Alan Ball’s famous aphorism is one of the truest things anyone has ever said about a football club. Everton is a club that grips and obsesses, cradles and slaps you around, causes agony and joy. And that’s just as a supporter. As a writer who has seen in print more than a million words about his beloved club new stories and new ideas constantly ferment. It’s a subject I can’t help but going back to.

Five years have passed since publication of my Everton Encyclopedia and nearly fifteen since Everton: The School of Science was written. Since the last book to carry my name on the cover I have collaborated with some of the most distinguished figures in the club’s history on their memoirs – Neville Southall, Howard Kendall, Dave Hickson and Bob Latchford. But after that work the time seems right to add another, more wide-ranging contribution to the club’s history.

Everton appear at a crossroads in their history. After struggling to make an impression in the Premier League era, a new majority shareholder and considerable investment has given a fresh impetus to the club. Its manager Ronald Koeman has spent a lot of money on a lot of new players. The prodigal son, Wayne Rooney, has returned. There are changes in the way the football club is run. And in three or four years time it seems likely that Goodison – the Grand Old Lady, the first purpose built football stadium in the world and home to so many memories – will be left for a new abode on the banks of the royal blue Mersey.

It’s a fascinating and fast moving period in the club’s history and the changes heighten the imperative to capture something more of Everton’s past before it transforms forever. But what else can be added?

Quite a lot as it happens.

In the early-1990s, Radio City put together a 32 part series chronicling the history of Merseyside’s three professional football clubs, Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers. The voices in that series were later put into print in the wonderful oral history of football on Merseyside, Three Sides of the Mersey. It tells the story of the game through the voices of the people who made it the great spectacle that it is: players, managers, directors and fans. It was such a simple and beautifully executed idea and a work I referred to many times.

The concept was one that stuck with me while I trained as an historian and embarked on a career in the media. What would such a book be like if it focussed on the fortunes of just one club? In American sportswriting there is a fine tradition of oral history, but it’s one less often used in Britain – this despite Thomas Hauser winning the country’s top sportswriting award, the William Hill Prize, for his oral history of Muhammad Ali’s Life and Times.

In that work Hauser spoke to no fewer than 176 people who knew, saw and were moved by Ali. His book is an astonishing achievement. My ambitions when starting this project were initially less ambitious. With my colleagues, Philip Ross and Jack Gordon Brown, we initially aimed for 100 interviews – around the same tally as had been achieved in Three Sides of the Mersey – but the project soon took on a life of its own. The more people we spoke to, the more layers and stories we built, and the more possibilities opened. It was a little like building a football team and then having that magic realisation that you have something very special on your hands. Our belief that Everton was ‘more than just a club’ was reaffirmed many times, and we show a complex institution that touches people’s lives in many different ways.

In the end we interviewed just about every significant living figure in Everton’s history: a total of 180 people – players, managers, directors, chairman, officials, supporters – generating hundreds of hours of recordings and 2 millions words of transcripts. Never before has a study of any sporting institution benefited from so many original interviews. Allied to this is significant new research on Everton’s early years, utilising lost and long forgotten documentary sources.

The resultant book, Faith of our Families, is what I believe, an unprecedented study of a football club, charting, over the duration of 500 pages, the inner workings and highs and lows of Everton Football Club, from its inception as a church team in 1878 to its position today as an aristocrat of the English game and one of the wealthiest clubs in the world.

Faith of our Families Special Edition

The cover of the special edition of Faith of our Families features an Archibald Leitch balustrade laser cut into the cover

The book is out on the 26 October, but as with previous works we have opened up a subscription for those who would like to have their names listed in the book’s appendix. This period is open until 8 September and comes with free UK and subsidised overseas postage.

In addition there is a special limited edition version of 250 numbered copies that are signed by Bob Latchford and Neville Southall, featuring an Archibald Leitch balustrade, which is laser cut into the wibalin book cover to reveal a blue flyleaf. This is an exquisite and unique collectible designed by the ever-brilliant Thomas Regan of ToffeeArt and is sure to sell out quickly.

I hope that Evertonians and all fans enjoy this work as much as we all enjoyed working on it. And I hope in years to come it is referred to as an essential part of every Evertonians library. I’m very confident it will be.

Faith of our Families is available for pre-order now from deCoubertin Books

Follow @deCoubertin

Reader Comments (1)

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Peter Mills
1 Posted 25/08/2017 at 08:07:56
Looking forward to reading this, Jim.

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