Being 28 now and getting closer to 30 your mind wanders back to days gone by, a simpler time, a time when your love for your team, in our case Everton was so much more innocent, more exciting, like anything could happen. Why can’t we win the league? Why can’t we the cup? The fact we’re crap, can’t string 2 passes together, the managers useless, who cares? When you’re a kid and you’re just starting to get into it tactics, managers, players don’t come into it. Just the fact that you’re an Evertonian, that’s enough.
My first proper season, my first full season was way back in 1994-95. I say it was my first full season because I’d only started going the games regularly half way through the 93-94 season, I went to games, I remember them however they never stood out. Tony Cottee was my hero (fleetingly, more later) and we went through 2 managers that year, to be honest they were both crap in there own ways, Walker more than Kendall.
No, the 1994-95 season was the first full season I truly embraced Everton and all that comes with them. I was obsessed; there wasn’t anything more important in my life than them. I remember tormenting my Grandad to take me to the opening day against Villa at Goodison, he refused and in the end we drew 2-2 (I didn’t look it up) and to be honest that the only bright point up until late October, early November. Did I care though? Did I care we were bottom of the league? 4 points all season? We hadn’t won a game? Yes I cared, I cared badly and to be honest, I probably cared more then than I do now.
All that though was about to change and from it came 2 of my all time heroes but also out of those 2 came my only ever idol.
I remember the day Mike Walker got sacked, I was off school sick at home and it came through on Northwest today, my Dad couldn’t have been happier as couldn’t 99% of all Blues really. It was a good day and the news that Joe Royle was going to replace him couldn’t have been more popular. He’d been one of my Dad’s heroes as a kid so he got his backing and I imagine most of if not all of the fans backing too.
What coincided with Joe Royle’s return to the club came with someone else being at the club. Ironically it was Mike Walker who brought him in; initially on loan but under Walker he’d worked hard but struggled to make a big impact. When it came to Joe’s first game, the derby of all games, Duncan Ferguson stepped up and instantly became an icon.
Ask most blues from the ages of 25-30 who there idol is and one name will crop up 99% of the time, Dunc was and always will be mine. His 2nd spell he wasn’t as effective I’ll admit but for those 4 years between 1994-1998 no one came close to him. We loved him, he had such an aura it was unreal. Whether it was destroying Liverpool like he did that night, destroying Man Utd, digging opposition players, his pigeons, his jail term, and his tattoo, everything about the man we adored.
To be honest the fans needed him, badly, especially the younger generation. As a club we were in a grey area to put it nicely. The club was long past the glory days of the 80’s, the likes of Sharp and Ratcliffe had gone and with Nev being the wrong side of 35 it was starting to catch up on him.
We had no one really, a true idol the fans could cling to. Dunc brought that and I embraced it, all of it and with that I started to embrace more players in the team, admittedly not as much as Duncan. Andy Hinchcliffe, Graham Stuart, Dave Watson, Rhino, Anders Limpar, Rideout, Barry Horne, Joe Parkinson, Gary Ablett, Matt Jackson, Daniel Amokachi, they’re my heroes. Everyone has a favourite team, the team that stick out in there minds. My Dad has Young, Ball, Royle, Kendall, Harvey, Labone etc and he also has Gray, Sharp, Ratcliffe, Southall, Reid etc. For some it’s Latchford, Thomas, Lyons, Dobson etc, for more recent blues it could be Cahill, Arteta, Howard, Jags, Baines and so on.
We all have those teams, those who stand out, who we’ll never forget and for me it was and always will be that 1994-95 team.
As the season went on we started to pick up more and more and eventually we ended the season in a comfortable 15th place having lost only 6 games since Royle had taken over in the November. However we also had a slight side issue, of course it was the FA Cup. We all know we won it that year, how we did it, who we beat, we’ll forever remember that cup run and rightly so, we remember it even more affectionately as it was the last trophy we won.
However we should also know how much that FA Cup win cemented a lot of us to the cause. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have stayed a blue, I had no choice in the matter but for a lot of blues, those without the emotional attachment things like that make them stick. We say “Born, not manufactured” and yeah, that’s true but some need that reason, that moment of realisation. A lot of older blues, outside of the usual areas of support and without the family link started following us for the sheer love they had for Alan Ball, he was and still is to many an absolute God. To others the 84-85 team for the success they achieved and the way they did it. They dominated that league when there was only one team around and the fact that team were across the park was even more impressive. They weren’t a team of egos, they were a team of lads who just loved playing together and more importantly, playing for Everton.
So yeah, at some point we all need something to cling to, something to make us think it’s all worth it. In 1995 it was that FA Cup win, I didn’t go down to Wembley but as I watched it at home I was as nervous as anyone who was there, when you’re that age every game gives you butterflies in the pit of your stomach and that game gave me butterflies, wasps, moths, flying ants the lot. After the final whistle I watched the presentation but did I want to watch the rest? Of course not, I wanted to be Paul Rideout and go and play out!
We need something to cling onto. It nearly came in 2009 and to be fair, it probably helped a fair few blues stick around but it would have been ten fold had we won. For a club of our size, our history we need that trophy. 4th is a great achievement but who’ll remember that? I’d rather we finished 17th and won the league cup. That group of supporters that are coming through now are still in the idolised phase, they can’t see any wrong but the longer the wait goes the more frustrated and dare I say it, bored they’ll become.
I remember my idols, they’ll forever stay with me, let’s hope those there now become the next set of Southall, Jackson, Unsworth, Watson, Hinchcliffe, Limpar, Parkinson, Horne, Ablett, Stuart, Rideout. Subs, Ferguson, Amokachi, Kearton. Winners.
On the march……