I'd been watching Everton and Liverpool, as a family we went to one ground one Saturday and the other the next, a common practice in those days, since I was seven (in Season 1953-54), and during the first five years or so both teams were atrocious. I was a confirmed Evertonian, after all we were in the First Division, Liverpool were not, but were supported by my dad and uncle.
Apart from Dave Hickson, Wally Fielding and the steady T E Jones, most of the Everton team of the 50s were (to put it bluntly) either a year or two past their sell-by date or lacking in quality. Then we signed Bobby Collins; no player to my knowledge has ever had a greater impact on a team then that little maestro. He carried a poor Everton team single-handed for almost two seasons.
In the early 60s, we started to buy players on a large scale, many were actually truly great players: Alex Young, Roy Vernon, Gordon West, Jimmy Gabriel, Tony Kay and later Ray Wilson, Alan Ball and Howard Kendall. Alex Parker had arrived earlier, but National Service meant he didn't really start playing regularly till the early 60s.They were the greats, but Dennis Stevens, Billy Bingham, Alex Scott, Fred Pickering and Johnny Morrissey weren't far behind. Then the home-grown talents of the peerless Brian Labone, Brian Harris, Derek Temple and then my favourite ever Everton player, Colin Harvey and Tommy Wright emerged.
When we won the League in 1962-63, we had had no success whatsoever (runner-up in the old Second division in 1953-54 was the one "triumph") since the war and the hunger for success was immense. Like Man City today, we were not universally liked; we were "The Merseyside Millionaires" and other clubs resented our money. We drained Blackpool and Blackburn of their best players on a regular basis.
However, for us Evertonians, it was an affirmation of our status and a confirmation of our quality. The one weakness in the 62-63 team was at left back: George Thomson had been excellent when he first came to us from Hearts with Alex Young, but a severe injury meant that he was never quite as good and in 1962-63 he was replaced by Mick Meagan, a whole-hearted wing-half who made a fair job of playing at left back in the second part of the season. Ray Wilson's signing should have completed the picture, but the Kay affair affected the next season and Harry Catterick showed his one fault again, when he got rid of the wonderful Roy Vernon far too quickly.
Catterick gained more top division points than any other manager in the 60s ? more than Shankly, Busby, Nicholson,and Revie. He created two great teams, won two League titles, one FA Cup in what was the greatest of finals, and was runner-up in another. Yet he is rarely mentioned in the same breath as those other managers.
Catterick was not by all accounts a warm man; he hated the press and gave them nothing and his biggest fault was a tendency to discard players far too quickly: Collins, Vernon... and worst of all, Alan Ball, who was sold when, like everyone else who'd played in the Mexico World Cup of 1970, he had an indifferent season the year after.
But Catterick was the most successful manager in that he created two great teams and had success with them both. Had that toss of a coin against Panathanaikos gone our way, we could have been the second English team to win the European Cup and then perhaps Catterick might have got some credit.
In the early 60s, we were truly a great team, a team with flair and steel. Every name evokes a visual memory: Parker's slide tackling; Young's shimmy; Vernon pointing one way and moving the other; Gabriel, blond hair flowing as he powered through the mid-field; West's brilliant shot-stopping; Morrissey's beautiful footwork; and Derek Temple's goal at Wembley.
Perhaps such days will return either at Goodison or in a new stadium within Liverpool but, in order for us to return to those days, we need a Chairman and a Board who can sort out the financial mess and allow us to move forward... or do I mean backward to our heritage of the 1960s?
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1 Posted 11/02/2011 at 15:13:50
2 Posted 11/02/2011 at 14:55:21
I send copies of many of these articles to my mate Steve who now lives in the States. He and I lived just 3 streets away from Goodison as kids and to start with, used to bunk in at three quarter time, before graduating to the Street End via the Boys Pen. When the floodlights were first installed ? the big tall ones ? the light used to keep me awake at night.
Catterick used to dish out 'school reports' to each player after every match. Young ? must try harder; Vernon ? much better in the second half. Can you imagine that today?
When they went away, there was no chance of players staying out late because Catterick kept all the room keys and you had to ask him to let you back into your room at the end of the night, although I'm sure it didn't deter the likes of Vernon and Kay who were free spirits to say the least.
My earliest memories are associated with those times and it was the first great team for a generation. Sadly another generation would pass until we saw the next great team in the 80s. In fact, that has been the repeated pattern for us ? once a generation ? which means we're overdue. The other repeated pattern is the premature break up of great teams, caused by rash management action or by things outside our control like world wars, European bans etc etc.
Like you I remember those players fondly ? Vernon the genius (and my all time favourite); Harvey who I rate above Ball, Young, Ball ? great mates; Kay(who would have been a World Cup winner); Wilson; Parker (who often tumbled down the stairs on a Friday night at the Royal Tiger in Liverpool; Morrisey (known as 'Spread' or 'alehouse'), who put the fear of God into defenders all over the place; 'Angel' Gabriel, as hard as nails, who when he first came down from Scotland used to pick players up after he'd half killed them; Labone, the gentleman; Harris, the joker and very under-rated; Temple, who had a cannonball shot; Tommy Ring, who was past his best but for a season showed everybody what was meant by 'a tricky Scottish winger'' ? his debut was against Notts Forest and we were 6-0 up by half time mainly laid on by him; Pickering, who scored a hat trick on his debut, also against Notts Forest from memory, again 6 goals that day.
Both teams being 'sent off' against Leeds at Goodison; Fairs Cup against Dunfermiline on the night that the Cuba Missile Crisis was reaching its climax ? very scary, extremely dirty; first Derby for years in 1962 at Goodison; Vernon's typical penalty; Dennis Law playing for Manchester CITY and being outclassed by Vernon and Collins; Young soaring like an eagle against Spurs.
It's bloody endless! God how lucky were we?
3 Posted 11/02/2011 at 15:52:36
Yes, John Carey produced a team that played great football and bought many of the great players, but it's Catterick who won the honours. I never understand how Catterick is quite so ignored.
4 Posted 11/02/2011 at 15:58:13
What wonderful times they must have been.
5 Posted 11/02/2011 at 16:18:32
6 Posted 11/02/2011 at 16:48:44
7 Posted 11/02/2011 at 16:54:44
Liverpool derby standouts were Liddel from bygone days who put the fear of God into me every time he got the ball... later on St John, Smith, Yeats and Hunt. If any Evertonian saw Billy Liddell play I'm sure he would agree with me that Liddell would be priceless today. He was strong, extremely fast, direct and with a bullet shot.
8 Posted 11/02/2011 at 17:13:11
Despite gaining promotion in 1954, we struggled to make an impression in league or cup, and although Alex Parker and Bobby Collins weren't Carey signings, they were significant players in his era. What price now?
Players of the calibre of Tommy Ring, Roy Vernon, Mickey Lill, Jimmy Gabriel, and Billy Bingham.
Although Tommy Ring played only 26 games for Everton, I feel that most supporters of a certain age would consider him to be our best left winger, ahead of such fine players as Johnny Morrissey, and Dave Thomas.
David (#4), you are right in saying that it's easy to view the past through rose-tinted glasses, but I wonder how many of our players of the last decade will be remembered with such affection.
Chris (#2), I agree that we appear to be a club that epitomises the "Generation Game", and I also believe that today's generation deserve a taste of what we older supporters have enjoyed, and I must confess that I much prefer this kind of ToffeeWeb participation than the doom and gloom that is quite often the norm.
Thank you Richard for your article which has revived such pleasant memories.
9 Posted 11/02/2011 at 18:21:11
By the way, Chris Williams, there's no such club as 'Notts Forest' ? I presume you mean Nottingham Forest rather than Notts County.
10 Posted 11/02/2011 at 19:33:39
Panathinaikos contested the final against Ajax and lost. It's by no means certain that we'd have beaten the Dutch but we certainly would have made the final.
All "ifs" and "buts" ? the story of being an Evertonian, eh?
11 Posted 11/02/2011 at 19:42:38
12 Posted 11/02/2011 at 19:09:31
Carey's emphasis on pure football was streets ahead of his counterparts. I was at Maine Rd when the tannoy graciously announced a warm welcome to Everton for one of Scotland's greats.
In days when football north of the border rarely got a mention on TV, I remember a comment that our mascot was a particularly solid little fellow. That was wee Bobby and what a pocket piece of brilliant dynamite he turned out to be.
Chris (#2); Sad news about Jimmy Fell passing away. Brings to mind those times travelling to away games on the old toiletless 'football specials' we would amuse ourselves with a quiz from from Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly. One question was: Name 5 Everton forwards each with four letters in his surname and at least two of those letters were an L.
Sob Sob... what happened since then? We still have some great players and youngsters to cheer but backroom shenanigans have cast a shadow over them.
13 Posted 11/02/2011 at 19:49:50
And I agree with those here that say Colin Harvey was our greatest midfielder. Indeed he was!
14 Posted 11/02/2011 at 20:23:45
You also mention Tommy Smith: now, there's a Liverpool player I always loved to hate, closely followed by Sammy Lee! ;-)
15 Posted 11/02/2011 at 20:24:45
On another thread, I spoke of seeing the early 60s team sometimes at Bootle Golf course in the clubhouse, more often than not, Roy Vernon would be chain smoking and the rest of the boys certainly enjoyed a drink or two, three ? no drink driving then...
Jimmy Husband? Wonderful player, he could dance around a defence all day, until I remember Dave McKay just about cutting him in half with one of the worst tackles I had ever seen in my life (still ranks up there). I think it was against Derby around 68 but not sure. I was probably 20 feet from it and it still makes my blood boil, I think it was the first day I swore... God help me.
16 Posted 11/02/2011 at 21:55:24
In those days (or so it seems, again with the memory), the Echo's Monday evening reports seemed a million miles from the present trash... more of the style and content of Ken Buckley.
My own favourite was the cartoon, that in a few words and pictures, summed up and encapsulated the whole game.
17 Posted 11/02/2011 at 22:47:31
As a kid I couldn't wait for Saturday. At times it was like watching poetry in motion and as, Chris #2 says "we were a lucky bunch.
Personally, I never liked Catterick. I never forgave him for breaking up the greatest team in England (I accept that's only my opinion), starting with the greatest general (including Alan Ball) that I've ever seen in a Royal Blue Shirt. Bobby Collins then went on to resurrect Leeds and, to me, it was the beginning of our downfall.
I remember listening to Alex Young being interviewed on Radio Merseyside. He recalled how Catterick would tel the Scottish FA that Alex was injured, so that he would be available for Everton. The greatest British player I've ever seen (I've had a couple of whiskies!) and if not that then he was the greatest artist ever to have graced a football field, in my time.
We also banned TV form our ground for years, therefore denying those great players a stage to show the rest of england, just how great they were.
Being a bitter and twisted Blue, it really galls me that the BBC went to Anfield, and that lot got associated with the "Liverpool Sound." That, to me, was the beginning of their rise, and our fall.
Still, I count myself a lucky man, to see the best team in England by a country mile.
18 Posted 11/02/2011 at 23:36:10
Collins Young and Vernon were fantastic and Collins was a great long passer with a mean streak not unlike Scholes at his best.
Young was like the great Brazilian Tostao but he never liked physical games, he always played well at home especially against the London and Manchester clubs. Vernon was a wasp and the only player who reminded me of him was Rush... but Vernon was mean too and revelled in derby games.
Both of our city teams were great and the Manchester and London sides were also rans by comparison.
George Best actually said that we were their bogey team... those were the days!!
19 Posted 12/02/2011 at 08:30:49
The first time I cried openly in public was as an 11-year-old in the Bullens Road stand watching Alex Young creating a Mona Lisa with a football.
My mam coming home from a night at the Grafton and happily telling me she had had a dance with Ron Yeats, I felt physically sick and didn't talk to her for a month.
Watching the Golden Vision on telly (available on YouTube) and thinking, believing, knowing, we were truly the greatest team in the world.
And with our current lack of success, I feel so desperately sorry for the kids who incredibly still remain so passionate about the club... Just one cup, please God, for them...
20 Posted 12/02/2011 at 09:46:42
21 Posted 12/02/2011 at 11:31:50
My Dad sent my Mam to queue up at the old Stadium for tickets for us both... poor dear was there for hours but we got our tickets and watched a 2-2 draw at Goodison. 72,000 fans watched the game in the season that we were Champions, playing some wonderful attacking football.
22 Posted 12/02/2011 at 13:23:10
23 Posted 12/02/2011 at 16:17:16
24 Posted 12/02/2011 at 20:36:18
Vernon was pure utter class and as you say Catterick's fault was getting rid of players too soon.
My absolute hero ? and still is ? was Alex Young. That bugger jumped 10 minutes before the cross came in!! Hovered!! Bang!! In it went!! But, in hindsight, Vernon was THE MAN!
After the 11-Plus, I went to Cardinal Godfrey School and Tommy Smith had just left and gone to Liverpool. I remember he came back to give a talk. Not only did he get fucked off but I am positive his motor got trashed! Great days!!!
25 Posted 13/02/2011 at 14:56:44
26 Posted 14/02/2011 at 04:49:33
I am surprised nobody has mentioned that besides Brian Harris we had Jimmy Harris which to the best of my knowledge is the only time we had brothers playing together in the first team.
Agree with some other posters that Roy Vernon was by far the best forward of the time jinking in and out of players and round the goalie too before planting the ball in the net.
Did he ever miss a penalty?
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