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Gordon West ? The Best

By John Shearon :  06/02/2011 :  Comments (34) :
Yesterday?s match against Blackpool transported many of us back to former time when goals were abundant, attendances were high and play was end to end (although doubt on the validity of this perception was thrown up by the Match Day Programme?s stats from the last encounter between the Clubs in 1971 when just 26,000 turned up to witness a 0-0 draw).

As usual on the occasion of such games, discussion in the pub beforehand turns to past players who have played for both Clubs. Talk of Micky & Mike Walsh, Alan Ainscow, George Wood and Alan Ball brought memories flooding back ? not all good I might add. However, one player seemed to generate more interest than the others ? Gordon West.

The conversation drifted on to the other greats in that 60s team and their respective longevity at the Club. Brian Labone, of course, seemed to be a permanent fixture until his recent death and along with Tommy Wright had been rewarded for his service & loyalty in the early 1970s with a testimonial match. In Brian?s case it gave us a rare victory against Liverpool before 25,000 and in Tommy?s, one of the most surreal games I?ve ever attended at Goodison, a match against Rangers with Everton once again winning, in front of 12,000 fans on a rain-soaked night.

So, did Gordon get his testimonial game? Well, as far as I can remember, no. There have been testimonials awarded over the subsequent decades ? Kevin Ratcliffe, Howard Kendall, Dave Watson, Harry Catterick, Alec Young and Neville Southall ? to name the few I can remember off-hand. You could not argue that any were undeserved ? the normal criteria for awarding such matches was based around a minimum of ten years service, in an era when earnings were not as they are now.

Well, Gordon arrived at Goodison in 1962 at the age of 18 for a then record fee for a goalkeeper of £27,000. For the next 11 years, he played 402 games for Everton winning two League Championships, an FA Cup winner?s medal and a handful of England caps. If this record were not enough to earn a testimonial match, Gordon has worked tirelessly with the Everton Former Players Foundation since its inception, to raise funds for ex-pros like himself who might be in need of help.

I realise that over recent years the Foundation has received contributions from receipts from specific pre-season games and I would not wish to see funds diverted away from this wonderful cause but this should not mean that Gordon West should be denied the game which would allow Evertonians to pay a much overdue tribute and provide him with a richly deserved financial lift.

I don?t know whether the beneficiaries of this year?s pre-season games have been identified yet but I would like to propose that consideration is given to one of the greatest Everton players of all time.

Reader Comments

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Guy Hastings
1   Posted 06/02/2011 at 16:37:46

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I loved West. There's a great interview with him in The Golden Vision when he talks about being sick before games and how the 90 minutes on a Saturday were a nightmare for him. The great West debate is, had he replaced Banks in the 1970 WC qf would England have beaten West Germany? Then, like now, I only really cared about England if an Everton player was in the line-up.
Brian Denton
2   Posted 06/02/2011 at 18:55:27

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John, I think the Tommy Wright Testimonial v Rangers drew a crowd of 15,000, about 12,000 of which were Rangers fans ! It was a remarkable night - I was 14 and had never come across that sort of sectarianism, nor seen the Street End empty out so quickly at the end when the rumour spread that Rangers had 'got in'. Our hooligans were just spotty kids, whereas there's were grown men. Frightening. I was halfway to Fazackerley before I stopped running !
Paul Wharton
3   Posted 06/02/2011 at 18:47:16

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Lets hope that EFC reward one of it's great goalkeepers as Gordon is up there with Big Nev and Ted Sagar.
Gordon played 402 times over 12 years , 14 England caps.Time is now right that we honour one of Everton's most famous son's.
Two Championship medals and an FA Cup, we honoured his team mates but now it's Gordon's turn.
Gordon always puts himself out for the Former Players some times at his own expense at getting to some venues, he always says that he is honoured to have played for Everton FC and is grateful to all the Everton fans as his life is turned around by the operations he has had due to playing for our club.
Gordon West is the best, a really true gentleman.
Paul Wharton.
John Shearon
4   Posted 06/02/2011 at 19:24:33

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Brian, I was 13 so probably got back to Norris Green a little faster. The only "trouble" I saw that night was from the Police who seriously man-handled a poor rangers streaker (well, he was wearing a tarttan scarf). I still laugh at the sheer trerror we all experienced when we thought they were coming in to the Street End. Perhaps we could invite them back for Gordon's game.
Brian Denton
5   Posted 06/02/2011 at 19:42:08

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John - er, no ...........
Mark Murphy
6   Posted 06/02/2011 at 20:32:39

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I was at the game and I was a spotty adolescent street ender and I remember no such panic! I do remember a lot of shouting outside the ground but don't remember anything coming of it! Mind you, we were parked in Golden Grove so went the other way at full time. Their fans were from a different planet though!

Gordon West, like Mr Labone and Mick Lyons, is one of my heroes but in recent years has reminded me of a much more likeable John Prescott. His love-hate banter with Mr Labone was more entertaining than Blackadder and Baldrick!

Tim O'Connell
7   Posted 06/02/2011 at 21:07:09

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In my lifetime I have had the pleasure of seeing two great EFC keepers Gordon West and Big Nev. For me Nev was the greatest keeper I have seen, some of his saves were unbelievable and his presence gave us many points ? so I don't want to downgrade Gordon West I just think Nev was the greatest ever. If Gordon is ever rewarded then I fully support.
Mark Wayman
8   Posted 06/02/2011 at 21:22:37

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Nice article. Gordon West's era was way before my time, so I know little about him other than statistics. (I love that we have the former players foundation.)

Neville Southall is the finest goalkeeper I've seen guard our net, and possibly the best 'keeper I've ever seen. We've never replaced him, Nigel Martyn was good but his Everton career wasn't long enough.

It would be nice to give Gordon a day in the spotlight.
Steve Sweeney
9   Posted 06/02/2011 at 23:29:41

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Gorden West was a great goalkeeper of his generation and had it not been for the brilliance of one Gorden Banks would have gained many more England Caps.
In the 66 Cup Final, Gordon had a hamstring problem and was throwing the ball further and more accurately than some keepers kick the ball today. I also remember that we were the first team to reach Wembley without conceding a goal that year.

I also remember the Derby match where he was presented with a handbag after St John had been given a bunch of bananas in the previous match.

Great memories.

Chris Hockenhull
10   Posted 06/02/2011 at 23:58:57

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Gordon was the mainstay throughout my sixties days watching Everton. Around 1964 Bootle born Andy Rankin got into the side but Gordon bounced and returned into the side and was there in the 1966 Wembley winning side. Yes your right - he had a throw like a howitzer - I wish Tim Howard could kick as acturately as Gordon could throw!!

The tales of him being highly strung are true enough. How he did what he did week in week out is amazing - but -as I know working with many performers is that they are so cool on stage but off stage they suffer terrible stage fright and Gordon fits in with that not irregular personality trait.

I recallcall Gordon's performance at Wolves in 1967 in an FA Cup tie making some increadible saves and I have film of him in a 2-2 draw at Arsenal in 1968 (same game as they used clips from in the 'Golden Vision') which were just amazing. At the final whistle he just sprints off the pitch. Job done off I go!!

In 1970 the game at home against Keflavik was untidy for him. He made a few gaffs and - as usual -the crowd decided to have a go. Gordon gave the Street End the V Sign and basically told them to 'get off my back' We won 6-2 in the end. Catterick dropped him and Andy Rankin returned for a stretch and became a hero in the next European Cup round with his penalty save aginst Monchengladbach. If you see pictures - or film of it - look who's first to enbrace Andy when we got through...Gordon.

But my best memory is around 1972. We had fallen from grace badly and we really did look like going down. Around easter we played at Goodison(Again I think it was Wolves and drew 2-2). Gordon was amazing and like a man possessed. It continued that way for the remaining games- this only 2 years since we won the title- thats how far we had fallen! If it hadnt been for him and Howard Kendall we would have sunk I firmly believe.

I see him around Waterloo and he used to pop into my local - with his son and pipe but aint seen him in the pub for a while. An unasuming man. In this week when 'Money doesnt talk it swears' as Dylan said I have lost faith in football but I look at Gordon and his type (Lets remember the great Neil Young at City ..RIP too ) times have sadly 'A Changed' and we wont see too many like this living legend anymore.

Gordon West.....a REAL Everton LEGEND. Long May You Run
Paul McGinty
11   Posted 07/02/2011 at 00:59:25

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I boarded a train to Lime St at Manchester Victoria for that Rangers game. It had originated in Scotland and so I ended up on a train full of bevvied up hardcore Jocks. Scared the living daylights out of me. I blew off the game if I remember correctly after having the crap kicked out of me.

When Westie was goalkeeper's coach at Tranmere Rovers, I remember his booming voice organizing the team for the after match drinks at the Rovers social club.

Though he replaced my then hero, Albert Dunlop, he was so solid back there throughout the 60s. A real Everton legend.

David Meigh
12   Posted 07/02/2011 at 03:46:47

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In about 1964, Gordon West came to live in a semi-detached at about 83 Claremont Avenue in Maghull. I lived at 58 with my twin brother and 5 or 6 mates lived in the road. As 14-year-olds we kicked the ball about the street then talked about how we would change the world.

Gordon didn?t seem to like driving and was always walking home at night, but never failed to stop for a chat and a joke. The greatest of these occasions was the Sunday after the greatest FA Cup Final in 66 after we had been to all the home matches and we had seen the team home on the bus. We met Gordon coming down the street and got our hands on a freshly minted medal.

Along with Brian Labone, whose garden I occasionally helped with, they were great guys with a lot of banter between them. I hope Gordon gets his testimonial and hope he reads this.

Christine Foster
13   Posted 07/02/2011 at 05:13:46

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My first recollection of meeting Gordon West was when I was just 5 I think, I attended the Holy Ghost Anexe primary school next to Bootle Golf course, the cinder path cut through the course and was often a dangerous place to be as poorly struck golf balls whistled in from everywhere. Making my way home one day back to Netherton, (yes we walked the few mile every day on our own back then) one such golf ball narrowly missed me and a friend landing a foot or so away, through the fence a couple of heads appeared ( I think it was Alex Parker and Brian Labone) and shouted "Westy, we found your ball " a smile and thank you as well as an apology..

We often used to make our way back past the clubhose just to see the team play after training, I think I ended up with most if not all of the autographs in my autograph book which I still have somewhere..

Good on you Gordon, it would be fantastic for him to get a testimonial.. for all the fun, the handbag comments and the sheer joy he brought
Mike Owen
14   Posted 07/02/2011 at 12:54:01

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Gordon West was one of my first heroes. Fantastic keeper.

His brilliance was not captured on TV anywhere near as much as one would like in order to show to younger generations. (Even when the media does a piece on Banks, it's that save in Mexico and little else.)

And that throw of Gordon's... I used to go in goal just so I could throw it out like him.

Testimonial for Gordon? I'll go.

Trevor Lynes
15   Posted 07/02/2011 at 15:50:56

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I remember Westy very well and his antics especially in Derby games. He was a great goalie but very excitable and I remember one fracas in a derby when he ran half the length of the pitch and then he just pushed St John... it was really very funny. He was presented with a red handbag by a Koppite which he threw into the back of the net... St John was presented with a few bananas.

St John by the way was known as the only player with a Lonsdale Belt as he was sent off at least 3 times for punching opponents. He absolutely flattened Pancho Pearson in a game against Man Utd... Pearson afterwards said he didn't feel it as he was knocked clean out.

I also remember Bobby Collins jumped on the back of Ron Yeats and tried to pull him over (Yeats was a giant and Collins was 5'-4")... Collins was let go much too soon and absolutely carried Leeds Utd for some time after he left us.

Collins, Young and Vernon were the best and Westy was a fine goalkeeper but not so good as Southall who commanded his area better than anyone.

Ray Roche
16   Posted 07/02/2011 at 16:18:14

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I remember in a home game against Fulham, the Fulham forward, I forget his name, followed through into West, clattering into him. West calmly threw the ball past him then picked him up by his shirt front and shook him as if he was a small child. He never came near Gordon again. As I remember, West's wife was a classical concert pianist. He was a great goalie.
Steve Sweeney
17   Posted 07/02/2011 at 17:58:35

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I think that game vs Fulham was about 1967 and I think the guy was a winger called Les Barrett... Maybe wrong.

This is a great thread what excellent memories of those Everton Greats. Jimmy Gabriel, Chico Scott, Denis Stevens, what would they be worth today?

I also remember the Youth Team winning the FA Youth Cup in 1967 John Hurst was the captain. We won 3-2 I think there were about 30,000 at The Old Lady that night.

Bob McEvoy
18   Posted 07/02/2011 at 18:42:54

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I remember going to his debut match in March 1962. The first time he threw the ball, there was an audible gasp from the crowd. None of us had ever seen anything like it. He was hurtling the ball further and with more accuracy than Albert Dunlop could kick it.

Great keeper. Just a pity his missus put the block on him going to Mexico.

Michael Kenrick
19   Posted 07/02/2011 at 21:11:19

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Hate to be a naysayer to such wonderful memories but I think it was 1965 when Everton won the Youth Cup for the first time, Steve ? not 1967.
Steve Green
20   Posted 07/02/2011 at 20:41:29

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Westy's missus Ann was indeed an accomplished pianist. How do I know? Well, she was great friends with our teacher at Linacre Primary in Bootle during the late 60s (Mrs Rowntree, as you ask) and was always coming in to play at assembly and the likes for us.

Yes, that streaker, and that rain and that vibe (not panic but not a nice vibe), that went round when we thought they had come in to take the Street End. Only match day rumour worse than that was the bastard in the front row of the Main Stand who said Chelsea were winning on the last day of the '86 season, twat. Even the Millwall stabbing didn't cause as much kerfuffle as that testimonial night.

Don't know about running to Fazackerley or Norris Green, but I do remember queing for the 68 bus on County Road after the match and having to run down as far as the Rice Lane stop to get out of the way of some fighting. Come on guys, I was only an innocent 12 or 13 at the time, give me a break.

Chris McGinn
21   Posted 07/02/2011 at 22:02:18

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I seem to remember that when Gordon was the mystery guest on Question of Sport (in the Henry Cooper/ Cliff Morgan era), he was filmed sitting at a piano.

Happy Days. Queuing up waiting for the gates to open at 13:30 so that you could get a place on a crush barrier. The team was always West, Wright, Wilson, Kendall, Labone, Harvey, Husband, Ball, Royle, Hurst and Morrissey.

I hope the club do the right thing and give him the testimonial he deserves.
Steve Sweeney
22   Posted 07/02/2011 at 23:07:33

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Michael #19.... 65/67 ? please allow me a senior moment, I just remember John Hurst being mobbed.

Someone also mentioned the Monchengladbach game, I was in GS and when the penalties came Joe Royle missed and I thought it was all over (getting me used to losing penalty shoot-outs early)
but then realised it was best of 5, Andy Rankin will always be a hero after that save. It was pissing down that night and the Germans had probably one of the best players in the world Gunther Netzer.

He had scored in the first leg but Kendall equalised straight from the kick off noticing that the Monchengladbach goalie was still picking up toilet rolls from the goal mouth.

God I love Everton FC

Dennis Stevens
23   Posted 07/02/2011 at 23:05:22

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Steve Sweeney ? I'm shocked at your spelling!
Martin Mason
24   Posted 08/02/2011 at 10:47:06

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Westy was a larger than life character from an Everton era the likes of which we won't see again, when even the fans had a sense of humour. Incredible and accurate throw and only the great Gordon Banks limited his England appearances. I hope that he gets his testimonial.
Jonathan Tasker
25   Posted 08/02/2011 at 13:09:55

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I loved him so much that I awarded myself Gordon as my middle name.

They don't make them like that any more. The way that players these days are mercenaries and that hardly any players stay at one club is one of the more modern depressing factors of the game today.
Dave Lynch
26   Posted 08/02/2011 at 13:47:39

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The Monchenglabach keepers name was.... Wolfgang Kleff?

Don't know why I remember that but I do. Was only a whippersnapper and my dad used to take me to all the home games. If I remember rightly, wasn't it pissing down that night?

Dave Lynch
27   Posted 08/02/2011 at 14:02:42

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Forgot to add.
That was my very first European game. Is there any footage of it anywhere?
Steve Green
28   Posted 08/02/2011 at 22:43:32

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Ah what a thread for memories.

John's OP mentions the 0-0 last meeting against Blackpool. I well remember that as one of the few games my Red Dad took me to in my youth. Think it was last game of the season and remember that Burridge was in goal and receiving treatment for what seemed like 10 mins after a full blooded full volley from Bally hit him full in the ballies right in front of the St End. I had a great view from the Goodison Rd Enclosure, 7/6d I think it was then.

Chris @ #10, Westy was propping the bar up on a regular basis at The Raven in South Rd circa late 70's- ish, was that your Waterloo pub?

Christine @ #13 - ah The Cinder Path from Gorsey Lane thro to just off Park Lane, aka Bomb Alley, I wasn't fortunate enought to get near misses from footballers, just scallies.

Steve @ #22, blow me Gunter Netzer ? did he really play at Goodison in that game. I remember him playing for Germany in a qualifier at Wembley and running the show about 1973 as they destroyed us 3-1. All green shirt and unkept long blond hair, he was magnificent that day. He would have had the usual clubs scrambling after him these days, wonder who it was then. Something tells me he played for Real Madrid at some stage, any other big names ie, Italy etc?

Dave @ #26, thanks, yes Wolfgang Kleff, wouldn't have got that in a quiz to save my life but for some bizarre reason, remembered him as soon as I read what you had said. Only thing I've got to work out now ? is why???

Steve Green
29   Posted 08/02/2011 at 23:16:03

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Forgot to add, love Westy as one of the great characters of our club and of course, one of the great goalies.

All the best to him and all others of his era and ilk. God bless them all. Hope the club looks after them with tickets still.

Trevor Lynes
30   Posted 08/02/2011 at 23:46:38

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Yes its amazing how people remember names without knowing why..eg; I always remembered Hugo Ugolini who was goalie for the 'Boro and I think that they also had the first black player, a guy named Lindy Delapenha...and Charley Williams the black comedian played centre half for Doncaster.....the odd thing is I cant remember what I did yesterday ?????
Ray Roche
31   Posted 09/02/2011 at 09:38:09

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Trevor, you were posting on here yesterday. Hope this helps.

Have had your medication today?
John Shearon
32   Posted 09/02/2011 at 14:58:15

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It has been a real joy reading all the recollections from Gordon's playing days and it's quite obvious that there is a great deal of affection and respect held by Evertonians for him. Although he will probably see the majority of us off before he moves upstairs, I would think it a shame for Gordon to move on without the ovation and reward he so richly deserves. Maybe we could drag Panathanaikos back for a replay?
Trevor Lynes
33   Posted 09/02/2011 at 19:31:56

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Cheers Ray # 31... I do need a memory jog sometimes but because of my long history memory I do OK in quizzes and I never forget when it's my round... :0))
Mike Owen
34   Posted 10/02/2011 at 12:43:20

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Everton Youth Cup winning team 1965. Anyone remember them playing England Youth at New Brighton Tower ground?

If I remember correctly, John Hurst and Jimmy Husband were among those in the Everton team. Sommat tells me the score may have been 5-2.

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