I will be devastated when we leave Goodison Park, and as much as I am excited at the prospect of our new ground, the thought of walking out of the big blue gates for the last time fills me with dread.
This week, we will see images of a shiny new stadium that Everton will hope to move in to within the next five years, and it’s all very exciting – but there will be an element of sadness too. Seeing these images makes the prospect of walking away from an Everton match at Goodison Park for the last time much more real.
Goodison has been my constant, it’s been my second home. Girlfriends, friends, pets, even some family members, have come and gone throughout my 42 years, but Goodison has always been there.
It’s been where I have lived some incredible highs and feared some horrible lows. It forms some of my earliest memories, which are of watching us win leagues and beat all comers.
It is my safe place. It is where I know I am among like minded people. Where I know we all want the same thing, we all celebrate the goals, and wince when the opposition score.
I’ve roared uncontrollably out of both anger and joy at Goodison Park. I’ve danced with strangers, and I’ve argued with friends. I’ve even seen a boxing world title won there.
Goodison is the very bedrock on which Everton stands as it takes up your time. And soon it will be gone.
But the stadium at Bramley Moore Dock will be all of that too, just without the shared history in the beginning. I will learn to love booing a Liverpool / Manchester United / Chelsea / Aston Villa team as they emerge from the tunnel. I learn to love the acoustics. And I will learn to love the new route that we will find to the ground.
It will be where I build the memories I hold so dear with my kids and, God willing, their kids too. It will be where we long to be after a week of stress – only to be greeted by 90 more minutes of much more intense, but much more enjoyable, stress.
Bramley Moore Dock, and whatever name the new stadium takes, will become our second home. It will become our sanctuary from the world’s troubles for 90 minutes a week. It will become everything that Goodison Park has been to us, and it will be that place for generations to come.
We will watch our children’s eyes light up as they walk up the steps to see the pitch for the very first time, as ours did at Goodison Park. The sound of Z-Cars will make the hairs on the back of our neck stand up, and the drums signal us to draw in a big gulp of Mersey air before roaring as the team walks out on to the pitch.
And one day, perhaps, we will see Everton parade the Premier League trophy around the perimeter of the pitch as fireworks light up the Banks of the Mersey in Royal Blue.
But, on our last day at Goodison I hope the club can open early and close late. I want to be there as long as possible.
I want to say goodbye. Not in a Sky Sports generated, West Ham way.
Quietly. And in our own individual ways.
It will be a difficult thing, walking out of Goodison for the last time, but as we glance behind us and see the floodlights dim, just over the horizon will be the beating of a new heart, and a new era will begin.