Funnily enough, I suspect I'm a little older than Dave. I loved Ball and enjoyed his combative style and his leadership and he was certainly the central figure in that wonderful trinity with Harvey and Kendall. I was born in the summer of 1946 and managed to see one game when Everton were in the Second Division, that game made me an Evertonian.
My family were reds, I smile sometimes when on this site fans insist that Evertonians are born not made, but my second ever football match — I'd been to Anfield to see Stanley Matthews after the famous Matthews FA Cup Final and Liverpool won 5-2 to the delight of my red father and uncles — made me an Evertonian.
Or, to be more precise, a blonde-quiffed centre-forward with a dashing style enthralled me and, because of Dave Hickson, I declared myself an Evertonian. My family assumed it was a passing phase... it wasn't. 67 years later, I'm still a devoted blue. Hickson was my early hero. To be honest, there wasn't a lot of choice in the Everton team of the 1950s — if you wanted dash and glamour, it was Hickson or no-one.
Anyhow, an Evertonian I became; and who'd be my greatest player? Without doubt — Alex Young. He's not the best Everton player I've ever seen but, to me, he was everything I want in my cult hero. He had style, skill, charisma and grace.
But people a generation or two older than me would probably pick William Ralph Dean and figures suggest he must be as great as anyone who ever played for Everton. I met him and he was a lovely man and very complimentary about Young and Vernon. That was in 1964, my dad knew him from the 1930s when my uncle, Nel Tarleton was a big mate of his.
A few years older than me and you'd possibly have Hickson or the great Bobby Collins as your greatest Everton player. Collins for me was the player who made the biggest impact when he signed for the club and, in my all-time Everton team, would be in the midfield alongside Trevor Steven, Tony Kay and Colin Harvey. I'd pick Collins before Ball, I'm afraid. And Colin Harvey is my vote as the best all-round player I've seen at Goodison Park.
A generation later and Bob Latchford becomes an icon; then a later generation picks, Peter Reid, Andy Gray, Kevin Sheedy. Then, after that, Duncan Ferguson becomes the hero... and so on.
Defenders come out badly. Ray Wilson was the best player I ever saw in his position for any club. Brian Labone and Kevin Ratcliffe were magnificent, but it's usually forwards and particularly characters who get our attention. I always feel Graeme Sharp, because of his quiet polite manner, is under-rated; his display against Liverpool at Wembley in the League Cup Final of 1984 was brilliant.
I think what I'm trying to say is that, our decision as to who is our greatest will probably above all else depend on our age. My son adored Duncan Ferguson, a signed Duncan Ferguson framed shirt cost us more than any of my first three cars which we gave him for his fortieth last year. Yet to me Ferguson was a smashing player, not the greatest finisher and not an icon to me.
I've chosen Alex Young. In some ways, I don't regard him as the best Everton player — I don't even think he was as good as Vernon – but, to me, he epitomises what I want Everton to be: cultured and graceful.
Young was at his peak in 1962-63. I was 16 and bliss was it in that season to be an Evertonian. But to be young (pun intended) was heaven, as I think someone said.
Reader Comments (45)
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1 Posted 30/05/2020 at 18:10:11
In my case I have to go with Joe Royle and Bob Latchford as far as centre forwards are concerned.
I started going to Everton games in the late 1960s through to the late 1970s before I moved down to London for work.
Joe Royle really grabbed my attention as far as centre forwards go; particularly the way he leapt and swept big centre-halves aside as he ran in to head home a Johnny Morrissey cross!
But big Bob Latchford, ably assisted by Dave Thomas, has to be my choice as greatest Everton player.
What a goalscorer. Not blessed with the best touch but couldn't he finish?
Isn't it a great privilege that we have all been able to watch these players perform, and many, many more great Evertonians, regardless of which generation.
May it continue for our younger generations!
2 Posted 30/05/2020 at 19:35:42
3 Posted 30/05/2020 at 19:51:30
I add that bit of information not for you, Rick, but for the younger fan base who may not be aware of the dire straits we were in. Worse was to follow when Tottenham Hotspur thrashed us 10-4 on 11 October 1958, a date etched in my mind.
You may recall that I mentioned that my uncle Phil was a friend of Nel's when they lived in the Phythian Street area, and my Auntie Nora claimed that she taught Nel to dance at Pepper's dance hall, on the corner of Aubrey Street and Everton Road.
I think that everyone down the ages has had one or two heroes, in the '40s and '50s, mine were Wally Fielding and Dave Hickson; in the '50s and '60s, Bobby Collins and Alex Young replaced them, and although Tommy Ring only played 26 times for Everton, he showed me skills I had never seen from an Everton winger.
In the '70s, Mick Lyons for me epitomised what a 'True Blue' feels for the club, by the bravery and commitment that I have expected from anyone wearing the Royal Blue Sshirt.
In more recent years, there have been players that I have admired: Andy Gray for much the same reason I warmed toward Mick Lyons; Peter Beardsley, because without him and Neville Southall I don't know where we may have been.
I'm afraid that my Hero Worship no longer exists, and I don't think that it's becoming of an Octogenarian to indulge in such practices, nor do I see anyone in the present personnel to tempt me in that direction.
4 Posted 30/05/2020 at 20:05:40
Years later, my uncle told me the story when I'd bought him the James Corbett history and we were flicking through it. Told me he chased Dunlop down County Road to get the money back but couldn't keep up.
5 Posted 30/05/2020 at 21:07:07
Other great players were Vernon, Tommy Ring, unfortunately injured early in his Everton career, Gabriel not mention to mention Brian Labone already at the club.
Peter (4) if your uncle had been joined by all the people owed money by Albert in his chase for his money it would have looked like the start of a marathon race, he was noted for his gambling habits and debts caused by them.
Rick, I think your uncle was related, possibly by marriage, to Ernie Roderick, another great fighter who lost in a great fight to “Homicide” Henry Armstrong over 15 rounds. Ernie was an ex pupil of the school I went to, Netherfield Road RC, better known as The Friary, and he came back to the school to show us his Lonsdale belt.
6 Posted 30/05/2020 at 22:28:48
Agree with you about Alex Young and the reason you gave. John Snr makes a good point about Mick Lyons – still to this day a true Blue.
Dave is right about Bobby Collins leaving us just before we started getting well-deserved medals but, then again, Mick Lyons just missed out too.
Dave, some rough houses down the Friary not least "local lad makes good" Father John! One look, not only to the kids but to the Dad's too and you'd shut up.
7 Posted 31/05/2020 at 06:30:25
8 Posted 31/05/2020 at 09:47:22
Upon seeing him for the first time, my thoughts were, "Gee, our mascot is a chunky little bloke!"
9 Posted 31/05/2020 at 15:09:00
Another player I feel had a rough deal at Goodison was Alex Parker, but that was in the pre-Catterick days. Alex was also stationed in Cyprus with the Scottish Fusileers, but he arrived after me and returned to 'Blighty' before me.
Alex signed in July 1958 two months earlier than Bobby Collins but because of his military commitments, made his debut in November 1958, two months later than Bobby Collin. The reason I believe that Alex was treated badly is because he played his first 5 games at right back [his rightful position], but was switched to right half for the following 12 games before reverting to his natural berth for the final 12 games, this switch cost him his place in the Scotland side, Eric Caldow regaining that position and denying Alex the opportunity to increase his international total.
10 Posted 31/05/2020 at 23:24:46
Always enjoy your posts and glad that you mentioned Mike Lyons. I started watching Everton in the '70s as a kid and loved Lyons. Every time he scored a goal, the joy and passion on his face was truly memorable. Really wish he could have lifted a trophy for us as captain. Just interested to know who your favourite players were in the 1980s?
11 Posted 01/06/2020 at 14:47:06
I think that it will come as no surprise to read the usual names, of Neville Southall. Kevin Ratcliffe, Andy Gray, Graeme Sharp, et al but I would like to add to those, the names of Adrian Heath ['a small man with a gigantic heart'], and Paul Power, ['a stand -in left back'] who made 40 League appearances in the 1986/87 League Championship season, he was for me, the 'Footballer of the Year'
As I said at the start of this post David, after a poor entrance into the 80s it was 'almost' impossible to criticise any of the players who entertained us for the major part of that highly successful decade.
12 Posted 01/06/2020 at 15:06:42
As a young kid in the 60's it was undoubtedly the "Welsh wizard" Roy Vernon. Roy could take a pass from the kickoff waltz around the opposition and then round the GK too and hit the net with regularity. But for the Golden vision and his penchant for drinking and smoking he would have been a crowd legend.
Then it was Howard Kendall (I used to play MF myself) a player whose talent for winning a sliding tackle, coming away with the ball and having the ability to pass long or short was incomparable and he could also score goals.
As sir John said the 80's was full of exceptional players but the absolute king of Goodison was the best Goalkeeper in the world Neville Southall. If he played CF he would have been in the Dixie Dean class. We never had anyone before or since who has even approached his ability between the sticks.
13 Posted 01/06/2020 at 17:29:44
You're right about Mick Lyons. He was never the greatest player but if everyone put in the effort he did, we'd have had some team.
I met him through a friend of mine who used to go to De La Salle with him. We became friends and would often meet on a Saturday night after a game and have a few pints. Even after we both got married, we'd meet in the Empire in Hanover Street and always have a good night. Imagine that today. Meeting the captain of Everton in a pub in town!
He's a great lad. Never played the big deal. He'd always have time for people and is still the same whenever you see him now.
He'd never do anyone any wrong except for one night in the Babaloo.
I was out with my mates and Mick was in there with a few players. He spotted me and came over. " Lenny," he said," Have you met Bernie?" He introduced me to this wild man of Borneo and disappeared into the club. That's how I got stuck with Bernie Wright for the night. And what a night it turned out to be!!!!
14 Posted 02/06/2020 at 04:04:08
Thanks for your reply, my favourites were Big Nev and Paul Bracewell who I think was becoming better than Reidy.
Lenny, that was great to hear about Mike Lyons who now lives in Perth, Australia. I would love to meet him one day. Wonder if he ever goes back to Goodison?
15 Posted 02/06/2020 at 10:16:09
Years come and go and world records are broken and Olympic records are broken. But Dean's record will never be broken. I don't know but it must be close to the longest unbroken record in any sport.
Now if we are talking best player you have personally watched, sadly I didn't see Dixie. I think like many my age, Dave Hickson was one of my first heroes, and as time goes by, more are added to the list. Certainly Bobby Collins, Alex Young, Tony Kay, Brian Labone, and Ray Wilson were amongst my favourites. Then along comes Peter Reid, Sharpy, Bracewell, Southall.
16 Posted 02/06/2020 at 10:34:00
I can't recall anything of Alex Young at his peak but my dad was a huge Collins fan and always maintained that selling him, not Bally, was the biggest mistake we ever made as a club.
As you say, most generations throw up a new idol. Latchford was a huge hero of mine and I named my first car after him! I really liked Varadi, probably because of the exotic name. Watching our 2-1 win over RS in the cup around 1981 on YouTube the other day, he looked a smashing player and far better than most we have had since then, though I know he missed a lot more than he scored.
Adrian Heath was a big favourite of mine – I loved his enthusiasm and refusal to be intimidated by bigger players (virtually everyone was bigger than him). Duncan was up there by default as he was awesome when he wanted to be but couldn't be bothered other days... but who else was there? Today, Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have potential to be greats but have a long way to go.
Add to the above Royle, Harvey (the best pure footballer I have seen though he lacked Ball's ability to drag the team with him) and my love of wingers which made me a huge fan of Alex Scott and Jimmy Husband.
Articles like this show us what great players we have had and what a dearth of great ones there is now.
17 Posted 02/06/2020 at 10:48:25
18 Posted 02/06/2020 at 16:18:18
Yes, he's still a great lad. When he comes home he always goes to Goodison. You can usually see him outside the main entrance on a match day, surrounded by people and signing autographs. However, his visits are understandably quite few these days and it's just pot luck whether you bump into him.
All the best.
19 Posted 02/06/2020 at 17:24:31
That limited the caps that the likes of Young, Collins and Parker won. Did Jimmy Gabriel even get one?
20 Posted 02/06/2020 at 18:16:12
Jimmy Gabriel played twice for Scotland, his first appearance was against Wales in a 2-0 loss at Ninian Park. Alex Young also played in that game. Jimmy's second and final appearance was apparently as a substitute to Jim Baxter in a 6-1 victory over Norway at Hampden Park. Alex Scott also played in that game.
21 Posted 05/06/2020 at 14:11:44
It's quite amazing how we all have our heroes and what the criteria we used in selecting them. Hickson made me an Evertonian, but for me bliss was 62-63 and Young and Vernon were strutting their stuff, I was sixteen, the perfect age for this aspect of support and we won the League in some style. I'm obviously biased about it, but four of that team would be in my all-time favourite eleven of the last almost seventy years that I have been supporting Everton. The four are: Alex Parker, Tony Kay, Alex Young and Roy Vernon.
22 Posted 06/06/2020 at 12:00:14
There were people who considered that John Willie was lazy and that he didn't contribute to the extent of Dave Hickson, and without Hickson's physical contribution he wouldn't have scored so many goals.
I'm by no means an expert on football, but I know enough to appreciate that, in any goalscoring partnership, it often appears that one player becomes a work-horse, but his partner still needs to be in the right place at the right time.
23 Posted 06/06/2020 at 12:04:13
At the time, I'd have said Sharpe. Southall was the best keeper in Europe and I wish Paul Bracewell had not been beset by injuries as he was some player who was only going to get better.
I watched Howard's Way (again) last night with my son. The poor lad had to endure the same comments I make at the same point in that documentary every time we watch it; in fact, he preempts me now! But, "that" volleyed pass on the turn to set up Steven for the goal; wow.
There's another, Trevor Steven; graceful and skilful. But when I look back now, it has to be Kevin Sheedy. A magic wand of a left foot complemented by a football brain that was 2 steps ahead of everyone else on the pitch. Listen to him talk about the double free-kick take; "I'll just put it in the other corner" as if it's the easiest thing in the world to do.
And his patience waiting for Andy Gray to make the run against Bayern whilst 50,000 were screaming "man on", baying for him to get rid! Sheer natural brilliance, that he probably can't explain.
A combination of playing for unfashionable Everton and the fact that team had the platform upon which it was about to step onto ripped away from them, means he is rarely spoken about outside of Evertonian circles. Such a shame that team was never afforded the opportunity to play on the stage it deserved to.
I don't wish to open up old wounds and much poor decision making has gone on at our club which contributes to where we are now. Nor do I want to change the direction of this thread, but such a pivotal and defining moment in our history. Great team, great memories, I wish they could have given us more – and they could have.
24 Posted 06/06/2020 at 13:26:57
My season ticket at that time was in the Upper Bullens Road stand, and I had a great view of that pass, and goal. How Paul Bracewell picked out Trevor Steven was incredible. I think that to see the possibility at ground level and through a crowded mid-field, was a moment of pure genius.
I can recall a mate of mine saying "What a pass!" It was so unbelievable, my reaction was to say, "Yeah, if he meant it." I was doing him a disservice because he obviously did mean it, a once-in-a-lifetime pass, and I'm thankful that I was there to witness it.
25 Posted 06/06/2020 at 13:49:58
Speedy was a great favourite of mine but he was never two steps ahead of everyone else and definitely not Peter Reid, who might have been two yards slower than most in the team, but his football brain was up there and quicker than most in the league never mind Everton's team.
That pass by Bracewell, we'll never know if he meant it or not, it turned out to be a fantastic pass anyway. I'll never be convinced he meant it, now if Sheedy or Peter Reid had made that pass I could be swayed.
26 Posted 06/06/2020 at 14:08:33
When I mustered the words “Thank you, Alex, for everything” he said, “No son, I have to thank you for taking me and my family into your hearts.”
Cue a grown 60-year-old man crying. He left too soon unfortunately, but we went to see him play one game for Stockport County after he came back from managing Glentoran in Ireland.
Thanks for a great piece.
27 Posted 06/06/2020 at 14:33:43
I should have also mentioned Peter Reid, Dave. And you're spot on, let's not forget the contribution of Harper & Richardson. Like Harper, when all were fit, he wasn't good enough to get in Howard's first choice 11 most weeks. That says a lot for that team given Richardson went on to win league titles with Arsenal.
With you mentioning Reid, aside from the ability those players had, the documentary highlights the mentality. Reid's & Ratcliffe's accounts of being flies in each other's ear if they thought players (themselves included) weren't performing to the standard. Andy Gray about to bollock Reid for a "poor" free-kick from which Adrian Heath put us into the FA Cup Final. Winning mentality as well.
Whereas more recently, we had the likes of Jagielka playing down expectation in interviews and footage of him consoling Ross Barkley in the tunnel, assuring him that the fans "weren't booing him" personally.
Winning mentality to complement winning ability.
28 Posted 06/06/2020 at 15:00:13
I went to Bellefield one afternoon, we were playing Liverpool that week. I got talking to Kevin Ratcliffe and I said “I hope we get a draw at Anfield.“ Kevin was on to me right away, “A draw,“ he mocked. “We'll be going there to win!”
As you say, Danny, that team's attitude and mental strength was spot on.
29 Posted 06/06/2020 at 15:31:37
I said at the time that John Bailey and Kevin Richardson were unfortunate to lose their places to Pat van den Hauwe and Paul Bracewell. I'm still of that opinion, although if Howard Kendall was still around, he would say, "We won the League, didn't we?"
30 Posted 06/06/2020 at 15:56:33
Van den Hauwe brought something to the team that Howard must have thought was a missing ingredient. Call it nastiness, call it aggression, but it goes back to what Dave & I were saying, it comes down to winning mentality.
Look at the current Liverpool team / squad. I wouldn't say man for man they are better than Man City, but they have a winning mentality installed into them.
31 Posted 06/06/2020 at 16:37:57
As Dave says, we all have our favourites, I suppose it's a case of 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. What saddens me is that some resort to poisonous comments to justify their dislike of certain players.
I have always been of the opinion that, if a lad plays for the poorest team in the Football League, he can play football. Obviously not to the level of Premier League players, but to a considerably higher standard than his detractors
I'm sure no one plays badly on purpose, but then again, maybe I've mellowed with age.
32 Posted 06/06/2020 at 16:46:36
I think it is all down to opinions. I liked Kevin Richardson's versatility, same with Alan Harper, and it took me some time to appreciate how valuable Paul Bracewell's ability was to Everton.
It really hit home in the semi-final versus Luton Town, he must have covered every blade of grass in those two hours in that game and I never doubted him after that game. A really bad injury spoiled his very good career.
Kevin Richardson proved his worth time after time for Everton but, to be honest, as good as they were, I preferred Steve McMahon to either of them.
As for Pat van den Hauwe, I thought he definitely strengthened Everton's defence physically and mentally when he came into the squad, but everyone has their own opinion; only the manager gets paid for his.
33 Posted 06/06/2020 at 17:12:48
You're absolutely right on 2 counts. Firstly, any player that makes it to football league level is a good player. We underestimate what it takes to make it to that level and there are often fine margins for the majority (forget those who are blessed and destined). Also, as you say, no player goes out to play bad intentionally. I'm also a believer in that mentality in normal life; most people don't intentionally cock up on purpose, so I judge them on how they put things right rather than dwell on mistakes; we all make them right?
Good shout on McMahon Dave. His record speaks for itself. My best friend's Grandfather used to take him to the match as a kid. Sadly, Everton's 80s spike came a couple of years too late for him to hang around, but what a great midfielder.
34 Posted 06/06/2020 at 18:36:48
No, I wasn't referring to you, I've always found your posts positive and informative. I have no intention of naming individuals as it would no doubt lead to bad feeling. I believe that there is a way to criticise players; if I wished to express my dislike of certain players, I would do it in a more diplomatic manner.
35 Posted 06/06/2020 at 21:59:27
36 Posted 06/06/2020 at 23:01:06
37 Posted 06/06/2020 at 23:12:47
Sitting in the Upper Bullens stand could be a double-edged sword – tremendous in the Bayern Munich game, horrendous in the 5-0 defeat against Liverpool, when Rush scored four.
38 Posted 06/06/2020 at 23:31:31
39 Posted 10/06/2020 at 02:31:45
40 Posted 10/06/2020 at 03:17:33
He must have been a nightmare for wingers.
41 Posted 10/06/2020 at 03:51:31
42 Posted 10/06/2020 at 04:20:21
And then he goes on to mention 4 of his favourite Everton players of all who happened to play in the 1962-63 side and he has not changed his opinion since then. Nothing to do with Neville.
43 Posted 14/06/2020 at 05:04:22
Pat could also fit in really well at centre-back and in 1986 when we beat the RS 2-0 at Anfield, he and Rats were superb. Neil Pointon played left-back that day, I believe we should have played that same back four in the Cup Final in May as Mountfield was taking a fitness test the day before.
44 Posted 14/06/2020 at 10:06:18
My mate's dad was close to Pat and my mate said he'd spoke to him earlier that day. He'd said he was going to take half a sleeping tablet and go to bed early. (I've asked him since, but he couldn't remember!) Otherwise, he'd have difficultly in sleeping, and it obviously worked because him, Ratcliffe and especially Neville Southall were all outstanding in that game.
That's why I'm not sure playing the same back four in that final would have made much difference because, in that league game, Rush was put through twice in a very similar position to the one in which he scored his first goal at Wembley, but twice Southall thwarted him by being exceptionally quick off his line to dive at his feet and force Rush just that little bit too wide, instead of rolling the ball into an empty net like he did in that final on one of the very worst days of my life.
45 Posted 14/06/2020 at 19:14:01
Any chance you and your mate could walk around Goodison next Saturday before the derby?
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