Dr David France has been awarded with the Citizen of Honour award by the City of Liverpool this week, but last week he let our editor tag along to experience a day in the life of a real life Dr Everton.
After his award at Town Hall, David had asked me to to find a venue in which to hold one of his now-famous intimate dinners. Having been to “The Last Supper – Encore” at The Adelphi two years ago, I knew it had to be somewhere special, and with the brief of being within five minutes’ walk of Town Hall I knew my choice was limited. But then it hit me – why not have it in the Town Hall itself? So first order of the day last Tuesday was to meet with officials at Town Hall to make arrangements.
It was an early start for me, well, considering it was my day off from the day job, but being given the tour of the ballroom at Town Hall was worth the early rise. Over the years of knowing Dr France, meeting up with him has always been a pleasure, and being greeted with his customary warm smile, strong hand shake, and familiar pat on the back never fails to remind you that you’re in the company of a friend.
Our guide was the consumate professional, but she could probably have got away with being less, given the preparation by Dr France. If he’d been any more prepared he would have peeled the potatoes and plucked the chickens ready for the chef!
After making sure every last detail was taken care of, it was off to the offices of the incredibly talented Tabacula – who made the excellent “Reds and Blues” film last year. They have been commissioned to make a follow-up to the film about Alex Young broadcast in the 60’s – The Golden Vision – and have set about their task collecting an array of interviews from a solar system’s worth of stars. From team-mates to opposition players, the superlatives flood in, with the overall impression that if it weren’t for Alex Young that English football would not be as stylish and classy as we see in the Premier League today.
Far from the cutting comedy style of Reds and Blues, this tribute to a living legend is more akin to their atmospheric work on the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame DVD, and it suits it perfectly.
From the city centre offices we then headed out to Crosby to speak to the printers who will be delivering Dr France’s life’s work – Everton Crazy – which is a book chronically the life of the most well-traveled match-goer on the planet in one half and then provides fantastic caricatures of every man to have played 2 or more games for Everton Football Club. The book contains some 900 men, from the earliest pioneers of St Domingo Vale to Mikel Arteta, and takes up over 1,100 pages so far. It is a monster which will be sought after by every Evertonian.
A few miles down the road we drop in on a stone-smith who has been set to work by Dr France in recent months, despite his constant claims he is taking a step back from Everton-related activity! Our Dr Everton has paid for two plaques to be created to honour Everton players who died in service, some from “our” Everton, and some from the club set up in our honour in Chile shortly before the First World War. One plaque will be displayed at the Estadio Sausalito in Chile, and one has been mounted outside the Park End.
Our man was just putting the finishing touches to the plaque which is destined for Chile, and was ready to join us on a trip to Goodison Park to find a suitable spot, so off we set.
Initially, Dr France wanted to have the plaque close to where Dixie Dean now stands, mounted proudly on the wall of the Park End. However, in order to preserve the special place that Dixie provides, and to give it it’s own space, our motley crew found a pristine piece of wall which lends itself perfectly to the memorial. To the left of Dixie as you look at the Park End from the car park, you will find the plaque which lists those Everton players who died at war. It is hoped that this can become a place to remember those men each year on remembrance day, and to provide a place for relatives of Evertonian war heroes to gather and pay their respects to the men sent to defend our freedom.
Given my curiosity, and my love of Goodison Park, I asked uur stadium manager if we could sneak in for a look around, and he was more than happy to let us explore my second home.
The scaffolding in the Main Stand wasn’t there as a result of Terry Leahy’s warnings 3 years ago that it was about to fall down, but rather to support the workers giving the steelwork a fresh lick of paint. The pitch has been freshly laid again in preparation for the new season, and although it was only a few days old, looked a lush and perfect as we expect in the middle of August. The faces painted on the Gwladys Street advertising boards will be replaced by adverts for the company who are developing the Bellefield site.
After a good while taking in the beauty that is Goodison, and finding a ticket stub from the Blackpool home game in the Park End seats, it was almost time to wrap up, but not before tea and a final check to ensure that all avenues had been covered for the meal at Town Hall. Those lucky enough to have attended one of Dr France’s dinners will tell you they are special affairs, and those there tonight will be treated to the special touches that only David France can provide. As this is being published at the time of the dinner, we will publish photos of the event tomorrow and look forward to enjoying a dinner with Dr Everton.