What's it like to play at Goodison?

by   |   01/04/2021  17 Comments  [Jump to last]

I remember as a kid running onto the pitch after Everton had clinched the title against West Brom. What a feeling! It was a dream. I couldn’t believe it. My feet were standing on the turf of Goodison Park. For those few moments under the bright floodlights, I was in fantasy land.

It didn’t last long. I remember being one of hundreds of kids chased off by burly policemen. But not before I picked up one piece of precious turf and put it into a used crisp bag to take home.

Once home, this magic slither of mud and grass went into my Dad’s tomato plant pot. True to form, it was magic. Only green tomatoes grew.

A few years ago, I had the chance to play at Goodison Park in a charity match. You had to pay for the privilege, of course, but who cared? This was Goodison and I was about to live the dream. To actually play on the same pitch as some of the greats. Dean, Lawton, Ball, Harvey, Kendall, Best, Greaves, Charlton, Pele, Eusebio, Henri... and now me! This was also the opportunity to roam the inner sanctum, to sit where those greats may have sat, to run out of the tunnel and imagine Z-Cars playing, Toffee Ladies et al.

This was going to be one of the best days of my life. But alas, and I say again, alas, an injury picked up in a five-a-side game kept me from realising the dream. Gutted to the core and my dream had gone forever.

So, when in the recent article by Alasdair Jones, 'Memories of an Old lady', Tony Abrahams casually remarked he played there a few times, I couldn’t help feeling but a tinge of envy. I think even Mike Gaynes has been on the pitch and taken a penalty! I’m sure there are more on this site who have had that special golden experience of playing or kicking a ball at Goodison.

So Tony, and the rest of you guys, tell the other 99.9% of us what it was like. Recount your experiences to us who have been like kids with faces pressed to the sweet shop window all our lives.

For those lucky few who did get into the sweet shop, how did you feel walking up the tunnel? Did your mind capture the spine-chilling entrance from past teams? Were the changing rooms luxurious? (Please say Yes.) Did anything surprise you? Did anything disappoint you? (Please say No!)

Paint the picture, fellas, and describe the dream in beautiful rose-coloured strokes!

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Reader Comments (17)

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Andy Crooks
1 Posted 03/04/2021 at 12:56:32
I have often thought of this, John. Just how wonderful it must be to walk out on your debut to the sound of Cars. Actually for me, I cannot imagine anything better. Frankly, I have probably devoted way, way too much time to the thought.

In fact, not only have I imagined my debut, I have imagined the rest of the season, game by game.

The winner at Anfield will always stay with me. However, my dreams are realistic; I missed a sitter at Stamford Bridge.

Tony Abrahams
2 Posted 03/04/2021 at 14:10:47
I played there in Central league games John, for Forest, and once for Everton (worst player on the pitch when I played in Blue) but my best memory was an epic FA Youth cup replay against Everton, against quite a few of my ex-teammates and a couple of mates.

The game finished 3-3 aet, but with a minute left Everton broke, a lad called Phil Quinlan, got on the end of a cross and I saw the ball hit the net. I sunk to my knees ready to punch the turf, and then saw the ball hit the barricades behind the goal, and because I knew Goodison so well, I jumped up with a massive relief because it would have been a sickener to lose.

My old school-mate was captain of Everton, and I was captain of Forest, so me and Big Eddie (Arms) Youds, had to go into the referees room to toss a coin to see where the 2nd replay would be played, and I was honestly fuming when I won the toss, because I obviously wanted to play at Goodison again!

The thing I noticed the most about all these pitches, wasn’t that they were bowling greens, but how easy it was to get your foot under the ball and chip it, and although this game was obviously a great memory, trust me when I say, but it never held a candle to the night when Bayern Munich, came to town John!

Dave Abrahams
3 Posted 03/04/2021 at 21:17:10
Tony (2), just a little note, because we take the piss out of each on here and we have no problem with each other doing that, but you wasn’t the worst player on the pitch versus Coventry City in that Central league game, they played you on the wing, you never had the pace for that, later on they switched you inside and you showed what you could do with three or four good passes so don’t sell yourself short over that particular game.
Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 03/04/2021 at 21:21:47
By the way Tony, give you your due, you could have mentioned the night you scored for Forest in a central league game against Everton at Goodison but you never, mind you Forest lost 5-3, a good game.
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 03/04/2021 at 21:33:28
I was poor Dave, I’d been on the ale all weekend, and this is something you can’t afford to do, looking back. This thread isn’t about me anyway, but it did take me on a trip down memory lane, and left some great memories, in a similar way anyone who played for Everton’s youth team today, will always remember how they beat City, so late in the game!
Andy Crooks
6 Posted 03/04/2021 at 21:47:13
Well said, Tony and Dave.
John Burns
7 Posted 05/04/2021 at 07:13:10
Thanks for that, Tony. I actually entitled the piece 'Dear Tony' but it was edited, which is fine. When Onyango and Small made their debut in the cup at the age of 16, I thought you're too young to fully understand what's just happened to you. I guess you appreciate it more now that you're older. Was there anything that disappointed or surprised you about your experiences there? Anyway, thanks again for the insight.
Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 05/04/2021 at 11:29:41
Funny John, but because it was only youth or reserve team football, there wasn't that many people at the games, (I never ever noticed the crowd, when I played footy anywhere though) and talking about players making first-team debuts, it wouldn't have mattered to either Small or Onyango, because there haven't been any fans inside the stadium because of the lockdown. The reason I write this, is because the thing that gets mentioned the most by kids making their first-team debut, is not the pace of the game, but the noise of the crowd.

Goodison never disappointed me, I also played a charity match on “our pitch” a couple of seasons ago, and whilst it seemed huge at age 17, it didn't actually look that big when I was aged 50!

My only disappointment was that I never got to do it more John, and you're correct, because it's something most young players just take for granted (there are arguments for both sides, if this is right) and I think it's only years later when we look back and reflect, which is probably something that is just a human trait.

Football is funny though, it's about little things, I suppose. Although you can never take away Butterfield's last-minute winner that he scored against Man City on Saturday, that game should have been at the Etihad Stadium, which would have obviously made the goal even more special, if that even makes any sense?

David Pearl
9 Posted 05/04/2021 at 12:28:30
I played at Tranmere, Rochdale and Stoke but injury and laziness stopped me.

However l did once play at Goodison in a charity match for 45 minutes, as the away team. We all got given the new kit to keep, so mine was yellow.

We had Snodin as our captain. We were informed he was running late and had forgotten his boots, so if anyone had a spare pair of size 4s to let him know. Obviously a piss-take but it didn't stop us from clocking his feet once he did arrive.

For the home team Sharpy was the captain. I had to play left wing in a 4-4-2 although my best position was in the hole as l can pass and play a mean dead ball. Shame l can't run. In fact after my ACL and tears in both meniscus l am finally awaiting my new knee in the coming months. I wont be attempting a comeback.

As for the game. I chested down a corner in front of the Gwladys Street stand only to skim the post. I took a free kick and Sheedy-like curled it around the wall only for the keeper to touch it over. The bastard. Unfortunately from the resulting corner... and l blame the slope l cranked it behind the goal.

I did have another excuse though, as apart from my knee swelling up my right ankle was also swelling due to me being stamped on by Sharpy. l tried my signature move, flicking the ball over his head on the edge of the box. As the ball landed l tried to take a touch before burying it in the top corner (in my mind)... but he didn't seem to like my signature move as much l did and got me good. A definate red card and penalty completely missed by the ref. To make matters worse, as l did my best Richarlison impression squirming on the floor, l looked up to see him apologise to someone else. I just about got through the half.

Of course l enjoyed the day. It would of been better to play without my restrictions but there you go. I found the pitch a bit spongy and the away dressing room a bit small. Perhaps after my knee is replaced l will see if l can get fit enough for a game at Bramley-Moore Dock in a few years. You never know, l could get spotted... l'm pretty sure l can run just as fast as James. 😉

Michael Kenrick
10 Posted 05/04/2021 at 12:35:36
That does make sense, Tony.

Playing at the club's prime stadium was, up until this season, a requirement for the home team – every home team – in the FA Youth Cup.

I'm hoping that it's only the present circumstances that have relaxed this rule, and that it will be reinstated once we get back to normal – which will be a big step closer with the Covid passports. An absolutely essential step in bringing the crowds back.

Thomas Richards
11 Posted 05/04/2021 at 12:42:57
Closest I got to being on the hallowed turf was when we buried one of my family member's ashes at Goodison. Even that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing.

I was never good enough to get on the pitch to play, it must be every Blues dream to do that.

Tony Abrahams
12 Posted 05/04/2021 at 14:34:24
Brilliant this, something I would never have even talked about when I was younger John, and now Michael K, has just said I’ve actually made sense!

Dave P, I think the pitch was spongy, because Everton don’t water it once the season has ended for some reason. They have a few games to maybe give people a chance to play on the hallowed turf, but they don’t water it and make it dry right out, possibly something to do with the pitch having a bit of synthetic knitted in with the turf, maybe?

Bill Gall
13 Posted 05/04/2021 at 15:29:15
Well, I had the honor of playing on Goodison Park and we even changed in the home team's dressing room. After usually used to washing off the mud in Walton Hall Park, we marveled over the showers and other facilities to change in. This was in 1953 as a schoolboy for Abbotsford Road and unfortunately Z-Cars was not played then, but the experience was how I became an Everton Supporter.

I have since then, on a couple of occasions, through friends, had personnel tours with stand tickets and passes to the Players Lounge after the game. The last time was October 1988 and I had a conversation with Tony Cottee who scored that day. Managed to get back often and the last time was 2014.

David Pearl
14 Posted 05/04/2021 at 23:06:25
Tony, l can't remember if the pitch was watered or not but l do remember a grumpy groundman muttering to himself. I can't even remember Z-Cars... but it must of been played as l touched the badge running out. As you do.
Ralph Basnett
15 Posted 07/04/2021 at 09:42:42
It would be no good asking the majority of the current crop as they never show!!!!!
Tony Abrahams
16 Posted 07/04/2021 at 19:38:29
The badge always stopped me in my tracks David, even when I was playing against Everton. It used to transfix me because it was something I’d dreamed about for most of my life, just imagine coming out to a roar!
Stan Schofield
17 Posted 09/04/2021 at 16:21:28
John, I too ended up on the pitch that night we beat West Brom. My dad and I were in Goodison Rd, half-way between the tunnel and the Park End, near the front. When the game ended, it was announced that the trophy would be presented on the Goodison Road stand, at which point the crowd pushed forward from the terrace positions beneath that stand, and my dad pushed me over the wall to escape the crush, then followed me onto the pitch as the team, on the stand, held the trophy aloft. It was just great, the only time I’ve been on that holy turf.

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