My Everton #59: A Palace Apology

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Gordon Stewart is the Goodison Press Box steward. Solid, experienced, good at his job and well used to weird and wonderful behaviour from occasionally excitable sports journalists. 

But he wasn’t expecting this.

Not a former sports writer, whose frame is now more heavyweight than middleweight, racing up the Goodison Press Box steps and leaping, legs akimbo, into his outstretched arms, squeezing him like a wrestler trying to re-enact a WWF winning choke-hold.

But that’s what ‘My Everton’ meant to me at 9.30pm on Thursday 19 May, 2022.

Me and so many others.

Of course it was the Palace match, the last time Patrick Vieira’s crew were in town.  

And we all remember those scenes.

I read the sneering post-match comments afterwards.

Why the celebrations? What did Everton actually win? I’d be embarrassed to celebrate failure. Etc etc etc.

All uttered by people who had no comprehension of what the gut wrenching, sleep depriving, nausea inducing sensation of being involved in a relegation fight meant to fans of a club like Everton.

I’ve been at Cup finals. I’ve been at title deciders and title coronations. I’ve celebrated at semi-finals. I’ve seen truly great Everton teams. But trust me, the excitement of potentially winning something is very, very different to the possibility of losing something – especially something as cherished, something as significant, something as fundamental as top flight football.

And that’s what was on the line that night at Goodison Park when Crystal Palace were gifted a two-goal half-time lead.

Everton have played top flight football for each of the last 68 years. My entire lifetime and some. They have spent only four of their 134 years of League football outside the top division.

So yes, Evertonians have possibly taken for granted attending football matches in the top tier of English football.

Which is why when Michael Keane clinically angled that sweet, left-footed drive past Jack Butland I was motionless.

I was a professional at work in a professional environment. And besides, we needed two more.

When Richarlison scuff-clipped that shot into the corner of the Gwladys Street net my professional resolve left me for a few second as I banged the work desk with my right hand and screamed a few unintelligible words into the night air.

Fortunately the journalist working to my right smiled. Maybe the moment gave him some colour for his own article.

But when Demarai Gray arced that outstanding cross into the penalty area and Dominic Calvert-Lewin took off, my body took on an involuntary force of its own.

Maybe I didn’t want the working media to witness my reaction.

Perhaps it was a release of several months of ever-tightening tension.

Maybe it’s because I’m an Evertonian of a certain vintage who grew up idolising Bob Latchford, and the goal was a diving header, at the Gwladys Street End, bulleted into the net by a man wearing number nine on his back, that I reacted the way I did.

But I launched myself from my press box seat like James Bond had just flipped the cover on his Aston Martin DB5 gear stick and pressed the red button, ejected myself up the steps and tested poor Gordon’s core strength.

“Bloody hell, Dave. I wasn’t expecting that,” he stammered a few minutes later.

No-one was expecting what we’d just witnessed, which is why the celebrations were so feral, so spontaneous and so wantonly joyous.

Maybe we should have seen it written in the stars.

Crystal Palace visited on May 19 – the same date as the match I was originally intending to write about for this feature – the 1984 FA Cup final.

May 19 is also the same date the last time Everton played on a Thursday night in May – in 1977 – when Sunderland brought a raucous, riotous army of away fans to Goodison Park - and were relegated.

And most weirdly of all - it was the 1,878th top flight win by Everton.

Win number 1878. That is truly inexplicable.

So yes, when I first witnessed an Everton number nine score a goal at Wembley – on the third occasion I’d visited the national stadium – an involuntary, spine tingling shudder convulsed my entire frame.

I’ve discussed the moment a few times with the goalscorer, Graeme Sharp, and it’s one of his favourite moments in football also.

But the sheer joy of winning a first trophy for 14 years – and the first of my then young life – was probably eclipsed by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s horizontal header.

The song words say “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got. Till it’s gone.”

Not always.

Evertonians knew what they were on the brink of losing. Which is why they responded the way they did – before, during and after that Thursday night miracle.

What does Everton mean to me? The same as it meant to everybody inside Goodison Park on May 19, 2022.


Which is why I’m apologising to Gordon.

And if we beat Crystal Palace this weekend I’ll give you a dignified high five this time. Promise.

By David Prentice, Everton Communications Manager

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