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Bob Parrington
1 Posted 02/06/2020 at 07:48:25
Rob, a fantastic article that is so well written and supported with illustrations and pictures. Well done and thanks for presenting it.

This would be a good read for many who are critical of young players, like Moise Kean, who leave the shelter of home to follow their dream or sense of adventure. I left home in Moreton, just after my 17th birthday, to go to UMIST in Manchester and then straight on to Wallsend in Geordie land 3 years later. So I have some degree of empathy for this aspect of Dennis's early football adventure.

Thank you.

Danny ONeill
2 Posted 02/06/2020 at 09:28:05
Fascinating article Rob. As always, meticulously written & backed up with comprehensive research, although I suspect much of this is also your own impressive knowledge!

I took so many things from that to mention but the insights that fascinated me most are below. I have to caveat, I'm commenting way out of my own historical area here as this is my father's period, so please excuse any slight inaccuracies!

1. The importance of having the right players, not just the best players. As per a previous threads, you don't necessarily need the 11 best players to make the best team. Players who are effective & fit the manager's intent can make a great team. Catterick's decision to replace Bobby Collins with Stevens appears to demonstrate that he thought Stevens better fitted in his plans even though Collins was apparently the better player at the time.

2. In line with above, Catterick clearly wasn't shy of making big & unpopular (at the time) decisions. Didn't he do this with Alex Young - Joe Royle? On both occasions he was rewarded with a League Title.

3. Dennis Stevens sounds like the type of unsung player every great team needs. As mentioned, he had the engine and done the type of work that freed up Catterick's front line to be more offensive and not have to worry so much about defensive responsibilities. God, I'd take Gueye back tomorrow.

Thanks again Rob; a fine read to wake up to.

Derek Thomas
3 Posted 02/06/2020 at 09:54:09
Rob, another masterpiece about a vastly under rated 'unsung hero' whose only sin/problem was...He Wasn't Bobby Collins.

Dennis, Brian Harris, Sandy Brown and a few others were a managers dream, they could and did, play anywhere they were asked to...and do it well.

I well remember him playing at Harrys orders the, for then, avant garde, position of 'man marker' on Blackburn's Bryan Douglas, who had ran riot pulling all the strings the last time we played them.

Another memory is of him having an absolute blinder playing Man U. almost on his own, but couldn't hit the target. One instance scooping a difficult bobbling ball over the crossbar from about 6ft. and laughing like a drain at the absurdity of how it just wouldnt go in for him.

The Manager of the 1970 Brazil team stated 'for every maestro to perform, there has to be somebody to push the piano on stage'

Dennis - as your piece states, was much more than
just a piano pusher, but when asked he did it very well.

No marmite opinion from me, as I grew older and a little bit wiser I soon belatedly twigged what he brought to a team. Loved him.

Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 02/06/2020 at 09:58:44
Rob, you’ve made my day with this wonderful tribute to one of my favourite players Dennis Stevens.

Bobby Collins was my favourite Everton player and was missed by us fans when he left, but not as much as many Everton fans thought he would be, because of Dennis Stevens, loved him, and I knew what we were getting. Nat Lofthouse, Bolton’s and England’s centre forward, had written while Dennis was at Bolton, “ I would score a goal and receive the acclaim of the crowd, while on the floor would be the man who did all the donkey work and made the goal”

When Everton played away it never bothered me if the “star” men were missing, we never really missed them if Dennis, Mogsy ( Johnny Morrissey ) and later Tony Kay were playing. Dennis was, like the man he replaced, Bobby Collins, a 100% team player. A genuine fella off the pitch as well he fitted in quickly and easily to Everton’s style, scoring and making goals as well as giving plenty of graft,possibly one of Catterick’s greatest signing.

I think when Dennis passed away a coach load of Everton fans went to his funeral, not sure if it that’s true, but if it is I regret I wasn’t on it. A great player and a lovely man.

On a personal note Rob, thanks for including that bit about the lady with the umbrella assailing the Bolton players, it confirmed a post I remitted a couple of years ago.

Bob Parrington
5 Posted 02/06/2020 at 10:22:36
Sandy Brown, Brian Harris, Bobby Collins, Dennis Stevens, Tony Kay, Alex Young, Roy Vernon and Alex Scott. Oh, those were the days!

I have a picture in my mind of a Tony Kay tackle, on the left of midfield, running back towards goal, where he slid in (cleanly), from the inside, took the ball and set up an attack. OMG, he was a great player, too, before the "authorities" took him to one side!

Ken Kneale
6 Posted 02/06/2020 at 10:47:52

As ever, a very enjoyable article as always. Thank you.

John McFarlane Snr
7 Posted 02/06/2020 at 14:34:20
Hi Rob, another great article, I think that you'll know by now that I wallow in nostalgia, and despite the successes of the 80s, I'm stuck in a time warp of the 60s. I can only agree with those who say that Dennis wasn't accepted by the majority of supporters initially, because he replaced Bobby Collins, who many considered was irreplaceable. Dennis however proved to the doubters, of which I was one, that he had everything to succeed at Goodison.

I can recall one amusing incident, when I travelled alone to Burnden Park in the early 60s, surrounded by Bolton fans who were giving Dennis stick, I expressed my pleasure following a superb pass, I shouted, "Good ball, Dennis," when one burly middle-aged Bolton fan retorted, "Aye, lad, there's now't wrong with the ball." [I have substituted the original colourful comment.]

I was delighted to read that Brian Harris deputised in goal for Gordon West, this is something I have maintained for a long time, but couldn't find anyone to confirm it. On another occasion, I believe that Sandy Brown deputised for Andy Rankin, but I can't recall the opponents; however, both incidents took place at Goodison.

Once again, Rob, thank you for a much-appreciated trip down Memory Lane.

Tony Hill
8 Posted 02/06/2020 at 16:49:16
A lovely piece on a fine player from my favourite Everton era. They had a quality about them those players, on and off the pitch. Manliness perhaps.
Brian Garside
9 Posted 02/06/2020 at 20:01:15
So much brilliant reading on this site. A thank you from me to all who have taken the time and effort to contribute.
Mike Berry
10 Posted 02/06/2020 at 20:35:04
Great piece – thanks, mate. Always in my memory as a hard-tackling box-to-box player.
Robert Workman
11 Posted 03/06/2020 at 09:46:12
Dennis Stevens was in the Everton side when I first started watching them with friends, via the ferry cross the Mersey or the train from New Brighton under the Mersey.

He played in a great forward line of Scott, Stevens, Young, Vernon and Temple. Jimmy Gabriel and Roy Vernon were my favourite players.

Oddly, Stevens was the first player that I heard the Goodison crowd groan at. Maybe it did have something to do with the sale of Bobby Collins. Don't think I appreciated the amount of work that Stevens did.

In those days, you turned up expecting to see the same eleven players each week. I don't remember there being so many injuries. Yet the tackling was much stronger than nowadays. With today's refereeing, the games would have ended up as 5-a-side!

George Carroll
12 Posted 03/06/2020 at 12:02:27
This lockdown is doing me no good. As usual, reading all the football news and thinking why hasn't someone written about Denis Stevens... and, lo and behold, a brilliant nostalgia piece by Rob Sawyer. The effort he puts in is tremendous and much appreciated by oldies like me, it brings back wonderful memories. Thanks, Rob.
John McFarlane Snr
13 Posted 03/06/2020 at 12:41:37
Hi Robert [11], I was demobbed in July 1959 and I've just done a quick check and it appears that the top League appearances for the following few seasons were:

1959-60. Bobby Collins 42, Alex Parker 38, Albert Dunlop 37, Jimmy Harris 36, Tommy Jones 35, Brian Harris 32, Brian Labone 31.

1960-61. Albert Dunlop 42, Brian Labone 42, Alex Parker 41, Bobby Collins 40, Jimmy Gabriel 40, Roy Vernon 39, Brian Harris 30.

1961-62. Jimmy Gabriel 42, Brian Labone 41, Alex Young 40, Billy Bingham 37, Roy Vernon 37, Brian Harris 33, George Thomson 32, Alex Parker 31, Albert Dunlop 30.

1962-63. Dennis Stevens, 42, Alex Young 42, Roy Vernon 41, Jimmy Gabriel 40, Brian Labone 40, Gordon West 38, Alex Parker 33, Mick Meagan 32.

I made 30 the cut-off point because it represents a sizeable chunk of the season.

I also think that, if Fred Pickering hadn't enjoyed a hat-trick debut, he too may have come in for some stick, because replacing Alex Young was a formidable challenge.

Tom Bowers
14 Posted 03/06/2020 at 12:51:00
Harry Catterick was a no-nonsense manager who brought the best out of players. This squad was excellent with great leaders and discipline and we awaited every game (especially at home) with eager anticipation. Young and Vernon had a great understanding and Vernon didn't have a pick on him but was so quick around the box.
Tom Bowers
15 Posted 03/06/2020 at 14:28:47
Harry Catterick was a no-nonsense manager who brought the best out of players. This squad was excellent with great leaders and discipline and we awaited every game (especially at home) with eager anticipation. Young and Vernon had a great understanding and Vernon didn't have a pick on him but was so quick around the box.
Alasdair Jones
16 Posted 03/06/2020 at 16:07:44

A superb article and an excellent read.

I saw Dennis Stevens's last home league appearance for the Blues in a 0-0 draw with Leeds Utd in November 1965. He looked a bit off the pace and clearly the knee op was holding him back. His final game I believe was away to West Ham the following week.

As many have commented, he was a solid unfussy player who Catterick could rely on either in a traditional wing-half role or as an inside-forward.

John @ 7. I hope I'm right on this; the introduction of Sandy Brown as sub for the injured Andy Rankin was in the home game against Stoke City at Goodison on 12 December 1964. A 1-1 draw was played out in a downpour.

Ian Pilkington
17 Posted 03/06/2020 at 17:26:13
Thank you, Rob, for yet another most interesting and enjoyable article.

Dennis was undoubtedly a key member of our great 1962-63 team, playing, with Alex Young, in all 42 matches as noted by John @13.

I started to go to Goodison on a regular basis shortly after Dennis arrived and he became one of my favourite players. He was described in those days as a “link man” and he did the job very well indeed. Looking back now, he was certainly one of Harry Catterick's most astute signings.

Jay Harris
18 Posted 03/06/2020 at 17:52:05
Rob, I love reading your articles which are so well researched and thorough.

My overriding memory of Dennis Stevens was his propensity for missing goals. I remember many occasions when he would be almost on the goal line and scoop it over the bar.

Having said that, he was a real player's player with the ground he covered, mopping up for everyone else.

A fine man, player and a credit to the club.

John McFarlane Snr
19 Posted 03/06/2020 at 18:52:10
Hi Alasdair [16] I did think that the opposing team was Stoke City, but I was wary of committing myself, which was just as well because I do try to be precise in my claims. The one thing I can recall is that, in both instances, Gordon West and Andy Rankin played on the left wing, attacking the Park End. Thanks for ensuring that I can rest easy tonight.
Michael Kenrick
20 Posted 03/06/2020 at 21:54:43
Alasdair, I just want to offer up one minor correction. I'm pretty sure Sandy Brown did not come on as a substitute in that Stoke CIty match. Substitutions during matches in the English Football League were not permitted until the 1965–66 season.

But Rankin was injured in that game and did not play again that season. I believe Sandy Brown started the game at right back and took Rankin's place in goal.

John McFarlane Snr
21 Posted 03/06/2020 at 23:07:42
Hi Michael [20],

You're correct in saying that Sandy Brown didn't come on as a substitute, he replaced the injured Andy Rankin in goal, hence my reference to the fact that Gordon West and Andy Rankin played on the left-wing, in what we termed 'nuisance value' on both occasions. I missed Alasdair's reference to Sandy coming on as substitute.

Alasdair Jones
22 Posted 04/06/2020 at 11:15:33
John @19 and Michael @20

I'm not having a good June so far. Got David Smallman's name wrong in Comings and Goings as well as crediting Harry Catterick with the introduction of Brian Labone into the team when I really meant he cemented his position as centre-half.

Now I'm in trouble over subs. Mike, John you are both correct. I should have known better as I was at the game vs Stoke and yes I do recall Andy trying to attack the Park End goal as a hobbling left-winger. Sandy defended the Gwladys Street End goal and I think he did pull off one or two good saves.

John McFarlane Snr
23 Posted 04/06/2020 at 12:18:24
Hi Alasdair [22],

Don't worry about it, it happens to us all from time to time, and I've come to the conclusion that 'the more you know the more you're likely to forget'.

Peter Mills
24 Posted 05/06/2020 at 22:49:05
Your customary excellent piece of writing, Rob, thank you.

Denis was just a bit before my time, but I did attend the 1967-68 5th round FA Cup tie at Goodison against Tranmere. I had no idea he played for the opposition that day.

Rick Tarleton
25 Posted 07/06/2020 at 17:08:02
A hugely under-rated player. He won the ball and Brian Labone told me and some friends when we were playing cricket with him in Walton Hall Park, that as a defender Dennis Stevens was the most valuable player in the team.

His role at Everton was far more defensive than the role he'd had at Bolton, but he adjusted to it and gave Young and Vernon the space they needed to work their magic.

A really valuable team player.

Brendan Connolly
26 Posted 08/06/2020 at 22:33:27
It's all been said really, Rob.

Great to read all the comments from fans who saw Dennis play and see how accurate your piece is. I didn't have that privilege, but feel like I know him really well after your latest excellent offering.

Keep them coming. Thanks.

Vin McFarlane
27 Posted 11/06/2020 at 19:05:11
Another great piece, Rob; makes me wish I'd been around to see these great players.
Gerry Morrison
28 Posted 14/06/2020 at 02:29:07
A great read and a trip down memory lane to my childhood. Much appreciated, thanks.

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