In order to share the 60-minute film with other Blues, Dr David France has made ‘Alex the Great’ available on YouTube. It is required viewing for football fans of all persuasions and all ages.
No doubt you’ve read this before, but it’s well worth repeating…. For as long as Everton Football Club survives, men will talk in awe of the sublime skills of Alex Young who could do things in a match that no other player would even attempt in training. But because of the dearth of television coverage at that time, the centre-forward never received the national fame his talents warranted. One exception was ‘The Golden Vision’, written by Neville Smith and directed by Ken Loach, which was the first docu-drama of its kind back in 1968.
Fast forward to ‘Alex the Great’, the follow-up film which chronicles Alex’s career through exclusive interviews with his opponents as well as his team-mates. Initially filmed in 2012, its commercial release was shelved because, in Dr France’s opinion, despite the exquisite fusion of dramatic music with stirring narrative it struggled to capture the majesty of the subject. Ironically, the film-makers were handicapped by his manager’s distrust of TV cameras and the dearth of video evidence to reinforce the consensus of team-mates and opponents interviewed who, notwithstanding his hearing-loss and super-sized blisters, rated Alex’s sublime skills alongside those of Bergkamp and Messi.
After learning of Alex’s dementia and failing health, the Everton icon and his family were invited to preview the uncompleted film. At that time, Dr France noted:
‘Football fans have become a nostalgic and sentimental bunch who pay their respects to a fallen hero and a good cause every matchday. That said, I thought Alex deserved to hear those tributes for himself at Goodison. More than anything, I wanted him to preview the uncompleted film in the suite that bears his name and to bid farewell to his fellow Evertonians and vice versa. I’m glad I did because a few months later, my dear friend passed away quietly.’
In the interim, Dr France has battled a series of medical issues and, rather than finish the one-hour film, has elected to post the uncompleted documentary on YouTube.
Critically acclaimed by audiences in Liverpool and London, it features interviews with Colin Harvey, Tommy E Jones, Bill Kenwright, Bob Latchford, Ken Loach, Dave Mackay, Duncan McKenzie, Pat Nevin, Joe Royle, Graeme Sharp, Neville Smith, Ian St John, Derek Temple, Ron Yeats and, of course, Alex Young and his children. Again, like its Ken Loach predecessor, it should be mandatory viewing for football fans of all persuasions and all ages.
Dr France commented: ‘For those of us privileged to have marvelled at Alex in action, he was the most gifted British player we had ever seen and proof that the football gods wanted us to be happy: Alex didn’t run, he glided across the turf. He didn’t turn, he pirouetted. He didn’t jump, he floated. He didn’t kick the ball, he caressed it. In fact, his first-touch was like a mother’s tender kiss. The combination of his balletic balance, delicate feints and elegant body swerves left defenders rooted to the spot as he glided past them with astonishing economy of effort. Never ostentatious, his feet stroked the ball with the uncommon motion usually reserved for the foreheads of their newborn infants.
He added: ‘Probably because he had toiled in the coal-mines and served in the Army before winning every prize in Scotland and England, Alex remained an unassuming gentleman who never displayed a hint of pretentiousness. His disinterest in self-promotion is as fascinating as his natural abilities. I suppose those who didn’t see him play will never entirely understand why those of us who did remain convinced that Alex was more cultured than anyone else who has graced Goodison. If you don’t believe me then please digest the words of his admirers and take a look at the film. While it doesn’t do credit to Alex’s majesty, I think it’s worth 60 minutes of every true Evertonian’s time.’
Alex was fantastic in the air and simply sublime with the ball at his feet. Shanks warned me that if you give him space, he’ll take you to the cleaners. The wee man was the finest centre-forward I’ve ever seen and way ahead of his time.
There are no doubts that Dixie is our most celebrated footballer. But just behind him is a forward of matchless grace who displayed Nureyev-like balance. While you can never say never, I predict no-one will match Dixie’s 60 League goals in one season and, with great regret, that we’ll never see the likes of ‘The Golden Vision’ again.
I watched him make his debut from the Paddock. We all stood with our mouths wide open like goldfish. The merest shimmy of his hips made people fall over. A quite unique talent.
Alex had an immaculate touch which allowed him to master the ball like few others. He oozed so much God-given ability that it’s impossible to draw comparisons with todays’ stars. No-one plays football like he did. Very few have ever had the flair or skills to do so.
Alex possessed grace and balance. With today’s manicured surfaces, fancy boots, lighter balls and endless television coverage, he would have been one of the biggest stars in Europe.
Watch Alex The Great:
Perhaps because of the way in which the Golden Vision is so revered by the Good Doctor Everton's and because my favourite players have always been skilful attacking midfielders, Alex Young is perhaps the one player I wish I had been alive to see grace Goodison Park, perhaps even more so than Bill Dean.
What would his value be in today's market, I wonder? Would we even be able to attract someone of his quality in the first place or would the club, as they did back in the day, have astutely plucked him from the relative obscurity of Scotland and made him a Goodison idol forever to be under-appreciated by the football world at large?
Reader Comments (62)
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1 Posted 27/06/2019 at 23:02:17
Today, Alex would be, quite simply, sensational.
2 Posted 27/06/2019 at 23:12:46
I wish I had seen him at his best.
3 Posted 28/06/2019 at 01:31:41
I count myself lucky to have seen him in his pomp, even at the end of his career that 1967 game at the start of the season Vs Untd. shows a genius at work...and work he did, he wasn't a fancy dan goalhanger, watch it and see him covering both fullbacks.
Its not just people being nice when class acts like Finney and Blanchflower, who could probably walk into any European select 11 of the day, say how good he was.
He had bad days, he wasn't perfect and was the first to admit it. I'd rank him as a sort of Orson Wellian figure in football, there were the average days, but then he'd do something with such ease, impudence, elan and panache, that it was all you could do to just stand amazed that he'd even attempt it and marvel at the pure genius of it all after he'd completed it.
4 Posted 28/06/2019 at 05:33:17
I'm always interested in the arguments comparing sportsman from different eras. I know its foolish, but they are huge fun.
Young sometimes struggled for consistency, but how could such a sublimely talented individual not be a world superstar today?
5 Posted 28/06/2019 at 06:04:44
6 Posted 28/06/2019 at 06:13:14
There is full footage of the 1966 FA Cup Final available but they used very little of that, and none featuring him playing. I know it wasn't his greatest game, but you would have thought that digital video processing could have taken that footage and done something magical with it to bring out some of his skills.
The bit from the BBC play, The Golden Vision, with his daughter Jane, age 5, is absolutely precious, and (spoiler alert!) to see her commenting on it at the end 40+ years later, along with her brothers, was a nice way to end it.
A great memorial to a great player.
7 Posted 28/06/2019 at 08:29:51
The way he hung in the air, the famous Tottenham goal is an example, the way he would drift in from the left side and with a shimmy was in the penalty area, two defenders in his wake. The ball driven towards him hard by Gabriel or Stevens and he'd play it first time off the inside or outside of the foot so it arced into Vernon's run.
Simply the most graceful player I've ever seen. He'd be worth £200 million in today's transfer market.
8 Posted 28/06/2019 at 09:11:09
9 Posted 28/06/2019 at 09:51:58
11 Posted 28/06/2019 at 11:20:09
12 Posted 28/06/2019 at 11:36:48
13 Posted 28/06/2019 at 12:28:24
14 Posted 28/06/2019 at 13:01:34
I was at Goodison the night he, and George Thompson, were signed from Hearts. It was a midweek League Cup match against Accrington Stanley (??). They were in the old Goodison Road stand and a tannoy announcement must have been made as we all knew they were there.
As others have said, he could have his off days and sometimes struggled away from home but, on his day, he was unplayable. He had this uncanny knack of seemingly being able to hang in the air and scored some great headed goals. Catterick often used him at the near post to flick on corners.
Very difficult to compare eras but Alex Young was the most skilful Everton player in my time and certainly up there as one of the most skilful in football.
18 Posted 28/06/2019 at 13:13:09
19 Posted 28/06/2019 at 13:47:11
At that age, I had heroes in films, like Errol Flynn and John Wayne. Suddenly, I also had a hero in football. Up to that point, I just wanted to play war games or Cowboys and Indians with my mates. But, after that, I just wanted to play football and be Alex Young.
20 Posted 28/06/2019 at 13:54:48
I look forward to showing this film to my dad very soon... :)
21 Posted 28/06/2019 at 14:15:31
Obviously Dixie will always be remembered by Evertonians long after our generation has gone, I don't believe anyone will ever get near 60 goals a season. But Alex will always be talked about, even though only us of a certain age got to watch him.
I used to see Alex and Jimmy Gabriel and Alex Parker in the Royal Tiger most Saturday nights. They were often joined by St John, Yeats and Willie Stevenson.
22 Posted 28/06/2019 at 15:47:36
1) We sat almost at ground level in the main stand at the same end as Gordon West was in goal in the first half.
2) I remember West pulling off 2 amazing tip-overs as if was yesterday!
3) I remember the huge banks of spectators. I think it was a full house of 67,000!
4) I remember getting crushed at the end of the match as we exited the ground.
5) I kind of remember the Golden Vision skipping over the mud.
6) Wolves players Hunt and Bailey running the game.
What I don't remember:
1) The score: 1-1
2) Alan Ball scoring the penalty to draw the game with 12 minutes to go.
3) Everton had been unbeaten in the FA Cup as they won it in 1966 (remember that!)
4) Everton winning the replay!
Quite often the camera focussed on that corner of the ground where we were sitting but no chance of spotting us! How different football was then and how much has it changed!
I must have seen Alex play a handful of games but sadly have no real recollections of him. The Blues were a great team but all I remember is Westy!
Was anyone else there on that day?
23 Posted 28/06/2019 at 18:03:25
Just for posterity I must differ with the great man on his assertion around 39 minutes or so in. It was regards to the homecoming after the epic FA Cup win in 66.
He said there were many Liverpool fans at the homecoming. OK,some maybe. But he further went on to say that the Liverpool supporters wanted us to win that day!
Not sure about that Alex, but you were and for thousands of Everton fans truly, the Golden Vision.
24 Posted 28/06/2019 at 19:43:02
One was to see Alex Young regularly at his best; one was to be at Goodison Park with a gate over 77,000; and one was to see Alan Ball between 1966 and 1970.
What do I treasure most? The mercurial white-booted feet and shock red hair of Bally. He was absolutely superb.
25 Posted 28/06/2019 at 19:48:02
I try to get over as often as I can and feel humbled when I hear stories about my cousin, Tommy Ring, who only played 1 season with Everton but obviously left an indelible mark. I can only imagine what the likes of Young, Ball & Ring etc would be like playing on carpet-like pitches with modern boots and a modern ball.
It would be an interesting experiment to see how the modern-day footballers would cope with square toe boots, a ball that weighs twice as heavy (and four times if it rains), and a pitch with hardly any grass. One can only speculate!!
26 Posted 28/06/2019 at 19:57:25
27 Posted 28/06/2019 at 20:00:49
I was born in 1951 and, despite having moved away from Liverpool, was lucky in that my Grandad got me into good habits taking me to home games in the period 1958 onward. I remember Tommy Ring and thought that he was amazing. I believe that a badly broken leg finished what could have been a great career with us in that amazing team of the 60s.
28 Posted 28/06/2019 at 20:13:05
I see from researching on Steve Johnson's excellent site, "Everton Results", that we put out a full first team to play against a team from the old 3rd or 4th division, so different from today. We won 3-1 with Frank Wignall netting 2 and Jimmy Harris the other.
George Thomson (no "P", Bill) in my mind was a greatly underrated full-back, not just a makeweight in the Young transfer. George played 19 games in the Championship season, plagued by injury that finished his career with us, and played in 32 games the season before. He did go on to have a lengthy career with Brentford.
I believe George fell on hard times later in life and I did read that he had committed suicide although I cannot find that confirmed. A great shame.
29 Posted 28/06/2019 at 20:47:09
Yes, it was against Chelsea & I think Tommy scored in that game. It's likely that Catterick would have shipped him out as well, given that he wasn't overly fond of the Scottish boys, according to Alex Young himself.
It was a time when money wasn't the main driver in football and loyalty to your club was paramount.
🎼“Those were the days, my friend...”🎼
30 Posted 28/06/2019 at 21:11:53
I'm a bit of a cracked record on this theme, so apologies, but I think Silva is going to restore us to that indefinable grace and style; indefinable, but it's bred in us and we all know it and crave it, young or old.
31 Posted 28/06/2019 at 21:50:34
My dad said aside to Ball, and Best, he was the most gifted skillfull player to have played and great to watch. Poetry and vision, grace, on the football pitch.
I am in awe of the Evertonians from the great 60s period. Life was different and we change but I regularly watch the Golden Vision now as a Ive done through my life.
Id like to think soon we could get close to that period or the mid 80s again.
32 Posted 29/06/2019 at 01:16:11
You'll be surprised to learn that the regulation weight of a football has not changed since 1937.
Although I do agree that the leather casey would feel much heavier when wet, on dry days it would be the same weight as a ball today, the things having changed being the materials and stiching.
33 Posted 29/06/2019 at 03:51:08
My Favourite moment was a game against Sheffield Wednesday I think we won 4-1 or 5-1. We were in the Bullens Road stand, just behind the players entrance, and Alex shimmied, sent about 4 Sheffield players on their backsides and some of the crowd going the wrong way and then hit an unbelievable shot past Ron Springett (one of the best goalies around at the time) with a shot from the halfway line.
I feel bad for the young kids of today who haven't seen such talents and football, but I remain hopeful it will return to the faithful.
34 Posted 29/06/2019 at 08:17:44
I was only a kid when he came but recall being mesmerised by him. What a player.
35 Posted 29/06/2019 at 08:52:11
My first boots were the old style, where you couldn't feel the ball much, but I got modern ones by the mid-60s. By the time of the 1966 World Cup, modern case balls were the norm.
36 Posted 29/06/2019 at 09:16:24
37 Posted 29/06/2019 at 14:22:07
Some of the excellent posts have also reminded me of this era being the steady build-up from a poor promoted team to the best in England.
Other great team mates have been mentioned but one I must comment on was Tommy Ring. A tricky Scottish winger from Clyde who many thought was past his best at 30. As Alex was unique in his style of play, so was Tommy Ring. In my honest opinion, he is the cleverest dribbler I have seen in a blue shirt.
You must be very proud of your cousin, Gerry Ring!
38 Posted 29/06/2019 at 15:15:36
Alex Young, on the other hand, was different: he was at times it seemed in a world of his own, just moving around unnoticed until the ball came to him and then his natural gifts took over. And what gifts he had, his initial control no matter how the ball came to him was superb and he seemed fully aware of his teammates' positions. As soon as he got the ball, the opposition realized the danger they were in but trying to tackle him was a waste of energy. His other gift, and how the opposition's tall players must have got frustrated trying to mark him, was his ability to get above them, and hang up in the air and beat them to the ball.
I am 79 this year and have had lots of pleasant memories and do not remember them all, but remembering seeing Alex Young at his best is something you never forget.
Paul, I think Tommy Ring had his first game at Goodison Park against Nottingham Forest, I think the score was 5--0 it had been raining and the Echo described the game at Muddison Park.
40 Posted 29/06/2019 at 15:43:27
Talking about the old leather footballs, I guess you never had the unfortunate pleasure of heading a volley off the goal line on the leather lace in the rain. Unfortunately, it happened to me twice and I think I have still got the headaches.
Someone may correct me but wasn't the laceless ball in the 60s made by a Scottish company called Thompson's?
41 Posted 29/06/2019 at 16:13:16
William (#40), Tommy Ring's first game for us was indeed against Nottm Forest, we won 6-1, no wonder we got excited about the team and our new signing. Eddie Thomas scored 3 that day, and another the following week, and then went to Blackburn as a part of the Vernon transfer. I believe Eddie played in the losing Blackburn team in the 1960 Cup final.
Jay (#33), I was at the game you mention, a wonderful evening game played early in the 1965-66 season. I remember the goal you mention although I think there is some poetic licence in saying that he scored from the halfway line! Alex got 3 that day, Fred Pickering 2.
42 Posted 29/06/2019 at 16:15:04
Think I remember the Charlton brothers' mum used to soak a leather ball in a bucket of water to give them realistic header practice before they joined Man Utd. Meanwhile, a little earlier, Everton players were having a quick fag and a pint, a half-hour before they went on to the pitch at Goodison. Times change.
43 Posted 29/06/2019 at 17:14:15
Over Easter, there used to be return games against teams and one year we had Spurs and in the first game. One of their full-backs, either Kinnear or Knowles, put Alan Ball out with a bad tackle and, in the reverse game a few days later, Young took him on and shimmied one way then the other and the full back with legs apart received his comeuppance.
I remember also him sorting out one of the Solymosi (?) twins in the return game against Ujpest Doza at Goodison Park. Smooth as silk and as hard as nails.
44 Posted 29/06/2019 at 17:28:07
45 Posted 29/06/2019 at 17:49:11
Not having experienced much alcohol previously, I watched most of the first half with hazy double vision. Double golden vision when Alex had the ball. I do remember the penalty and the crush of the crowd but little else.
I went to the replay when I think their striker was Peter Knowles, brother of Cyril of Spurs. Peter gave up the game 3 years later to be a Jehovah's Witness.
46 Posted 29/06/2019 at 18:07:22
Alex Stepney did indeed play for Chelsea (but only one game!) and then Man U. where he went on to have an excellent career. While a good goalie he was never "Alex the Great". Watch him pick the ball out of the net 3 times in the video of our 3-1 win in the first game of the 1967-68 season
Including, of course, The Golden Vision's wonderful third leaving Dunne and Stiles on their behinds before powering the ball into the goal. I can never watch that section of the video often enough. And look at some of the names playing that day for both sides. No wonder we are so nostalgic.
47 Posted 29/06/2019 at 18:55:48
48 Posted 29/06/2019 at 20:03:05
49 Posted 29/06/2019 at 20:08:57
50 Posted 29/06/2019 at 20:22:15
51 Posted 30/06/2019 at 15:11:25
52 Posted 30/06/2019 at 20:47:23
But it's just a blur...
Suddenly, he's 3 yards ahead, inside the area and wham — into the roof of the net.
53 Posted 30/06/2019 at 20:51:18
54 Posted 30/06/2019 at 20:59:53
I'm searching YouTube for the footage Steve Carse (@50) mentions but I thought the clips in this one were against Arsenal, not Sheffield Utd. I can't find any coverage of Everton playing The Blades in the Young era.
55 Posted 30/06/2019 at 21:27:58
You can see his goal away to Wolves in the championship season courtesy of an inch-perfect through ball from Roy Vernon. Otherwise, "The Golden Vision" aside, I do not know of any match footage.
Interesting, I thought, in the Man Utd game, while Ball's two goals were scrambled in, Young's goal was a thing of beauty.
56 Posted 30/06/2019 at 21:42:47
My undying recollection is of Alex rising up to head the ball for a goal. I was near the corner flag and, just as his head was about to make contact with the ball, the whole crowd surged downwards and I went flying – I never saw the goal – but I saw many more after that little episode. He was certainly MY Golden Vision I remember him well AND I was there and proud to have been.
Oh yes, another of my all-time greats of that era was Jimmy McIlroy of Burnley. He was some player too.
57 Posted 30/06/2019 at 23:22:54
58 Posted 01/07/2019 at 00:38:17
59 Posted 01/07/2019 at 08:40:51
I'm very, proud of my cousin Tommy, whom Alex Young described as “a superstar from the north” who had the likes of Dave McKay kicking at fresh air. The only regret I have is not sitting down and recording his stories about Everton and his time at Goodison.
Tommy, like Alex Young, didn't really appreciate how good he was and didn't talk much about football. How Scotland left him out of the 1958 World Cup travelling squad is still a mystery but, had he been playing for Celtic or Rangers, I'm sure he'd have been there. He's still the only 2nd Division player ever to represent Scotland (I think!).
Anyway, it's great that he's appreciated at Everton, it means a lot.
60 Posted 01/07/2019 at 09:08:52
61 Posted 01/07/2019 at 11:44:55
But here lies my point - that others have adhered to..the awful lack of footage of the fantastic stuff that we played through the 60's. There's shed fulls of RS stuff out there and yet tha fantastic performances from 68-70 are really on one hand and once again Everton - as a club - failed to cash in on the rise of TV coverage and the infamous banning/ restricting tv footage lagging behind most of the other clubs.
Go on YouTube and see the Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City and Leeds stuff that is on offer. All our stuff is not available for younger fans to see what us oldies bang on about so they are in the dark. It's just memories for the rest of us and I find it absolutely criminal that there is so so little of not just Alex but Kendall, Ball, Harvey, West, Labone, and Wilson in blue shirts to look back on and reaffirm that we didn't make those memories but they really happened.
What a bummer... but it confirms that Everton FC were behind the times way back when, so younger fans – nothing new there!!!
62 Posted 01/07/2019 at 15:06:27
63 Posted 01/07/2019 at 16:42:24
64 Posted 01/07/2019 at 23:21:10
I hope you enjoyed the film - warts and all.
65 Posted 02/07/2019 at 02:13:28
LIke you, Chris, my memories of Alex Young are a little blurred. My Dad took me to Goodison from when I was about 7 years old. I remember us signing Young and Thompson together. But in truth my first vivid memories are as a 10 year old watching the Title-winning side of '63 from the Boys Pen, of which he played such a prominent part.
My brothers were much older than me and Alex Young was idolised in our home. As I got into my teens and old enough to truly appreciate him, he frustrated me so much, as he spent so much time out of action due to blistered feet and other injuries. I seem to remember a Western series on the telly at that time called 'Tenderfoot' and being teased by my Kopite schoolmates, because that's the nickname the Echo gave him. So truthfully, his undoubted magic was limited, due to injury in the latter part of that decade. But what a football artist. A genius on his day.
My personal football hero was and always will be Alan Ball. I am blessed to have seen them occasionally playing together for Everton, where they demonstrated a great understanding with each other. Even though Alex was in the twighlight of his Everton career, Ball was quick to heap praise on Young's talents. I have always thought it is such a pity that they didn't play for an extended period in the same side at the peak of their careers.
66 Posted 02/07/2019 at 16:52:12
Ironically it was the former Everton manager Cliff Britton who had clinched a deal to sign him for Preston North End. Alex had agreed terms with that club, then the PNE board haggled over the fee and Everton, through Johnny Carey with John Moores's money, got him for Everton.
When looking back, I doubt that, if Harry Catterick had been Everton's manager at that time, we would have signed him. What a loss that would have been.
67 Posted 04/07/2019 at 09:49:51
Anyone else ever hear this story?
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