Did the tour of Goodison on monday and was somewhat disappointed, although not surprised, by the state of the facilities. We started the tour in the reception in the Goodison Road stand where we were met by our tour guides. The last time we did the tour we had Dave Hickson (mid/late 90s) and although these guys weren't former players, they were true Evertonians and that's all you can really ask for.
We were then led upstairs to the boardroom. At the top of the stairs to the right was a little door with "Chairman" on it. I couldn't believe it was so tucked away like it was a janitor's closet but I suppose some would argue that's all that is deserved. Anyway, the boardroom itself was a no-frills room with a big table and 10 or so chairs around it. The one feature the guides highlighted (that was of particular interest) was a little digital display on the wall at the head of the table. Apparently, during each home game, the home fan attendance figure is listed. This is because unless the attendance in the home sections is above 32,500 the club actually loses money. So to break even on paying staff, police, etc. for home games, we have to have more than 32,500 home fans at the games. I didn't understand exactly why the away tickets sales were not included so if anyone reading knows please share! Additionally, this room was where all player signings and player contract renewals occurred until Finch Farm was built.
After the boardroom, we were led into the Dixie Dean suite. Not sure if anyone has been in there but this is the top suite Goodison has to offer. It is apparently where the likes of Hodgson and managers of other teams taking in an Everton game are received and I have to say it was grim. There was little decor and very little genuine Dixie memorabilia on the walls and in the glass cases. Additionally, the room was FREEZING. We concluded that the club was saving money on the heating bill. It was demoralizing to think that a club of our stature (allegedly the 22nd richest in the world) could not heat all the rooms in the ground at the same time, but there you go.
Next, we were led to the Brian Labone suite. This was an unexpected high point and was a great tribute to the man. I think this is the second most prestigious (expensive) suite in Goodison and it felt as such. The room was cozier and had some genuine Labone memorabilia on the wall. The blue everton carpet made you feel like you were at Goodison and it was an overall better standard than the Dixie suite. However, some of the picture frames were shabby and needed replacing. Overall, Labby suite was a high point.
Next, we were led out to the chairman/shareholder/etc. seating in the stands and got to see the pitch from their vantage point. Very good view and apparently all the seats are heated - must be nice.
This was where the tour got grim. We went down to the changing rooms. Firstly, the away rooms were some of the most austere I've ever seen. I played at a reasonable youth (DC United u21) and university level (George Mason - granted not for long) in the states and we had locker rooms of a higher standard. They were cramped and poorly laid out and there were only about 5 showers. The tour guides mentioned that there was only one pipe leading in with hot water and it sometimes runs cold. I just pictured the likes of Van Persie, Mata, and Silva sitting in there at half time and it just didn't seem an appropriate setting for some of the world's best players even if they are the away team. I thought this was a ploy by the Goodison Park architects to put the home side at a psychological advantage but then we saw the home dressing rooms.
Although they were slightly bigger and better laid out, the amenities were of a similar quality to those in the away changing room. It was difficult to picture a full squad of players plus physios, assistant managers/coaches all sitting in there at the same time without being on top of each other. I just couldn't believe this was the environment Everton players got prepared for matches in - not inspiring in the least. It did make me wonder, however, why some of the players didn't forego a couple weeks wages and force the club to spruce the place up a bit. It would certainly have a positive impact on morale. It is just outrageous that players making forty, fifty, sixty thousand pounds a week used facilities that second rate American university athletes wouldn't be caught dead in. I know it shouldn't be down to the players to make such a change but when the players' wage bill is 60 or 70 percent of Everton's operating budget, I would feel slightly guilty.
I suppose it was decided that all available funding would go into Finch Farm where the players spend the vast majority of their time and by all accounts, FF is a top notch facility.
Anyway, the last part of the tour involved us walking down the tunnel to the Z Cars tune and I definitely know what the players mean when they say the hairs on the back of their neck stand up when its played before every match. A couple of interesting facts were who owns the boxes behind the home and away dug outs. The one closest to the Park End ("18") is Phil Neville's and the one next to that ("Super Six") is Jagielka's. Apparently Gibson also has one but the guides didn't know which one it was.
In sum (and sorry for being so long winded) it wouldn't take much to employ someone with a marketing/interior design background to spruce the hospitality suites, pictures, and memorabilia up to make the place a bit more inspiring. As for the changing rooms, Moyes works miracles if the players ever come out at half time and play better than in the first half because it is grim.
Hoping for a better performance against City before heading back to the States but am not optimistic. COYB!!