My Everton #44: I Saw Everton Tradition And Authenticity And Knew I'd Found My Club

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I’ve been part of Clifton Park Soccer Club in Saratoga, New York, my whole life. 

I started playing soccer there when I was eight and I’m now proud to be spending my first year as a Head Coach, with my own Under-9s team.   

Everton has been alongside me each step of the way – and I’m excited that my relationship with the Club is now going to be on an even deeper level. Clifton Park has signed up for the Everton International Affiliate Programme, and I couldn’t be more excited. 

Everton Academy coaches will travel out to see us here in Saratoga to guide us on some of their latest coaching techniques and their Academy curriculum, while there will also be visits to Finch Farm to learn more about Everton’s elite-level professional set-up. 

There are quite a few Everton fans here at Clifton Park, and we are excitedly explaining to the players and parents who follow soccer, but not necessarily Everton – yet – just what a big deal this is for us as people, as coaches and as a soccer community.     

It was around 2015 when I really started forming a relationship with Everton. After the World Cup in 2014 I was drawn to the EPL due to a number of players, and the style of soccer being played.

I was popping with a few teams, but I wanted to find one with an authentic history, an interesting story, passionate fans, and with a good rival to support against - to get those good games going.  

I did my research and learned about Everton’s tradition and titles. I even found replays of the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final and final, which were great games. I looked at that team and the current team, and what drove them. I’d found my Club.  

Dallas Jones
I was popping with a few teams, but I wanted to find one with an authentic history, an interesting story, passionate fans.

I grew up watching Leighton Baines and Tim Howard. At that time, I was playing with Clifton Park’s junior teams. I started out as a defender and at age 12 became a striker. 

As I made that transition, I loved watching Romelu Lukaku. I was kind of tall, so I was able to use my body to move around players – I liked how Lukaku always did that. I imagine he’d be a tough guy to play against, he’d always find a way to go around or through the opposition. 

I vividly remember the 2016 FA Cup sixth-round game against Chelsea at Goodison Park. It was raining a little bit, and Lukaku scored an awesome left-footed goal. He had to get around Gary Cahill, who was the centre-back then.

He struck the ball left-footed, had his toe down, his ankle locked, and he had to really beat the centre back to get that goal. It was awesome. Losing him from the team was definitely tough.  

I’ve not been able to get to Goodison Park yet, and that magic moment will come I’m sure, but I have seen Tim Cahill play at the New York Red Bulls, which was fantastic.

Being able to see a player like him who can move around like that and score the goals that he scored really helped me as a player. And watching the teams that Everton built over the years has helped me in my coaching. 

I’ve been playing for Clifton Park all my life, and now being able to coach here too is really nice, knowing all of the people, being part of a community and the tradition. That’s what I like about Everton, too.

Over here we call it being a ‘home body’ or being loyal to your ‘club’ - but that’s not to diminish what it means to be steeped in tradition – that is what makes Everton so attractive to me.

I enjoy game days a lot – with the time difference I often get to watch Everton play in the morning.  Then, when I’m pitch side coaching my team later that afternoon, I get to catch up with the other coaches to talk about the game, and even bring some of what I picked up from the Everton match into my coaching that day.   

I’m not a goalkeeper, but I really like Jordan Pickford. The way he uses his feet, he’s demanding, he’s loud, the number of shots forward that he takes, and what he’s achieved on the international stage is to be respected. 

I’m also really glad Leighton Baines is still involved because he is Everton through and through. He bleeds Everton blue.

Seeing that a player in the outside back position can be a leader like him, shows that you can be a leader anywhere on the field, no matter what position you play. 

When I’m coaching the kids at Clifton Park, I try to instil that into them.   

Seeing him involved with the younger players now is a great thing. It must be fantastic for them, to be mentored first-hand by someone of that calibre. Someone who has worn their shirt before. That is very powerful. 

Now that Clifton Park is working closely with Everton, I can’t wait to absorb all the knowledge from the Academy coaches and programme, and use that to develop as a coach and role model myself.

It will be really exciting to see the impact working with a Premier League Club will have on our kids and our coaches.  

What’s even better is that as a fan, I know that underpinning all of this is the Everton philosophy. Of family, of community, of putting the player at the centre, and developing the whole person.     

I’m proud to support Everton, and now I’m proud to be learning from the best.  

By Dallas Jones, Evertonian

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