Bill Ellaby, who assumed the role of Player Liaison Officer in April 1998, has announced he is retiring and today will be his last day at the Club.
A fixture for the past 20 years and two months, Bill has worked with managers from Howard Kendall (at the end of his third spell) to Marco Silva as he embarks on his first campaign and with hundreds of players who have been at the Club during that time.
“The role hasn’t changed as much as you might think,” he suggested. “Football has changed, the players have changed, but we’re still just looking after them as best we can.”
Prior to Bill’s appointment on April 1, 1998, Everton’s players, as with those at other top-flight clubs at the time, had relied on friends, friends of friends or in some cases even strangers to help them adjust to moving to Liverpool.
The Club came to realise this arrangement was not conducive to new arrivals assimilating into a new life and career on Merseyside, especially those from foreign shores.
“I came in to see Howard and the then Chief Executive and I accepted the job,” Bill recalled. “We didn’t even discuss the job title. I came up with Player Liaison Officer and every other club picked up on it. Every club has a Player Liaison officer now and over the years the role and responsibilities have grown.”
Mickaël Madar is one early player Bill recalls helping settle into life with the Blues, while Joseph Yobo, Mikel Arteta and Seamus Coleman are among those he’s enjoyed working with most.
“I’ll stay in touch with Seamus certainly, he’s a great lad, and with players like Mikel Arteta, we’ve stayed in touch all the way through - I’ll still ring him up now and go for a coffee,” Bill reflected. “That tells me I must have done alright by him.
“It was a pleasure knowing someone like Gazza. He made some ridiculous requests off Jimmy Five Bellies but he was a nice fella.
“He used to be one of the first in in the morning - because I’d bring him in - and one of the last to leave.
“He’d be in the indoor gym with the Under-8s and Under-9s playing football with them. The parents used to love it.”
One player who had particular reason to be grateful for Bill’s assistance was Norwegian goalkeeper Thomas Myhre.
Having moved to England hastily, he had ended up renting a five-bedroom house near Liverpool city centre and wanted out.
“It was only him living in it and his girlfriend when she came over at the weekends,” Bill recollected. “It was just the first place he could find to rent when he came here. We sorted him an apartment instead and he loved it.
“Another thing I remember with Thomas, a lot of the foreign players celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, particularly Scandinavians.
“I found out he’d spent Christmas Eve in a hotel on his own. I couldn’t believe it, so from that point on I used to invite any players who were on their own at Christmas to get together and go to a restaurant or invite them to my home. Not all of them took up the offer but the offer was always there.”
The bizarre requests have been few and far between. “A fella at Fulham once said a player rang him up late at night because his fish was swimming the wrong way in his goldfish bowl! I haven’t had anything like that.
“We’ve been lucky here because we’ve always had a decent bunch. The job’s only as easy as the people you’re working with. And if they’re decent guys, nice guys and they say please and thank you, brilliant.
“I’ll miss the friendships, of course, the camaraderie I’ve had with people I’ve worked closely with over a long number of years.
“I’ll keep in touch with people and I’ll need to find something to do or else I’ll drive my wife mad!
“I’ve had two careers in my life over 45 years - the bank, where I was a manager, and then the Club. Working for the Club has been the more enjoyable and also the more challenging. Put it this way, I know more about houses now than I ever thought I would!
“I’ve had a great time these past 20 years but it’s time for someone else to step in now, pick up the baton and carry on.”
Everyone at Everton will wish Bill a happy retirement.