all season and Alex himself was prone to inconsistency but the way we finished the season meant that overall Nirvana beckoned .

We started 62/63 like a train and basically never looked back . A couple of hiccups at Fulham and Johnny Carey?s Leyton Orient (we?d beaten them 3-0 at Goodison the week before so presumably complacency crept in) and a dropped point against Liverpool at home but otherwise we swept all before us. We were solid with Labone a kingpin and West a giant with a nancy haircut, epitomised by a hard fought 0-0 draw in December at Tottenham on a partially frozen pitch . Up front the interplay of Young and Vernon was a joy to behold . It was like watching an Everley Brothers harmony on a football pitch . Look at the ?History video ? from circa 1988 and the goal scored by Young from Vernon?s pass against Wolves at Molineux on the first Saturday in October .This is normally shown on match day on the big screen.

We were due to play Arsenal at Goodison on Boxing Day .I was all set to go to the match only to wake up to 6 inches of snow . The big freeze !. Jesus it was cold . This was the time when Phillip Larkin reckoned sex was invented .The Beatles released ?Please Please Me?. By now I was in my final year of primary school at Kingsthorne Road, Hunts Cross (we?d moved to Halewood). As we were the big lads in the school it was our job every morning (or so it seemed) to help the caretaker clear the snow and ice from the pathways and a portion of the playground so all the kids could stand outside during the various breaks and freeze to death without falling over. The only thing that kept us warm was footy debates especially the merits or otherwise of Alex Young and Ian St John . ?Alex is a Greek God and St John is a little fat twat with a tit name .? .Such banter!

.During the enforced break we bought Tony Kay and Alex Scott to replace Brian Harris and Billy Bingham . The latter two hadn?t done much wrong but Kay and Scott would turn out to be an improvement .

We played our first league game on February 12th at Leicester and promptly lost 3-1. It was still perishing and the odd game was postponed but after the initial stutter we picked up and by the time we got through the Easter programme it was pretty much between us and Tottenham . On April 20th we played Spurs at home . I couldn?t get a ticket so didn?t see us win 1-0 with a towering Alex Young header . To this day I?m sure I saw the goal on television after the news that Saturday night but I?ve never seen it since . Footage would have demonstrated for posterity the prodigious leaping and heading ability of Alex Young .

With 3 games to go we beat Bolton at home on a filthy day when Everton were as bad as the weather but we won it with a late Vernon goal which pretty much came from nowhere . This goal is on the ?History video?. We then beat West Brom away convincingly thus setting up the May 11th final home fixture against Fulham as the Championship decider . Tottenham had all sorts of games ?in hand? but win this and we were home and hosed!.

I was 11years 7 months old and I can say without fear of contradiction that at that moment this was the ?Greatest Day of My Life?...and given that we?d won bugger all since Hitler took a shine to Poland there where quite a few others in the ground who felt the same. And again no footage . There are bits of the crowd running onto the pitch and shots of the players in the directors box but nothing else . I?ve never been able to reprise Vernon?s hat trick and Young?s contribution to it and quite frankly I was so excited a rational appraisal with only the match experience to go on was a tad difficult .

Roy?s hat trick meant he leapfrogged Alex in the scoring stakes finishing on 24 to Alex?s 22. I suspect as a centre forward he was probably a bit miffed; I would have been, . We eventually won the league by 5 pts ; played 42 ,pts 61 ,goals for 84, against 42 . Two more points and we?d have had perfect symmetry . Alex Young ,who when he arrived 2 and a half years earlier had trouble putting his boots on , had played in every game . By my tally ,at that point in his Everton career, he?d scored 42 league goals from 95 games and when you consider he didn?t score in his first 9 games when he was plagued by injury this was a pretty good return for a deep-lying centre-forward who?s primary role was orchestrating the play.

Alex Young was at the peak of his power. In my life time all the best players from Puskas to Messi have a bent carriage, low centres of gravity ,solid backsides and bandy legs, (even the tall ones such as Cruyff and Zidane) . Alex seemed to defy the carriage norm as he had a straight backed cadence that lent itself to elegance but he had the upper body strength to keep possession of the ball. . Alex was now 26 years old ... but from here on in there was a slight and perceptible decline.

The next 3 seasons saw a gradual downturn in Everton?s fortunes brought about through the ageing process and some sheer bad luck, then culminating in a glorious swansong in May 66 .

First off we got Inter-Milan in the Ist round of the European Cup , the eventual winners of the competition 2 years on the bounce (the following season Liverpool would draw Reykjavik , enough said). Was Vernon?s goal offside ?? . Shades of Ferguson /Collina. Young lost form and Jimmy Gabriel was tried up front thus emphasising Catterick?s penchant for a big Centre Forward . In March 64 Fred Pickering was bought for 90 grand... .a welly boot to Vernon?s stiletto . Pickering had a good scoring record for Everton but he was never to my taste and I suspect the same could be said for Alex Young . We made a decent fist of defending our title in ?64? but with Young out of the side and Pickering /Vernon up front we faded at the end and finished 3rd.

In the close season Tony Kay got a lifetime ban ..perhaps the club?s first major recognisable blameless post ?war ?kick in the bollocks.? Ray Wilson joined ,although he ?d only play half a season . .. he?s still the best left ?back I?ve ever seen including Facchetti. Again we competed near the top but we were just not good enough . In 64/65 Alex only played half the season pretty much sharing games with Vernon playing alongside Pickering . His displays were marked by inconsistency with sparks of virtuosity counterbalanced by drudgery . Vernon was sold to Stoke in March 65 . Although we finished a creditable 4th we were clearly not the side of 63.

65/66 was even worse for the blues. By the turn of the year we were sitting in mid ?table and Catterick was looking to make some radical changes. On January 15th 1966 for the fixture at Blackpool , Alex Young was dropped for the 16 year old Joe Royle ,causing much consternation amongst the supporters and culminating in Catterick stumbling when getting onto the bus to go home and numerous exclamatory newspaper headlines the following day.

A week later Young was restored for the 3rd round home cup ?tie against Sunderland ,we won 3-0 , and marched to Wembley . Two easy ties and 3 games to beat the eventual Div 2 champions Manchester City put us in the semi. Throughout the cup run the team was much the same but on March 19th in the derby match Pickering went down like a sack of spuds with no-one near him and that was his season over ,at least according to Harry Catterick. Alex was restored to centre-forward, Mike Trebilcock came in for Fred ,we turned over Man Utd in the semi with a Harvey dribbly daisy cutter and then we won the FA Cup. In the final Young could have had a hat trick . Dodgy offside goal, fouled by Ron Springett when through on goal ( 8 years later the same ref would award 2 penalties in the World Cup final but he bottled it in our game)and a sitter near the end . A hat-trick in the Cup Final would have placed him on an Evertonian plane beyond worship so perhaps it?s as well he ended up scoreless. But what a day!!!. Another ?greatest day of my life? and given it was 33 years since the Dixie team won it, once again, on the train home ,there were plenty who felt the same as me .

Then enter Alan Ball . I had a season ticket for 66/67 and it was worth every penny . Alex was lifted by the little man?s presence (as was everyone else) and a resurgence in form followed. With Colin Harvey beginning to blossom the ball was played on the deck to feet and with Alex restored to a pivotal role at centre-forward after Pickering?s transfer it was quite like old times . Young played in 45 games and got 10 goals (Bally got 18) . We eventually finished 6th and got knocked out of the Cup by Forest in the quarters so finally it was all a bit of a let down but we played some good stuff and with Howard Kendall joining in March once again we were on the up .

But not so for Alex Young . 67/68 would be his last . As the season wore on he became a peripheral figure often stuck on the right wing and his appearances became infrequent as Joe Royle and Jimmy Husband became regulars . But still there was the odd highlight not least on the opening day at home against Man Utd . Chests the ball down , shimmies past two defenders and buries the ball just inside the keeper?s top left hand post . It?s on the video/DVD . Classic .

He played his final game against West Ham at Upton Park on May 11th ...5 years to the day of his greatest triumph ...and then just quietly left.

We now know that the blister problem was never solved but simply managed so that regardless of any other injuries he may have had he was in some discomfort every time he played. I thought he was a marvellous player ,up there with the best I?ve seen and he played with an attitude and approach that defined dignity . In the Ken Loach ?Golden Vision ? television play Young is interviewed and discusses his playing ability . After admitting his inconsistencies and his loss to explain them he concludes without a trace of arrogance that ?when I?m good ,when I?m playing well, I?m as good as anyone?. Spot on Alex. Never a truer word!

Alex Young. 50 years a blue . Thanks .

Reader Comments

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Michael Brien
1   Posted 02/11/2010 at 06:34:11

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Bob - a brilliant article, I first went to Goodison in 1964 when I was 7 years old. Unfortunately I was a little bit too young to really appreciate the great man, although I can remember seeing him score a fine goal against Sheffield United in Oct/Nov 1967 in what was to be his last season. I have a copy of "The Golden Vision" and reading your article I think I will watch it later today !!

Your comments about his interview are spot on - there is no trace of arrogance about him at all indeed just the opposite, he understates his skills.My Dad told me that he had met him a couple of times. The first time was something to do with the promotion of a football book, I think a couple of other players were also involved in the book promotion.I think it was the continuation of a series of 4 volumes that had begun in the late 1950's. I would guess that the players received very little in terms of fees for their promotion by the publishers - a stark contrast with the players of today.

The second time was at Lime Street Station, my Dad worked for the Royal Mail. It was just after an FA Cup tie at Goodison v Sheffield Wednesday. We had drawn 2-2, with a late equaliser. I am thinking that maybe my Dad would have bumped into Alex when the team were travelling for the replay. Anyway my Dad expressed his concerns at our chances, but Alex reassured him by telling him that although it had seemed the Blues had struggled to draw, we had played for much of the second half with a couple of players carrying injuries. He told my Dad that we would win the replay and without checking the score I think we won 3-0.

I have a confession to make - my favourite player at that time as Derek Temple ! I think it was because everyone's favourite seemed to be Alex. In the same way my favourite band was The Searchers - everyone's favourites were of course The Beatles. I figured out that both Alex Young and the Beatles had enough " support" from fans and they would be my "second favourites" - Derek Temple and The Searchers would be my "first favourites" . I was only around 8 and Derek Temple and The Searchers were good choices I think !!!

Sadly my Dad wasn't well enough to go to the testimonial match for Alex, the cancer that was to eventually claim him laid him low. Indeed the first time that it really hit me about my Dad's passing ( he died in Feb 2002) was at the start of the next season. It was the presentation of many former players to celebrate 100 seasons of top flight football. I had a few tears in my eyes when guys like Tony Kay and Alex Young walked around the pitch before the opening match. My Dad would have loved to see those lads again.

Bob you would know this better than me. My Dad used to tell me that Alex could also play well as a winger. Also my Dad used to speak in glowing terms about Tommy Ring and Mickey Lill. I know that the 1980's saw more trophies, but I always got the feeling from my Dad that he regarded the 1960's team as playing the best football he saw from an Everton team.

It's a shame that there are not more examples on film of Alex Young in action. I hope that the club themselves can make contact with the BBC and ITV to see if there are any " hidden gems". We tend to think of centre forwards of that era as all being big bustling types of players. Alex was more slightly built, but from what I can remember he did well in the air because of his great skill in timing. There is a brilliant picture in of Alex's goal that won the vital match in 1962-63 at Goodison against Spurs. Now I must go and hunt out the Alex Young book my Dad got me for my 11th birthday in August 1968. Thanks again Bob for a brilliant article in tribute to an Everton great. 23rd November a date for all Evertonians to mark in our diaries and a day to raise a glass to one of the best ever players to wear the Royal Blue.
Trevor Lynes
2   Posted 02/11/2010 at 08:32:26

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My only downside about Alex was his lack of 'bite' especially in derby games and that is why I actually preferred Vernon who was waspish.
Vernon had the highest percentage of goals per game for the blues since Dean...176 games and 111 goals...he was fantastic at penalty's and I well remember him standing and pointing to the ball in the net when Gaskell of Man Utd went the wrong way....he also played well in derby's (like Ball) as he was very combative.
The best EFC attack for me would include Ball, Collins, Young, Vernon and Ring....Young was like Tostao of Brazil and Vernon was as good as Rush for me.
Collins played very well for Leeds and he was let go much too soon..his passing was similar to Scholes.
Tommy Ring was a brilliant ball player and could cross better than any other winger Ive seen in an everton shirt....Ball everyone remembers anyway...he was non stop, nasty at times but brilliant.
Scott I remember as very fast, direct and another fine crosser at pace.
Tony Kay was a tragedy and his career was curtailed in his prime.
He would have eclipsed any of our midfielders including harvey and Kendall..he had everything.
tackling was much harder in those days too and most defenders would be sent off every week nowadays.
Dick Fearon
3   Posted 02/11/2010 at 08:55:46

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Bob, thank you for a wonderful stroll down memory lane. In 1960 when you were 9 I was 21 and a regular home and away since 1954.
So much of what you describe is spot on. Thanks again
David S Shaw
4   Posted 02/11/2010 at 09:51:43

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Apologies to those who have already read this question on a previous, and equally excellent article, but there was a song for Alex Young along the lines of :

There was a forward, A Scottish forward....He scored a hat trick for Harry Catterick. Anyone know the rest of the words to it?
Kevin Tully
5   Posted 02/11/2010 at 10:53:38

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I met him last year at a game. A more humble man you could not wish to meet. A true gent.
Richard Tarleton
6   Posted 02/11/2010 at 11:28:11

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I agree with much of the article, but think Trevor Lynes is right in his comment about Roy Vernon, I wrote an article for Toffeeweb a few years ago about Vernon making very much the same point. But in my mind whenever I return to the Goodison of my dreams it is 1962-3 , I was sixteen and it was the greatest of teams, for me more exciting than 69-70 and more skilful than the team of the 80s. Two players often overlooked were Denis Stevens whom Brian Labone told aid to me and some friends(he'd been at Flo Melly with a friend of mine's brother and we often played cricket with him in Walton Hall Park, a different world) was from his point of view the most valuable of midfield players for his covering and defensive work and the wonderful Johnny Morrissey 28 games on the left wing in that season, he was fat, slow, but what a player, he could beat men by sheer skill and his crosses were so accurate and boy did he have bite!Incidentally the forgotten Ray Veall played excellently on the left wing for the first 14 games and was unfortunate that he had to compete with Morrissey and Temple for the no 11 shirt.
Tom Fearon
7   Posted 02/11/2010 at 11:29:58

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The winter of 1962-63 posed major problems. Games cancelled when we were in pole position to take the League championship. Would the break in the programme disrupt our good form? When the weather eased, I remember going to a reserve game where most of the first team played since this was the first opportunity to kick a ball for some time. I think the attendance was close to 11,000. No undersoil heating and in a valiant attempt to get a playable pitch someone had applied lots of salt. For the rest of the season it was like playing on Crosby beach
Trevor Lynes
8   Posted 02/11/2010 at 11:46:52

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If I remember rightly...EFC went almost two full seasons without losing a home game during that period....Carey had the best ball playing side and catterick added more organization...I well remember us scoring FIVE against Man Utd in the first half of one game and Vernon scoring a quick hat trick and that UTD team had maurice Setters, Charlton, Best and Law all playing.
In fact Best said that we were their bogey team......I would also pay tribute to Morrissey who came from across the park and played brilliantly for us, as did Sheedy later.....
Tony Sullivan
9   Posted 02/11/2010 at 12:06:38

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Thanks Bob,
Abrilliant article which captures much of the magic of ''The Golden Vision''.
My abiding memory is the start of the 62/63 season at Burnley when Alex produced a virtuoso display in a graet 3-1 win. Followed a couple of weeks later by a hat trickagainst Sheffield Wed at Goodison up against an aspiring Enlgland interrnational called Vic Mobley. I don't think Mobley ever got the call after Alex exsposed his limitations.
What an era for Blues fans
Christopher Brown
10   Posted 02/11/2010 at 12:40:16

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'But still there was the odd highlight not least on the opening day at home against Man Utd . Chests the ball down , shimmies past two defenders and buries the ball just inside the keeper?s top left hand post . It?s on the video/DVD . Classic .'

So THAT'S who he scored that goal against! Alex was before my time unfortunately, but I've watched THAT goal countless times on the official history video and wondered who it was against. To now know it was against Man U makes it doubly sweeter!

Absolutely brilliant goal and, from what I have seen of Young, sums him up completely. Skill, poise and deadly finishing. What could we do with someone like that now...
David Booth
11   Posted 02/11/2010 at 12:20:47

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Fantastic account of a 'golden' era in the game.

I became an Evertonian in 1966, falling in love with the team after that great FA Cup Final win.

At the time, I was a schoolboy living in South Wales and I only got my first season ticket when we moved to Manchester (just a couple of miles down the road from Old Trafford...), in 1971.

Ball, Royle and Kendall were my heroes, but one only has to look at the '66 final to see how elegant and graceful Alex Young was.

His poise, balance, awareness and beautiful touch are clear to see.

The sort of footballer - on and off the pitch - we shall probably never see the likes of again.

A player who defines the word 'Evertonian' for so many reasons.
Jay Harris
12   Posted 02/11/2010 at 12:35:47

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I have to give you credit for an incredible memory.

I am the same age as you but like some others here Roy Vernon was my hero.

My memory of him was often from the halfway line he would dribble in and out of players and then go around the goalie and into the net.

I did hear though that he was a bad smoker and drinker and missed one match through getting stuck in his car on Crosby beach the night before a game.

Catterick was not the sort of manager to put up with that.

However my overriding memory is of Alex Young in the Sheff Wed game at GP which I think we won 5-1 and Alex Young collected the ball near the players entrance just over the halfway line, shimmied his hips sent 2 or 3 Sheff Wed players the wrong way and hit an incredible screamer past Springett.

Ahhh Memories.
Eugene Ruane
13   Posted 02/11/2010 at 13:37:39

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Bob - a truly fantastic piece and I particularly loved..

"Up front the interplay of Young and Vernon was a joy to behold . It was like watching an Everly Brothers harmony on a football pitch"

Actually I think you could make the same Everly's comparison with the pairing of Yak and Saha but...obviously AFTER Don and Phil split.
Peter Fearon
14   Posted 02/11/2010 at 14:07:02

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Great piece. I was the same age as you when Everton signed Alex Young. Several years later, after he wrote his autobiography, there was a book signing arranged at a kiosk outside Central Station. Several players were there to sign books with him but I wanted only one signature, Alex Young's. Gordon West was so insulted that I didn't want his autograph too I thought he was going to clout me. Tommy Wright had to calm him down.
Leon Perrin
15   Posted 02/11/2010 at 16:26:20

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Every Evertonian of a certain age should read this, the names are a roll call of the gods: we played with verve we won stuff we did'nt for one moment accept being shit. It can be done.
Tony McNulty
16   Posted 02/11/2010 at 17:09:17

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Nicely written article Bob. You just tell it as you saw it, without unnecessary hyperbole or padding. I am not quite as old as some of the people commenting here but I did start to enter that Hell?s Kitchen known as the Boys? Pen in the 1962 season.

Of course I liked Alex Young but Roy Vernon was always my hero. He was direct, fast, and had a nasty streak. Like Cahill, he could look after himself. I was at that final game against Fulham that season and saw us win the league (that game has become like the Mayflower ? I don?t remember 200,000 of us in the Boys? Pen). I still have all the magazines, papers and programmes from that time ? one day I will sort them out and pass them on to someone who collects that sort of stuff. No point disposing of it all here in London.

Vernon was the best penalty taker I have ever seen (we have discussed this before on here). He would make out as if to send it to the goalie?s right, but would then hit it high, with the outside of his right foot, into the opposite corner.

Dennis Stevens
17   Posted 02/11/2010 at 17:45:14

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Richard Tarleton : "... Denis Stevens ..." - tut-tut!
Steve Edwards
18   Posted 02/11/2010 at 16:55:22

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Great article which brought back many memories. My Auntie Lilly had a small hotel on Stanley Road, Bootle oposite the Merton Pub (its long gone when they redeveloped the area). When Alex Young and George Thompson came down from Scotland to sign for Everton they stayed in her hotel. My dad was made up although he never got to meet them. How times have changed staying in a six bedroom hotel in Bootle before signing for a top club.

I have great memories of Alex. Never seen a player since ghost past players as if they weren't there. Then hover in the air before burying a header. I will say this though, he saved his best form for the home games. I saw him many times away from home and he simply wasn't the same player.

Tony Kay was mentioned and what a player he was. What a great loss to Everton when he got banned for something he had done at his previous club, Sheffied Wednesday. Just before he was banned from the game he had broken into the England team. If my memory serves me right he was still only in his early twenties. Without doubt he would have been a fixture there for many years. He quite simply had everything. He could read the game every bit as good as the player who replaced him, Bobby Moore. But he had a toughness about him. When you were tackled by Kay, you knew all about it. At the time my dad and I couldn't understand why Catterick had bought Kay to replace Brian Harris. We went to see Kay's debut at Blackpool and then we knew why. He was awesome. I still say to this day that if Kay hadn't been banned, Bobby Moore may never have played for England.
Tony Kelly
19   Posted 02/11/2010 at 19:16:31

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Great article Bob,however as good as Alex was he was definitely second best behind Royston Vernon, Roy had everything,faster than Rush,dribbled like Best,and had a shot like a cannonball. His speciality though was when he had a one on one with the keeper,he always took the ball around him and slotted with ease,he could also leave his boot in,which was no bad thing when confronted by defenders built like brick shithouses. I attended every domestic game Vernon played for the Blues,a record I am proud of. Going back to Alex the great,I was very shocked when reading Terry Venables book,he described Alex as a dirty player,I must admit I wasn't aware of this,but when you watch the video versus Man Utd,near the end he goes over the ball on George Best,which confirmed to me that Venables may have been right.
David Price
20   Posted 02/11/2010 at 22:15:46

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Beautiful that Bob, nowadays it's easy to research cold facts on the internet but to have your memories put into words made it special reading.
Superb article, Well done mate.
Terry White
21   Posted 02/11/2010 at 22:22:30

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Thank you, Bob, for giving the old guys like me a chance to get nostalgia and the opportunity to share some of our own thoughts on that period.

My first game was the promotion season from the 2nd Division, 1954. The team that came up struggled to adapt to the 1st Division and if you look at our league positions in the seasons prior to 1959 you will agree we were lucky not to be relegated during that spell. It was hardly surprising as we had a team of hard -working individuals who lacked the class to inspire or bring flair to the game. We seemed to specialise in undersized "wing halves", midfield players now. Anyone remember Ken Birch, Kenny Rae, John King, and Cyril Lello from the promotion team? Once Peter Farrell retired we had no strength in mdfield.

The same could be said of the left wing. After Tommy Eglington we had a number of people who tried to fill the gap, Brian Harris at one time, and how about Peter Kavanagh, Bobby Laverick, Eddie O'Hara (who came with the imperious Alex Parker from Falkirk) and Graham Williams, the last two being true midgets. It was ony when the wonderful Tommy Ring flashed across the screen until his broken leg at Chelsea that we filled that gap.

And, finally, who remembers the names as we tried to replace Davie up the middle? Peter Harburn, Jimmy Glazzard, Alan Shackleton? All past their "sell-by date".

Three things changed everything in 1959. John Moores's money. John Carey's appointment as Manager. And the signing of Bobby Collins. I was at Maine Road to see us win our first game of the season from the bottom of the table, 3-1, and we knew things were looking up. Carey was a Manager who wanted to play football with style and class, Moores's money gave him the wherewithal to sign players to do that, and Collins's effect on the club made other players finally want to join us.

And so between 1959 and 1963 we saw the arrival of the great side that won the title in 1963. But we can all remember how well we played prior to that time. We scored buckets of goals at home (poor Cardiff on the receiving end of 8-3 and 9-3 thrashings at the tail end of the 1961 and 1962 seasons, and 4,5 and 6 goal games at Goodison were the norm. The trouble was we could not win games away.

During this time we saw the arrival of Parker, Vernon, Young, Gabriel, Bingham, West, Stevens. Football was different then, much slower paced. Our competition was United and Spurs, both excellent teams, but we matched them all the way. I would put it that the 1961-2 team played the best football of any that I have seen. West, Parker, Meagan, Gabriel, Labone, Harris, Bingham, Collins, Young, Vernon, Fell/Veall/Lill.

The one thing it did not do was win anything! Which was why Catterick replaced Carey and brought steel to the side with Dennis Stevens and Tony Kay, and later Ray wilson (the best left back I have ever seen, but everybody says that). We were still lacking on the left side, Jimmy Fell, Micky Lill and Ray Veall all doing adequate jobs until the Temple/Morrissey combination got us to the end of the 60s.

So much has been said about Young. His balance, poise, heading ability, he oozed arrogance and class. As pointed out on an earlier post, he was rarely able to play at the top level regularly except perhaps in 1962-63. He is rightly remembered for his headed goal against Spurs (what a wonderful scene as he rises to head Vernon's cross with the packed Goodison Road behind him), and his goal against United in the first game of the 1967-8 season. Wonderful balance, control and shimmy with the final shot epitomizing all that was great about him. The MOTD 45 minute highlights of this game can be seen in glorious black and white on the Alan Ball website. Great stuff.

I remember in particular a cup replay at home to Burmley when Young destroyed the Clarets;and his goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the early days of the 1965-6 season. And arising majextically to head in a Ray Veall orner past Tony Waiters in a 5-0 trouncing of Blackpool. I also saw us win there 4-0 early one season, I hope we do it again on Saturday!

Credit has rightly been given to Roy Vernon, "the Welsh nark" as we used to call him. One of the best finishers the game has ever seen. A rapier-like figure. And not averse to a niggle, a kick and a complaint. His goals against Fulham to clinch the Champoinship all bear the mark of quality, the flick on by Young and the perfect control under pressure to place the ball past Macedo. He and Catterick did not get along and Roy's best days with us were behind him as we moved into 1964 and the arrival of Fred Pickering.

1963 also saw the arrival of Alex Scott ("Chico"), quicker than Bingham and with an eye for goal and, of course, Tony Kay. Was he as good as people make out? I think not. He was BETTER than people make out. A complete old-style wing half. Hated when he played for Sheffield Wednesday but idolized in a blue shirt. A real loss to us.

Most people know the story of the infamous Blackpool game preceding the 1966 cup run where Young was excluded from the team in favour of the young Joe Royle. Do you recall that in goal that day was not Gordon West but Geoff Barnett, playing one of his few games for us. Gordon was going through one of his shaky spells (Andy Rankin played many a game for us while Gordon was getting over these) and West was recalled as well as Young to the team for the 3-0 win over Sunderland that started our run.

There are so many more memories from that time. How much has time embellished? A lot obviously. But I still think the period from 1959 to 1963 was the best of times to be watching games at Goodison.

Albert Perkins
22   Posted 03/11/2010 at 02:46:24

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I saw my first game at the age of 13 with a friend. It was the first game of the 63 championship season. We won 3-1 and I'd fallen in love. The next game was on the Tuesday and I didn't even know the way to Goodison but I just followed the blue scarves on my own. Another 3-1, if I remember. Young and Vernon, thrust and parry and drawing blood.
Young the matador, Vernon the hungry wolf.

I swear I saw Vernon take a ciggie from someone in the crowd, take a few drags and hand it back.

My favorite moments were watching Ball and Young play up the right wing. Poetry, guile and a bit of magic.
I think we loved Young so much because he had that magic. He could make time stand still. Fred Astaire in football shorts and a full orchestra of strings.

Did I remember at the end of a hard game, when Alex was blistered and shuffling up the field, he got a ball to his feet and ran for goal. But he realized he would not beat the defender to the box, so he stopped and waited for him, dribbled him on his arse, turned into the box and hit a sweet shot into the corner.

And couldn't 70.000 people make a racket!

Oh, the curse of a feeble memory, that Alex in his prime and my first kiss are a little vague. But my heart still leaps when I think of them.
Jay Harris
23   Posted 03/11/2010 at 20:39:34

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I am surprised nobody has mentioned Alex (Chico) Scott who was a great winger.

If I remember rightly he used to run like a rabbit with his arms up to his chest and hops rather than runs.

Oh how I wish we had Chico and Johnny Morrisey on either flank now.
Joe Bibb
24   Posted 04/11/2010 at 21:25:29

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bob, if you log on to bbc radio merseyside and go to listen again, alex young was on, on Wednesday 4th Nov on Total Football Show at 7pm until 8pm with David France, George Orr and Dave Hickson, what a great show , you will love it.

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