Last April, for the first time in my life, I saw Everton win at Goodison Park. I had taken my girlfriend up to Liverpool for a romantic weekend, staying in the Malmaison, visiting the art galleries and the museums and going for a nice dinner; the last thing on the agenda for the weekend was going to her first Everton match. She had little interest in football; were it not for me, she wouldn?t even know who Everton were. I knew that she was only going to the match to humour me yet I thought that perhaps I could convert her.
As it turned out, the match was a dead rubber against Fulham and not a game to secure qualification to Europe, as I had hoped it would be. The atmosphere in the Lower Gwladys was playful (the man in front of us spent the entire game cheering on Hibbert) but hardly the cauldron I had hoped for. In the end, thanks to a last-minute penalty from Arteta (despite our pleas for Hibbert to take it), we went away in a good mood to end a delightful weekend. As we left the ground though, she said something that stuck in my head: ?You know, I wouldn?t mind going to another game some time?.?
A couple of weeks ago, when tickets to the Chelsea game went on sale, I sent her a message, more in hope than expectation, inquiring if she?d like to come, and she agreed. We both live in London and my house is half-an-hour from Stamford Bridge so it was hardly an expedition but I was still glad that she?d get to see a proper atmosphere.
I hadn?t quite bargained on the fact that this would be the greatest match I?d been to since a last-minute Kanchelskis strike at Highbury, fifteen years ago. We arrived to find seven rows of police and stewards guarding the entrance to the ground. My father and I were frisked three times a piece on the way in whilst she was waved through without a second thought (it pays to be a pretty girl). Going into the ground, we made our way through the bar, past men bellowing out coarse songs in scouse accents so thick that she had not a clue what they were saying (probably for the best).
The atmosphere in the lower shed was unreal. We were in the third back row so that the wall of noise echoed around, amplified by the banging on the steel ceiling surrounding us. She delighted in seeing Fellaini, remarking that the rain would turn his hair into a sponge like last week; she laughed as Terry skied it over in front of us when faced with an open goal; she took an instant liking to Howard?s intensity; and (after I?d explained the various misdemeanours of Cole and Terry) she found the tirade of abuse from the man in front of us all the more amusing.
She takes a particular disliking to Cole as he represents everything she hates about footballers (?They?re all just wankers who cheat on their wives?). When she remarked that she?d ?never seen so much testosterone buzzing about?, I could sense that she was half in awe, half afraid.
At first, she would clap with everyone else; unsure of what was happening when Ramires went down, I explained to her in my most even-handed manner that ?that dirty Brazilian bastard has fucking dived! AND BEEN BOOKED!? As the game wore on, though, she would join in with the chants that she could, being ?Everton? and ?USA? (once I?d explained Howard was American).
When Felli?s goal was disallowed and when that bloody man Lampard put them ahead, she no longer seemed to just be comforting me in that usual way she does when Everton lose, she seemed genuinely disappointed herself. And then? Ivanovic clatters Jagielka ? for the first time all day, Dowd gives a free kick for an aerial challenge OUR way. Baines and Arteta eye it ?Don?t you DARE go near that ball Mikel!!? I screamed.
We were directly behind the goal. Leighton steps up. An explosion. I pick her up and swing her around. My dad joins in on the group hug. She tries to bang the ceiling. SHE TRIES TO BANG THE FUCKING CEILING!!!!! She?s too short to reach it and she?s annoyed. I thought I lost it earlier this season when Beckford equalised at The Bridge but this was something else. The man in front of us nearly topples off the wall he?s standing on before I grab him. Elation. Two minutes of torture before the whistle.
Penalties... Not penalties... Please not penalties. I was at Brentford this season and it?s all I could remember. We always lose on penalties. We always lose when I?m there. I?m such a fucking curse. I went seven years straight losing at Fulham. The best I?ve seen at this stadium is a draw. I went thirteen years between wins at one point. Thirteen bloody years...
But hang on a minute... She?s here. She?s not a curse. She?s only seen a win. Maybe we?ll win this one. Lampard... Shit. Baines. Our best player. No problem, he?ll definitely?..FUCK! Every time. Every bloody time. Drogba. Of course. Jags... Phew, at least we won?t be humiliated. Anelka... Kopite shite. Here he is just to rub salt in the?.."TIM! USA! USA! USA!" She?s joining in... Essien... Damn. Jonny. O no, Jonny missed that one against who was it, Huddersfield. Yes! Pumps the crowd, we believe. Boom! Take that Ashley. The man in front waves his phone. He can?t get the swear words out quick enough.
Then suddenly, someone starts it. "CHERYL! CHERYL! CHERYL!" She?s joining in. "CHERYL! CHERYL!" Scuffs it! Neville walks up. The men in front turn away. They can?t look. I?ve got my scarf over my eyes. She?s blocking her view of Neville with her hand and only looking at the net. I close my ears. The noise is deafening. We?ve won? WE?VE WON?! I pick her up again; I hug the men in front; I hug the men behind. I run into the aisle. I run back. She tells me to get out my phone. I film a video I don?t remember. I nearly lose my voice. I scream repeatedly ?From now on, you come to every match! EVERY MATCH!?
On Sunday, I look on my phone and remember the video I took. I watch it again. It?s mostly screaming, my hand shaking all over the place. At the end of the video I turn the camera to her. She?s jumping up and down clapping. And that smile. She?s beaming. She?s been converted.
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1 Posted 22/02/2011 at 03:33:47
2 Posted 22/02/2011 at 02:59:34
I followed EFC ever since ESPN showed Joe Max Moore scoring a goal in the late 1990s. Had no idea what Everton was, just shocked at a soccer highlight shown at all. Likely because it was a World Cup year (Believe me, the ESPN crew then reported soccer almost resentfully.)
What struck me was the pandemonium at Goodison when he scored (a header) and the fact that Englanders were going crazy over an American scoring a goal in the EPL. Only the Goodison Faithful. That made me aware of something called Everton.
I was pretty much accepting that Man Utd would be my team when our Tim was in goal for them when they lifted the League Trophy. Except they dumped him to, of all teams, that bunch who had went wild over Joe Max those years before.
Fast forward to last season when Moyes brought on Landon and I'm in for good. I'll watch any good team play soccer, but my team (which plays good most times) is Everton.
James ? Great story, well told. I look to the day I bring my wife to a game and she has the same experience.
3 Posted 22/02/2011 at 05:06:05
Now if you would post your video on YouTube to share the joy...
4 Posted 22/02/2011 at 05:10:42
Great read, James, and sounds like you've got a great Mrs there.
5 Posted 22/02/2011 at 06:51:02
I love Arteta, but Is there an Evertonian anywhere who didnt tell him to do one when we had THAT free kick.
Loving these personal accounts of Saturdays game, keep em coming boys and girls.
Paul (Traill) did you get there ? If so wheres your report mate ?
6 Posted 22/02/2011 at 07:54:38
Needless to say, she's never been to another game with me.
7 Posted 22/02/2011 at 08:24:38
8 Posted 22/02/2011 at 09:11:56
The ritual was to get the bus to County Road by the Royal Oak, have a few pints in there, and then up to the Winslow. The to the Upper Gwladys. Not great, those two games... but my wife enjoyed the banter and learned quite a bit of football terminology. I lived in London in the 80s and was lucky to see the championship winning sides on their trips to the capital.
9 Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:25:08
10 Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:13:18
11 Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:52:08
Needless to say when Rodwell fired home in stoppage time we went mad. An Everton win and £120 in her back pocket. Not a bad days work. More pints followed in the Royal Oak where she initiated such topics as "Why does Hibbert play instead of Coleman?", and I knew she'd caught the bug.
12 Posted 22/02/2011 at 12:18:56
I do recall her fascinated by the beautiful pitch ? "Isn't it green" and "Where does the man who talks sit?" (TV commentator)... how tightly she gripped my arm when Z-Cars started and the roar of 40 thousand unleashed. Not a great game but memorable for sitting in the Bullens Rd for the first time (normally a Street End boy) and Jim Pearson scoring to get a 1-0 win.
Funniest was her reaction when he scored, during the pandemonium I looked down and she was sitting rigid with fear, senses completely overwhelmed ? she told me later she lost the capacity to breathe. She now understood what it was all about.
13 Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:27:03
14 Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:50:56
15 Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:35:50
16 Posted 22/02/2011 at 14:22:43
17 Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:08:26
I decided to buy my girlfriend a romantic meal on the way home from us surviving the drop in 98. >She made some sarcy remark about the Blues so I told her to shove the meat pie and chips up her arse. To this day I'm glad I never really pushed the boat out and bought a carton of peas as well.
Ungrateful bitch. Love hurts sometimes......
18 Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:06:47
AI, YK, YH .... you know the result.
19 Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:34:40
"We are the Street End, the cock of the north,
We hate Man Utd and City of course;
We only drink whisky and bottles of brown-
The Everton BOYS are in town !!!"
PS The above is written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, before the PC brigade get after me....
20 Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:46:40
By the time my daughter showed up, we were crap. She went to the odd game, but we never won any of them.
21 Posted 22/02/2011 at 17:32:36
The ladies did some shopping and met the lads in the pub after the game. Just so happens that Tottenham were at home that day and the locals didn't take too lightly to my dad and Barry giving it there all to on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey. Mayhem ensued with dad and Barry fighting there way out of the pub with my nan and heavily pregnant mum.
They all then had the pleasure of an extra night in London but, unfortunately for my dad, he was at the pleasure of the local nick. As the saying goes... "We are chosen, We do not choose."
22 Posted 22/02/2011 at 18:42:46
Alas, the Mrs is not a Toffee and probably never will be but getting the Red father-in-law to Goodison was a massive trial.
NSNO ? Once a Blue, always a Toffee!!!
23 Posted 22/02/2011 at 19:41:33
24 Posted 22/02/2011 at 20:40:48
We went to the Leeds Utd game at Goodison, we were in Bullens Rd stand and, when she walked up the steps and saw the pitch for the first time, she just turned to me, smiled and kissed me. We won 2-0 and she reckoned that she had never experienced anything like it ever. She is now a true blue and always will be. God, I love that place!
25 Posted 23/02/2011 at 02:42:55
I'm not from Liverpool but she told me scouse accents turned her on.
Glad I'm not with her anymore!
26 Posted 23/02/2011 at 06:28:29
She hasn't been back since. But.......
She comes from a large family and they are all Arsenal through and through. My young son was bought an Arsenal kit by his nanny (her mum not mine!) for his birthday. He ripped the wrapping open and looked at the red kit. He looked up and said "I don't like this. I want the blue one so I can look like Daddy"
Another member of the next generation signed-up!
Still brings a tear!
27 Posted 23/02/2011 at 08:43:08
I?ve somehow converted her to being an Evertonian, it?s a mystery seeing as the only two games she?s been to are Newcastle (losing 1 ? 0) and Stoke (we won but it was hardly a spectacle). She has also commented on the poor atmosphere created by us at those two games (both at Goodison this season)
However, I watched the first leg with her dad (it was his birthday) and was surprised she was shouting for the real blues; her dad tried to pull her up on this, to which she replied ?you should have taken me the games then?. At Stamford Bridge she was struggling to contain herself, despite some of the hard looking, Scouse hating, Chelsea rent boys visibly disgruntled by their team?s inability to take hold of the game.
She?s not coming with me this weekend but I have a secret weapon. One of my best mates is a Sunderland fan (his dad was from up there but he moved round ours when he was a kid). He?s come to a number of games at Goodison and we?ve always stuffed them, including that 7 ? 1! I always make a point of inviting him (I?ve superstitious Irish blood from my dad?s side). Hopefully he will continue to act as a lucky charm.
28 Posted 23/02/2011 at 09:00:05
We were in the Street end over by the main stand when the big man crashed a textbook one home. 4-0 and the big man's over to us with his shirt off. She loved every minute.
It gets everyone.
29 Posted 23/02/2011 at 13:46:29
Decision to make: should I leave him as he's a bit groggy when he wakes up or go get him and make him watch? ... Yes, make him watch, I thought we have no chance with penalties and he's got to get used to being an Evertonian and the lows that go with it.
First penalty ? smacked in, my son shouts goal. Second penalty Baines, misses, I'm distraught... Ashley Cole misses, I'm jumping up and down. Neville scores... Pandemonian ? he's never seen me so happy, so energetic, so excited, we dance all thought he house up and down shouting, "Goal! Goal! Goal!" I think it's the happiest he's ever been and perhaps strangely, one of the happiest days of my life, getting through to the 5th round!
Great day and memories which nobody can take away ? that's why we still support our club ? even when we hate everything about it at times!
30 Posted 23/02/2011 at 15:19:04
I live in India and have never been to an Everton game but I have followed the Toffees for the last 24 years and have shared the ups and downs with fellow Evertonians. When I started going out with my girlfriend (now my wife), she used to think I was crazy coz of the way I used to behave when I watched Everton games.
Years have passed and we now share the ups and downs together as we watch matches together. The games are usually at night for us here in India and I remember how many times we have woken up people in neighbouring houses with our yelling after an Everton goal or win. The few that stand out in my memory are the 4th round FA Cup replay against Liverpool when Dan Gosling scored, the semi-final shootout win over Man United, and lots of nameless last-minute winners/draws.
We have a 5-month old daughter now and she was introduced to Everton 2 days after she was born when we watched an Everton game with her around. She looks a little worried when I run around after a goal but I think she is getting used to it now.
I hope to someday come to Goodison with my wife and daughter to experience the joy firsthand. Till then, I will enjoy the TV experience and enjoy the articles on here by people who were at the game... COYB
31 Posted 24/02/2011 at 13:17:07
Took my girlfriend to the West ham game the other week, and suprisingly she really wanted to go in the street end to sample the atmosphere. She's a big Villa fan herself (former season ticket holder with her Dad in the Holte End when they lived down there) and fancied making a comparison.
For about 90 odd minutes she was skeptical of my insistence that it's the best place in the world...when Fellaini scored she found out why. As much as it kills me to say it, I completely forgot about her and hugged the old bloke next to me instead, she took it well tho too be fair,
Anyways I digress, just hope we don't get Villa in the cup, because if we do she's promised me a trip down to the Holte End to see what that place is like, but thats nothing in the grand scheme of things, her family will all be there too.
32 Posted 24/02/2011 at 17:17:52
Incidentally, my wife's only been twice and we won them both (home vs Wigan and Burnley, so maybe not really down to her) and I've stopped playing on Saturdays, so maybe, if we plan this right, the FA Cup is ours this season...
33 Posted 25/02/2011 at 19:37:20
We moved away for well over 15 years and, came back early 2006 (just after the terrible start to the season) ? 0-4 at home to Bolton and 4-0 at Villa ? so she is 'brought out of retirement' and we duly win 3-1 at home to Charlton. She continues to be a reasonably lucky charm (and again you could say she really hasn't seen us lose at home since she couldn't take anymore of our 2-1 home defeat to Man City ? she went back to the car at 0-2).
On a slightly different note, I now go with my son to all the home games and, as an aside, his first word as a baby was "Da-Da" when he was sat in front of the television ? at the point where Wayne Clarke scored the only goal of the game against Forest (Jan 88) ... you get the connection ? Once a Blue Always a Blue.
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