My Everton #12: 'The Happiest 388 Days Of My Life' - Colin Harvey

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Z-Cars still gets me every time. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as a player and it is no different today.

When I hear that music all the memories of my playing days come flooding back.

I played 388 games for Everton and they were 388 of the happiest and most important days of my life.

You don’t grow up hoping to be a coach, or assistant manager or manager. You grow up wanting to be a footballer and nothing surpassed playing in the First Team for Everton.

I was born into an Everton family. My grandad would regale me with tales of Dixie Dean scoring headers from the halfway line.

He might have been stretching the truth a bit but he just loved sharing his enthusiasm for Everton – and I couldn't get enough of all those stories.

From the age of three or four I was indoctrinated as a Blue and for that I have always counted myself enormously fortunate. 

Supporting Everton was what you did where I came from. I was born in Fazakerley, which was made up mostly of an overflow from Scotland Road and the north end of the city. The overwhelming majority were Evertonians and you were swept up in it.

My dad and younger brother and I had our matchday routine.

Dad, a huge Evertonian, would put me and Brian at the gate of the Boys' Pen – it was probably about 1/6 to go in – we’d watch the game and meet dad afterwards for the bus home.

One match stands out... An FA Cup replay against Charlton Athletic in 1959 when I was 14.

It was one of my first night games and everything about the occasion and atmosphere, the noise and colour, those vivid royal blue shirts under the floodlights, and feelings of belonging and unity, brought home to me how important it was to be an Evertonian.

The game was close but we won 4-1 after extra-time and I was walking on air for days afterwards.

My first Everton hero was Wally Fielding, or Nobby Fielding, as he was known. He was a special footballer, a trademark Everton player.

Nobby was from London but his style was faithful to the Scottish players who came down to Everton and played a completely different game.

It was possession and passing based and you could always tell a good Everton player by how well he kept the ball and passed the ball.

That was how I was brought up.

When I first got in the team, the person I looked up to was Jimmy Gabriel, a Scottish international who really looked after me.

He was the embodiment of Everton football. He could do almost anything. He was the original Braveheart, for me.

When you are a kid watching games, you don’t for one minute think you’ll play for the Club.

But as people began to recognise I was a decent player, I started thinking, ‘Maybe there is an opportunity’.

As it happened, my first chance was to train with Liverpool, which I did.

But I had an uncle who worked in the pub business and knew quite a few people from Everton. He pushed them to give me some time there.

They did and at the end of it I was asked to come to train twice a week after school, which was unusual then.

For a kid who was completely and utterly Everton daft it was incredible.

Back then, we had the First Team and reserves, usually made up of full-time pros, and beneath those teams were the ‘A’ and ‘B’ and ‘C’ sides.

My first game was for the ‘C’ side. I played for the school in the morning, at Cardinal Allen in West Derby, not far from Bellefield, then collected all my stuff and went to Bellefield to play for the ‘C’ team against Blackpool.

I will never forget it. I was realising that, maybe, I was going to be good enough to play.

I am often asked which of my games really stand out. The 1966 FA Cup semi-finals and final? The key matches in the title-winning season in 1969/70?

Playing against Inter Milan in the European Cup on my debut? That was an amazing thing, which hasn’t been repeated.

But I can’t pick one. They all stand out.

Everything was special, initially becoming established in the team, then changing from Number 10 – where I played in the '66 final against Sheffield Wednesday – to wearing number six, where I was much more at ease.

A 10 was a goalscorer and that was one thing I wasn’t good at. But I’d have played anywhere for Everton, playing for the Club meant the world to me and I never took it for granted.

There are two players I consider the best in Everton’s history, two genuinely great footballers.

I didn’t see Dixie Dean but after listening to my grandad I felt I’d been there for all his 383 goals. His scoring record was unbelievable, it would stand up in any era. It tells you about the player’s quality and consistency and hunger.

I am very lucky that I can say I played with the other Everton great. Alan Ball was magnificent, I didn’t see a flaw in him. His work ethic matched his ginormous talent. It was impossible to be as good as Bally but trying to measure up to him elevated my game.

I’d have added Neville Southall to that ‘great’ category but he was a goalkeeper.

And goalkeepers aren’t footballers, are they? They are there to make saves with their hands.

If I didn't grow up thinking I would play for Everton, I certainly didn't expect when I was playing that one day I would have a statue outside the ground.

It’s an honour you associate with giants like Dixie Dean and it was fantastic – and right – that Dixie received that recognition.

To have a statue of Howard and Bally and I was just amazing and means so much for various reasons.

After the war, everyone shared houses because there was such a shortage, so we moved to live with my auntie and uncle.

Their house was on a road behind Gwladys Street. My dad thought it was great, being able to walk round to Goodison. Who could have imagined, all these decades later, there would be a statue of his son on the corner of that road?

Goodison Park holds the greatest memories of my football life and will always be close to my heart.

I am made up the Club is investing in the brilliant legacy project when we move to our new home.

It is so important for the community in Walton and will keep all those treasured memories alive.

But we have to look forward to progress. The plans for the new stadium are fabulous and Evertonians deserve the best.

I want Everton to get back to the times when I played, to the ‘80s when Howard was manger. We were the best team in Britain and winning trophies.

Those things might be harder to achieve now but that is what you want - to be the best.

I go to every home game and still experience those feelings I had as a young boy, I am elated when we win and miserable when we lose.

I love the Club and it is such an intrinsic element of my identity. Everton has been part of me for more than 70 years and provided me with some of the most joyous days of my life.

I am a lucky man.

By Colin Harvey, Everton Giant