“I Felt Like I Belonged There” – Nancy Young

Taken from ‘Real Footballers’ Wives – the First Ladies of Everton’ 
by Becky Tallentire in 2004, Nancy Young, the wife of Everton legend Alex, recounts her story.

To mark the sad passing of Nancy on 28 October, 2023, we're republishing her story from her days as wife of one of Everton's greatest footballers. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Alex and Nancy's family.

Alec and Nancy Young, Ayr, 1957

When the pit horn went at 3.50pm, you could hear it all over the village and the women would get the dinner on the table knowing their men would be home in 10 minutes. Back then they didn’t have showers at the pithead, so the miners would come home dirty and wash in a tin bath in front of the fire. They reminded me of black beetles swarming up the streets.

My dad was a mechanic at the Lady Victoria colliery and used to maintain the vehicles that delivered the coal, he occasionally worked underground but spent most of his life under a lorry covered in oil. He wore a beret and overalls all the time and when he was issued with a new pair of overalls he used to make us laugh by parading up and down like a catwalk model. I was the second of six children; five girls and one boy called George.  Mum stayed at home and looked after us but before that she was in service and worked as a kitchen maid in a big posh house.

The pit closed in 1981 but the houses are still standing proudly on 1st, 2nd 3rd and right up to 10th Street. We lived on 9th Street and Newtongrange primary school was right over the road. At playtime I used to run home to have a wee go on the piano. I could only play Chopsticks, in fact, nobody in our family could play anything and I don’t know why we had a piano, but I used to love it and I dreamed of having lessons, but there was never any spare money for such luxuries. Life was like that for pretty much everyone in Newtongrange.

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Although I passed my exams to go to High School, my dad thought it would be pointless. He said I wouldn’t stay in and study because I would want to go out to play all the time. Newbattle junior secondary school was all right, but instead of learning languages or science you got domestic science, dressmaking and lessons on how to iron. I didn’t really excel in anything but I was quite good at sports because I was double-jointed.

You had your pick of jobs then, so I left school at 15 and went and worked in a grocer’s shop for a few months and then Isa, my older sister, got me a job in her office at an insurance company. I didn’t like writing in the ledgers or anything like that but the machines they used for invoices before the days of computers, fascinated me. They were called punch keys and they punched data into a card that the tabulators would read. I used to sneak away to look at them at lunchtime, when everybody was out, and one day one of the bosses asked what I was doing. I told him I liked the machines so they moved me to the Hollerith department and that was where I stayed for the next four years.

There wasn’t much to do for teenagers in Newtongrange, so every Wednesday and Saturday night my best friend Helen and I would go to the Bonnyrigg Regal dance hall. It was 1957, the Bill Haley era, and we would get dressed up in high heels and flared skirts with two or three petticoats, but we’d take our flat shoes with us so we could jive the night away. One night I managed to break her wrist with my enthusiastic jiving, and she still reminds me of it to this day.

Alex was from a nearby village called Loanhead; he worked down the mine as an engineer during the week and played for Hearts at the weekends, and he turned up this particular night with a couple of other players; Dave Mc Kay and Tom Mc Kenzie.
They were all dressed the same, in maroon blazers and grey flannels, because they’d been at a club do and thought they would drop in at the local hop for an hour on the way home. Alex had been to Bonnyrigg before but it was the first time I’d noticed him. He caught my eye because he had lovely blond hair and was so good looking. He was feeling especially brave that night because he’d had two halves of Harp lager so he plucked up the courage to ask me to dance. When it was over we made a date for the next week, and I couldn’t wait for it to come.

Trades Week is when all the local factories and mines closed down for annual holidays. The Edinburgh side used to have the first fortnight in July and the Glasgow side the second, and entire villages would be deserted. You’d see people at the beginning of Trades with their big suitcases bursting open on their way to Blackpool and Scarborough but in the summer of 1957 Helen and I had booked to go to Butlins in Ayr. It was the first time we’d been away without our parents and we couldn’t believe we’d been allowed to go. One evening we were in the Butlins dance hall when Helen nudged me and looked over towards the door and there was Alex, he’d followed us up there in his car. ‘Mr Wonderful’ by Peggy Lee was top of the hit parade and it all seemed very appropriate.

Alex and I were together for about a year before we got engaged, then he went off to join the army in 1959. For a year of his national service he was based in Aldershot but he was still playing for Hearts, so he got to come home every weekend. They would fly him and Ron Yeats to Turnhouse airport near Edinburgh and I would drive his mother there in Alex’s little black Volkswagen Beetle every Thursday night to collect them. It was before the time of cassettes and he was the second person in Edinburgh to have a record player in his car, so off we’d go with Frank Sinatra crooning at full blast.

Big Ron was so huge; he would be hitting the roof with his head while his knees were tucked under his chin all the way to Mrs Young’s house, where he would stay the night. There was no sleeping together in those days so I would go home and on the Friday morning Alex would drop Ron off to go to Dundee United and he’d go to Hearts for training.

When we were courting we’d sometimes go to the pictures. We never used to eat sweets, we would take cherries and different kinds of fruit and half way through we would change seats because there would be a mound of pips and we didn’t want anyone to know we’d left a mess. We never saw the beginning or the end of a film because we’d have to wait until the lights were down before we went in and leave before the end so nobody would see him, because people used to really pester him. In Liverpool, the fans were lovely, they were interested, they genuinely liked him and loved the game but the Scottish supporters were different.

Mr and Mrs Young were so sweet. She was really fond of me and was just like my mother; she was so timid that if you spoke to her she would blush. She was of that generation that was brought up to respect people in authority and would practically doff her cap to policemen and doctors. Alex was the baby of the family, he had two sisters and two brothers, but he’s the only one left now.

I didn’t know much about football, but by coincidence my older sister was already married to a bloke called Jackie Neilson. He played for St Mirren and sometimes Jackie and Alex played against each other. My Dad wasn’t football minded at all and didn’t follow anybody, but he did go to one or two games once I started courting.

I remember my mum being ill for a long time but it never crossed my mind that she would die. Nobody ever mentioned the word cancer and it was an awful shock when we lost her because we spent all our time reassuring each other that she’d get better. I was 20 and gave up work to take care of the house and my two younger sisters, Marian and Kate, they were eight and four at the time and I think it was a tremendous relief to my dad because he had no idea what he would do with them. I didn’t feel as if I was making any sacrifices; I didn’t really have any aspirations or ambitions so it suited me to look after the kids and I willingly volunteered my help. I looked after them for a year or two, until I married, then my other sister Ellen took over.

Eventually Dad remarried. His new wife, Katie, had been in his class at school and was also widowed. She was wonderful and we all called her mum and loved her dearly - she brought the girls up with her own daughter, Carine, and we became one big happy family again.

When I heard Everton wanted to sign Alex I was thrilled to bits because I had an uncle and aunt who lived in Wakefield and I would stay with them over the summer holidays when I was a kid. I always said I would live in England when I grew up and got married. I loved it and really liked English people so although I didn’t know anything about Liverpool, it was all terribly exciting for me. Alex signed in November 1960 and moved into digs in Maghull with Mickey Lill and Jimmy Gabriel. He was still doing his national service but he was injured at the time so was getting treatment from Everton. He made his debut just before Christmas and I stayed in Newtongrange with my dad and sisters but I missed him terribly.

Alec and Nancy Young on their wedding day

We waited until the summer of 1961 to marry because we couldn’t have had a honeymoon otherwise. Alex was demobbed on the Friday night and we married the next day, in Newtongrange church. It wasn’t a huge white wedding, it was supposed to be a wee, small occasion, but the local press got wind of it and they turned up, so we’d have been as well having a big wedding after all because it ended up in the papers. I didn’t mind the press being there but I was terribly shy in those days and blushed all the time. For our honeymoon we flew from Edinburgh to London then caught a train to Bournemouth, where we stayed for two weeks. It was the first time I’d flown and it was a great big adventure.

I moved straight down to England. Everton had found a house for us in Bullbridge Lane, Aintree, and we bought it for £3,000. It was a brand-new three-bedroom semi and really big compared with what I was used to, but we had to stay in the Lord Nelson hotel for six weeks because it wasn’t quite ready to move into.

While Alex was in the army he was only allowed to earn £8 a week. It went up to £20 when his national service was over, but there was a ceiling on wages until 1962. As soon as it was lifted, he and Roy Vernon got pay rises to £35. My Dad was only earning £14 a week then, and my father in law was a miner on about £8, so it was big money.

Norma Vernon became my best friend. She was absolutely beautiful, like a little blonde doll. We were together every day for the six weeks Alex and I stayed in the hotel and we became very close. Neither of us had a car to go anywhere so while Alex and Roy were training, I would be at her house helping her control her two boisterous boys, which was harder than any training session. I don’t think any of the wives worked and we were often on our own while the men went off training, or for days in hotels to build team spirit, so it was quite an isolated life at times.

If I could get a lift I’d go to the away games, usually with Pat Gabriel’s dad, who would drive us there in his van, but I would go to all the home games without fail. Normally, I would travel with Alex to Goodison and sit in the car reading until it was time to go in, because there was nowhere for the wives to wait. The other players had to report an hour before kick off but he had to be there two hours early so they could try and do something to stop his feet from blistering.

His feet were the bane of his life and would have to be bound up with foam and bandages and plasters before he played to help ease his pain, but by the time he got home his socks would be stuck to his feet with blood. We’d have to soak them off and he would pop the blood blisters with a pin. It was so horrible.  They used to allow tackling from behind back then and they would scrape down the back of his heels. He never had any toenails either - especially his big toe, but I think that was just an occupational hazard because they’ve grown back now.

It was great to see him run on to the pitch but I didn’t understand the game at all and had no idea what was going on; I just used to watch him even when he wasn’t on the ball. Alex didn’t have a pre-match ritual and wasn’t particularly superstitious, but he always wanted to be the second-last man out of the tunnel, and when he was at Hearts his mother would give him a drink of raw egg in sherry because it made him feel great.

Apart from the match, the highlight of the week was going out in Liverpool with team-mates and their wives. We’d all go to the Royal Tiger club and occasionally the Pink Parrot. The Tiger was our favourite and there was always a crowd milling around outside hoping to be let in. When an Everton player knocked on the door, a little peephole would open and we were whisked straight inside. If I’d been in Scotland, I’d have been going home at 10.30pm instead of just starting the evening. I’d never been to a nightclub before, it was all terribly exciting and it made up for the two years I spent staying in while Alex was in the army.

I fell pregnant early on in 1962. My mother was gone and I had nobody to turn to who could tell me what to do, so six weeks before I was due, I went to stay with Mr and Mrs Young because it would have been tragic if it had been a boy and not been able to play for Scotland. There was nobody I could ask, I just did what I thought was right and spent the last six weeks at their house. Mr Young went into the spare room and I shared a bed with Mrs Young in case something happened during the night.

You didn’t speak about your emotions then, everybody does now but then you just got on with it. Your hormones are changing but nobody explains it to you so I was crying all the time because I missed Alex so much and I didn’t understand what was wrong. You shouldn’t be separated like that, we know that now, but then you just did as you were told. A fortnight before Jane was born I couldn’t bear to be away from him any longer so I went against all advice and travelled down to see him. I was like a barrage balloon and I’m surprised I even fitted on the train but it made me feel so much better.

Jane was born in November 1962 at Simpsons Memorial hospital in Edinburgh. Everybody raved about what a great place it was but it was so regimented I’m surprised they didn’t clap me in irons. You were tucked in at night and you hadn’t to move the covers. Nobody was allowed to sit on the bed and you could only have one or two visitors at a time and only one of them men. It took Alex 10 hours to get from Liverpool to visit us because 1962 was the year of the big freeze. He was able to come away because all the games were cancelled as the pitches were frozen solid and I don’t think there were any played for six weeks. I was in there for 10 days but it seemed like a lifetime and I couldn’t wait to get back home to Aintree.

When they’d finished training the players had a lot of spare time on their hands. Alex used to love playing golf but his real passion was the races. He and Roy Vernon were always together at Manchester, Aintree or Haydock and when Roy left he hooked up with Alan Ball. They would go to Haydock or Aintree whenever they had the chance and he even went halves on a racehorse with Bally called Daxal, but they didn’t make any money out of it. One afternoon he told me they had extra training, I was changing Jane’s nappy on the living room floor and when I glanced at the television, there was him and Bally right in the middle of the screen at the Aintree racetrack

I don’t think I ever met anybody official from Everton. The wives weren’t encouraged at all and were generally regarded as trouble. We were kept in the background as much as possible and although we got a free ticket for the home games, it was in the stands like the rest of the crowd. Mr Catterick, the manager, wasn’t very keen on the wives being around, he thought we were a distraction.

After we won the League in 1963 the club took us all to Torremolinos for a fortnight and it was absolutely wonderful. All we did was lounge around the pool sunbathing and eating nice food. That was all we could do, the hotel had just been built so it was in the middle of an undeveloped building site and there was nothing but rubble outside. Apart from Jean, Alex Parker’s wife, breaking a leg when she fell into an empty fountain and Norma’s suitcase going missing for a day and a half, we had a great time. Jane was only about six months old and we left her with Mr and Mrs Young. They would often come down to Liverpool to stay with us and they loved it because they didn’t get any holidays at all until we moved to England.

All the wives went down to Wembley by train for the 1966 Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday. We were booked into the Waldorf hotel and it was really special because we didn’t get away very much. There we were, all dressed up to the nines and dying for the lads to win and suddenly we were 2-0 down. It was just terrible; it was the most gut-wrenching feeling you could imagine and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Eddie Cavanagh was a mad Evertonian and all the players knew him well, he spent a lot of time at Bellefield in their company and when we drew level at 2-2 he couldn’t contain himself and he ran on to the pitch. When the policeman finally caught him, he wriggled out of his jacket like an eel, weaving and ducking and diving; it was hysterical. Nothing really surpassed that day; I think it was the proudest moment of my life when I saw Alex holding up the FA Cup.

We’d moved house to Aughton by that time and when Roy Vernon was transferred to Stoke City in 1967 Alex lost his dear friend and team-mate and I lost Norma, too. I missed her terribly but shortly afterwards Alex was introduced to Mike Pender of The Searchers, and he invited us to his house just up the road to meet his wife and family. I hit it off immediately with his wife, May, and the four of us are still great friends to this day; our children all grew up together and we still see each other frequently. We still laugh about our first meeting, Mike confessed that he was all excited about ‘The Vision’ coming to his house and Alex and I were equally thrilled about being in the company of a pop star and the singer of the hit record ‘Needles and Pins’.

The last couple of years at Everton Alex played No7 - wide right. Harry Catterick didn’t pick him for the 1968 Cup Final against West Bromwich and Jimmy Husband took his place. We both travelled down but we didn’t get to find out the team until we were actually there in the hotel room. He was supposed to be sub but at the last minute he put Sandy Brown in instead and Alex was absolutely devastated.

Catterick didn’t like Alex and I don’t know what that was all about; he’s so placid and there are not many who wouldn’t be able to get along with him. Johnny Carey signed him and before Catterick even arrived at Goodison, he’d passed on the message via Les Edwards the journalist that he didn’t like Alex or the way he played.

It seems very strange that he would pass judgment before he’d even met him, but that’s the way it was and he really seemed to go out of his way to make his life a misery. Alex would get the vibes from him and he said they were not right, and that was it. It was probably a struggle for him most of the time but it was the crowd that kept him there, I think. The fans adored him and he loved them back.

That was about the time the filmmakers approached Alex to see if they could make ‘The Golden Vision’, which was a BBC Play for Today. They came to the house and shot the parts where he was talking, and Jane made her TV debut too. It took days and days to shoot a few minutes of film, I had no idea it was so complicated. Jane was only about five at the time but she was quite unphased by it all and performed magnificently. We still have a copy of The Golden Vision and every few years we dust it down and watch it again.

There was no way I was going to have my next baby up in Scotland and go through all that nonsense again, so I booked myself into Park House, the nursing home run by nuns in Waterloo when Alex Jnr was due. There were some complications, too, so they phoned Alex to ask him if it was OK if they did a caesarean.

It was about 10 O clock at night when Alex arrived to visit us but he didn’t realise there was a night bell and a day bell. He was ringing and banging on the door for ages trying to get in but he was pressing the wrong bell. A stony-faced nun eventually opened the door but she let him know how strongly she disapproved of the noise.

Alex didn’t really sustain any serious injuries that I can remember but he did have an operation on a cartilage and it was a knee injury that finished his career in the end but his blistered feet were legendary. You really had to see them to believe it and it was the same every week and if the ground was dry and hard then he suffered even more. We got hundreds of letters from people with remedies, old wives’ tales and tried-and-tested tonics, but nothing worked. Somebody even posted him a pair of boots, but it was hopeless. He almost got used to it.

Some nights he would re-live matches in his sleep. I could feel him starting the game, with the odd twitch now and again and it would progress to full-blooded kicking of an imaginary ball - but of course it was the back of my legs. I remember one night after a match he’d scored in when he stood up on the bed and was scrabbling around on the wall behind the headboard. The next morning he said he was dreaming that he’d scored and got tangled up in the net trying to get the ball back.

There was nothing I really hated about being a footballer’s wife. There were times when other women were after him but it didn’t bother me too much. The only thing that got on my nerves was that we didn’t have a lounge where we could wait after the match, like the Liverpool players’ wives did. It was awkward because we were all sitting in cars - assuming we had a car of course, and if they didn’t they would be standing in the rain. It was nothing to do with the fans, it was to do with the club and they just didn’t cater for us. The players were their livelihood but we were their wives and it showed such disrespect to us. It wouldn’t happen now but we weren’t treated very well at all.

One day, in the summer of 1968, Alex came home and told me Harry Catterick had sold him to Glentoran in Northern Ireland. I don’t remember having much of a reaction because we all knew that was part of the deal. I didn’t question things really; I just went along with it. He went over there to have a look then we packed up and all went with him. We didn’t sell our house, we didn’t even rent it out, we let a friend of a friend move in and look after it so it wasn’t standing empty.

We left Glentoran after about two months because the troubles were just starting and there was a very unnerving atmosphere in the town and he signed up with Stockport County where we stayed for about 10 months until his knee finally gave out and he hung up his boots for the last time.

We were a couple or three months without a job and we decided we’d go into the licensed trade. There was a pub going in West Linton, Peebleshire, called The Linton and we chose that one because it had a house attached where we could all live. We did that for two years and they were a long two years. We enjoyed it but it was hectic; it was a workingmen’s pub but it was out in the country so it wasn’t horrible or anything, but you couldn’t get it clean. I was scrubbing the floors all day then watching them come in at night and grinding their cigarettes out on my clean linoleum. The first six weeks we didn’t have one day off, from first thing in the morning til midnight, and we had to buy a sun lamp to give us a bit of colour. It was one of the old-fashioned ones you would just sit in front of to give you a bit of a glow because we looked like a couple of ghosts.

After that we took a day off a week and got Alex’s dad to run it for us while we went out for the afternoon. His mum looked after the kids and we’d come back again in the evening. It was the only break we ever got. We did it until I fell pregnant with Jason. It wasn’t going to be a normal birth again and I had to go in to hospital a month before he was due. Jason was also born by caesarean on March 1, 1972, and when I came out of hospital the pub was sold and Alex had bought a pram and a house in Penicuik near Edinburgh where we still live.

We were unemployed for six months and all our savings seemed to disappear because we’d been self-employed so we couldn’t go on the dole or anything like that. That was when Alex went into business with my childhood friend Helen’s husband, and opened up a soft-furnishings warehouse in Edinburgh called Richard Wylie Ltd. We still have the business and we all still work there in varying degrees.

Alex Jnr played football when he was younger and Jason still plays semi-professional now. Alex was quite good but Jason was better and signed for Hearts as a schoolboy and Celtic were after him too. He was 15 when he was chosen to play for Scotland in an Under-16’s tournament in St Malo, France and he used to partner Duncan Ferguson up front. He suffered a horrific injury against East Germany when he broke a thighbone and was never the same again, he lost a bit of pace and never went on to fulfill his potential. He’s played first, second and third division Scottish senior league but sadly not Premier which is a shame because Alex says he had ability to be a better player than himself and he would have been a star.

I loved being a footballer’s wife and there was nothing about it that irritated me. People would knock on the door occasionally to say ‘hello’ or to ask for autographs, and it never bothered us. He was always signing them when we were out but that was just part of the job. I don’t know whether I’d like to be a footballer’s wife now, I imagine they don’t have much of a private life and I would hate that. The money would be nice because you could do a lot for your family but I wouldn’t like to be in the limelight as they are these days.

There were some proud moments for me and I loved it when we won the FA Cup in 1966 but the most amazing feeling was when I went on to the pitch at Goodison Park.

The first time was when Alex was presented with a ‘Millennium Giant’ award at half-time during a night match against Leicester and he took me with him. The place was packed and I felt a bit nervous while I was waiting in the tunnel but when they announced his name and we walked out, it was to the loudest roar I’d ever heard in my life and I felt like I belonged there. I told Alex I’d have been scoring goals all day with a crowd like that cheering me on.

The last time I went was for Alex’s testimonial. Both teams formed a guard of honour and our whole family was there. Our granddaughters were the team mascots and our children were in the stands. It was absolutely amazing and it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Whenever we go back to Liverpool people always recognise Alex. Hardly anybody in Scotland does or if they do, they don’t let on. His status among Evertonians never fails to surprise me. It’s been an awful long time now but people still adore him, its just wonderful and I still love seeing his face light up.

Reader Comments (53)

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Rick Tarleton
1 Posted 30/10/2023 at 18:55:29
My favourite ever Everton player. No-one since has had the quiet charisma he had. The details of his life were fascinating it was when footballers were ordinary people, living ordinary lives. Occasionally I wonder just how good he and Vernon would have been in modern football with excellent playing surfaces and the protection that modern players get from referees.
Thank-you fro this wonderful article.
Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 30/10/2023 at 19:47:57
I love stories like this so thank you for sharing Becky.

Before my time but his legacy lives on amongst Evertonians of all generations.

Alex Young. The Blue Golden Vision. I'll be watching that later!

I think Colin Harvey will come close. The greatest Evertonian.

As the song goes, they gave us Dixie, Lawton, Alex Young and Kay. They gave us Harvey, Howard Kendall, Sharpy and Gray.

I do like that song. Images of crowds clambering over the old clock and St Luke's.

St Domingo's. Prisoners of Rupert's Tower.

1878 The Originals.

Trevor Powell
3 Posted 30/10/2023 at 19:50:13
Hear! Hear! Rick! Those of us who saw the GV outwitting defenders with his silky skills, or for not a tall man his prodigious hanging jumps for headers were really privileged. I bought my wife this book two years ago and she has no real interest in football. She was really engaged by the wives' stories. When I told her that Nancy had passed away, she remarked how much she liked her from the above article as was truly saddened.
Trevor Powell
4 Posted 30/10/2023 at 19:53:50
Rick @1. Interestingly, I heard Liam Brady being interviewed about his career on Radio 2. When asked if he was envious of modern players, he replied that he was only envious of the quality of the pitches today. Just think how Alex and Liam Brady would show all their qualities week in, week out!
Jim Lloyd
5 Posted 30/10/2023 at 20:53:39
Rick, He was mine too. He was the most favourite player of all time for me. He was a legend at Hearts and a legend among many of us.

What a lovely story from his wife Nancy. It's amazing how many top footballers and managers came from small pit villages. I felt a bond with Alex coming from a pit village; as my Dad, all his brothers and his father worked down the pit in Haydock near St Helens. And Nancy Young has given a wonderful picture of her life with Alex, in Scotland and England.

I'm glad Alex and her had good friends within the club, especially Roy Vernon and Alan Ball. They had a great understanding, and in the 62-63 season scored nearly 50 goals between them. A joy to watch.

And Nancy's memories were a joy to read. What a lovely woman.

Barry Rathbone
6 Posted 30/10/2023 at 20:56:11
Such a pity the game coached out skilful players like Young – a trend that started in the '70s I reckon. These players provided a magic that cut across tribal boundaries creating moments that everyone enjoyed enriching the game in the process.

The "real" greats like Alex Young used to go past people with guile and skill, they could pass, control, and cross a ball as naturally as breathing; today's "greats" are athletic sprinters!!!

Easy to see why people insist on taking electronic devices to the game – the loss of spellbinding skill like that of the Golden Vision means something has to fill the gap.

Les Callan
7 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:05:43
An absolute magician of a player. What would we give for a player like him now?
Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:12:44
Mbappe is definitely an athletic sprinter, but he can also play, and Messi must be one of the finest footballers to ever grace the game, Barry!

Take no notice of me though because I think I know what you mean, with so many of today's players looking like they have been over-coached, but rarely with regards dribbling or trying to take on their opposing player.

Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:30:10
He was a god to thousands of us fans, yet Alex and Nancy were down to Earth normal people living the same lives as all of us, uncomplicated and ordinary with no pretensions of being anything else but themselves and all the better for being that way, Nancy even thought The Royal Tiger was a glamorous nightclub!

Great stories from those players wives which were always great to read and brought back happy memories to anyone who read them and the way we all lived the same way, tough but happy days I think.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:44:23
Messi has earned his place at the football top table, Tony. I see he has just won his 8th Ballon d'Or.

He dines with Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Maradona.

Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:49:23
It wasn't that long ago that Messi, Xavi and my own particular favorite Iniesta, were treating us to some of the finest football that I have ever witnessed in my life Danny, and all three of them must have been around the 5ft-7in mark.

It's very debatable if they would have had anywhere near the same success, if they had grown up on these shores, so thankfully they weren't born in England!

Les Callan
12 Posted 30/10/2023 at 21:54:44

Eusebio, Best?

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 30/10/2023 at 22:08:17
Tony, Les, it's always a debate.

As you know me, I dismayed at the size and power obsession that took over football.

Tongue-in-cheek, you missed one off the list and you know who I am going to nominate, but that's childhood nostalgia!!

Best is a good shout, as is Eusebio. Do Zidane or Ronaldo belong there?

We often forget goalkeepers. Our very own Neville Southall, Buffon, Peter Schmeichel and Manuel Neuer. One for the goalkeeper's union.

David France
14 Posted 30/10/2023 at 22:29:30
Becky, thank you for your wonderful tribute.

Our dear friend Nancy Young – the widow of Alex, the Golden Vision - passed away peacefully at age 86. From the time that we spent with her in Scotland and British Columbia, it was evident that she was a truly beautiful Scottish lady and loyal friend. Like her husband, Nancy will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with her three children Jane, Alex and Jason at this difficult time.

David & Elizabeth France

As for her husband – my dear friend Alex Young – for as long as Everton Football Club survives, men will talk in awe of his sublime skills. He could do things in a match that no other player would even attempt in training.

To complement The Golden Vision, Ken Loach's docu-drama in 1968, I commissioned Alex The Great to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Everton's League triumph in 1963. However the project was shelved because, in the absence of meaningful television coverage, it didn't quite capture the majesty of the great man.

That said, in late 2016, after learning of Alex's failing health, the uncompleted film was shown to packed houses in Liverpool and London. While football fans seem to pay their respects to fallen heroes and good causes every matchday, I wanted Alex to hear those heartfelt tributes for himself. Therefore Alex accompanied his family to the showing in the Goodison lounge that proudly bears his name.

Alex The Great (Trailer)

Alex The Great (DVD) was not released but the incomplete film can be previewed on YouTube:

Alex Young – Alex the Great – Everton Giant

Christine Foster
15 Posted 30/10/2023 at 22:56:54
I had the privilege when I was so very young, my first school was the Holy Ghost annexe alongside Bootle Golf course. I think I must have been around 6 or 7 and would sit on the wall of the cinder path and watch the players playing golf.

One day, Alex, a chain smoking Roy Vernon, and I think Alex Parker and Brian Harris came over my way looking for a ball. I had seen where it went and told them, they said thanks and I cheekily asked if they all played for Everton?

They laughed, came over and asked me what I was doing and were amazed when I told them I had been to a couple of the games. I was most indignant when they laughed at me but I asked for their autographs and, as I didn't have a pen or paper, they signed a score card.

I kept that for over 40 years until it was lost in a flood in Brisbane. I used to look at it and smile every now and again, and remember the day I met the Golden Vision.

Howard Don
16 Posted 30/10/2023 at 23:01:13
Loved Alex, wonderfully skillful player with that amazing ability to appear to hang in the air, scientifically impossible of course, but still.

I'd never read Nancy's article before, a really good insight into life as a footballer's wife in those days as well as their obvious happiness as a family. RIP Nancy.

Peter Mills
17 Posted 30/10/2023 at 23:08:16
What a poignant time for me to read this article, Becky.

Growing up, my older brother, Charlie, had first dibs on the shirt number so, of course, he claimed Number 9. There was nothing I could do, eldest son was the Golden Vision. My Mum was a wonderful woman but was not a great seamstress, but gamely sowed that number, purchased from Jack Sharp's, onto the back of his Everton shirt.

Because Roy Vernon, then Colin Harvey, caught my young eye, I claimed Number 10. “No, sorry” said my Mum - “I'm not sowing on two numbers”. So I had to settle for Number 7, Alex “Chico” Scott. He was admirable, but not glamorous.

Eventually, Colin Harvey moved to Number 6. Guess what? I had to unpick the stitching on my brother's old Number 9 shirt, so my Mum could invert it and sow it on my shirt.

It makes me smile, and feel old, when I watch my grandsons play now on marked out pitches with goals, referees running the show, the lads and girls having a change of kit, training tops etc. And, of course, they have no idea how to play, they weren't brought up up on the street or on the parks, were they? Erm, no. The football they come out with is miles ahead of what we used play and is a joy to see.

Don Alexander
18 Posted 31/10/2023 at 00:20:47
I was 8 years old in 1963 and at even that young age I remember being transfixed at Goodison by our white haired forward's defiance of gravity ability in the air.

However, his sublime skills with the ball cut next to no mustard with Scottish selectors or any other club until Glentoran stepped in to take him off us, aged only 31, to begin a rapid demise to retirement one year later.

To me, now, he was permanently hobbled, even when "fit", with foot blisters that robbed him and us of an otherwise genius footballer. I hugely admire his ability to play at all with blistered feet.

When it comes to "legend" though I think we always needed to aspire way higher, through no fault of his own at all, than Alex Young.

Alan Ball comes to mind years before Alex went to Glentoran.

Kieran Kinsella
19 Posted 31/10/2023 at 00:22:37

I was minus 14 in 63 and I vividly remember… not a damn thing!

Alan J Thompson
20 Posted 31/10/2023 at 04:47:21
This brings back memories and I actually met Mrs Young and Mrs Ball in the Kong Nam (san?) on Church Street as we shared a table for lunch. Myself and a work colleague (still out there, Dave Andrews?) using our 3/- luncheon vouchers on the 3/6d set lunch and our table had the only two seats left. They had been out shopping and while we didn't want to interrupt their conversation they were only too willing to chat with us.

Christine (#15); Was that the Brisbane flood of 1974 as myself and then partner arrived about 2 or 3 days before and were staying Upper Mt Gravatt before moving down to Surfers when the road opened.

John Keating
21 Posted 31/10/2023 at 06:04:04
My favourite player. When he signed, I remember a few of us asking “who”? Well, we soon found out!

What a great team the '63 lads were. My niece used to go out with Jason and I used to get her to get me signed photos.

I remember we played Hearts in a pre-season friendly at Tynecastle. Alex came out before kick-off to a fantastic reception but I have to say he made more of his time waving to and acknowledging us travelling Blues.

Young, Vernon? You couldn't buy them today.

Christine Foster
22 Posted 31/10/2023 at 06:08:26
Alan @20,

It was the 2011 flood when they released water from the dams to relieve pressure after so much rain.

We were in Moggill not far from the river... went out to Woolworths for food, everything okay. An hour later, the whole place was under about 10 feet of water! We couldn't get back home for a week... not much left when we did.

What people didn't realise was the snakes in the water and even the sharks caught swimming up the main street in Ipswich. Good documentary on it here though if your interested:


Andy Kay
23 Posted 31/10/2023 at 06:31:29
So I have an usual request related to the comments above regarding autographs.

I was very lucky, about 21 years ago, to have a Toffs 1966 FA Cup shirt signed by 10 of the 11 players at a reunion (Alex Scott had sadly passed in 2001). It's obviously special to me; however, I've never framed it and it was in storage for about 12 months when we moved to Australia.

In recent years, due to humidity here its developed brown / gold mouldy spots on it. I could easily put it in a wash but could run the risk of losing the signatures as who knows if it was a permanent marker used back then. Before I do something I regret, any advise offered in treating it without losing the autographs?

Cheers in advance.

Alan J Thompson
24 Posted 31/10/2023 at 06:41:49
Christine (#22)

Without wishing to hijack this thread, I remember the kerfuffle over the volume and timing of that dam release.

But at that time, I was busy with chemo, radiotherapy and surgery etc having done nearly four years past the 6 months they had forecast.

I haven't been back to Queensland since a cricket tour in the mid-'80s.

Tony Abrahams
25 Posted 31/10/2023 at 07:24:21
Being a lazy reader, I hadn't realized that this was a tribute to celebrate the life of Nancy, especially because I was sure I'd read this article before, so I'm glad I read David's post @14.

God bless Nancy, and deepest sympathy to her three children, at this very sad time💙

The kids might be better Peter M, they are definitely treated better, but something seems to have died in my soul, with regards to watching top-level football, and I wonder if I will ever truly get it back again.

I will return to Goodison on Saturday, but staying away has been so much easier than I thought it would have been, and I've honestly enjoyed watching the kids a lot more than the professionals, although I did watch a very honest League Two game last week.

Jim Lloyd
26 Posted 31/10/2023 at 07:43:30
I didn't give my sympathy and condolences to Nancy and Alex's children, I got so carried away with my memories of Alex. They're honorary Evertonianians and there'll be a welcome for them should they wish to come to the match.

It was a wonderful, wonderful story of their life as ordinary working-class people, who came to live with us. I remeember my mate telling me about Alex's wages. there was a photo of it (might have been in a programme) when he signed (£40 a week).

We played football on the big oller opposite our house and on a Sunday, it was The Big Match, when lads from kids to teenagers would play for hours.

And I could imagine that up in Scotland they were doing exactly the same. In those days (the early '60s), we lived the dream on the oller of our heroes up at the match.
I think every team in the First Division had a great Scot or more playing for them.

There was only one man who came near to Alex Young for shear magical artistry; and that was John White of Spurs, who was tragically killed by lightning while sheltering under a tree on the golf course; he was a great player.

I don't think anyone was a magical as Alex. He was out on his own for skill and artistry. And I can remember a massive mural on a wall of a tower block at Huyton coming into Liverpool.

Alex The Great… and he was. It's thanks to his lovely wife that we have an insight to a great man's enjoyable life with his wife.

Christine Foster
27 Posted 31/10/2023 at 07:44:30

White Vinegar works well but I would honestly try a small area with an indistinct signing first. It's really difficult to remove safely, I remember specialist dry cleaners using UV light. Best ask a dry cleaners?

Danny O’Neill
28 Posted 31/10/2023 at 07:52:34
Some great memories on here that articles like this generate.

Christine, sorry you lost your keepsake.

Peter, great story. As a youngster, I was fortunate enough to play for a youth team in Germany for a couple of years.

They were decades ahead of us in terms of set-up. Dedicated enclosed pitches on the club's owned ground (no shared park pitches, putting up and taking down the nets).

Training and playing on clay pitches. That taught you to stay on your feet and to pass and move. You only got to play on the main grass pitch if and when you made a semi-final or final. Or one of the youth teams from the professional clubs came along.

There will be many versions, but I wonder what people's all-time Everton 11 would be? Mine would obviously be heavily influenced by Howard Kendall's first stint as manager with a team that picked itself when fit.

I can only go off stories of the 60s. The footage I have watched shows me how great Alex Young looked – imagine if we had mass media coverage of that period like we do now and he had played on the bowling green pitches like players of today get to.

Christine Foster
29 Posted 31/10/2023 at 07:56:51
David 14#,

OMG, that put a lump in my throat, what a fabulous documentary! And a wonderful article from Becky, just very ordinary people, but he meant so much to so many!

Anthony Dove
30 Posted 31/10/2023 at 10:09:59
It was common knowledge that Catterick didn't like Alex Young. Whenever he dropped him, he used to blame it on Alex's blisters.

I think most people, including me, felt that was just an excuse to appease supporters. However, after reading Nancy's article I now realise how much of a problem it was to him.

Even without the blisters, Catterick would still have dropped him when he did, however unpopular that might have made him.

Les Callan
31 Posted 31/10/2023 at 10:43:39
I remember the “Sack Catterick, bring back Young” banners at Blackpool when Joe Royce made his debut. And Alex was back of course in the Third Round cup tie. We went on to win it that year.

Incidentally, there were lots of stories at the time that Catterick had been manhandled at Blackpool by our supporters. Well, I was there and saw nothing of the sort. Plenty of shouting of course, and arm waving, but no violence.

Dave Abrahams
32 Posted 31/10/2023 at 13:04:50
Danny (13),

You won't have seen him but Lev Yashin, Russian, was one of the best and may be the most courageous goalkeeper ever. He played at Goodison in the 1966 World Cup.

Stephen Vincent
33 Posted 31/10/2023 at 13:54:00
He was a truly sublime footballer, a drop of his shoulder could wrong-foot an entire defence and at times he made George Best seem clumsy.

I met him just once in 1963, rather strangely in Woolton Woods in the Walled Garden. Liverpool City Council had commissioned a floral display in blue and white flowers to celebrate our winning the League. This was huge and my Dad took me to see it and there sitting on a bench with what I assume was his family was the great man. He chatted for as long as my Dad wanted, one of the highlights of my Dad's life.

David #14, I remember the launch in London (December 2016?), in the Crypt opposite the Horseshoe Pub, you signed my Everton Proud – still my favourite Everton book. Bob Latchford also signed A Different Road. There was an auction afterwards for various Blue-related items, proceeds for EitC, and I won a 6-foot cardboard cut-out of Alex Young. It was really interesting getting it home on the tube!!!

Rick Tarleton
34 Posted 31/10/2023 at 14:11:49
A friend of mine from the Collegiate was also a big friend of Derek Smith (ex Collegiate) who at that time was basically Brian Labone's deputy.

Anyhow, my mate, a Liverpool fan, met Derek for a drink somewhere round Maghull or Hightown and Alex Young came in and joined them. My friend was blown away by how normal and pleasant this great footballer was. To say I was jealous would be quite an understatement.

Still I did spend two hours with W R Dean, who was a friend of my dad.

John Raftery
36 Posted 31/10/2023 at 17:06:10
I hope the family draw comfort from knowing Evertonians are thinking of them.

I was very fortunate to have seen Alex in some of his peak years. He was an artist on the ball and clinical in the penalty area, scoring some wonderful goals. His header against Spurs in 1963 set us on the way to the title. There was a marvellous hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday in August 1965. Equally memorable was his lob into the Park End net against West Ham in February 1967.

I was extremely privileged to have met Alex several times over the years including an unforgettable occasion in April 1967 when he gave me and a mate a lift to Goodison for an evening match against Chelsea. He was having, as he put it, ‘a wee rest' that night, allowing Joe Royle to make his home debut. Alex was not only a star player but also a really genuine, unassuming man.

I am glad I saw Alex play at a time in the Sixties when pure artistry still had a place in the game despite poor pitches and increasingly thuggish opponents. Not all fans rated him as highly as the majority did.

Alex himself acknowledged his own inconsistency in The Golden Vision play. Had TW existed 60 years ago, I imagine it would have been riven with lengthy, repeated exchanges about Alex's merits as a player. I know which side of the argument I would have been on.

Gerry Quinn
37 Posted 31/10/2023 at 18:50:07
I remember Alex when he ran past the goal to the front and headed the corner in past his cousin in the Burnley goal.

He did it a 2nd time later in the game to prove it was no fluke. A cracking player, cracking team...

Peter Hodgson
38 Posted 31/10/2023 at 20:56:22
I'm fortunate to have lived in Maghull before, during and after that time and coincidentally started as an Everton fan during that time. I witnessed most of what Blue Bill would have described as the 'good times'. From round about Dave Hickson onwards. I don't go back as far as Dixie but few do these days. More recently hasn't been too clever however.

It was a very interesting and enlightening read that I haven't seen before and thanks to TW for publishing it (again?). I didn't know about the scale of the problems Alex had with blisters and the amount of work that needed doing to his feet before each game. Mind you, you wouldn't have known about all this watching him glide past opponents following that work in the dressing room. Fantastic player as opposed to today's kick and run types which there are plenty of.

His problem, (I think) was my good fortune one Saturday when I had been given a match ticket by Brian Harris (a near neighbour who called into our shop on a daily basis for his packet of fags before picking up Brian Labone who had come in on the bus from Lydiate) and then they headed off to training. I was sat in the front row of the stand next to Alex but didn't dare ask him why he wasn't playing!

Footballers of that day and age had to endure the minimum wage but I suppose that they and their nearest and dearest had a relatively good life compared with many as Nancy mentioned but even so the whole tale brought a lump to my throat and Yes we Evertonians will always welcome back our nearest and dearest.

Christine Foster
39 Posted 01/11/2023 at 08:54:18
I had some time tonight to rewatch Alex the Great, the documentary. I wish I could explain to so many why he was so idolised, Liverpool was a hard working class city, average attendances where in the 60k range and you could probably count the number of women attending on one hand. Football was the passion that took the pain out of daily life, gave you pride, made you believe you were special because he was your player, your club.. he played at a level of ability that no other had,nothing of him, but no one touched him, tear his shirt, try to chop him down, no matter, you couldn't touch him. And he was ours. He made your day, your week, your season.
Nothing and no-one has ever come close to replacing him anywhere..we have our favourites, but they are mere men with good ability. Alex Young was not of this earth, he walked on water you know.. indelibly printed on my soul is the Golden Vision. I was so lucky to have seen him so many times... I have a son called Alex.. but in the perverse nature of life, he is the only one of my family a red.. but I remind him often who he was named after.. just for spite..:-)
Chris Williams
40 Posted 01/11/2023 at 09:33:29
I was up in Edinburgh on business, the day Alex’s death was announced. I was sat in the reception area of a lawyer’s offices, and I saw The Scotsman newspaper among the magazines and brochures there.

His death was the lead story on the front page, banner headlines the lot, complete with his unmistakeable face, but sticking out of a Hearts shirt. It called him “the Blonde Bombshell “ I think, and it was a full page tribute to his time as a teenage prodigy, who led Hearts to the Championship at a time when Rangers and Celtic dominated even more than now. Scottish International. It may have mentioned he also played for Everton!

Inside, there were further articles, and an obituary, where we got a bit more of a mention. Obviously it mentioned “The Golden Vision”.

The senior partner came out to meet me, we’d never met before, about my own age. Took one look, and said “Evertonian?” He was a long-standing Hearts fan, and we spent an age talking about him.

We did a lot of business over the next few years.

Tony Abrahams
41 Posted 01/11/2023 at 12:33:01
You have just spoilt a lovely thread telling us you named a Liverpudlian, after Alex Young, Christine!
Dave Abrahams
42 Posted 01/11/2023 at 12:50:05
Tony (41), names don’t mean all that much, manners maketh the man, I named you after Mark Antony from Shakespeare’s writing, I gave the Mark part a miss and you were called Antony, without the usual ‘h’, wasted me bleedin’ time with that effort!
Tony Abrahams
43 Posted 01/11/2023 at 13:19:46
Talking about Shakespeare, I was reading a book not so long ago, written by a lad who grew up by ours Dave, and I’m assuming he was taught to write in prison, by the author of this lovely tribute!
Dave Abrahams
44 Posted 01/11/2023 at 13:52:30
Tony (43), Was the book called “ Spiders in the bath”? If it was the lad who wrote it is a bit special, very genuine, didn’t know he had done time if it’s the same fella. The book has to be signed out by whoever wants it from the Central Library in William Brown Street.
Tony Abrahams
45 Posted 01/11/2023 at 14:02:06
No Dave, but thankfully for some, the author did leave most of the skeletons in the cupboard! (You couldn’t sign that other book out for me some time Dave, by any chance!)

I’ve just googled that other book, and it wouldn’t surprise me if both authors actually grew up on the same Street, Dave. I might be wrong.

Gerry Quinn
46 Posted 01/11/2023 at 16:21:20
Talking of names, in those early school days I was going to be "Confirmed" and my Mother (a staunch Catholic) asked me what name I would choose. When I told her I would like Alex she was chuffed because that was my oldest brothers first name and she thought it was so nice of me to pick that one. I didn't dare tell her it was after Alex Young (my Dad, a staunch Catholic Evertonian) chuckled after she left the room as he knew only too well why I chose that name!!!
Dave Abrahams
47 Posted 01/11/2023 at 18:38:30
Tony (45),

I might have a go at getting that book out for you, when you bring the book back I lent you a few months ago, good job that wasn't from the library, I bet you haven't even started it yet!

Len Hawkins
48 Posted 14/11/2023 at 00:34:52
Another great read and a testament to what being a "footballer" was really like ordinary people with no airs and graces who played hard and worked hard.

I met Alex in 1967 at a money raising night for Southport FC after the old stand had burned down. He was with Alec Parker who was playing for Southport at the time I went over and told him I watched Everton and shook hands after telling him I was a big fan of his.

I couldn't think what to say to one of my heroes – I was only 17 and he was the most famous person I'd shaken hands with.

The games he played alongside Bally were magical they made the right side their own and the ball too as no one could get near them to take it off them.

He was a Humble True Gentleman and I am fortunate to have seen him play.

Brent Stephens
49 Posted 23/11/2023 at 12:37:06
Only just had time to read this. A long but great read. Thanks for all the memories.

I lived in the Old Roan, the other side of the raliway line. I seem to remember the house Alex and Nancy lived in - the first new semi in Bullbridge Lane? Just by the Blue Anchor.

And if I remember rightly, some of the players would sometimes have a kickabout in the park on Aintree Lane?

Alan McGuffog
50 Posted 23/11/2023 at 12:41:15
At one time I think Ted Sagar was the licensee of the Blue Anchor. I think it's long gone now.
Brent Stephens
51 Posted 23/11/2023 at 12:47:41
Alan, the Old Roan Blue Anchor is still there. Unless they demolished it last week after I staggered out!

Thank You Very Much for the Aintree Iron, by The Scaffold. Some say that refers to the Blue Anchor but discussion here about what the Aintree Iron was:


James Hughes
52 Posted 23/11/2023 at 13:08:59
Alan. are you thinking of the 'Old Roan' right next to the station? That has been empty for years and is now fenced off.
Alan McGuffog
53 Posted 23/11/2023 at 13:24:27
Had a fair few under age pints in the Old Roan... worth the two buses from Norris Green. Glad Blue Anchor still going, Slainte Brent

Brent Stephens
54 Posted 23/11/2023 at 13:35:21
Slainte, Alan. I I had a few at the Norris Green Social Club, I think it was called. A corrugated iron roof????

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