My Everton #58: A Broken VHS And A Song For William Ralph Dean

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I remember the day it broke so well. It was 1988 and the BBC had released a set of 'Official History Of...' videos to coincide with the 100th anniversary of The Football League.

The Blues, of course, were included and I got the old VHS tape for Christmas from my Grandad Mac (Maurice McKenna). 

We devoured it on that day and every other I spent in my grandparents' house for the following few months. 

I learned all about John Houlding and the rent, Sam Chedgzoy's corner dribble prompting a rule change, 'Dashing' Dave Hickson from Ellesmere Port, The Golden Vision, The Holy Trinity, Brian Labone's Merseyside Derby equation and a whole lot more besides.

Two separate things struck me so hard that they've remained with me to this day. Firstly, the story of William Ralph Dean and, secondly, England centre-forward Tommy Lawton sitting by a small fire in his council house in present-day Nottingham talking about replacing Bill Dean back in 1937.

Lawton, with his hair still slicked back with Brylcreem, spoke with grace and honesty about getting off a tram on Spellow Lane and walking to Goodison Park for his debut. "You're young Lawton aren't you," came a voice from the back of the tram. "Ah well, good luck lad... But you'll never be as good as 'Dixie'." 

My Grandad laughed out loud and our relationship ascended to the next plain as we became mates who talk, rather than just grandad and grandson. 

I love Tommy Lawton, Everton Football Club and that old BBC video for that gift. 

There was some link between my Grandad's Dad, Frank McKenna, and Dean - and we proceeded to chat about it, the legend of Dean and a whole lot more besides for the two decades we had left together before he died.

Anyway, the tape broke one day (overuse, probably!) and we moved on, but our friendship - built upon love and connection that was cemented whilst watching the video - continued to grow and perhaps be a saving grace in both our lives for many years after the cassette went into the loft where the lost things go.

Skip to lockdown 2020 and my Nan, Mac's wife Cicely McKenna, died at the age of 92 in March, at the very start of the COVID pandemic. 

A short time later as I was going through some old things, I spotted something: 'The Official History of Everton FC' video! 

I'm in the middle of writing a new album for my band Only Child and working on a sniff of an idea about William Ralph Dean. 

I'd had a few long walks around the city during lockdown and it struck me that although Everton is very much present everywhere you go in Liverpool, the iconography of the place tends to be grabbed by our neighbours across the park. 

I wanted to change that. 

The song was taking shape, but hadn't quite got there yet. Cue that battered old broken VHS cassette turning up - with its Spellow Lane, Brylcreem, Tommy Lawton and Bill Dean memories - and its emotional geography is the catalyst I need to finish the tune. 

And, here it is... William Ralph Dean by Only Child.

Click here for more information, or to purchase a digital or physical copy of the track.

By Alan O'Hare, Evertonian

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