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Flashback to 7 May 1994 in Lagos, Nigeria.
I was born in Liverpool, but my Dad’s job meant we moved to Nigeria when I was very young.
At this time, I was 13 and had not been exposed to much club football.
I recall on this certain day, my mum had a friend over and the two of them were cross-stitching and chatting in the kitchen.
For a reason I can’t quite explain, at that age, I enjoyed hanging out with my mum and observing the conversations between her and her friends.
The tranquil setting on this particular occasion, though, was abruptly interrupted by my Dad who came racing into the house screaming incoherently while covered in sunbathing oil and wearing only a tiny pair of briefs.
Perplexed, we observed him doing a lap of the living room, screaming, before disappearing out of the kitchen.
Unbeknown to me, on this very same day some 3,251 miles away, there was a crucial contest being played out at Goodison Park.
The famous fixture was, of course, Everton v Wimbledon.
Even the most nonchalant Everton fan with only a fleeting interest in football could tell you the permutations and details of this significant game.
Regardless, a reminder that Everton needed to win to secure their top-flight survival.
A nightmare start saw them concede a penalty in the fourth minute to go 1-0 down. They then scored an own goal to increase the gap to 0-2. Disaster.
Before half-time, the Blues managed to pull one back, reawakening hope. Everton then grabbed two more in the second half to seal a famed 3-2 victory, and inadvertently, send my Dad running around the house nearly naked and in ecstasy.
Fast forward to 19 May 2022.
Now a staunch Toffee, I’ve since returned to the UK and I am in attendance, along with my daughters Maya, aged 11, and Elspeth, who was just four months old, for another momentous clash at Goodison Park with survival again on the line.
In what was the penultimate game of last season, Everton - realistically – needed a win against Crystal Palace to secure their top-flight status.
We went 1-0 down from a set-piece, then concedeD a calamitous second goal to make it 2-0 before half-time.
At this moment, my youngest Elspeth compounds my stress by pooing all over herself and my arm.
I spend 15 minutes on the toilet cubicle floor cleaning us both up before heading back to my seat and mulling over the long two-hour drive home to Tadcaster in North Yorkshire. I also briefly think back to that Wimbledon game. There are so many similarities, except for the remarkable comeback that followed. That part seems unfeasible at this stage.
But then it all changed in the second half. Michael Keane pulled a goal back in the 54th minute and chaos ensued.
I lift Elspeth into the air with joy, before reminding myself that we are still losing. I think of the Wimbledon game again ,though. Could it be?
I briefly think it feels inevitable we'll score again but then banish that thought quickly as to not jinx it. We start throwing everything we have at Palace, I don’t just mean the team but the crowd, too. The atmosphere is electric.
Then, as we hunt down an equaliser, Maya my oldest announces that she’s going to lick her ‘lucky sweet’.
I watch on in disbelief as she pulls apart a tissue taken from her pocket to reveal a small green and white sweet. It originally came from a bag of Yorkshire Mixtures that my Dad took with him to every game.
She proceeds to lick it, paper and all. I hardly have time to process what I am seeing before the enchantment of the tradition has its desired impact and Richarlison makes it 2-2!
Somehow, Elspeth sleeps through the mayhem but Maya looks ready to cry. Blue smoke sits heavy in the air as the sun sets in the background.
Now motivated more than ever, Maya continues licking her lucky tissue-papered sweet.
On cue, we get the crucial third to make it 3-2, Dominic Calvert-Lewin the scorer. Pandemonium. Elspeth again sleeps through it. Maya is crying this time.
I start frantically shouting toward Maya to lick her 'lucky sweet’ whenever Palace attack thereafter. I start to lose my voice.
At this point, I recall thinking about how I can’t remember the last time we sat down.
The dying minutes of the game pass and I see the referee look at his watch while heading at pace towards the tunnel. The whistle blows and it feels like everyone around us is dancing or crying, an illustration of simultaneous ecstasy and relief.
Amongst the delirium after, I think of my Dad, the man once dripping with sunbathing oil and the one who used to sit to my left at Goodison Park when returned back to the UK.
He’s gone now, but he introduced me to Everton, and he taught Maya all about the concept of the ‘lucky sweet’. Like many that night, he indirectly played his part in one of Goodison’s most memorable matches. The only sad part is he wasn’t there to see it.
In memory of Peter Richard Bleasdale (18.03.1947 - 18.01.2021).
By Lydia Bleasdale, Evertonian