Everton Is Nothing Without Evertonians

Lyndon Lloyd 26/03/2015   Comments  [Jump to last]

During the good times and especially the not-so-good times, Everton Football Club is supported by some of the finest people on earth, a conviction that grows stronger with each meeting with Elizabeth France. Our paths have crossed on two occasions. Both memorable. The first was the Grand Old Evening hosted by her in San Francisco to herald the tiki-taka era. The dinner turned into a royal blue love fest. We met again during one of her I-5 commutes from San Juan Island to the Frances new home in the sunshine of Sedona, possibly the most inspirational place in the USA. Elizabeth enthralled me with her insights of living with an avid Blue. I recall her advice to all Royal Blue wives: "Never ever ask him if he loves Everton more than you!"

Last week, I had an opportunity to chat with the Toffee Lady by phone. I discovered that the good doctor was unwell and taking pain medication to deal with the aftermath of recent surgery and a severe bout of Evertonitis. She opened by discussing the impact of Evertons poor run of form on The Innocents. She joked that these women, children and other loved ones should consider reporting Roberto to Amnesty International to prevent further abuses of human rights in Walton.

LL: What about the mural at Goodison?

EF: The club does a fantastic job at dressing up the Old Lady. Like the Goodison Timeline, the mural concept is outstanding. I cant believe, however, that Roberto approved his mural. It was ill-conceived for a rookie yet to win anything. Akin to awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Michele Obamas hubby. In contrast, its replacement conjures up memories of Everton ruling British football. Some old-timers may disagree but I think that Derek Hatton first coined the The Holy Trinity tag. Back in 2000, I recall Davids discussions with co-author Becky Tallentire, Brian Labone and Derek Hatton. Brian had suggested a book cover proclaiming: The Only Three-Man Team to Win the League. Degsy countered: The Holy Trinity, proof that God is an Evertonian.

The book entitled Gwladys Streets Holy Trinity was published with the sub-title Kendall, Harvey & Ball. Fans often enquire about this order. Because it isnt alphabetic, they presume its by shirt number 4, 6 and 8. In fact, its by height. A tale that our old pal Alan never found amusing. Can you believe that next month itll be 8 years since the Everton family lost its red-haired, white-booted super-hero? Of course, hes still in our hearts.

LL: Read any good books lately?

EF: Once upon a time, the shelves at local bookstores were red. Today they are overflowing with good Everton books. Personally, Ive a soft spot for the volumes capturing the life and times of The Cannonball Kid and Harry Catterick. James Corbett, one of the smartest of the many bright Blues Ive met, did a fabulous job of completing the former after the death of our old pal. Dave and Pat Hickson were such a lovely couple. Thanks to ToffeeWeb, many readers know that Rob Sawyer is a gifted contributor and wont be surprised by the top quality of his first book. However, they may not be aware of the depth of his blue blood. His great-grandfather was Bill Sawyer, the Everton director and one-time chairman who had the distinction of welcoming Dixie Dean to Goodison. Robs biography of Harry Catterick brought national recognition to a manager who, love him like Brian Labone or not love him like Alex Young, accrued more top-flight points during the Sixties than Busby, Nicholson, Revie and Shankly. I must caution Rob that book writing is addictive. There is nothing quite like the smell of newly printed words.

As for Dr Evertons modest efforts? Everton Crazy was completed ages ago. Like a good pan of scouse, its been left on the step to cool down. During that time, hes expanded the scope of Toffeemen, its accompanying tome to the thickness of the Yellow Pages. The new ambitious goal is to include colour caricatures remember the ugly men with giant ears and pen-pics for every Everton player from pre-League to greedy League, including the war-time periods. Over the past 16 years he has commissioned 1,600 of them. Thanks to incredible support from football enthusiasts throughout the UK, David has unearthed legions of elusive men. Today, hes missing photographic references for only two players who made League appearances Walter Wilson, a one-game wonder in 1888-89, and Bill Thomas, a similar one-game wonder in 1892-93, and about a dozen men from the pre-League era. Thats all. The portfolio is as mind-blowing as the Everton Collection.

Do you remember his declaration? "Blues versus Reds is humility versus arrogance, loyalty versus entitlement and art versus porn." Well another old pal there are a lot of them - the late Jackie Hamilton, known as the Pele of Comedians, was more tactful. He advised David that the real difference is our willingness to laugh at ourselves. If we can laugh at ourselves then well never cease to be amused. As a result, my other half has detoured into the world of chuckles. In collaboration with Peter King, who has received awards for his work for Punch and Private Eye, theyve told the Everton story via gag cartoons. Ill email a little taste of their 150 so-called 'Evertoons'.

LL: Tell me about the EFC Heritage Society

EF: David believes that our heritage separates us from the Johnny-come-Latelies in the Premier League and was concerned that its richness had been diluted and air-brushed. So back in 2008, he invited a dozen Blues who felt equally as passionately about the club's history to pool their know-how and educate the wider football community. In recent times, the Society has gone from strength to strength and been embraced by the clubs hierarchy. Much of its success can be attributed to Paul Whartons enthusiasm. David prefers to kick things off, make sure that a proper organization is in place; then leave it to youngsters like Paul, Brendan Connolly, Billy Smith, Steve Johnson, Rob Sawyer, James Corbett, Peter Jones, Richie Gillham as well as other older pals.

The Society has done a remarkable job honouring some forgotten Blues. I understand that the memorial service in the Erquighem-lys churchyard for Wilf Toman, a casualty at the Western Front, was attended by the French media who lauded Everton as a compassionate club. Today, through its hard work, the Society enjoys the reputation of the first place for people to go in order to learn about Evertons true history.

LL: And his initiatives?

EF: While there is still no museum to showcase the Everton Collection, David continues to discover items. Its a disease. An addiction. As for recent gems, Paul Wharton unearthed a publication for the fixture at First Vienna in 1905 which was acquired subsequently by the Everton Collection. As for the Former-Players Foundation, Im aware that you dont hear much about its deeds. Thats by design. The charity maintains a low profile to protect the privacy of the old timers. Sadly, Rev Harry Ross has retired. Ive never met someone with such genuine compassion. Theres that word again. His efforts in caring for our former-players were immense and changed lives. His support to both Sandy Brown and Mick Buckley made me proud to be part of the Everton family.

LL: I understand that you have picked up the baton?

EF: Thats right. Back in 2010, on behalf of the Shareholders Association, I funded the memorial plaque installed at Goodison to commemorate Fallen Blues the players of the Everton Clubs in England and Chile who perished in battle. Last year, Robert Elstone asked to relocate it closer to Dixies statue. I agreed as long as I could provide an identical plaque to honour the ordinary men and women of the Everton family who lost their lives during the World Wars. It is my heart-felt belief that Everton Football Club is nothing without Evertonians. I hope that the memorial provides a place for reflection for Blues of all generations.

As a club and as a family, we excel at good deeds. Denise Barret-Baxendale has worked tirelessly to convert Everton In The Community into a top local charity. I was delighted that she was honoured with an MBE. Thoroughly deserved. David told her that when she met the Queen she must enquire about a knighthood for Bill Kenwright. Its long overdue. Few of our good deeds would have happened without his unswerving support. My Everton may be different than the Everton of your younger readers. I like the fact that we have a die-hard Blue as chairman. Also I prefer to see local lads in the starting line-up.

LL: Whats your take on the current state of the club?

EF: First tell me, why do we allow something we cant control impact our lives to the extent that it does? Its been a disappointing campaign. Even in Sedona, dark clouds hover over the France household. Its been a campaign with too many unfortunate, bordering on embarrassing, performances. Two wins in 16 League games! But perhaps no loss was more significant than the capitulation to Swansea in the League Cup. Believe it or not, David dreamt that, after 50-odd attempts, we would win it this year. I know its a modest target but we need silverware. Any bit of silverware to hoist through the streets of Liverpool. The only things weve won in the past decade are the MLS Cup and the Friendship Cup. And I understand that we paid for the latter.

Talk of the MLS leads me to the man whose saves against Belgium made him a national hero. Our American neighbours know of Everton Football Club because of Tim and, of course, Landypants. The two most popular soccer players in the land. With hindsight, if we had paraded Tim and Landon around all 50 states immediately after the World Cup, we would have been embraced as Americas Club and sold 100,000 Everton shirts. Then we should have left our loyal No 24 and genuinely nice guy in New Jersey to enjoy his retirement in the MLS. Try telling your American neighbours that hes not one of the best keepers on the planet...

In reality, during my 45 years of watching Everton, weve had a half-dozen better than him. Tim has never been more than middling. Not as good as Southall, Martyn or West but better than Wright, Simonsen and a few others we no longer speak of. Nowadays his signature facial hair deflects attention from his lead feet. Have you noticed that, once he plants them, he struggles to move them again? Hes lost his spring. The same thing happened to Big Nev. If the club is to progress, we must take a leaf out of Cattericks book and recruit a top-class keeper. Did you know that he wasnt satisfied with Gordon West then Englands back-up? And negotiated to buy Gordon Banks, Englands No 1, until the deal was scuttled by a leak to the press.

While Tim has enhanced the brand on this side of the Atlantic, his deeds were diluted by Roberto. Do you remember him being stripped of his World Cup accreditation? An Everton manager banned by Fifa... Try explaining that to your American neighbours. I remember Robert Elstone soliciting Davids thoughts about the new man in San Francisco. My husband waxed: "I just hope that hes a lucky manager. I worry that his reputation is built on a cavalier cup run against mostly lower League sides. The highlights of which were 3 goals in as many minutes at Goodison and a last minute winner against 10 men at Wembley." Indeed, Roberto has proved to be a lucky manager lucky to have such a loyal chairman. Bill Kenwright has shown great composure. It would have been easy to justify replacing the manager last month the cost of paying him off pales in comparison to that of relegation. Now the gaffer should repay his loyalty. He should be set targets of a top-half finish this season and regaining some momentum to propel us to the big time, whatever that may be. Perhaps the League Cup next season?

Ive witnessed some shocking team performances over the years but not since the days of Mike Walker have I noted such displeasure with team selections and tactics. It wont be easy for Roberto to refine his vision of how the game should be played. I wish him well. Our friend Neville Smith, the man who penned The Golden Vision screenplay, says that when under similar pressure Catterick listened to the fans, swallowed his pride and reinstated West, Gabriel and Young into what he called The Hooligans Team, which went on to win the FA Cup in 1966.

I may be mistaken but I detect that Roberto shows less than complete understanding of the soul of a football institution like Everton and the fans who know about the game. Roberto is young. Perhaps he needs a mentor who empathizes with rather than irritates the most loyal supporters in the land. Certainly, he needs to employ his immense charm to re-engage them. Everton Football Club is nothing without Evertonians. And he will achieve nothing, not even the League Cup, without their backing. What do I know? Not much. But I do know that Howard, Alcaraz and Barry are too old for regular first-team duty. You can't blame them for ageing. You can blame Roberto for selecting them.

Its been a bleak winter. Ive come to terms with the gloom and transitory silence that greets every disappointing result. I no longer need to ask: "How did the blue boys get on?" I can detect the outcome by the behaviour of our Cocker Spaniels. This season theyve spent too many Pacific mornings hiding under the dining table. While Robertos Everton prepares young fans for the curve-balls that life will throws at them, I would appreciate him easing my pain of living with a disappointed Blue. Im confident that things will get better. Remember if we can laugh at ourselves then well never cease to be amused. Unless, of course, Steven Gerrard lifts the FA Cup on 30 May...

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