My Goodison Park Pilgrimage

By Bill Gienapp 13/09/2019 29comments  |  Jump to last
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Everton 3 - 2 Wolves
So you may or may not have seen my post before the Wolves match two weeks ago, announcing that I was en route to Liverpool for my very first visit to Goodison Park, but several kind folks – including Andy Crooks and Derek Knox – encouraged me to write about the experience… and even though I posted a few impressions in the immediate aftermath, I thought I’d provide a more detailed version of my ‘pilgrimage’.

First, a bit of background. I live in Los Angeles (yep – another Yank, like Mike Gaynes and Jamie Crowley) and my Mom wanted to take me to London for my birthday – neither of us had ever been before. Of course, an Everton match immediately topped my list of things to do, but unfortunately we had to start planning and making arrangements at the start of summer… so all I could do was cross my fingers and leave myself at the mercy of the scheduling Gods.

Worst case scenario, I could have tried to attend an away match (unless it involved dragging my butt all the way to Newcastle or something), but c’mon – there’s no substitute for Goodison Park. And assuming (god forbid) Bramley-Moore Dock actually progresses according to schedule, there will only be so many opportunities left to experience the Old Lady.

Thankfully, the gods were kind. Home against Wolves (great opponent!)… and even better, the match was moved to Sunday, which meant I wouldn’t have to take a train straight from the airport (which I was fully prepared to do, but would have left me tired and stressed, to say the least). I really can’t emphasize how perfectly everything fell into place – I should have taken it as a sign that I was in for something special (or a kick in the teeth).

So the big day arrives and, functioning on minimal sleep but fortified by a pasty from Euston Station, I hop on the train to Liverpool. Plenty of gents in Everton shirts on-board – no doubt rolling their eyes inwardly as I grin and tap the badge, as if to say “That’s right – I’m part of the tribe.”

My friend Nick, who lives in Lancaster, was nice enough to come down and meet me for the match – he’s a Derby County fan, and a pretty beaten-down one at that (I asked him if he was excited about Rooney’s impending arrival and he just sort of snorted). FYI, Liverpool seemed like a really cool city with a lot of character, and I wish I’d had time to actually explore it, if I hadn’t been on such a tight schedule.

I wish I could offer a more profound account of my impressions upon arrival and walking into Goodison Park for the first time, but it was all a bit overwhelming and surreal at that point. I was in the Lower Bullens (section LB6, to be precise) and was a little apprehensive, since I’d heard it’s not the best place to watch a match, particularly if you’re near the back… and yes, okay, I was seated directly behind a post, so I sort of had to crane my neck around any time there was action inside the box, and had to lean forward to actually see the game clock… but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Okay, maybe I would have swapped seats with that kid a few rows up who had an unrestricted view but spent the entire match with his nose glued to his Nintendo Switch, but otherwise I was pretty much a happy clam.

Of course I wanted Everton to win, but if you’d asked me my hopes for the experience, bare minimum, I would have said “We have to score. I have to hear Goodison erupt. I can’t leave empty-handed.” I thought back to that limp 1-0 home defeat we suffered against Leicester City after New Year’s and felt that would be an awfully depressing experience to take back home with me. So you can imagine my delight when, just five minutes into the match, Wolves botched the back pass and Richarlison was on hand to bury the deflection (and me in my Richarlison shirt no less). What a perfect start and what a fantastic feeling!

Of course, it was a pretty short-lived euphoria as Wolves leveled just minutes later (I thought to myself “Oh… it’s going to be one of *those* afternoons”). I kind of figured an agonized groan would pass through the crowd or something, but it was more of a withering silence (like “Oh, sod off, Everton!”). Thankfully, we answered in short order, with Sigurdsson and Iwobi hooking up on a great goal, and suddenly it felt like we’d packed more excitement into those first 15 minutes than we had in our previous three League matches combined.

Nick was also thoroughly baffled at this point, as my pre-match scouting report was basically “We struggle to score goals, but we’re quite sound defensively.” I probably shouldn’t have spent so much time bragging about how we hadn’t been breached at Goodison since, like, March, because of course we end up conceding the most Charmin-soft goal imaginable.

The match settles down from there, though we look extremely dodgy at the back and I’ll admit to having a heart attack virtually every time Wolves launched a remotely threatening attack… but we make it to halftime otherwise unscathed. Great.

A quick note about English efficiency - I was pretty impressed that the park appeared half empty when I sat down 20 minutes before kickoff and yet, when the air raid siren went off, it was suddenly and magically at complete capacity. Likewise, at halftime, I had to go to the bathroom and Nick wanted to get something to eat and I thought to myself “This is crazy. Literally every person in the park is going to get up at once. We won’t be able to move. The line to the toilets will be halfway down the street.” And yet… we somehow took care of what we needed to, and were back in our seats moments before kickoff. It was bloody marvelous. The last NFL game I attended, I went to get food at halftime and ended up missing nearly the entire third quarter.

Not much to say about the second half other than, when the inevitable Wolves equalizer finally occurred, I threw up my hands and said “Welp… if a largely entertaining 2-2 draw is to be my inaugural Goodison experience, I think I can live with that.” And yet… I had a feeling we weren’t finished. My gut told me “Not today...”

I’ve watched Richarlison’s game winner countless times on replay and man was it a beauty… Digne somehow hooking a superb cross into the box before sprawling out of bounds and Richarlison rising up to meet it and just steering it past Patricio perfectly. The subsequent eruption/celebration was a very special moment that I’ll remember for a long, long time. And I was too busy losing my damn mind to really care that Richarlison ran to the *other* side of the pitch to celebrate – c’mon man, where’s the love??

Upon seeing out the last 10 minutes with a minimum of fuss to officially clinch victory (hooray!), it was off to the pro shop to pick up my new Moise Kean shirt, which I can’t wait to debut this Sunday for the Bournemouth match (Nick: “Where was this Moise Kean magic you promised me all afternoon?” My Mom, upon my return: “You bought ANOTHER jersey?!”).

The rest of the trip was pretty cool – Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Charles Dickens Museum, Borough Market, a bit of theater in Piccadilly Circus (The Comedy About a Bank Robbery), Windsor Castle, Oxford University, Kensington Palace, Harrod’s, the National Gallery and much more… but nothing could top my Goodison pilgrimage.

On a side note – to the gentleman I was conversing with while in line for the buses, the self-proclaimed “Bitter Blue” who was at the match with his daughter, who’s going to be in LA in a few weeks for the film festival… I don’t suppose you’re a ToffeeWeb reader? She was really cool and we got swept onto the bus before I could even get her name!

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Reader Comments (29)

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Tony Hill
1 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:01:01
Lovely piece, Bill. Delighted you had such a happy time and such a good game.
Peter Gorman
2 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:39:19
Bill, absolutely made up that you've experienced Goodison and the joys of a win to boot.

Thanks for taking the time to write about it.

Peter Warren
3 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:55:10
Bill great read although there was no need to tell us you’re a yank that came across clearly in the piece!

Made up you saw such a brill game - as you say everything was aligned for you that day.

Jamie Crowley
4 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:46:01
Bill that was a fantastic read. What a trip!

Love how, like, everything fell into place for you. Someone was watching out.

Then, after everything was so perfectly placed, and Rich scores the third goal, you're like, "Dude, run over to my side to celebrate!"

Too funny.

Interesting about the "English efficiency". You're right about NFL games at half. It's insane, and you never get back for the 3rd quarter kickoff. Seems the English have it figured out.

Great piece Bill. I lived vicariously through you for about 10 minutes. :0)

Steve Ferns
5 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:11:33
Really well written Bill. The emotion drips from the page and you can just tell you had the time of your life without saying so. It was a good game and that was a good Goodison atmosphere. Not quite up there with a derby or an European night, but you’ve pretty much experienced Goodison at her best.
Mike Gaynes
6 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:41:56
Beautiful, Bill. Congratulations on completing the traditional pilgrimage and having your prayers answered with that lovely gamewinner!

Now, come on, TW, let's see what we can do about getting that girl's name and phone number for Bill.

Derek Knox
7 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:50:39
Good on you Bill, really enjoyed the read, and partly living your experiences through it, like Jamie said it was great how everything worked out, and Sod's Law had no part to play at all.

It will stay with you forever, and like you so rightly mentioned, with the New Stadium well in advanced stages of being converted from pipe dreams, paper and architectural images to Bricks, Mortar and Steel, the chances of visiting the 'Old Lady' will indeed be limited.

I'm also glad that the result went with all the other good things, it would have been a bit of a sickener, after all that planning and travelling, to experience a repeat of last year's similar fixture. Let's hope also that it is one of many home and away victories to come.

Steve Ferns
8 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:53:24
Haha, Mike. We just need Cilla to pop out on Bill and say "Surprise, surprise!"

(One for the brits I'm afraid, Mike).

Derek Knox
9 Posted 13/09/2019 at 16:10:49
Mike there are loads of girls' phone numbers in the phone booths near to Goodison and the City Centre, maybe not 'the girl in question' but will that do?

I'm sure LA wouldn't be a problem for any of them, after they were released from quarantine that is.

Jay Harris
10 Posted 13/09/2019 at 16:22:18
Great read Bill,

and as an expat in Florida I fully endorse the thrill of going to Goodison. It is, was and will always be a special place.

So glad you enjoyed the trip (And Result!!!).

I am looking forward to a "ToffeeWeb" private jet for all US Blues when we get to the Champions League final.

It is long overdue!!

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 13/09/2019 at 16:57:36
Wonderful stuff, Bill, I am so pleased for you. Next time you do it, and you will, get along to a ToffeeWeb gettogether. Really top piece.
Bill Gienapp
12 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:09:27
Thanks guys! It's heartening to have such a great community to share the experience with. Certainly my Mom wasn't terribly interested in the post-match blow-by-blow, LOL.

Re: the girl, I feel like the Football Gods really were trying to give me the perfect day and they were looking down, face-palming, like "Wow, dude. Really? You sure botched that one." In my defense, I was too punch-drunk from the victory. I wasn't thinking clearly. I was too preoccupied with getting to the train, so I could start reading the post-match comments on ToffeeWeb.

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:26:30
Bill, it’s great that your day was 99% perfect, result, seeing Goodison’s crowd reaction to the game, looks like it couldn’t have gone any better, I hope you enjoy a few more days like that in the future, possibly with a cup at the end of the game.

Re: the girl, I bet she’s thinking the same as you, ‘ why didn’t I get that lads name’ and she’s cried herself to sleep every night since the Wolves game.

Peter Mills
14 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:40:30
Great write up, Bill, glad you enjoyed the experience.

Shame about the girl, but I’ve heard so many stories about the yanks being “over-paid, over here and over-sexed” that it’s reassuring to know they can’t pull all the time.

Dave Williams
15 Posted 13/09/2019 at 18:11:08
A very enjoyable read, Bill. The sheer joy of everything shines through your post and I am delighted for you that you saw a good game and a victory.

Now, about that girl...

Rob Halligan
16 Posted 13/09/2019 at 18:32:21
Great read Bill. I've met Mike Gaynes on both times he's been over for a match, and hopefully will arrange to meet Jamie Crowley when he eventually makes it over. Next time you're over, you need to make it to either the Winslow or the brick, both pubs full of proper Evertonians. Not that ToffeeWeb is not full of proper Evertonians.

I'm currently in Dubai, flying home on Saturday morning, due back into Manchester around 19:00 Saturday night. I'm on the coach to Bournemouth at 6:00 am Sunday morning. I wouldn't miss a game for the world, so I can just well imagine how you must have felt making your first appearance at Goodison Park. You must have been absolutely ecstatic to see Goodison in all its glory and savour that Goodison atmosphere.

As Andy Crooks says, you need to let us know when you're next over and get to meet and enjoy a TW get together.

John McFarlane Snr
17 Posted 13/09/2019 at 18:57:46
Hi Bill, I'm glad that your trip was an exciting and successful venture, and that the game had everything to make it a memorable occasion, [ecstacy, despair, and relief.] We have experienced too much despair and relief in recent years, so the gods really smiled down on you. As others have said, you must try to make a return trip, and hopefully attend a 'ToffeeWeb gathering.'
Dave Evans
18 Posted 13/09/2019 at 18:59:02
So glad you enjoyed your day Bill. Nostalgic thoughts of the the 'Blue train' up from Euston - wasted by Birmingham. But hey, great read.
Bill Gienapp
19 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:40:58
Rob (16) - Definitely! I thought about reaching out on here about a potential meet-up, but I knew I'd have a tight turn-around catching the train back to London. Next time, for sure - like I said, I'd love the chance to chill out in the city a bit.

Also forgot to mention that I had dinner with a friend of my brother's and he told me he could hook me up with free tickets to Wembley to see the England/Bulgaria match... unfortunately, I was flying back to the US that day. Oh well.

Mike Gaynes
20 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:43:54
And you didn't change your flight???

Guess we still need to work on your finishing, fellow Yank. Not only did ya swing and miss on the girl, you missed eight goals at Wembley for the price of a change fee and an extra night at the hotel.

Gotta convert those opportunities.

Bob Parrington
21 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:49:22
Thanks Bill,

You wrote this well and the emotion/passion came through in your words.

My wife, Irene (from Newcastle-on -Tyne???) and I live in Adelaide, Australia. I was born in Moreton, Wirral (1948) and my dad worked on the Birkenhead docks for a company named Smith Coggins (if I recall correctly).

I've been a Blue since I was 5 years old. I'm just retiring and we're on our way through USA, Iceland & Cobh in county Cork catching up with relatives and friends. Then on to home ground and the Everton vs Man City game.

I hope we have the same result as you had watching the game vs Wolves!!!!!!! This would be another story.

Thanks again and well done!

Bill Gienapp
22 Posted 13/09/2019 at 20:05:38
Ha ha - well, it was the Bulgaria match Mike, so only four goals in that one. But you're right - I should just keep my mouth shut, as I'm starting to make myself look like a bigger and bigger stooge here.

Bob - ooooo, that'll be a good one. Have fun! A 3-2 win over City would do very nicely, methinks.

Mike Galley
23 Posted 14/09/2019 at 02:59:48
Great read, Bill. Thank you.

You probably don't realise this, but you've been taken to the heights of ecstasy and the depths of despair in the space of ninety minutes at Goodison, and then back up to the heavens of Toffeetastic delight.

And you were sat behind a post!! You are now a fully fledged Evertonian!!

John Raftery
24 Posted 14/09/2019 at 14:20:55
Tremendous piece Bill, thank you. Having travelled all that way you were justly rewarded with a home win in what was an exciting match.

That’s an impressive sight-seeing list for London. You did well to steer clear of the Houses of Parliament. The residents would have given you a very negative impression of the country.

Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 14/09/2019 at 14:29:45
Great write Bill, and good to see your smitten, with EFC, after your trip and like all Evertonians from where ever, your part of the family, and always welcome, when your over from the states.

Now for Bournemouth.

Roy Johnstone
26 Posted 15/09/2019 at 20:35:48
Good stuff, Bill. Really glad you got a win for your first game at Goodison.

Mine was 1-3 to Nottm Forest, the one and only year they ever won the league back in 1977-78. Turned out to be one of the best Everton teams I can remember. Just not as good as Forest. If we had signed Shilton.... then maybe?

Pete Jones
27 Posted 16/09/2019 at 18:46:08
A great account, Bill. One thing the rest of us can't do is relive our first match so reading your impressions is really evocative.

Glad you took in the Borough Market in Southwark, by the way, it is one of my favourite bits of London on a busy foodie day.

Chris Jones [NZ]
28 Posted 16/09/2019 at 20:43:08
Just did my own kind of pilgrimage. Does New Zealand to Bournemouth count? Nightmare of a trip from my family in South Wales – rail upgrades, a cancelled connection and the last train running 20 minutes late meant that I got to the Vitality feeling devoid of the stuff (vitality that is). Got into the ground courtesy of a couple of true blue lads who got hold of a ticket for me and then waited for me to get there to hand it over despite kick-off being imminent.

Yeah, so the performance was, er, crap-ish, but I was able to watch the Blues live for the first time in decades as in not on TV or via legit or dodgy streams. Saw the players afterwards, shook hands and spoke with an unimpressed but diplomatic Moshiri (nice car Farhad, and no, it's fine, I was happy to walk to the station). And the train journey back to Wales was just as bad as the trip down.

But when I head back to New Zealand on Thursday night, I'll remember I got to watch Everton, my team for 48 years, for better, for worse, forever.

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 17/09/2019 at 20:10:29
Chris (28), not much luck there mate, pity you couldn't have made it for a winning game, Woves for instance, but at least you saw your team, warts and all.

I hope you have a good journey home on Thursday and better luck if you come over again. Try and make it a home game if you do; much better chance of seeing us win.

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