At first glance, or in fact at any glance, Theo Walcott and I don’t have much in common, however we did both make our debuts for this great club this weekend, Theo at the magnificent theatre that is Goodison Park and me in my lounge, laptop on knee!
Of course, ideally Theo would have scored after 38 seconds (Tony Cottee style), completed his hat-trick on the hour, and we would all be waxing lyrically today about the genius of Big Sam and how great our future looks. Sadly, that’s not how it went…
Many false dawns have swept across the Everton horizon, but they are all part of what Everton are all about and they continually fuel our addiction to The Blues. Having reached one of those landmark birthdays (the middle-aged one with a 5 in it!)last month, it seems a good time to take a look at the aforementioned rollercoaster ride that is Everton.
My first taste of life as an Evertonian (obviously we are all born Evertonians) in the flesh was a reserve fixture at Goodison in the days when the fixtures were reversed between first team and the reserves. Huddersfield Town were dispatched 7-0 on a sunny April Saturday, and my undying love for the club was cemented. Of course, in the mind of an innocent, naïve child this was clearly how things were meant to be,
the rule and not the exception.
Manchester United were the first visitors to Goodison the next season and a 2-0 win reinforced my belief that this Evertonian thing was a doddle. My Grandfather told me to keep an eye on some bloke called Best, but I couldn’t understand why. Of course things went pretty much downhill after August 1972 was complete and life in the footballing theme park had well and truly begun. It didn’t help that my Grandfather would lavish me with stories of Dixie Dean, the 1933 Cup Final and Harry Catterick’s teams of the 1960’s, making me assume that it would be my turn soon to enjoy the success he had seen!
Everton became competitive under Billy Bingham bringing Bob Latchford (my own personal hero, as much today, as ever) in from Birmingham City and yet they contrived to throw away the 1974-75 title losing games which still completely defy any rational explanation (Carlisle home and away, Luton away and Sheffield United home being the main culprits). I was convinced we would win the FA Cup, especially with a 5 th Round home tie against Division 2 opposition, yet we lost to a Viv Busby inspired Fulham. Even being told that I’d had the honour of watching England’s World Cup winning Captain, Bobby Moore play was of no consolation to me. I recall being mortified some years later reading one of Moore’s biographies, when he described the match with the then league leaders as appalling, dismissing Everton as poor, negative and defensive!
Near misses followed in the league over consecutive seasons with a 3 rd and 4 th between 1977 and 1979 and plenty of free flowing football. Stunning victories over Leicester, QPR, Coventry, Chelsea and of course the other team from the city were
typified with plenty of goals from Latchford, King, Dobson and McKenzie with so much supplied by Dave Thomas. That was such a good team and really deserved to and should have won something.
Then we swooped down into the dip again…..The 1977 League Cup Final, oh Lawson, Darracott, Robinson such ineptitude at such important times. The 1977 FA Cup Semi-Final and Clive Thomas’s utterly disgraceful performance and the 1980 FA
Cup Semi-Final with the Kidd dismissal and somehow, Lampard’s winner. How did we lose those games? I like to think these were perhaps preparation for the good times that followed between 1984 and 1987, making them all the more sweet.
Other than our FA Cup win in 1995, the success has been missing yet hope and optimism always flourish and rise above the negativity not unlike the rollercoaster ride that is supporting Everton.