This interview first appeared in the October issue of the Everton Magazine.
It was never going to be easy to get Colin Harvey eulogising about the fact he is going to be immortalised in bronze.
The man is a genuine Everton Football Club legend, even though he winces when he hears it suggested and would certainly never openly subscribe to the theory.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” he says with an embarrassed smile. “I talk about standing in the Boys’ Pen at Goodison and now you’re talking about a statue and it doesn’t seem real!"
He does concede, however, that for a lifelong Evertonian it is a monumental tribute.
“Without a doubt it is, and it will be great for my grandson to come and see it when it’s ready. The only regret is that the other two aren’t here to share the honour.”
The other two are, of course, the final two-thirds of the Club's famous Holy Trinity – Alan Ball and Howard Kendall. Harvey may be famously reluctant to discuss himself and his own immense contribution to Everton in various capacities, but he is more than happy to wax lyrical about his two midfield colleagues.
“Funnily enough, I looked up Bally’s record recently when I heard someone in my local paper shop compare Idrissa Gueye with him. Bally played 251 games for Everton and scored 79 goals which, for a midfield player, is absolutely amazing. It was 18, 20 and 18 goals that he got in his first three seasons. That’s absolutely fantastic and if Gueye gets anywhere near that then you may be able to compare them then.
“There are a few books about Alan Ball and one is called ‘Ball of Fire’ and that’s what he was. Bally is probably the best footballer I ever played with and Howard was a fantastic player, too. He was a great tackler and, of course, he was a fantastic manager. Pound for pound, Howard was probably the best tackler and first-time passer around at that time. I saw him go into tackles and not go over the top or go in late, but win the ball against players two or three stone heavier than him. That says a lot about him as a man.”
Harvey admits that while off the field the three great friends were absolute gentlemen and the perfect ambassadors for Everton Football Club, once they crossed the white line in the royal blue jersey it was a totally different story.
“You might have been a gentleman when you walked onto the pitch but, once you got on it, you definitely weren’t. There were a lot of tough players around at that time and you could get away with a lot more than you can these days. You had to.”
Sadly, of course, Harvey is now the only surviving member of the most revered midfield combination in Toffees history and, after the first anniversary of the shock passing of Kendall, he admitted that he still thinks about him all the time.
“Yes, I do, and it’s amazing that it’s been a year,” he says. “In some ways it’s gone quickly and in other ways it’s gone slowly for me. I used to see a lot of him, not just at Goodison but in Formby, where he used to hold court, so to speak.
“I do miss him because he had that wonderful way that when you first met him you’d get a great greeting from him, whoever you were. He was a man who enjoyed meeting people and who enjoyed being with others.”
Harvey was at his beloved Goodison Park recently to not only give the initial model versions of the statues the once over but also to check out the superb full colour artwork that now depicts him, Ball and Kendall in the Upper Bullens stand. The fittingness of the location brought a smile to his face.
“On a Monday morning after the home games it was our job to brush up in the Upper Bullens,” he recalls. “And it wasn’t a bad job, actually, because we’d often find a bit of money, especially around the bar areas! It’s a surprise for me to be on the artwork up there after those humble beginnings.”
Of course, Harvey would go on to make the most complete Everton journey it’s possible to embark on. Boys' Pen. Gwladys Street, apprentice professional, reserve-team regular, first-team player, youth coach, reserve coach, first-team coach and, finally, manager.
“Yes, I was here as a fan when there was 70-odd thousand for an FA Cup replay against Charlton Athletic. It’s strange to think there were more than 30,000 extra people in the ground than watch the games now.”
In actual fact there were 74,782 supporters jammed into Goodison Park that night. Harvey was 14 years old, it was an FA Cup fourth-round replay on Wednesday 28 January 1959 and the Toffees won the game 4-1 thanks to a brace apiece from the legendary duo of Dave Hickson and Bobby Collins.
Harvey is still a matchday regular and these days he is enjoying passing the Everton passion on to the newest generation of his family.
“I get to almost every home game with my grandson, who’s not a bad little footballer himself. He’s Everton-daft and he knows every player and all the positions. He writes his team out before every game and says to me, ‘Do you think this will be the team today, grandad?’ He’s not usually too far out, either.”
Having reeled off the statistics that confirm it’s premature to mention Idrissa Gueye and Alan Ball as equals, Harvey adds that he has still been mightily impressed with the Senegalese international. And let’s not forget that Harvey is not a man to distribute verbal bouquets with gay abandon. He once remarked that a 15-year-old Wayne Rooney “had a chance”.
“Gueye reads the game well, he never seems to give the ball away and he knows how to catch people on the half-turn. He has the makings of a very good player,” he offers.
“I like Ashley Williams, too. He’s got that international background and he’s been around for a number of years. I remember going with Terry Darracott to see him play for Stockport County many years ago. He’s settled in very well here and he’s showed his experience.”
Harvey’s wonderful memory for players and football matches also drew him to another new Blue in Yannick Bolasie.
“I remember seeing him come on as a substitute for Plymouth Argyle in a game at Barnsley and he completely changed the game. But I do remember wondering why he was a substitute in the first place! He has the ability to get from one end of the field to the other in no time at all. He’s dangerous and gives you something a bit different going forward.”
So what about the rest of the season? As a man who won the league and the FA Cup as both a player and an assistant manager, Harvey is better qualified than most to assess Everton’s prospects. He is cautiously optimistic.
“The makings are there,” he suggested. “Obviously, we’ve got to play some of the better teams yet, but who’s to say that Everton won’t be one of the better teams this year? Let’s hope.”