'There He is Behind Me. Ah, No... Shit!'

From headlocks from Big Dunc, to being booted by Tommy Gravesen and lapping Alex Nyarko, Alan Moogan enjoyed a proper Everton education in the early 2000s. An interview with the former Academy player.

Ell Bretland 01/07/2021 56comments  |  Jump to last

It was too late. The words had left Alan Moogan’s mouth and the Everton academy graduate realised he was in trouble. Deep trouble.

“I shouted, ‘Will you fucking pass the ball properly?’ and, you'll know this, the look he gave me…”

Moogan, still a teenager, had provoked the ire of Duncan Ferguson and instantly regretted it. Training with David Moyes’s Everton in the early 2000s after coming through the ranks with Wayne Rooney, he found out quickly not to get on the wrong side of Big Dunc.

“I'm bombing around and with Moyes, the training was ultra competitive,” he recalls. “You’d have winners and forfeits for the losers. Dunc passed the ball but bobbled it into me. So instead of playing it first time, I've had to take another touch but then someone's robbed it off me. I've turned to Dunc and he's just looked straight back at me.”

Article continues below video content

The glare was a warning but Moogan, full of youthful exuberance and naivety, couldn’t help himself from questioning his towering team-mate. It was at that moment, he realised he had made a mistake.

“I've said this in front of everyone,” he remembers. “Dunc didn't say a word but stared at me. The game carried on but all I'm thinking is, ‘He's not going to have that!’ Moyes sent us in and, as I'm walking off, you know when you feel someone jogging behind you? There he is behind me… ah no, shit!”

Duncan grabbed Moogan in a headlock, ruffled his hair everywhere and mockingly teased, “Will you fucking pass the ball properly, you cunt?"

Luckily, Moogan quickly realised the retaliation was in jest but now knew his place.

“I looked at him and burst out laughing,” Moogan says, aware he was off the hook. “He must have seen I was shitting myself. He was great with stuff like that. If it was a senior pro, he wouldn't have taken it. He's probably thought, ‘Who's this little snotty-nosed kid?’ The fact he used to pick me up and drop me off probably helped!”

When Moogan made the jump to the first-team, he was living with his Mum and Dad in West Derby village.

“Big Dunc would drive past ours, everyday, in his big Range Rover,” he says. “He's seen me and started beeping. It then got to the point where he'd wave to my Dad and then he'd stop and ask, ‘Are you training with us in the morning? I'll pick you up at 9.’

“Growing up, I saw him score against Liverpool and Man Utd and he was my hero. He was a hard fella on the pitch, passionate and I played a little like that. I’d get stuck in but would cross the line now and again and get sent off. Sitting with him in the car, I was a little starstruck.

“Duncan was great with the young lads. He was an unbelievable footballer as well. His left foot... he used to take free-kicks in training, his passing and striking of the ball were brilliant.”

Moogan also remembers Big Dunc joking around in the Bellefield gym.

“He'd lift weights and do the (punch) bag. I'd grown up around the boxing scene so I'd do the bag too, then go on the weights with him. We were quite similar so I ended up having a good relationship with him.

“I remember him on the bag and he'd clock us watching him. I remember one day Unsy (David Unsworth) was in there and Dunc asked him, ‘Who's the hardest man in the Premier League?’

“Unsy's just looked at him (smirking) and said ‘Fuck off, you’,” Moogan laughs, recalling Unsworth’s reaction as he refused to fuel Ferguson’s ego, even if the Scot was only taking the mickey.

“They used to have mirrors right the way along one side of the gym, and Dunc would turn, look at himself and start laughing, ‘There's the hardest man in the Premier League,’ he would say. Everyone would laugh their heads off. He was just taking the piss out of himself.”

Moogan earned a professional contract in 2003 after helping the Blues reach the FA Youth Cup Final the year before, alongside the likes of Steven Schumacher, David Carney and another young lad, two school years below him, by the name of Rooney.

“I was very, very close to Wayne.” Moogan reveals. “He grew up not too far away from me and would come around to the house after training. He was a great lad and you could see his quality. He was head and shoulders above everyone.

“I went down to Bellefield pretty early at 18, Wayne would have been 16, and we were training with the first team together. Just to see him in that environment, it was unbelievable because he didn't change. It was like he was still playing with the lads in the youth team. His attitude, nothing fazed him. It didn't matter who he was up against, he fitted into the group and it was like he'd been there forever.

“I was an 18-year-old, up against the likes of Thomas Gravesen, who had played x amount of times for Everton, x amount of times for Denmark and I'm thinking "Shit!", whereas, with Wayne, you could have put Zinedine Zidane in front of him at 16 and he'd have just looked at him and not been interested, just ready to play the game. He had that carefree nature about him.

“He wasn't very loud, but his demeanour and the way he carried himself, he walked onto the pitch like it was a park in Crocky. You could see his quality and he didn't look out of place, if anything, he was the best player.

“Wayne was an ox, strong as anything. He was that strong he was throwing the likes of Alan Stubbs and Unsy about at 16. He wasn't bothered one bit. He was fiery and aggressive, and did boil over at times, but in training I never saw that, he'd shrug things off.”

Moogan recalls Rooney paying a visit to The Western Approaches in L11 after scoring that goal against Arsenal. This was just a normal, down-to-earth lad who boasted supreme ability and was living the dream.

“Wayne was chilled out and he's quite quiet until he's comfortable around you. He was never, ever big-headed. Everyone liked him.”

Thinking further back, Moogan was in awe of what his fellow Scouser could do with a football.

“I’ll always remember training with him at Littlewoods in Netherton. He would have been coming in from school. One game, I've hit a diagonal ball 50 yards, switching the play to Wayne. I think he's just going to control it but 40 yards out, he's just let it come down and – I’m not messing, I’ve drilled it, so on the move, probably one of the hardest techniques to do – he's whacked it on the volley, at 15 years of age, into the top corner.”

Moogan couldn’t believe it, “What the Fuck?”. Everyone was stunned. “If you scored, you then kept possession from your goal, so everyone looked at each other but then had to quickly go and get another ball. You didn't even have time to say ‘Oh My God!’ because we were just playing again.”

Boasting such audacious skill, Rooney wasn’t really one for passing.

“At the time, I thought he was a bit selfish,” Moogan admits. “He was so good, he'd just stay on the ball.

“I remember another game against Derby County, at Littlewoods again. I've played a ball and ran past him wanting to be played back in but he’s completely ignored me and hit it from the halfway line. I stopped running and thought ‘What are you doing, lad?’ but then I've looked up… ‘Fucking hell, it’s going in!’

“It hit the crossbar and bounced outside the box, that's how hard he hit it! He was 15! The stuff he would even try... it was frightening but wouldn't bother him.”

While Rooney became England’s all-time top goalscorer, Moogan, who is now 37 and working as a coach in regional scouting for Liverpool, would go on to play for Burscough, Southport and Telford, after an ankle avulsion fracture during a Merseyside derby with the reserves on the eve of a loan switch to Notts County scuppered a possible career in the Football League.

Released by Everton in May 2004, he departed Goodison Park without making a first-team appearance despite being in the squad for a full season. He very nearly featured in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury when Niclas Alexandersson was taken ill and even saw his shirt hanging up in the dressing room. However, on the morning of the fixture, the Swede declared he had recovered and netted in the 2-1 humbling.

Moogan was denied his big chance and remembers another team-mate who he is adamant should have made the grade.

“We had a keeper called Andrew Pettinger who was superb. He was very similar to Jordan Pickford now, only bigger. He was left-footed and his kicking, handling and shot-stopping were unbelievable.”

However, Pettinger, who made the bench for an April 2002 fixture at Southampton, left the club 3 months later and would go on to make just 3 league appearances for Grimsby Town before turning out for Ossett Town and Gainsborough Trinity in non-League.

“I just dont think he realised how good he was,” insists Moogan. “I don't think he could handle pressure, which is obviously a big thing. He got released but should have been someone who had a long career. He was a brilliant goalie.”

Someone else who could, and should, have made an impact at Goodison Park was Alex Nyarko. A £4.5 million signing from Monaco, the Ghanian was compared to Patrick Vieira on his arrival in 2000. However, his most memorable moment came when he was apprehended by a disgruntled topless fan on the pitch at Highbury who insinuated Nyarko wasn’t fit to wear the shirt.

Moogan couldn’t believe how good the midfielder was in training but quickly realised why he probably wasn’t excelling on matchday.

“Unbelievable footballer,” he says instantly of Nyarko, full of praise. “The best player. He was 6ft-2in, didn’t get tired, and his technique was absolutely brilliant. However, this sums him up… we were doing this run in pre-season and Andy Holden used to put hurdles around the outside of the pitch. You'd do laps – 4-minute runs with the hurdles. You're really pushing yourself. The next thing though, I'm lapping Alex!”

Moogan was completely bemused. “After we’ve stopped running, I've gone over and said, ‘Alex, come on, have a go!’

“I’m a kid, he’s a pro. He’s just looked at me, started breathing heavily (mimicking Moogan) and said, "Alan, it’s no good for your heart."

Moogan, again, was dumbfounded, “I just started laughing like, ‘Fucking hell!’

“He should have been a top Premier League player. His lower body, he was so strong. He was slim up top, only ate small portions, and when you're talking about nutrition (in football), he was ahead at the time. He knew what to eat, when, how often…. He was really fit. We (the rest of the squad) probably needed to push ourselves to get that fit but, if he had just pushed himself that bit more, he'd have been a top player.”

While Nyarko maybe didn’t set the best example, Moogan insists Everton boasted a team full of top pros keen to pass on their knowledge and offer advice.

“Steve Watson would be the best trainer,” Moogan says. “The work-rate out of him, he would be dripping. He was a brilliant footballer and a really good professional. To be fair, there were loads like that.

“I remember Lee Carsley was really good with the young lads as well, Stubbsy too. On the training ground, he would be really hard on you and it could be perceived that he was having a go at you and being out of order but he trained as he played, so he'd shout if you were out of position or being a little bit lazy and weren’t tracking your runner. He'd let you know and give you it but, at the end of the session, he'd say, ‘When that happened, you should have been here, that's why I had a go at you.’ He was doing it to help you. I really admired him for that.”

Nigel Martyn was another older head who Moogan learned from.

“I played with him a couple of times in the reserves and what a goalkeeper he was. His legs were the size of tree trunks; one of his legs was two of mine. He filled the goal. You'd have a shot and he'd palm it away, but he wouldn't just palm it to the side, he'd palm it off the pitch!

“He was a dead jolly person and would have a laugh and joke. He wasn't quiet, just really well-mannered. He'd give you good information.”

While Martyn, Stubbs and Carsley guided the young players, so too did Thomas Gravesen, though Moogan perhaps didn’t realise it at the time and was battered and bruised in the process.

“Moyes was taking a session the day before a game and let it flow for a little bit. I was playing left-back and played a ball up the line but then I've felt something hit me. I've flown up into the air, probably about 6 feet, and slap, landed on my back.

"Fucking hell, what's happened there?!" a startled Moogan wondered.

“I jumped up dead quick and Tommy is standing over me but with his chest pumped out. I've shouted, "What the Fuck are you doing, Thomas?" because I couldn’t let everyone think I'd shy away from him. I’ve squared up to him but he's put his chest in front of me, not said anything and just stared at me with them eyes.”

The pair had to be separated by Kevin Campbell and others as a furious Moyes roared, "Free-kick, that's bang out of order!"

“I had no idea why he did it, it was just one of those moments, something Thomas would do,” Moogan says. However, the youngster wasn’t done and had revenge on his mind.

“I thought, ‘I can't let that happen…’ so, 5 minutes later – bearing in mind he's one of our better players and Moyes doesn't want him to get injured – he gets the ball and from left-back I sprint into the middle of the pitch… he takes it past me and I've tackled him with my right foot and lifted him 6 feet into the air. I've whacked him, he's gone flying, and straight away, as soon as I've done it, I've shit myself. I just thought 'that's it'!

Gravesen luckily wasn’t hurt but the manager was even more incensed this time.

“Moyes shouted 'Free-kick! That's bang out of order!!!' and given me more shit than he's given Gravesen!” Moogan laughs.

Now fearing repercussions, he watched as the eccentric midfielder got back to his feet.

“Thomas was a strong man, so I thought ‘This is it’ but he didn’t even look at me, he just put his hands on the ball and took the free-kick.”

Moyes may have been angered by Moogan’s actions, but the new kid on the block had restored his honour and showed his team-mates what he was about.

“At the end of the game, Campbell shook my hand and said, ‘Brilliant, Alan. Don't ever, ever let anybody do that to you!’ Joseph Yobo was hugging me and saying "Well done!' I realised, if I hadn’t retaliated, they may have thought differently of me.”

Then Gravesen approached.

“He grabs and hugs me,” Moogan recalls. “He apologised and said, ‘Bad tackle, you got me back, fair enough.’ He then shook my hand and walked away. He was sound.”

While trying to force his way into the team every Saturday, Everton spent £1.25m to sign James McFadden from Motherwell. Only a year older, Moogan wasn’t convinced at first.

“Without being disrespectful, he wasn’t way ahead of us,” he claims. “We’d stay behind with Alan Irvine, working on our technique, and I wondered what they had seen (to pay the money for him).

“Moyes maybe had to justify bringing him in but he ended up doing alright for Everton and had a very good career.”

Despite those early doubts, Moogan and McFadden were good mates.

“He was a cracking person and a great lad. Everyone liked him. We got on really well, and I went to Scotland with him; they loved him up there.

“I remember his 21st birthday party at the Everglades (hotel) and a lot of the team were there... Wayne, Big Dunc, all smoking cigars and having a laugh.”

But for injury, who knows if Moogan could have forced his way into David Moyes’s plans alongside McFadden? Shortly after his 20th birthday, he and Everton parted ways.

“Back then, if you weren't in the first-team by that age, you were looking for another club,” he says. However, that wasn’t the case for everyone. Leon Osman became a regular later than that, following spells at Derby and Carlisle. Moogan wasn’t surprised.

“He was 23 when he got his first proper chance. His feet were phenomenal. Colin Harvey and Andy Holden absolutely loved him.

“Technically he was very good. He wasn't the quickest but had a great attitude, a great way about him, and just got on with his job. He always had a smile on his face at the training ground, he loved it. He was great to play with, he'd encourage you all the time, work with you, talk to you.

“He was one of the few who got a chance later on but that shows what they thought of him, they waited until the time was right.”

Osman was part of Everton’s 1998 FA Youth Cup-winning team. So too was Tony Hibbert, who also enjoyed a long career as one of Moyes’s trusted lieutenants.

“Hibbert had a dead dry sense of humour,” Moogan reveals. “He was quiet but would then say something, one or two lines and that was it, he'd have you laughing. He'd have a funny little laugh and all he'd say was 'alright laa'.

“On the pitch, he wouldn't open his mouth! He'd train and get right off. You wouldn't see him!”

Headlocks from Big Dunc, booted by Tommy Gravesen, and lapping Nyarko. Moogan enjoyed a proper Everton education.

Follow @EllBretland
Share article:

Reader Comments (56)

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

Darren Hind
1 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:05:26
Loved every line of that.

Evertonians? Those who don't understand don't matter.

Brendan McLaughlin
2 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:10:29
Proper cheered me up after the news of the Benitez appointment!
Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:22:36
Spectacular article, Ell, loved it. The guy is a great storyteller.

And, as Brendan says, some of us badly needed a couple of chuckles today.

Barry Hesketh
4 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:27:34
It's little wonder that we could relate to the players far more easily during the early 2000s – even if they weren't always quite up to the mark. II can't imagine many of the current squad relating similar stories about their time at Finch Farm in recent years, but you never know, somebody might write about it sometime in the future.

Thank you, Ell and Alan, for showing us a window into how players seemed to enjoy their time with Everton, even if it didn't quite work out for some of them.

David Pearl
5 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:30:13
Yes, great to read about something else. Enjoyable, thanks for posting.
Roy Johnstone
6 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:36:35
What a brilliant article. Just what I was looking for after a depressing week. Still wish one of the stars of it was gonna lead pre-season. Good luck, Alan.
Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 01/07/2021 at 20:37:03
Sad that the kid got injured because it sounds like he might have had a career in the professional game.

It's only an Everton thing to us though, Darren, because I'd say it's probably the same everywhere.

Young fit lads full of energy, and also getting paid to play football, usually only means one thing, “What the fuck is there anything to grow up for” when they're already living the dream.

Peter Warren
8 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:19:48
Fab read - what a great lad, no malice or jealousy at all – just looking back at fond times.

I really annoyed that!

Jay Harris
9 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:22:02
Love it,

As seen from a young lad's perspective and shows what the youngsters have to go through to make it.

Steve Hogan
10 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:33:31
I've always said with young players whose career was at its infant stage, luck plays a massive part. One serious injury, and that's it, you're done at the top level.

I've seen many very 'ordinary' player's at Everton over the years, who simply seem to be in and around the first team, for what seems like decades, but they always seem to be able to avoid career-threatening injuries.

Great storytelling though.

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:35:20
Wow, what a post. Absolutely magnificent.

Had a monumentally awful day. Thought, go on the site see what the lads are up to. Brace myself for a downer, see this. Well done!

Brendan McLaughlin
12 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:47:38
Isn't it typical that the week Beneathus is appointed. ToffeeWeb post an excellent, feel-good, uplifting article. Okay Michael, Lyndon... who took the forty pesetas?😊
Alan Moogan
13 Posted 01/07/2021 at 22:17:03
Thanks for the article, Ell, I really enjoyed our chat and brought back great memories, could have gone on and on.
Alan J Thompson
14 Posted 02/07/2021 at 06:44:04
I enjoyed reading that and for what reason I don't know it reminded me of a story the actor Bob Hoskins used to tell.

He was making a movie with John Hurt and a big name actress whose name escapes me. John Travolta was also in the movie but had his scenes in the can and gone before Hoskins arrived. He didn't get on with the other two but one afternoon off from shooting they asked Bob if he would like to join them in reading a Chekov play.

Bob's answer was, "What, while Bo Didley is playing at the pub down the road!"

All very down to earth.

Tony Abrahams
15 Posted 02/07/2021 at 08:15:05
Make it a series, Alan, especially because you talk without ego mate, and have got to a stage in your life were you can now look back fondly whilst reminiscing, and it will also be interesting to read for many people on ToffeeWeb.
Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 02/07/2021 at 08:22:20
Fascinating insight Ell. Great article and great read.

For me, it draws out a number of things that we sometimes overlook in our binary view of life as supporters.

Some just have it and you can see it straight away. Rooney.

Others need to work at it and eventually their talent will get them there, but they need longer to develop. Osman. Dare I say Davies is cut from similar cloth?

Some have the ability and the talent but misfortune (injury) or opinion (manager of the day judgement) prevents them from realising the potential.

Others have the ability and the talent, but don't have the desire. Nyarko. I know he's a controversial name in Everton circles, but I could always see a player in him and this ex-Everton player who trained and played with him supports that thought. Wasted talent through a lack of desire.

I've often thought that aside from the really talented obvious Rooney's of this world, there is little to separate a lot of footballers in the pyramid. It's often about timing, getting the opportunity and that most unreliable virtue; luck. It's like trials, some only get one shot. A bit like Britain's Got Talent, if you have an off day on your big moment, that could be it. I don't watch Britain's Got Talent by the way. The wife does.

Really enjoyable read and account. Thank you again for posting that Ell and thank you Alan for your recollections and insight.

Dave Williams
17 Posted 02/07/2021 at 10:14:33
More please, Alan and Ell. A great read and brings us all back to reality.

Hope your career is going well.

Brian Murray
18 Posted 02/07/2021 at 10:47:09
Alan, is your dad or related to Alan who now lives in Santa Monica? His bro Brian was a good player, also a blue.
Christine Foster
19 Posted 02/07/2021 at 11:14:48
Great read. If ever people wonder why people say, "Once Everton has touched you" all they need to do is read the article. Nice to read bits on various players, human ones, not the icons!

Made me think about a player mentioned above who never gets a mention anymore, Tony Hibbert. I heard he didn't want anything to do with the club as he was released with Leon Osman by text message I think. Given his service, it was a poor way to handle it by the club.

Dan Johnson
20 Posted 02/07/2021 at 11:29:02
A brilliant article, how near yet so far from making it. For those who may not have read it, there is a book out about a young lad at Everton whose dream it is to be a pro footballer, it's called Making The Grade, by Stan Osbourne, it's a true story, a must-read.
Michael Kenrick
21 Posted 02/07/2021 at 11:57:04
That is a great read, Ell, and captures what we imagine about yer typical banter on the training ground.

According to some old notes I have on file, Brian Moogan was Alan's cousin and in the Academy around the same. Surprising he's not mentioned but he was released the year before Alan (2004), as he made it into the first-team squad. Santa Monica is a lovely place to live!

Steve @10 makes a good point about injuries. Just going through all the profiles of the current players we have in the (much-maligned) Academy, you'd be astounded at how many of them have been forced to take many months, some case years out with serious injuries. I've mentioned before that this may be viewed as a right of passage, or just dumb luck – a risk for every young player that is out there, just waiting to happen?

I wonder if there is another view? In industry now, safety is paramount. Thinking all the time about the risk of injury or death at every turn, every minute of every day… and actively changing your behaviours to avoid it. I nearly added "at all costs" – but that must be the point with footballers. If you don't go in sometimes too hard and take the extra risk, you're likely to get marked down for not putting in enough effort.

Talk about fine margins...

Bill Hawker
22 Posted 02/07/2021 at 15:55:32
What a fun read !!! I love hearing stories about the behind the scenes going's on. Well written !!! Thank you for taking the time to do this.
Jay Wood

23 Posted 02/07/2021 at 15:55:40
Ell... Alan, this is cracking stuff! Pure gold!

And Alan, if as you say you could've gone on and on, you and Ell need to get together more regularly and share your memories with us here on TW.

In this offering alone you torpedo a few myths about a lot of things many presume about individuals and how Bellefield and now Finch Farm operates.

Len Hawkins
24 Posted 02/07/2021 at 16:27:35
Mores the pity Dunc hasn't got Rodriguez in a headlock and told him a few home truths. He might be a top player at some teams but his work rate here might just have drawn one of those Gravesen launches.
Barry Rathbone
25 Posted 02/07/2021 at 17:22:16
What strikes me is the neanderthal hierarchy more or less built on intimidation and physical presence that seemingly carries on unfettered by management.

I knew a footy coach who spent some time coaching in Holland and he said the reason this country simply cannot produce technical players like Iniesta, Xavi, Modric, Zola, Bergkamp etc is in good part due to macho blockheadedness infesting UK clubs.

Sounds like he was spot on.

Danny O’Neill
26 Posted 02/07/2021 at 17:55:37
Barry, don't trigger me into one of my English football grass roots rants!!
Rob Dolby
27 Posted 02/07/2021 at 17:55:59
Great article Ell and Alan. A really enjoyable read, A breath of fresh air compared to the managerial saga we have had to put up with.

The old cliché of kicking tin cans around alleys in old footballers autobiography's can be a bit tiresome for me.

I loved the insight and story telling in this article. There are fine margins with players careers and Alan hit the nail on the head with the goalie. For all the natural ability has to be backed up with a mental resiliency and a massive slice of luck or nepotism.

Alan could be our not so secret football correspondent. You must have lots of footy stories not just of Everton players from that era.

Barry25. I agree with you to a point about the physical and mental approach that has traditionally held our domestic and international team back. Under pressure we revert to old habits though I do think this is changing with the professionalism that the foreign managers and players have brought to the premiership.

Gerry Morrison
28 Posted 02/07/2021 at 18:21:06
Great read. Thanks for that.
James Flynn
29 Posted 02/07/2021 at 18:48:23
The Rooney anecdotes.


Barry Rathbone
30 Posted 02/07/2021 at 19:12:35
Dan 26

Used to be ball playing footballers everywhere when I was a kid "will o the wisp" lads who could sidestep you in a phone box. They've all gone phased out by clubs looking for strength and athleticism.

Judging by the lack of heirs to Ronaldo and Messi it now seems a world problem.

Btw I blame Liverpool they supplanted individual brilliance with hard working grafters like Keegan, Hall and umpteen other non-descripts joined to dirty bastards like Case, Souness, Smith, Neal etc and won everything.

Everyone tried to copy and the die was cast

Paul A Smith
31 Posted 02/07/2021 at 21:59:21
Knew Alan as a kid. Went to our juniors. Cracking lad with great football talent.

Hope he is doing well now.

Danny O’Neill
32 Posted 03/07/2021 at 07:28:18
Barry, Rob,

It's frustrating. I experienced it first hand coaching for 6 years at youth level in west London. The problem starts way down the football chain. I was part of the youth setup of a reasonably decent semi-professional club too; the senior team hit the Conference but mainly floated in the Conference South at the time.

"Coaches" (that's another problem), opting for big fast and powerful lads over skill and ability to win an under 14s game. Leading to another issue; too much focus on results at youth level, not development. Those who were big and powerful at 14 may not be so at 18, when results start to matter and others who have developed later catch them up. But they are actually average footballers. Those who were small but talented have long given up football. We miss out on so much talent because of our approach. And then don't start me on our facilities in comparison to those in Holland or Germany. Another discussion, but linked.

My son noticed yesterday that a lad who used to play in the same league as us (rival team) signed for Middlesborough for £1M. He wasn't that great a footballer but stood out because he was big, fast and powerful for his age. I noted that Middlesborough's manager is Neil Warnock, so it makes sense. Hey, take nothing away from the lad, he has obviously shown a great deal of commitment, desire and hard work to get there. Best of luck to him and great to see someone forge a career in the professional game. Liam Feeney was another who came through our club.

Anyway, I'm a scratched record on this so I will stop!

Back on thread, although this is kind of linked. Please consider a Part 2, Ell and Alan. Great stuff.

Tony Abrahams
33 Posted 03/07/2021 at 08:27:08
I think the paragraph that starts with “coaches” is very informative, Danny.

I remember playing for Liverpool Schoolboys Under-13s, in a year in which we only played friendlies, but what a team we had. Mostly small kids, but we couldn't half play though. I think we lost one match in about 35 games.

Then a new manager had trials for the Under-14s, got rid of most of the talented little footballers, replaced them with runners possessing less than a quarter of their ability. Although I will be forever grateful to our metalwork teacher, Mr Neville, for introducing me to very hard physical work, I can honestly say I can't remember learning anything else during the next two years.

My biggest problem with academy football is exactly what you're saying in a roundabout way. The clubs are fighting for the best players, and discarding everyone else. I personally think it suits these methodical coaches, who don't spend enough time developing kids on a one-to-one basis.

It's sink or swim, even though the slow ones now could be later to win, but not until the times they are “really a-changing!”

Dave Williams
34 Posted 03/07/2021 at 09:53:55
Tony- can’t you do a similar article on your experiences?
Mike Corcoran
35 Posted 03/07/2021 at 10:13:52
This story now in the Daily Star with a less than flattering headline

Duncan Ferguson called Everton youngster a "cunt" but then did something no one expected

Liam Reilly
36 Posted 03/07/2021 at 10:36:10
Cracking read. Sounds like he was unlucky but has a great perspective on life.
Tony Abrahams
37 Posted 03/07/2021 at 11:22:39
Mine would be boring Dave, although what Alan said about McFadden, I thought the very same thing about Nigel Jemson, when Forest bought him from Preston, and he used to really struggle in our two-touch five-a-sides.

He had a decent career though, Jemson, I remember he scored the winner in a Wembley cup final, and makes me think, did he get more opportunities because the club paid good money for him, or did they just have better scouts!?

Danny O’Neill
38 Posted 03/07/2021 at 11:26:11
I think you're right Tony about competing for the best players, but not giving enough time to developing individuals. Especially if you consider, just like with education and physicality, we all develop at different stages of life. Physically, I didn't have my spurt to end up 6 foot tall and weigh in at 13 stone until I was turned 17. I had ability, but I was a small lightweight younger teenager and when I went for my trial at Bellefield, I thought I was playing in a mans team.

Just as a slow player can be coached and taught to compensate for lack of pace, the smallest of players can be taught how to use their body strength. Maradona, Messi, Paul Scholes (shocking in the tackle!!) and even our own Peter Reid wasn't the tallest. But they all had strength.

Tony Abrahams
39 Posted 03/07/2021 at 11:41:08
I learned more about football from watching Peter Reid than I did watching any other player, or listening to any coach Danny. He was so slow, and yet also so quick, especially the way he always protected the football.

I used to love the way he used to step across players when running forward with the ball, making them slow right down, or bounce back off him because he was as you said, so strong.

It was always an absolute pleasure watching Reid play, and although I still don’t think he would have caught Maradona, he never played for Everton till around Christmas after that game, because I’m sure he was playing with a broken bone, the day he was exposed by the brilliance of the great Diego Maradona.

Kevin Molloy
40 Posted 03/07/2021 at 12:47:34
Absolutely, that sudden shift in pace was startling. From being a little tug boat, that all changed when he came within 5 foot of the ball. The speed was from nowhere, I can only think he was actually quite fast but for injuries whatever he chose to slow it down. Probably a bit of gamesmanship to the other team, as well 'this old fella won't be catching me for the next 90 minutes' and he was only 28!
Danny O’Neill
41 Posted 03/07/2021 at 12:54:21
Being able to use body shape and strength to protect the ball, Kevin. The smallest of players can protect the ball from the biggest by doing that because the opposing player isn't expecting it. Also, what you say, it's not always about winning an out and out sprint. Sometimes, it's a sudden change of pace that buys you that all too important yard of space.

Others use speed of thought and brain. Their decision is made before they receive the ball; they know what they're going to do and the ball is gone by the time the opposition player gets to close down. Chasing shadows as they say; by the time you get there, the ball is gone because the player made a quick, early decision with his brain.

Darren Hind
42 Posted 03/07/2021 at 13:08:47

If you loved Peter Reid. You'd have adored Colin Harvey. He used naturally to do the right thing, usually before most of us realised what the right thing was.

Every bit as aggressive and competitive as Reidy. Blindingly talented and I don't believe I've seen a player who played with a greater pride in the Everton shirt.

I loved these two players and often wonder how they would have got on against each other. Harvey was slightly the more gifted, but I would put Reidy ahead when it came to the dark arts – not by far though

When we are all dead and gone and playing our footy in heaven, I'll be badgering the fuck out of St Peter to ensure I play in the same midfield as these two.

Paul Birmingham
43 Posted 03/07/2021 at 13:20:43
Superb Ell, those were the days.
Danny O’Neill
44 Posted 03/07/2021 at 13:21:35
You're talking to my Dad's tune there, Darren.

If Alan Ball was his Everton wife, Colin Harvey was definitely his secret Everton mistress.

I like to think he's in the great blue Cathedral in the sky now trying to get a game with them!

Kevin Molloy
45 Posted 03/07/2021 at 13:25:05

Yes, as I've got older, it's the players who use their brain the most which fascinate me. I could watch Gareth Barry all day, although he would have bored me rigid when I was a kid. It's that knowing where to stand, when to move, timing, just wonderful to watch.

Tony Abrahams
46 Posted 03/07/2021 at 15:31:30
I actually played in a training game against Colin Harvey, Darren, on the indoor pitch at Bellefield, not long before he got the sack from Everton. I remember easing off when we were both going for the ball, and he carried on more aggressively, which I read as, "Don't be taking it easy on me kid, I might be the manager but I can still play, now show me if you can do the same." (Brilliant)

I look back at my football regards coaching, and think kids from different parts of the country are better at different things. Geordies liked to dribble, Yorkies could usually run, players from down South were usually a bit more fancy, whilst Scousers were more naturally aggressive. But that is just my own general observations for a country that are usually underachievers at a National level, and possibly because of how we go about coaching the kids throughout their development years.

Dave Williams
47 Posted 03/07/2021 at 16:03:48
Tony- wasn’t it Jemson who Clough said had a bigger head than himself?
What was Clough like, or did you not get close enough to experience him in full flow?
Darren- great post but Harvey a clear winner for me.
Danny O’Neill
48 Posted 03/07/2021 at 16:10:47
I'd echo that Tony. Geordies definitely have a good track record of producing technical ability in my experience, both at the top level and the level I've played at. Whereas those from Liverpool and I would say the northwest (including Manchester in that equation) are best at combining technical with aggression. Rooney being a perfect example.

London, yes, due to many influences, they like their fancy Dans as we would call them. Lads who like a trick too many, much to my frustration as a coach on many occasion, when the simple pass I'd drilled into them was on!! But also you get the complete opposite here more often and what I mentioned earlier, big, powerful and fast players eventually taking their place.

Massively stereotyping but that's just been my experience.

I hope you never washed the shirt Colin Harvey possibly pulled or pushed. His opening scene in Howard's Way never fails to bring a lump to the throat.

Tony Abrahams
49 Posted 03/07/2021 at 16:29:35
One of the best days of my life, was thanks to Clough, Dave, although this thread should be about Alan’s time at Goodison, I think mate, although in typical ToffeeWeb style it’s already moving all over the place, so maybe they need to move on to part two, already!
Dave Williams
50 Posted 03/07/2021 at 17:47:55
Time for you to pen the article, Tony – your public awaits!!
Brian Murray
51 Posted 03/07/2021 at 18:23:41
I remember going to West Ham early season 85. Went by Special. Eddie Cavanagh was a steward on it. To this day, I knew we were on to something big, one-nil up (Inchy) and right by the away section, Reidy just put his foot on the ball as if to say "This game is ours."

I loved his self-belief, the closest I've seen to Alan Ball in ability. Won the game and the thousand or so Blues, despite the efforts of the cockneys trying to ram the tube wooden door, we got home in one piece.

Shame we never do dynasties. All too quickly wiped out.

Darren Hind
52 Posted 03/07/2021 at 19:43:16
HaHaHaHa. Did he really go in aggressively, Tony?... Love him even more now. Good story.

Danny. I was going to ask about your dad's old hunting grounds... Then I remembered how many O'Neils and O'Neill's are in this City. I would have been looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Andy Crooks
53 Posted 03/07/2021 at 22:52:02
Tony, write an article. I know you are reserved about this sort of stuff but you have a stories worth telling.
Danny O’Neill
54 Posted 03/07/2021 at 23:52:17
You're right on the O'Neill thing Darren. It's like the English equivalent of Smith! Especially in Liverpool!

I don't know where my Dad hung out as a young adult. Without going deep, I've eluded we didn't have the best of relationships outside of Everton and the Army! Hey we got on okay, especially on football and most importantly with Everton.

He was from Garston and grew up in the Tenements and the family were well know there. Most moved to Speke and when we eventually ended up back there, he tended to stay local. His main drinking hole was the Peg (Pegasus), now long gone and the Fox on the Western Avenue end of Speke. He would occasionally drift back to Garston and some of the pubs in the under the bridge area.

My mother's side (McAlister) were much more unassuming. My Grandfather came from Belfast and settled in Speke and married a Glaswegian. That's why I always describe myself as a Liverpool Irish Celtic mongrel!!

When he left the Army, he worked in a factory in Huyton and started up a football team. I used to play for them as a 17 / 18 year old. I won't lie, the standard was awful and they just wanted to kick the shit out of me. But personally it was great physical education in honesty! And I got great satisfaction in running rings around some of those wanting to crack my shin pads!! We always used to socialise in Mossley Hill then. It wasn't the Rose, there was a bar right next to the station, but it's not a bar any more and I can't remember the name.

My Dad was a bit like me, left Liverpool early to join the Army but never left Liverpool if that makes sense. Went back but then left again. But never left; never in spirit. I never will; it's my home city and always will be.

Tony Abrahams
55 Posted 04/07/2021 at 15:45:08
It’s good reading this type of thing Andy, but I bet yer that Alan is gutted that this story has unfortunately ended up in a National newspaper though mate.
Bobby Mallon
56 Posted 07/07/2021 at 07:31:27
That, my friends, is the best article I've read on TW. I was engrossed. Loved every line of it.


Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

» Log in now

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.

About these ads

© ToffeeWeb