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"From now on, you come to every match..."

By James Thomas :  21/02/2011 :  Comments (33) :

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.

Reader Comments

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Eugene Ruane
1   Posted 22/02/2011 at 03:33:47

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If she's not at the Reading game and we lose, I'm going to blame you.
James Flynn
2   Posted 22/02/2011 at 02:59:34

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Converted like me (minus the girl part, by the way).

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.
Raymond Choi
3   Posted 22/02/2011 at 05:06:05

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Great story, James. My first Everton game was at Stamford Bridge (2009 3-3) and I will always remember the atmosphere at the away end.

Now if you would post your video on YouTube to share the joy...
John Maxwell
4   Posted 22/02/2011 at 05:10:42

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I was at the Arsenal game and was sat behind Kanchelskis in the Arsenal end! Great goal if I remember, sure it was even better at Stamford Bridge Saturday....

Great read, James, and sounds like you've got a great Mrs there.
Dave Wilson
5   Posted 22/02/2011 at 06:51:02

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Ha Ha Ha.

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 ?
Alan Clarke
6   Posted 22/02/2011 at 07:54:38

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Ha, the first game I took my wife to was 'Rooney's return' ? that cup game against Man U when the atmosphere was described in the press as poisonous! The game where it kicked off in the valley.

Needless to say, she's never been to another game with me.
Chris Leyland
7   Posted 22/02/2011 at 08:24:38

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The first game I took my girlfriend (now wife) to was the Wimbledon game when we had to win to stay up. When we were 2 down she says in a big loud voice, "Why is everyone so upset?"
Paul Maguire
8   Posted 22/02/2011 at 09:11:56

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We live in NZ, but on trips to UK in 1998 and 2002 took my wife to games at Goodison. 0-1 v Spurs and 1-0 v Sunderland. Joe-Max Moore signed our programme! Gazza played in 2002 and was decent that day.

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.

Bob McEvoy
9   Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:25:08

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Great read James ..similar story with my young son at Ipswich in 95 when we avoided relegation before the cup final. He couldn't quite believe there were large fierce-looking men reduced to quivering wrecks.
Gerry Quinn
10   Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:13:18

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Brilliant story, James ? giggled right the way through it. There always seems to be one or two things that people relate to ? and the beauty of TW is that we laugh together as the family that we are.... keep 'em cummin!
Tim Lowe
11   Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:52:08

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I took my American girlfriend (now fiancee) to her first game last February, the home game against United. I followed the usual pre-match ritual, a couple of pints in the pubs on County Road, then into William Hill. Never made a bet in her life, she sticks 3 quid on Everton to win 3-1 at 40-1.

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.

Charles King
12   Posted 22/02/2011 at 12:18:56

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In the 70s, my then girlfriend, now wife, came to Goodison ? either Derby or Spurs were the opponents (memory???). She'd wanted to know what this other passion in my life was.

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.

Tony J Williams
13   Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:27:03

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My missus has steadfastly stated that she will not set foot in a football stadium.... and I'm glad for that because she would throw her engagement ring back at the foul-mouthed drunken thug that would be sitting next to her.
Gerry Quinn
14   Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:50:56

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Chris #7 ? When Everton were 2 down against Wimbledon, your lady said in a big loud voice "Why is everyone so upset?" ? Why didn't you reply with "Go wait in the car, darling"?
Philip Bunting
15   Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:35:50

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I remember taking my girlfriend to the home match with Middlesboro' I think a few years ago. As I live in Northern Ireland flights, accommodation etc all booked. Then feckin' Sky changed match to a Sunday. Alas, still trying to get her back! But we've since had a wee boy and he's a true blue now!
Kunal Desai
16   Posted 22/02/2011 at 14:22:43

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Think I need to drag the missus up to Goodison again. Her first visit resulted in 8 goals bulging the back of the net!! 7 in the Sunderland net.... ummm, actually... what is she doing this Saturday!!??
Mike Hughes
17   Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:08:26

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Your woman-related football experience was more romantic than mine.

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......
Julian Wait
18   Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:06:47

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I took my (then) girlfriend to Everton vs Bayern Munich in 1985, because my dad didn't want to go for some unholy reason. He listened on the radio instead. It was the only match she has ever been to, to my knowledge (we split up a year or two later and I doubt she's been to a game anywhere since).

AI, YK, YH .... you know the result.
Brian Denton
19   Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:34:40

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I don't believe in women at football matches. Like when the middle classes started attending in force, it's when the rot set in. You did get the odd girl (I use the term in the loosest sense) in the sixties and seventies, but they were few and far between. After all, how could they sing (usually while clambering off a wreck footie special at some hole of a station):

"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....
Brian Denton
20   Posted 22/02/2011 at 15:46:40

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PS Took my wife to be to the match once. It turned out to be one of the few clunkers the great mid-eighties side played, 0-0 home to QPR. After that, I decided she was a bad luck charm.

By the time my daughter showed up, we were crap. She went to the odd game, but we never won any of them.
Paul Johnson
21   Posted 22/02/2011 at 17:32:36

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My dad tells a great tale about going to Fulham in 1965 with my Uncle Barry plus my heavily pregnant mum (carrying me) and mother-in-law.

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."

Dean Adams
22   Posted 22/02/2011 at 18:42:46

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I have taken two sons, one daughter, the wife, my brother and the father in law to watch us play. Every time has been a win for us, culminating in the great result on Saturday. Taking a Red, a Manc and a Chelski fan to games has been hard work, but very worthwhile.

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!!!

Jeff Spiers
23   Posted 22/02/2011 at 19:41:33

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I took my daughter to her first game v Coventry. Cobi Jones was playing for them. As I waited for a programme my daughter stood at the top of the steps Street End. She was in total awe and said, "Dad, I'm home!" Sent a shiver down me spine.
Kenn Crawford
24   Posted 22/02/2011 at 20:40:48

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My wife an I live in Australia. I am Originally from Wallasey, she from The Dingle. She came out here when she was 9 in 1966; I came out when I was 21 in 1974. I have been back to Goodison on numerous occasions since but my wife had never even been back to the UK till we went back in 2003.

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!

John Maxwell
25   Posted 23/02/2011 at 02:42:55

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I took my ex to two games and we conceded 11 goals... 7-1 at Arsenal and 4-1 at Chelsea in another cup replay...

I'm not from Liverpool but she told me scouse accents turned her on.

Glad I'm not with her anymore!
Kirk McArdle
26   Posted 23/02/2011 at 06:28:29

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I took the wife (then Fiancee) to her first match at Goodison in April 2007. She bought me tickets to the Man Utd game for my birthday. We were 2-0 up at half time pulling their pants down. We lost 2-4 and she said to a very deflated soon to be hubby "It's only a game". The bloke in front looked at me. Then looked at her. Then looked back at me in disgust that I never said anything to her about the comment. (I'm not that brave!!) Complained about the wooden seats. Complained about the noise. Complained about the swearing. Complained about the crap pint that I shoved in her hand at half time. Complained about not being able to see round the big post from the roof. Complained about the walk afterwards because we could not get a taxi back to the hotel. Actually it's a wonder I married her really!

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!
Jon Ferguson
27   Posted 23/02/2011 at 08:43:08

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I also took my girlfriend to the Chelsea game, well actually she took me. Her dad is a Chelsea season ticket holder and he got us tickets up in the East stand. We were surrounded by absolute fools. It took all my will power to keep my mouth shut but even stranger, she was worse than me.

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.
Ernie Baywood
28   Posted 23/02/2011 at 09:00:05

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Only got my wife to one game (I migrated to Oz). But it was the Steve Watson hat trick vs Leeds.

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.
Peter Warren
29   Posted 23/02/2011 at 13:46:29

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I watched game on TV on Saturday. Made up when we equalised. My son just turned two, loves holding a football, and one of the only words he can say is "goal". He just woke up after extra time, just befroe penalties.

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!
Santosh Benjamin
30   Posted 23/02/2011 at 15:19:04

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Great article, James. Brought a tear (of joy) to my eye when i read it.

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

Adam Cunliffe
31   Posted 24/02/2011 at 13:17:07

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Fantastic read that James, really well written.

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.

Mike Allison
32   Posted 24/02/2011 at 17:17:52

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Great piece of writing that, James, absolutely vital too as Toffeeweb has become more depressing than ever (the fault of the real world, not Toffeewebbers) so it was great to read a piece that made me laugh and feel good about Everton again.

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...
Daniel Miller
33   Posted 25/02/2011 at 19:37:20

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When I first met my wife-to-be, back in 1984-85, we used to go regularly together (up to March 1987). She had the great pleasure of never seeing us lose at home ? and of course we nearly always won (even saw us win at Old Trafford and Anfield, League and League Cup). Her last game in 1987 was a freezing cold Full Members Cup game against Charlton which we had to leave at 90 minutes (due to it being minus 10 and her being about 5 months pregnant) ? so you could say she 'missed' us losing again (albeit on penalties).

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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