Twenty four hours after saying goodbye to one of our present day heroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Duncan Ferguson, forty four Everton mad fans lived the dream of playing at Goodison emulating their past heroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. The dream makers who made this once in a lifetime fantasy come true was the Former Players Foundation .Over the past two years at fundraising events fans were asked to bid to play on the hallowed turf.
Forty four lucky fans won with their bids to form two teams the Blues v the Yellows.
The fans making their Goodison debuts came from as far away as Southampton and Yorkshire, fanatical Blues each one. In the Main Stand families gathered to witness their loved ones fulfilling their dreams to endorse that their sons, daughter, husband, dad or brothers had truly played at the old lady. The tale of Ã¢â‚¬Å“When I playedÃ¢â‚¬Âon the hallowed turf will be told for generations to come.
The players did the full hit getting changed in the real dressing room and walking onto the pitch from the players entrance each player touching the Ã¢â‚¬ËœWelcome to GoodisonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ sign then pinching themselves to realise it was really happening .
The Blues v the Yellows was a throwback to years ago when the first team would play the reserves pre-season, a fixture in which Labby first shone in playing for the reserves.
Sadly Brian, a true legend and gentleman, has departed us, Westy his great mate and Brian were to captain tonightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teams.
The expectant crowd roared on the kick off between these two special teams the Yellows taking the game to the Blues initially. Then out of the field of dreams number 10 Westhead scored a screamer from fully 35 yards for the Yellows, Barry Horne eat your heart out mate .
Collinson in goal for the Blues had no chance, not even Big Nev would have got to the ball.
This goal rallied the Blues to get at them, wave after wave of constant pressure paid off as a through ball from no messing Sherlock to be player of the match Wayne Miles shot the equaliser from the penalty edge.
It was all Blues from then on and no surprise as they took the lead with a goal again from Miles after a precision pass from Walker.
Its funny but your mindset at Goodison was to will the team in Blue on, I kept thinking we were playing Wolves.
Speaking of which we had a centre half called Gray playing for the Blues and talked a good game as Andy does now for the great God Sky.
The rain poured down but who cared as tears of joy were masked for the players. The Blues took the game by the scruff of the neck and went further ahead through McFadden, I mean Rymer but honestly he was a ringer for our Scottish winger and uncannily played like Fads only quicker. After a telling pass from Hall, Rymer nearly added to his tally but Ridges made a great save.
Jez Wyke the Blues power house midfielder was running the show from the centre spraying the ball around like a broken footed Kevin Sheedy.
Expectant substitutions warmed up along the touchline one stood out from everyone there, it was Becky Pinnock, the only girl.
Becky was sporting DuncanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shorts a memento from her hero and unashamedly admitted they were unwashed.
When Becky came onto the field of play you could see how freely her massive shorts allowed her to run unlike some of the other players who filled theirs adequately with the years of good living.
Macdonald (no relation, but oh how I wished it was me playing) the Blues centreforward had a great effort from 25 yards saved by the inspired Ridges. The last ten minutes of the first half saw the Yellows trying to get back into the game Richards, Hywel and Murphy came close but the Blues defence of Collinson, Rymer, Dibbert, Lawless and Gray held firm. Labby, Westy, Wilson and Wright would have been proud of their defensive qualities.
A great cross from Warren put Whittaker on the score sheet with a well headed goal only to be struck off after given offside .He was inconsolable the total dream of scoring at Goodison in the Park End like Dixie for his sixtieth was gone. Ah well the half time whistle blew ,time to rest those weary limbs and replenish lost fluids .Wave to the families and take in and savour the scene of were they were.
The two teams were managed by Steve (the Blue team of course), a stalwart of the Players Foundation and Roy the Yellow team.
Steve just told his team to keep playing the way there are, Roy said donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t! Were getting murdered in the centre of midfield, close them down. Lyon and Mahony were having a field day with Wyke for the Blues.
Ball Kendall and Harvey came to mind.
The St JohnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ambulance man looked worryingly at the two squads, he asked me do you think he should offer them some oxygen, I said no their high enough just being here.
The Yellows kicked off the second half but the Blues drove the ball forward relentlessly from there on. Shelley hit a 25 yd thunderbolt but again Ridges saved well it was only a matter of time before the Blues increased their lead .And it was that man again Wayne Miles scoring his hat trick another classy strike after beating Eckersley and Baxendale.
Keen tried to stop the marauding Miles but the classy striker put the ball through to Whitaker to fulfil his dream of scoring into the St End, 5-1.
It was not long before our new Ã¢â‚¬ËœWayneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ scored his fourth goal and what a cracker it was ,fine interplay by Bretherton ,Wyke and Cook sent the ex Merseyside school boy through who jinxed past Tomlinson and Richards to put a rocket like shot to Ridges left ,
The Yellows had seen enough and rallied with a fierce some drive from Eckersley who hit the bar .Warren and Wright rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in. What chance the yellows had of saving face was shortened when Mitchell went down from a sandwich tackle from Hall and Claxton. MitchellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cruciate had gone again; he will be deffo out for the season but hopefully back in training late October. It was never a dirty game and conditions were slippy with the rain, not once was the ref to bring his little black book out.
The team manager, Roy, shouted lets do it for Mitch and obligingly Frear from a pass by Allen scored another belter for the Yellows 6-2 ,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢COME ONÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ the crowd roared.
Game on it seemed as Tomlinson made it 6-3 with a fine goal set up by Keen, Richards, Murphy, McGovern, Flyn, Wright, Bretherton, Tomkins ,Claxton and the little boy who lived down the lane.
The Yellow tide was finally turned back when the man of the match Wayne scored his fifth goal to make it 7-3, our star man was taken off to a standing ovation by one side of the ground .He was special on the night and surely worth a trial at Bellfield. Ten goals in one match at Goodison, more than I saw in the first three months by the first team.
Every time the Blues scored it was not the scorer they kissed but looked for Becky, I hope there was separate changing facilities at the end .The communal bath must have been interesting.
In the last ten minutes it went like the new Heineken add, all 44 players were on the pitch with next goal the winner.
Honestly it was great to see all these passionate Blues mixing it on their field of dreams .I was as jealous as hell.
In the 90th minute Gray missed an open goal to win the game outright, if Andy had any hair left he would have pulled it out seeing the miss .But to be fair this Gray is a solicitor and it showed. But there was no losers this night everyone won, the players, their families, the organisers and well wishers .It really is a hell of a statement to say Ã¢â‚¬Å“I played at GoodisonÃ¢â‚¬Â.
After the game the players met their friends and families in the Alex Young suite for a drink and in the days and years to come a reflection of what they had achieved and knowing that their bids have helped so many ex players who also graced the hallowed turf. These funds may not be able to make the ex players run these days but to walk without pain due to battered hips, knees and so forth. The lads and Becky will testify itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not as easy as it seems to play 90 mins and not take something out of you, imagine years of it with no quarter given from the tough tackling opposition that was from yester year.
The next day there will be many sore and stiff limbs, but was it worth it? You betcha!
Ian Macdonald EISA
PS IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to take this opportunity to thank the Former Players foundation for all the help and work they do for such a great cause. It was never better shown than the big part they played in giving Labby the send of he deserved at the Anglican Cathedral. If Brain could have been here last night he would have shook every players hand to say thank you for helping his ex team mates, oh and a few tips on defending.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s close not just for the team but the Foundation will have a well earned rest .They have asked me to thank all the fans for helping the Foundation with monies etc .Without the fans there would be no Foundation ,yet another great first associated with this special club of ours.