My Everton #61: The Most Perfect Storm

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Sliding doors, they call it. It could have all been so different.

Despite growing-up in 1980s Surrey (where the nearest football league team was an eight-mile journey to Crystal Palace), my dad - and subsequently my older brother - both followed Liverpool. 

Dad's passing interest in football being piqued by the Reds' dominance over the past decade or so. So, when I came of age and needed to nail my colours to the mast, what I can only perceive as the perfect storm of going against a parent's wishes, the marquee signing of England's star centre-forward Gary Lineker, the ascendancy of the Howard Kendall era and aligning with a couple of friends who were also getting into football.. It was Everton.
Memories of that era are fuzzy at best - in part because I never got to see Everton live until in my teens (away at Selhurst Park), but also the lack of televised daytime football back then. With that said, it is one filled with visions of the team at Wembley, seemingly perennially facing-off against the city rivals, and a Wayne Clarke goal.

The one and only replica kit my parents ever bought me came when I was seven years old, with the classic NEC lettering atop the diamond-patterned royal blue and the Umbro 'triangle shorts', as I would call them. I wore it to death but remarkably, I still possess it - bobbled and all - and have now passed it on to my own seven-year-old. 

It was and still is the greatest birthday present I have ever received.

On a sadder note, I recently rediscovered an Everton holdall I had persuaded my dad to buy me around that age but which I will forever associate with the tears and gut-wrenching horror of him opening our front door one rainy Saturday and tossing it onto the front path as if it were a sack of rubbish - in punishment for something I can't recall I did. Boy did he know how to hit me where it hurts!

Fast forward to 1995 and after several years of under-achievement, the dissolution of the 'greatest team in Europe' and the flirt with relegation (which had me in tears in my bedroom, kneeling and praying at my bed to a god I didn't believe in), we overcame a seemingly unstoppable Manchester United to grab the FA Cup.
A couple of decades later, when my son was just a few weeks old, he had already been in his first Everton shirt when a parcel arrived from an adoring uncle; enclosing a kit of their beloved Chelsea. I politely accepted it with the good grace, before promptly placing it far enough back in my son's wardrobe that he had outgrown it by the time it was discovered. 

In September 2021, I took my son to Goodison for his first-ever trip to Goodison as we slogged to a 2-0 win over Norwich City. He is into Everton but, naturally, I am more excited for him than he is himself in the build-up.

But as he begins to see everything I've told him about for himself, I can see it all starting to make sense to him... The statue of Dixie Dean, the club shop, the structure of the Grand Old Lady.

The expected noise on scoring a penalty for our first goal is forewarned by me but to no avail. The tightly-packed ground explodes with sound and despite the accompanying smiles and hugs all round, my son bursts into tears at the intensity. 'That won't be the last time they'll make you cry, son' I think to myself!

Fortunately, the second goal brought no such response from him and I heartily hoist him in the air as he smiles. 

I think a new fan has been minted. Pun intended.

My journey, our journey, could have been so different, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

By Lyle Kercher

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