An afternoon of raw emotion and a club re-born

Dave Williams 06/02/2022 19comments  |  Jump to last
Up at 5:50 am, out with the dogs to quickly “pump ship” then spent 10 minutes scraping thick ice off the car before my 45 minutes up the M5 to join up with the West Country Blues coach. We had the best part of 50 on board and what a smooth journey it was, reaching the Grand Old Lady well before 1 pm.

I needed some food but, first of all, made my way to “The Dark House” to meet up with George McKane for a beer. What a charismatic man George is and I made a mental note to allow more time next time that I arrange to see him – thanks, George, and you keep going with those marvellous pre-match posts!

The queues for food outside Goodison Park were huge and it struck me that, for such a sizeable ground, there really isn’t much available in the way of food. I gave up and grabbed a steak pie inside the ground which was surprisingly good and it did the job.

The players came out to warm up and it was immediately apparent that this was a much more serious warm-up than usual, with a focus on pressing and passing at speed. It looked like Frank's entire coaching team was out there supervising and this was very different to the normal warm-up which always reminded me of what a bunch of lads would do in a local league match – token and not bristling with serious intent.

The team selected did not fill me with confidence: too many full-backs and centre-halves and I was disappointed to see no sign of Dobbin or Onyango on the bench. Perhaps Frank wanted to give his senior players a chance to show that they did really want to play for the club – whatever the reasons, he was right!

The team received a rousing welcome from the crowd but then… enter Frank!

I am nearly 67, and have been going to Goodison since I was 7; I have witnessed the idol status afforded to Young and Ball… but never have I heard such an ovation as the one given to Frank. You could literally smell the desperation in the crowd, taste the hope. The only occasion which came near for me was when the team came out for the Coventry game in 1998.

I have to confess to having to fight back a tear or two at the ovation we all gave Frank and the pressure he must have felt to give us all a win must have been huge from that moment. He looked absolutely thrilled with it and what a change to the somewhat indifferent reception given to his predecessor.

This was Goodison Park at its best – no-one has any great affinity with Frank apart from maybe thinking he was a great player – but the raw emotion, hope, faith which poured out for what was, let’s face it, otherwise a low-key 4th round cup-tie against a very ordinary Brentford, was quite remarkable – and it will stay with me forever. For those of you who were not there, don’t be fooled by the TV – this was very, very special.

Moving on (as I am feeling emotional again!!) – players who were awful for Benitez, players who didn’t really look bothered under Benitez – or indeed under Ancelotti, gave everything they had on that pitch.

Yes, there were still a couple of defensive lapses, especially after we scored our second and we switched off until we gave them the penalty, but there was a return to form from Holgate who had an excellent match and looked much better from the moment Mina came on. What a difference Yerry makes in both boxes – very underrated.

Mykolenko was getting more involved, Allan was superb, as were Gray and Gordon, but the big surprise was the possible rebirth of Gomes. He was sharp, he tackled, his close control and tight turns away from opponents, he was back to his best and he also put in a rasping drive which was just too close to the keeper.

Maybe the sight of our two new midfielders inspired him. Donny was resplendent in suit and a very trendy full-length trenchcoat whilst Dele opted for the street look of beanie, hoodie, ripped jeans and trainers – if Frank really is going to fine players for how they dress, then Dele will be out of pocket this morning!!

Even the much-maligned Iwobi looked very sharp in his late cameo and the top professional that is Townsend found time for another goal, very cleverly shaping to curl with his left foot before whipping it sharply to the near post – a really clever goal.

My ratings

Pickford: distribution suspect and almost a flap with Keane; 6
Coleman: a steady game; 6
Mykolenko: improving; 6
Keane: scares the crap out of me; 5
Mina: rock steady and fine goal; 7
Holgate: best game in 2 years; 8
Allan: best game for the club? 9
Gomes: industrious, got stuck in and very skilful; 8
Gordon: what a player we have here; 8½
Gray: gets stuck in, bags of skill, pace to burn; 8
Richarlison: worked like a dog and deserved his goal; 7
Subs: all were decent with an excellent goal from Andros Townsend.

So where do the new boys get in and where does Calvert-Lewin get in when he is fit, not to mention Doucoure? These will be nice problems for Frank to have. I can’t see Dele playing on Tuesday though Donny may start.

I have always thought that Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin do not combine as a duo and it will be interesting to see what Frank thinks. With Gray so good and Gordon surely undroppable (what a marvellous young player he is developing into), Frank will have a big decision to make because, if he only plays one of the,m then the other may look to move on? These are of course problems which the more successful clubs have and so we should welcome the prospect but we need to get out of trouble first.

This performance has shown what the players can do but we have had such false dawns before. Frank and his team of assistants need to get stuck into them quickly and either ensure that this is merely the foundations on which to build, or identify the players who won’t sustain it and ship them out of the picture.

A clear run home getting in the house at 10:45 pm in good time to watch the highlights on MotD – Leon Osman is looking very assured on TV now!

My thanks to Ron, Mike and all the West Country Blues team for another safe day and a pretty happy coach home!

Now for Newcastle!!

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Reader Comments (19)

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Brian Murray
1 Posted 06/02/2022 at 13:42:09
One of my older brothers, John ("Everton’s First Boy Mascot") lives in Burnham-on-Sea now, to be close to his grandkids, but we all chip in to get him up for a game once every 6 weeks or so.

As you can imagine, a scouser there sticks out like a sore thumb but they all seem to love him. I'd like to start getting him on the West Country Blues coach, so would appreciate any details soon as. Coyb

Tony Hill
2 Posted 06/02/2022 at 13:50:44
Great piece thanks, Dave. I agree, it was one of the best Goodison experiences.

I know the West Country Blues are a particularly well run and stalwart group; I'm delighted you all had a day to enjoy after so many deeply disappointing home matches.

Barry Rathbone
3 Posted 06/02/2022 at 14:09:47
Lovely piece, Dave, I haven't been to Goodison Park for donkeys' years but you captured the essence of its magic when roused. Let's hope it continues!
Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 06/02/2022 at 14:12:30
Total respect, David, to the Southwest Blues.

I've been on 3 ends of the spectrum. Well 4 actually. In fact many sides of the following Everton spectrum.

Spending time in Germany as a kid. Great football education but having to be drip-fed Everton information as it was the mid-70s.

A season ticket holder in the 80s; blessed to see us win 2 titles, an FA Cup and European Trophy. The train from Hunts Cross to Kirkdale.

Time away in parts of the world where I relied on a dodgy wireless connection or a radio communication because the guys knew I wanted to know the result. I've converted many non-scousers into being closet Evertonians over the years!

To where I am now and being fortunate enough (blessed) to go and watch Everton more than I was able to previous.

But, being London based, I totally appreciate and understand the time effort and money it takes to follow Everton from afar. It's not about the money but it deserves kudos and respect.

Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 06/02/2022 at 14:16:39
Very glad you had a great day, a full one by the sound of it, along with all who travelled on your coach, I’ve said to before what great supporters all the fans who travel home and away to see the Blues, but for fans like yourself every game involves miles and miles of travel.

The introduction of Frank Lampard from the tunnel to the field was very impressive, it followed the Brentford fans, literally right next to me in The Upper Bullens, giving their team and manager a great welcome onto the field, that applause seemed like a whisper to the roars that welcomed Everton’s team onto the field, then raised up a few notches more when Lampard took to the field, a memory to remember.

I don’t think we dared lose that game after such an introduction and welcome for the new manager, but as Frank said later, that game has gone it’s the next game that matters and the one after that etc etc, keep the momentum going, gather ye roses while ye may, substitute points for roses.

Tom Harvey
6 Posted 06/02/2022 at 14:19:48
Hello Dave,

Good upbeat article, we all enjoyed the 'have a go' attitude of the players, about time they showed some fight.

However "a club re-born"? Let's wait and see, the Premier League is a completely different animal to the FA Cup. Newcastle will be well and truly up for it, that will be a good test of our nerve and fight.

Alan Slinger
7 Posted 06/02/2022 at 14:43:21
Totally 💯% agree with you, Dave. Wot an atmosphere!

It brought back memories of the great night back in 1985. Wot a night that was and don't forget there was an extra 14 to 15,000 screaming Blues that night.

I travel 60-odd miles to see the Blues – nowhere near as much as you, Dave. From one old timer to another... 👍👍

Mike Gaynes
8 Posted 06/02/2022 at 15:26:54
Great account, Dave. You came a long way in a great cause. Glad it was such a joyous afternoon for you.
Neil Tyrrell
9 Posted 06/02/2022 at 16:06:16
Love these individual match reports that encompass the whole day – the travel and the pubs as well as the match, thanks for writing it up.

Great to read about the welcome Frank received, sounds like it was quite a moment. Glad you had what sounds like a perfect day.

Gordon White
10 Posted 06/02/2022 at 16:08:37
Couldn't agree more.
Absolutely buzzing.
Dave Williams
11 Posted 06/02/2022 at 16:27:38
I forgot to mention the beer- £5.15 for a pint in my local down here and a mere £2.70 in The Dark House! Slightly different scenery in leafy Devon but even so...!!
Will Mabon
12 Posted 06/02/2022 at 16:32:52
Nice account, Dave.

Always funny hearing from the further-flung blues, where the trip to a home game reminds me of a trip to an away!

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 06/02/2022 at 17:09:00
A brilliant read, Dave, I'm glad you enjoyed the whole day, because the time and effort that your gang put into watching Everton, definitely means that you deserve some great days, mate.
Jon Harding
14 Posted 06/02/2022 at 18:12:40
Long day, Dave, but worth it. Great report too.
I drove up from Bristol on Friday via Birmingham to pick up my lad. We're too tall for long coach journeys.

The best thing for me yesterday was the crowd atmosphere. Hardly anyone around us in the Lower Gwladys left early, not even at 4-1. And the vast majority remained after the final whistle to clap the players off and acknowledge "Super Frank".

As we finally left, we met all the lads coming down the stairs from the upper tier, singing their hearts out like the game was still on.

Very uplifting when you're 4 to 5 hours from home.

Bill Watson
15 Posted 08/02/2022 at 03:42:28
Great report, Dave.

I've been an almost ever-present since 1958 but missed the introduction of Lampard due to unexpected congestion getting into the Upper Gwladys.

For most games, it takes about 5 minutes to get in but occasionally can take a lot longer. On Saturday it took 15 minutes and I sat down at 3:06 pm.

There's only three sets of gates but I don't suppose they'll ever sort it now because of the impending move to the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 08/02/2022 at 10:17:31
Bill, unlike in my younger days when I used to queue waiting for the turnstiles to open and be in the ground to get my preferred speck on the Gwladys Street about and hour and a half before kick-off, these days I regularly miss Z-Cars and the kick-off.

My own fault. I can't resist my trip to the Goodison Supper Bar!

Brian Murray
17 Posted 08/02/2022 at 11:32:32

As our skinhead song goes, "Those Were The Days, My Friend.
Earliest I can remember starting and allowed to go on my own is 47p to get in the Gwladys Street end, very early '70s.

Really hope the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock has a spiritual home end – a new Gwladys Street terrace for the next generation. Do you remember the Barker and Dobson sweet sellers around the touchline. After a very strong letter from my dad to the club, they had to stop wearing bright red jackets.

Total nutter, my dad and even wrenched the front door off its hinges because the council in its wisdom painted ours red. We had no front door for 3 days believe or not. Those where the days indeed. Not. 🤔💙

Seb Niemand
18 Posted 09/02/2022 at 23:20:17
Well, that headline didn't age well.
Dave Williams
19 Posted 12/02/2022 at 11:00:32
Seb- embarrassing really wasn’t it!!
The article was written the morning after the match when I was high from seeing a good performance and four goals. I won’t write any more!!!

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