McKenzie Recalls Charity Lift-Off
Ex-Blue on how he got Everton in the Community off the ground.
Twenty-five years ago when Everton in the Community was in the very beginnings of its existence, it was a familiar face the charity turned to in a bid to get things off the ground.
Having dazzled supporters with his flamboyant approach to wing play - not to mention his penchant for throwing golf balls and leapfrogging cars – former fan favourite Duncan McKenzie was deemed the ideal personality to drive the Blues’ involvement in a new nationwide effort to close the gap between football and society.
A quarter of a century on, McKenzie will join fans at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the Club charity's landmark anniversary ahead of the visit of Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.
“I remember I was really busy at the time with after-dinner speaking," recalls McKenzie, taking up the story. "I got a phone call from Gordon Taylor at the PFA and Gordon wanted to get Everton and Liverpool on board with the community programme they were pushing and wanted me to oversee the start of it.
“We started off with 10 volunteers who wanted to get involved in the sports industry and we were supposed to have secretaries and record everything we were doing in a log, but we were just jotting stuff down on scraps of paper. It was all quite amusing.
“But the progress and response from people on Merseyside was incredible. We went to local businesses asking them for help and we got it. We then went into schools in the inner city and in places like Toxteth, schools where a lot of the pupils didn't have an awful lot going for them at the time, and we tried to do what we could.
“We'd run coaching programmes and get the teachers involved as well. And, of course, over time the standard of the coaching got better from that.
“We had some stirring successes too. We had one lad who ended up going to play as a professional footballer in New Zealand on the back of the coaching he received.
“We'd also take pupils out on day trips to the countryside or places like Blackpool and, bearing in mind this was only 1988, there were some kids who had never seen a cow. They'd never been out of the inner city.
“I remember one of the schools we went to had no sports equipment whatsoever. We ended up getting quick cricket sets sent to the school free of charge and we were going to sports dealers and offering them £100 for £200 of sports gear – a considerable amount in those days.
“There was a lot of wheeling and dealing like that and the schools and the local community benefitted massively from it all. I have very fond memories of those times because it was terrific what we were doing."
Twenty-five years on McKenzie marvels at what Everton in the Community has become and is urging all supporters to get behind an anniversary campaign to raise £1million.
“I didn't really think it would go on to grow and become what it is today," he said. "The work Everton in the Community does now is wonderful and the volunteers and the members of staff are miracle workers, they really are. They never stop and it's amazing the contribution they make every day of the week.
“I think Everton fans are definitely proud of the Club because of Everton in the Community. I see it in the lounges on a matchday when we do various things to raise funds. It makes people proud to be Blue. And so they should be.”
To find out more about Saturday's celebrations, click here.
Tickets for Saturday's game are still available. To buy, click here or call 0871 663 1878.
Alternatively, visit the Park End Box Office at Goodison Park, Everton Two in Liverpool One or Ticket Quarter in Queen Square.