There are more learned and educated members on here who can articulate praise or direct well-researched criticism of the current playing squad, management or club leadership far better than I. So, I present some personal memories, a non-Everton footballing link, and Jonjoe Kenny. Bear with me, it all joins up in the end, so isn’t as scattergun as it may initially appear!
Part of my earlier childhood was spent in Germany, or, as it was then, West Germany, being the son of a serving British solider during the Cold War stand-off between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. As a young boy in the mid-to-late 70s, I was pretty much oblivious as to what this meant. Life to me was, like for any normal kid, quite simplistic, broadly consisting of going to school and playing football.
Living in our own “colonies” of allocated British housing estates in the German cities that adopted us, there was plenty of healthy international rivalry built into the equation with our host nation counterparts and I played for local German football clubs from a young age. This is something which impressed upon me and made me admire their grassroots eco-system of football.
Talent and ability over pace and power alone, with youth football played on the finest facilities, whether in the academies of the biggest clubs or the local village team. They have standards and they are applied bottom-up, rather than reserved for those fortunate enough to gain access to the elite at the top. Conversely and in hindsight, it compounded my dismay at our English excuse for a youth system on my return to the UK.
The proof is in the pudding; we may go on about 1966, but that’s our one; they have 4 World Cups and 3 European Championships to point at, notwithstanding countless near misses in finals and semi-finals over the years, which they view as failure whereas we once welcomed home our semi-final “heroes” with comedy breasts and all.
My father, being from Liverpool and an absolute diehard fanatical Evertonian, brought me up to understand and adopt my birthright. In addition to my school learnings, I was educated in all things Alex Young, the Angel Gabriel, Joe Royle and, of course, the Holy Trinity (incidentally the name of his first school in Garston, as he used to proudly remind me of at every opportunity!).
On our frequent trips back to see family, we would inevitably make the pilgrimage to Goodison Park. I recall my first match being a home pre-season friendly against the Irish outfit Home Farm in the mid-late 70s, but I sometimes question whether my ageing memory has that one correct!
Living in West Germany in the 1970s, with no interconnected world and no British TV, watching German football became our “Match of the Day” and introduced me to FC Schalke 04, a club I retained affiliation to. The place we lived in was in the Ruhr valley, so they were relatively local; however, really I think we aligned to them as they wore royal blue shirts & white shorts; more of that later, but they became our adopted German temporary substitute for his and my beloved Blues.
I was born in Liverpool, my family come from Liverpool and still reside there; I later lived there before leaving again. I have always been fiercely proud of this, but such was my father’s teachings that fuelled my deep-rooted feelings towards Everton, the name of my home city created a conflict of loyalty from an early age.
I will never forget the emotional drama of being presented with a new pair of jeans, aged 6, sent as a gift from an Aunty. Being a very serious and observant child, I noticed a patch on the knee, sporting a logo that read something along the lines of: ”Proud to be Scouse”. I inquisitively asked “What does that mean?” To which I was informed it meant I was proud to be from Liverpool.
Maybe something got lost in translation or I misheard, but fear and confusion gripped. No way was I going out brandishing an association with Liverpool Football Club. I kicked, struggled, fought, even cried until I was forcibly clothed in a robust way that probably wouldn’t pass a modern parent test! Mortified, I ashamedly walked the streets that day genuinely feeling I was labelling myself as a Liverpudlian. A dark day in my childhood but, to my father’s credit, as authoritarian as he was, he never made me wear them again. I think secretly he was proud of me even though my mother scolded me for being foolish.
This was during a period when Everton were a decent team (as I remember it), but not quite hitting the consistency of the 60s or being anywhere close to challenging for the title. This was also against the backdrop of the emerging red dawn as Liverpool established themselves at the top in a way that no other club had done over such a sustained period until they handed the baton over to Manchester United in the early 90s.
It wasn’t a particularly bad time to be a young Evertonian, but having been brought up on tales of success and legends, I guess my generation was the one in which the envy of our close neighbours was starting to emerge in a way it probably hadn’t for previous ones. I distinctly remember my father cheering when Alan Kennedy scored late on to win the European Cup in 1981 against Real Madrid. I was part confused, part disappointed; this was the man that had installed almost undying Everton loyalty into me now cheering for “them”. He told me it was still his city.
Generational shift in attitudes I suppose; the younger generation of Evertonians now has a hatred (strong word) for our local neighbours that goes much deeper than my resentment for them. I am generalising and stereotyping age groups, so don’t take offence.
About the 80s, which didn’t start great, and took, as I saw it, the late Sir Philip Carter to hold his nerve when the pressure was on, combined with that inevitable attribute of any successful team; luck. With my father having left the Army and the family re-settled in Liverpool, I achieved a dream only second to playing for my beloved Blues; I was permitted a season ticket.
I count myself fortunate enough to have spent those years right in the middle of the Gwladys Street, directly behind the goal and just behind the “ledge", to which, like many, I would tie my younger brother to in order he got a decent view. I would visit him at half-time with a sausage roll and pick him up at the end of a normally victorious result; magical days!
Sadly the Everton revolution ended too early, some would say for reasons beyond our control. I won’t dwell on what has happened since, that has been and will continue to be the subject of much debate and analysis on here.
I left Liverpool again in 1988, to join the Army myself. Those of you old enough to remember will appreciate that there wasn’t much going down in terms of career prospects in 1980s Liverpool and I suppose my decision had also been part influenced by my formative years. I won’t bore you with the detail, but I had a successful 28-year career, serving in many parts of the world, doing some interesting stuff and some not-so-interesting stuff. Highs & lows, ups & downs, good times, bad times; that’s life in any walk of life, right?
I have eventually settled the family in London. I assure you, being an ex-pat from a region and fan base that the late great Howard Kendall once rightfully described as the most knowledgeable in football makes watching the beautiful game amongst what I consider the most arrogant, ill-educated and “in your face to purposely antagonise”, supporter bases known, is particularly challenging when it comes to watching Everton down here.
Back to Schalke. At the end of February, my son and I flew out to Düsseldorf in Germany and caught the train to the city of Gelsenkirchen, the home of FC Schalke 04, as we have done now for several years in what has become an annual ritual. I suppose a reverse pilgrimage to those Goodison trips of my own childhood.
Gelsenkirchen is an unassuming city in the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr belt, holding parallels with my home city of Liverpool. Their growth was through coal, ours through the docks. Both are once-proud cities that grew rapidly, realising their heyday during the 1800s into the early 20th Century only to suffer post-war decline.
Gelsenkirchen today struggles in the shadow of its more economically powerful neighbours with the colliers all but gone and the city searching for a new image and identity. It has suffered from some of the highest unemployment rates in Germany in recent times. An edgy city with a soul, inhabited by a population fiercely proud of its history, heritage, and its football team; the heartbeat of the city.
Which leads me to Schalke - Everton Comparisons. They take the name from the working-class area in the north of the city from which they originate. They wear royal blue shirts & white shorts. They are referred to as the “Konigsblauen” (Royal Blues). They are one of Germany’s biggest clubs with a very local-based and extremely passionate support; they are not national or international like their more illustrious Bundesliga counterparts.
They are incredibly connected to their local community and fan base. Apart from the odd trophy, in recent decades they have been overshadowed by their fierce local rivals, Borussia Dortmund, who have risen to prominent heights not just in Germany but across Europe, most recently and notably through the exploits of a certain Mr Klopp. Their rivals, Dortmund, sing YNWA; Schalke turn their backs. They are our inner-German selves for that alone!!
You only have to walk out of the modest Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station) onto the equally modest Hight Street to be met with royal blue & white Schalke banners adorning every lamp post. A club that’s academy is, in my humble opinion, often overlooked when you consider not just who, but the level of player they have produced. We often talk of Ajax but, when you look at who has passed through their halls, you can easily name a first 11 of top-class players that any manager or fan would dream for. And I mean top class in the true sense, not the token throwaway use of the term often coined by “expert” pundits.
To give you a feel, in recent times, I pulled this from a random, open-source internet search: Manuel Neuer, Christoph Metzelder, Joel Matip, Ikay Gundogan, Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane. The list could go on and, as we speak, their current keeper and academy product, Nubel, has agreed to join Bayern Munich next season. So, alongside receiving scant recognition for their academy system in comparison to others, Schalke are often overlooked and unfashionable. Media darlings they are not, much like Everton.
The match itself for this visit was extremely entertaining and of high quality, albeit mainly from Leipzig, who I have to admit were hugely impressive. Schalke, who at kick off were in 6th place and very much in a position to secure Europa League football next season with an outside chance of Champion’s League, reminded me of recent Everton teams. Lot’s of tidy stuff, some decent play & plenty of passion, but just a step off their opponents and in particular, lacking where it mattered most; creating & finishing chances.
1–0 down within the first minute after an amazing strike from the hugely impressive Leipzig number 7, Marcel Sabitzer (can we buy him, please can we buy him?!!), Schalke weathered the storm temporarily but were overcome by a superior opponent in the 2nd half and were hammered 5-0. A very good team Leipzig, and one to watch.
I watched our own Jonjoe Kenny, who appears to have had a good season by all accounts. Now, I don’t know if I was being overly critical of, or over-analysing because of the obvious connection, or he just had a bad evening, but I left still unconvinced. I appreciate he was playing wing-back in a 3-5-2, but he just seemed to think and play like a 10-year-old; 'headless chicken' springs to mind.
He seemed to constantly run forward without thought, which only served to congest and kill the space in front of him that the forwards were trying to make. Unfortunately, he was personally responsible for at least 2 of the goals because of said headless runs and being caught out of position. It was, however, interesting to hear his reaction to the game afterwards as he praised the fans.
Schalke, as do many German clubs, have a ritual where the players go over to the main end (Nord Kurve) at the end of each match, regardless of result, to face the fans. They saw the effort, they saw commitment and acknowledged they had simply been done by a superior team. They applauded them and showed their support. I’ve seen them do the opposite when they have played badly yet earned a point or been on the end of a close defeat.
Sadly, something we Evertonians used to pride ourselves in but now appear to be succumbing to – the result-focussed mentality that has gripped our media and speculation-fuelled game. It seems more common now for that 'educated' fanbase Howard Kendall once revered, to react to the result regardless of the performance. Kenny loved it and praised the fans for their “amazing” reaction that humbled him.
It was also interesting to hear his recent comments of preferring to stay in Germany for a year rather than come back to Everton. Good on the lad, I think he is making football decisions and, given he had the backing of the Schalke coaches in that statement, he appears to have gone down well. I’d love that to be with Everton and I hope that whatever path he chooses, he has a successful career, but I’ll be honest, if we are to be successful, he’s not top drawer in my opinion.
We often hear of club and fan connections. Back in my day, we had the Everton - Celtic thing, although I know some will argue that one. For now obvious reasons, I’d love to connect with Schalke and I hope we meet them in the Europa League next season or thereafter as we will get on like the proverbial house on blue fire.
My thoughts and bias aside, I thoroughly recommend that, if you have the opportunity, take in a Bundesliga fixture regardless of which team you choose. It’s a really great matchday and social experience with the fan pubs en-route to the stadium, free-flowing alcohol served from the always open bars, all topped off with being able to take it back to your seat to watch the match (they even provide holders if you want to take 4 back and avoid disruption!!).
Not to mention, free public transport within the host city all day on the basis you have a match ticket. It’s not Everton, but I recommend Schalke if you want something close... and yes, I am biassed!!!
I hope this hasn’t been too much of a ramble and has at least provided some interest and distraction from the news as we await that positive breakthrough in that life will get back to normal in the near future. Stay safe everyone; humble times and one of reflection of what is important, but hopefully we will all meet at Goodison (or the Veltins) in the not-too-distant future and once again go through the emotions we all know and love but maybe, with a bit of perspective. Best wishes to all.
Reader Comments (21)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 06/04/2020 at 01:35:24
Re Jonjoe Kenny. I have to agree, he's not for where we want to be, but we aren't yet either and Coleman is not getting any younger at least he remembers to put his socks on and will save us £14M... Ancelotti may have other ideas though.
2 Posted 06/04/2020 at 08:07:15
3 Posted 06/04/2020 at 08:51:59
Your assessment of Kenny is exactly the kind of thing we don't want to hear - I for one had high hopes he'd be getting more refined tactically and less headless chicken.
Your comment about fan appreciation, though; " It seems more common now for that 'educated' fanbase Howard Kendall once revered, to react to the result regardless of the performance."
I'm not so sure that's true. Evertonians still tend to applaud effort and loathe the lack of it. The negative atmosphere is largely a result of some absolutely stinking, gutless performances these last few years.
4 Posted 06/04/2020 at 08:52:18
I posted a reference on TW a few weeks back that my own two sons had travelled to Gelsenkirchen to take in the very same match that you and your lad saw. They reported back pretty much exactly as you called it; Leipzig outstanding and JJ had a stinker.
However, in the post match socialising, in which Schalke fans were delighted to come across some German speaking Evertonians, the locals were at pains to exonerate JJ from any criticism, saying that overall he was having a great season. Should he stay for another? For me, on balance, yes, because were still not helping young players enough to make that final transition.
On your wider points: the German organisation of football from grassroots to elite is remarkable and its no accident that we have seen the players you mention and many others come through their system so smoothly. It is a great country to grow up in and a great place to learn how to play football.
Danny, thank you for such a positive piece on Germany and its Anglo-Saxon heritage and people with whom we share a close DNA. The wars of the 20th century were horrible, obscene aberrations and its time that drunken England fans and intellectual pygmies like Francois, the Tory MP, realised that people like my father and no doubt your own fought not for “glory” but because they had to and to make a better world, like the one in which my sons and yours can go and enjoy a game of footy in another country.
5 Posted 06/04/2020 at 09:50:07
I think some our supporters think some of our players go out to have a bad game on purpose. Thanks for sharing your story.
6 Posted 06/04/2020 at 09:58:42
I can relate to it as well also being an exiled down South serviceman.
I've fancied going to a Bundesliga game for a while but could never decide on who to watch, no way would it be Dortmund and Bayern is too obvious.
Once all this business is over with Ill be arranging a trip out there next season.
7 Posted 06/04/2020 at 10:03:30
8 Posted 06/04/2020 at 10:31:39
Regarding Jonjo, I have to report my absolute bias in his favour, I just hope he had an off day when you went to see him and his team, Schalke 04, by the way Danny, have you heard Jonjo say he wants to stay another year or have you read the same reports we have seen?
Yes the Everton crowds put great stress on the result rather than the performance, and have done so for quite a few seasons, to my annoyance, performance is everything to me, well aside from the obvious games when we desperately need the win !!
As you say everyone is hoping and praying that this plague eases up and we get back to a more normal life, thanks again for your story best of luck to you and your family and dont need to add best of health as well.
9 Posted 06/04/2020 at 11:20:02
As somebody who knows little to nothing about the German match day experience I thoroughly enjoyed this piece.
Hope your wrong about JJK though Danny
10 Posted 06/04/2020 at 13:57:14
My first visit to Germany in 1963, with my Mother and Father, was an eye opener. Less than 20 years after being flattened by bombing raids, everywhere was rebuilt brand new – we still had an outside bog, for god's sake.
Over the years of going to Germany (they moved back here in 1979), I had many a visit to the Monchengladbach home of Borussia Monchengladbach and that was a great day out too, the currywurst in crusty rolls were to die for.
I went home from Goodison many a time with my shirt full of greasy gravy after biting into a hot meat pie, this was washed down with Higson's Brown ale.
They had some great players: Bertie Vogts, Gunter Netzer, and Jupp Heinkes (who went on to successfully manage Bayern).
Gunter Netzer in the 1972 European Championships v England at Wembley gave one of the greatest midfield performances as Germany completely outplayed England.
I was looking through some programmes the other day and one was the Monchengladbach v Everton game in 1971. My brother went and sent me the programme; I was at Goodison for the other leg.
Sadly, I have not been to Germany since the 70s and I would love to go back and visit the old haunts... although I suppose, like everything else, it will have changed.
11 Posted 06/04/2020 at 15:38:51
12 Posted 06/04/2020 at 17:42:32
In fact, if you go into the Haus Buderich Hotel, you will see an Everton scarf hanging in the bar. The manager is a Schalke 04 fanatic so we have both football and Jonjoe Kenny to talk about. Or moan about...
13 Posted 06/04/2020 at 18:13:33
I've not been to Germany all that much over the years and we were discussing plans to visit the country again before everything closed down. Gelsenkirchen will feature in those plans once we're able to start planning for such things as holidays again – even if we're not going when there's a match on!
14 Posted 06/04/2020 at 19:21:52
I grew up hearing only bad things about the Germans, but that's the beauty of this modern world because being lucky enough to travel, made me realise what a fantastic country Germany really is.
I love the German matter-of-factness, I like their common-sense, remember that great night in Nuremberg, a lot of Evertonians, must have felt they were in a big square.
They was in a way, but only because the sensible Germans, closed the street off, redirected traffic, and let the sensible Scousers have a day to remember, which I'm not sure many other people would have done?
Most foreign police forces, would have turned the situation into a riot, and used it as an opportunity to go in heavy-handed, but not The Germans, they let us have our day, and it's one that must still be a great memory for everyone who was there.
I hope Jonjoe has improved, I'd love to get Schalke in the Europa League, it's a very nice thought during these horribly dark times, and with you growing up in Germany, it now makes me understand why you usually talk a lot of sense, when you talk about the beautiful game Danny!
15 Posted 07/04/2020 at 02:42:06
The grass routes of German football and your points are so true. The British are still pissing around way behind in so many ways...
I have worked in Germany and loved it... be it as a entertainer for the forces out there..
I lived with a German girl for a spell and she had a fantastic sense of humour in fact she would ask me to tell her a joke every morning before she went to work so she could re-tell it to her workmates.
I ran out of jokes after 15 months so we parted ways when the laughter stopped...
Back to football my first game at Goodison was against Munchagldbach 1971. I was 11 small for my age and didn't see much of the game standing in the packed Gladdess street.
As a blue living in Perth, Western Australia, it's very rare you meet other Everton fans... loads of red gob shites.
I was hoping to get back to the pool in September for my 60th but who knows what's gonna happen with all this lockdown.
Looking forward to more stories from fellow ToffeeWebbers...
Stay safe everyone.
16 Posted 07/04/2020 at 10:49:24
I don't view myself as talking sense (but I'll take the compliment!!); I just enjoy sharing views with others on here and look forward to re-joining the debates, discussions, exchanges of opinion however polar opposite or aligned and whether they are amicable or heated!! Speak soon everyone. Glad to have provided some light reading and insight away from the 24/7 news.
17 Posted 10/04/2020 at 01:26:06
Ive said my piece on Kenny in a previous thread so conscious of repeating myself but I just dont see him being the level EFC need him at. Ive watched most Schalke games and have friends / workmates with season tickets. He impressed early on (bar one game versus Bayern where he struggled) and was even their top scorer at one stage. They were pleasantly surprised by him.
But hes struggled a little bit in the “Rückrunde” (second half of season). Positionally he can switch off a bit. Others have commented on his crossing. I personally dont see it as a strength. He is a very clean crisp tackler. I dont think he has the skill set for what the modern fullback has morphed into. I was due to go see him play a couple of weeks ago but for Corona. Heres hoping.
@Ray Roche - that hotel is about 10 mins drive from my doorstep. Ive passed it but never set foot inside so must check it out when it reopens. Its literally across the street from my dentist.
@Tony Abrahams - I was not in Nürnberg but that doesnt surprise me. As others have commented on, the matchday experience here is fantastic. The main difference for me is how respectful fans are, but thats a reflection of society in Germany. I would recommend anyone take in a trip if they get the chance.
@Darren Hind - yes Sabitzer is quite a tidy player. He can be inconsistent and a little lightweight but suits the way Leipzig play and looks to use the clever runs and pace of Werner. Side point but god help us if the RS get Werner. Sabitzer scored an absolute belter in a champions league game earlier this season. I cant recall the opposition but YouTube it and have a look.
18 Posted 10/04/2020 at 12:21:21
I lived more up that way as a kid, moving around NRW & Niedersachsen between Hildesheim, Soest, Paderborn & latterly Krefeld (more Moenchengladbach territory down there). And then I was myself stationed close to Heinsberg on the Dutch border. Good times all around. I was hoping to be out in the Heinsberg region as usual for the May bank holiday, but looking increasingly unlikely and Ive been reading the German news about the situation in Heinsberg in particular.
19 Posted 10/04/2020 at 16:05:04
I get what you mean re Schalke and I would agree with you. Having said that, I don't personally have any great love for them but there you go!
Yes you're spot on about Heinsberg. At one point, it was talked about as the epicentre of Coronavirus in Germany and another Bergamo but thankfully there has not been a full lockdown imposed in Nordrhein-Westfalen, whereas a few other states have done.
Everton's Under-19s were due to play in a tournament in Düsseldorf this Easter weekend and I was looking forward to it but there's bigger things to worry about at the moment.
20 Posted 13/05/2020 at 10:57:13
21 Posted 14/05/2020 at 20:44:19
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.