I didn't know what to wear. Do I put a suit on and risk being overdressed; or, do I go a little more casual and hope I'm not too underdressed? I went for somewhere in between – chinos, a shirt and a suit jacket. Upon entering the magnificent Liverpool Cathedral from a very blustery outdoors I quickly realised I should have gone for the more formal suit attire... lucky then that I at least had the foresight to stuff a tie into my pocket. I put it on and quickly looked something approaching "the part".
Entering the cathedral the first person I noticed was Joe Royle. Whilst I was chatting to a gentleman who's name escapes me, a tall, slim fellow came over. "Paul. It's Lyndon. Nice to meet you after all these years" he said. "I've had about one hour's sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open!" he said warmly, having arrived just this morning from a long San Francisco flight. After, I think, 13 years of contributing on ToffeeWeb it was nice to finally meet Lyndon Lloyd and what a gentleman he is too.
Lyndon had made the long trip over for a very special occasion, that of the launch of Dr. David France's book launch — Everton Crazy. This was a celebration of all things Everton with special guests throughout. Moving upstairs to the larger area of the stunning Liverpool Cathedral, I sat on Table 2, Lyndon to the left of me, the charming Rosemary Hurst to my right, next to her husband, the great John Hurst. Joe Royle and his lovely wife Janet accompanied the Hurst's, Gareth Farrelly sat opposite me with the witty and entertaining Marshall Lamm and Dave Kurtz of Everton USA also at the table. It was great company and entertainment throughout the amazing five course meal with Joe and John captivating us all with tales of being an apprentice at Everton and fun times with Gordon West.
I'm not sure how it came up in conversation but Joe got talking about Gareth Southgate as the caretaker England manager. "Great bloke. Character bypass" he quipped. As we ate, Rosemary told me of how Joe, John and about a dozen other ex-players and fans from their era meet up for coffee every Thursday morning. It's fantastic that the guys still get together and brilliant that supporters from their era join them. Could you imagine that happening in today's game?
Prior to this Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox cheerily welcomed us all with a nice speech about his enjoyment of football before stating "I have to go, my team Newcastle United have a game I need to watch". David and Elizabeth France then welcomed all guests though not without setting a few ground rules of: NO PHONES, NO PROFANITIES, NO SMOKING, and, NO TALKING ABOUT NIASSE! Reverend Henry Corbett said grace before we ate and sipped wine.
"Any dietary requirements?" asked the server. "Yes" said Joe. "Give me lots".
Following an excellent toast by Peter Lupson, who's always a great talker, Joe Royle went up to say a few words. The theme for all guest speakers was "What Everton means to me" and Joe didn't disappoint. He spoke of how proud he was to take a call from then Vice-President of Everton, Clifford Finch. "Will you come home Joe?" he was asked. "Of course I will" he answered.
He also spoke of another call he received from Bill Kenwright, this one more recently when he worked at Norwich City. "We need someone to come back and help out with the youth development. Will you come home Joe?" said Bill. "Will you pay me this time?" replied Joe. "We will but not as much as Norwich" said Bill. "It doesn't matter. I'm coming home" said Joe. It made for a nice story.
Dr. David France then introduced writer Becky Tallentire. She comically explained how she holds herself responsible for Everton's demise as she lived away from the UK during our most successful ever period from 1983 until 1996. She spoke of her pride at helping David France find former players such as Sandy Brown and begin helping them around the time that the Everton Former Players Foundation was in its infancy; seeing Gordon West transformed, with their help, from a man shot with confidence and struggling at home, to become a warm, witty and charming gentleman. She ended by telling the room that she may be taking on a job in Shanghai, and that if Everton do make a meteoric return to greatness under Ronald Koeman, it will be because of she, not he.
There were so many great speakers it's difficult to do everyone justice with words. Poet Paul Cookson broke things up nicely before Lyndon Lloyd himself took to the microphone with fascinating words of his journey supporting Everton after moving from Johannesburg to England. He was followed by Derek Mountfield. Funnily enough I just recently read an interview with Derek in Simon Hart's excellent book, Here We Go: Everton in the 80s, and so I was particularly interested in listening to him.
He explained how he was gutted when he was at Tranmere Rovers and they told him they were letting him go...until they told him it was to Everton. "Do you know where Bellfield is?" Howard Kendall asked him. "Then we'll see you there at four o'clock Tuesday" he was told. "I was sat in the dressing room with hero's like Mick Lyons" and I thought "what am I doing here?" said Derek.
He got particularly animated when he told of how being an Evertonianian growing up he was forever asked by "horrible reds”, ‘what have you won?’. Roll on a few years and after success at Everton he was delighted to return the question to them: ‘what have you won?’. I kept glancing over at David throughout and it was a joy to see him hold his adoring gaze for every speaker as they discussed all things Everton. Words couldn't possibly describe what Everton means to this man. David gave a nice introduction to our Chief Executive, Robert Elstone, who gave a short talk on Everton's future and perhaps tellingly, said our move to a new stadium has "real momentum".
This led us on to our last batch of speakers of which Kevin Sheedy kicked things off, explaining glowingly of the amazing atmosphere at THE Bayern Munich game. Probably the most entertaining speaker of the lot was actually "reformed hooligan" — as described by Dave Prentice — Andy Nicholls. He spoke of the book he wrote in 2002 leading to him being banned from attending Goodison Park and the hole this left in his life, and how it became rather sad when his daughter would ask why they couldn't go to watch the match at Everton. Charity work he completed and work with Everton in the Community eventually lead to him being allowed to return to Goodison Park, though not before he was allowed to play at Goodison.
He wittily told the story of how he turned out for a charity game before a testimonial game at Goodison Park (I think he said it was David Unsworth’s, though can't be certain). After playing the charity game he explained how he was told by a steward that he had to leave before the actual match, as he wasn't allowed into the ground. "I'll come with you" said John Bailey! As a few of the other speakers eluded to, Andy spoke of how it was nice to come to Liverpool Cathedral for better reasons than his last few visits, them of the funerals of Dave Hickson, Brian Labone and, most recently of course, Howard Kendall.
The final speaker was Ronny Goodlass and what a treat it was too. He spoke of his unbridled joy of returning to Everton when Joe Royle was manager. Ronny was Runcorn manager at the time and with a big grin on his face as he recollected how after getting off the phone to Joe he went to the Runcorn board meeting and when asked about their five year plan replied "as far as I'm concerned lads you can stuff your five year plan up your arse, I'm going back to Everton" He then apologised to Reverend Harry Corbett for cursing in the Cathedral!
There were so many great stories and anecdotes throughout the evening that I can't do them justice, I'm just privileged that I was fortunate enough to have been invited along. David and Elizabeth toasted the evening to a close before musician John O'Connell beautifully played it out with some delightful sounds from his guitar.
My big regret of the evening was that I didn't drive. My last bus back home was at 11.30pm and at the end I simply had to dart. It would have been nice to catch a few words with some of the speakers, take a few photos and have a quick word with David but I really had to disappear. I managed to say farewell to Lyndon, Rosemary and John before I made a run for it. Leaving the cathedral the wind was so strong outside that it was pushing the door back at me as I tried to open it. As I got through and let go the door slammed shut with an almighty bang. "Jesus!" I said.
Thank you David for the most wonderful evening. Everton Crazy — I can't wait to get stuck into. The title certainly couldn't be more apt.
Reader Comments (9)
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1 Posted 01/10/2016 at 12:28:20
Most envious, Paul!
2 Posted 01/10/2016 at 20:45:10
I bought a copy of "Everton Crazy" at The Hub on Spellow Lane before the match on Friday. David was just leaving, but when I asked him to sign a copy of the book he turned back, duly signed, introduced me to Elizabeth and was Evertonian personified. I am looking forward to reading his story over the next few days.
I was very pleased to meet them, and was reflecting this morning that as supporters we are just pale shadows when compared to the dedication of David. Then I reflected a bit more, and understood that there is no such thing as a pale shadow of an Evertonian.
3 Posted 01/10/2016 at 21:06:43
Peter, some of them on the other side have no shadow, I believe.
4 Posted 01/10/2016 at 21:58:48
5 Posted 01/10/2016 at 22:51:10
6 Posted 02/10/2016 at 00:34:17
ps: Could you have not got a taxi?!
7 Posted 03/10/2016 at 20:59:49
When David told me that Lyndon was flying in from San Francisco, I was amazed. That electrical interweb eh? I would also like to mention Mrs France, who I have now met three times in the last week and is just great, it feels like I've known her for, well as long as you've known Lyndon.
I suspect it was Peter Lupson who said "behind every great man is a woman asking 'How much?'", which was my favourite line of the evening. Above all it felt like a family gathering, I think the reason I got Lyndon's location so wrong was that he shares the same passion and is part of the family. We all are.
P.S. In the unlikey event we happen to both be at another event like that let me know and I can give you a lift home. And I got caught out by the door too by the way (as did Joe).
8 Posted 04/10/2016 at 19:40:52
9 Posted 04/10/2016 at 20:51:48
He thinks I am stalking him. He's always great to talk to and is full of good ideas; I'm working on something with EitC at the moment and David was quick to offer his support. He's just a top guy.
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