Gordon West 1943-2012
The passing of a true Everton legend.
A celebrated goalkeeper, a much-loved character and a man cherished by all Evertonians – Gordon West will always be held in the highest possible esteem at Goodison Park.
For more than a decade he stood between the sticks, a virtual ever-present as manager Harry Catterick built and rebuilt to sustain a glorious era of success.
West, his dear friend Brian Labone and winger Johnny Morrissey were the only survivors of the 1963 title-winning team when the crown was lifted again in 1970.
That season the imperious goalkeeper kept an astonishing 21 clean sheets, a Club record that remains intact.
In all he made 402 Everton appearances and added the 1966 FA Cup to those league titles as he earned richly-deserved status as an all-time great.
But his fulsome achievements on the pitch only tell half the story of a man whose warmth and humour were as remarked upon as his reflexes, distribution or shot-stopping ability.
And the weight of tributes, the sincerity of the praise and the depth of the emotion following his passing at the age of 69 speak volumes about the Darfield-born custodian.
Catterick’s very first signing, West arrived at Goodison Park from Blackpool in March 1962.
At the time the transfer fee of £27,000 was the highest ever paid for a goalkeeper, but it proved to be an astute piece of business with him now synonymous with one of the greatest periods in the Club’s history.
That fact was recognised in 2008 when West was inducted to the select company of the Everton Giants – effectively the Blues’ hall of fame.
“Naturally, I’m very proud,” he said after learning of the accolade. “In the 1960s I won two championship medals, two FA Cup final medals (one winners' and one runners-up), played for England, the lot. It was marvellous to be an Evertonian and I’m so proud of being one.
“In the 60s I played in four different teams. In 1962/63 we won the championship – that was my first season. Then when we [won] the ‘66 FA Cup final it was a different team altogether, then ‘68 was a different team and ‘70 was different again. There were only two players who got medals from all four of those achievements and that was me and Brian Labone.”
A veteran of all those great Catterick sides West may have been, but he was in no doubt as to which was the best he played in.
“The 1969/70 title-winning side with Bally in it,” he said. “They were all good sides, but that one was fabulous.”
At the end of that campaign West staggered domestic football by declining a call-up to England’s 1970 World Cup squad.
Largely he had been overlooked by his country with Gordon Banks the eminent keeper of the era and the Blues stopper opted to stay at home for family reasons.
He would finish his career with three England caps to his name. His tenure as Everton’s first-choice stopper was far longer lasting however. A brief spell in the 1970-71 season apart – Catterick dropped him in favour of Andy Rankin – West was indeed the first name on the teamsheet.
On his success, he put his longevity down to the ability he had to read the game as it unfolded in front of him.
“I must have been alright to have played 400 games,” he joked. “I did my bit for Everton and I was proud to do it. I was good at reading the throughballs and the angles. I prevented danger because I was reading it, cutting down the angles and being in the right place at the right time.
"That’s good goalkeeping. All keepers get credit for is great saves, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
West retired from football in 1973 only to make a comeback with Tranmere Rovers three years later. When he finally put away his gloves for good in 1976 he went into security, working at RAF Woodvale in Southport.
In recent years he had grown closer to the Everton Former Players’ Foundation as he accepted their help while using his popularity and charm to help publicise the fine charitable work that they do.
Close friends say West never got over the passing of his great mate Labone in 2006. Now they are reunited.
Gordon West RIP.
Everton supporters can pay their own tributes to West in a book of condolence which has been opened at Goodison Park or online by clicking here.