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It was a long, long time ago, but I remember with fondness and some clarity my introduction to the religion that is Everton. I was nine years old and jealous of my younger brother, who had the same name as, and was the favourite of our Uncle Joe.
Every Saturday, our Joe would go down to help in our Grandad’s chip shop, Podesta’s on Scotland Road, if anyone remembers. After the lunchtime rush, and when the potatoes for the evening’s chips were washed, peeled and chopped, Uncle Joe would take my brother to the match. A very unsatisfactory state of affairs to my young mind; I was the eldest and I should have been the one to go. As with most Evertonians, we were born into the blue side of Liverpool and going to your first match was more a right of passage than finding something to do on a Saturday afternoon.
Now, not usually one to be happy about another person’s misfortune, I was delighted when brother Joe was taken ill. Nothing too serious, just enough to deter my parents from letting him help out at the chippy.
I got to go!
The work was pretty hard; taking the eyes out of the spuds in freezing cold water made the hands red raw, and despite the willingness to appear strong, a nine year old's strength isn’t what a nine year old thinks it is. Carrying the buckets of chips through to the fryers was tiring. However, serving the wonderful and very patient customers, when Grandad let me, made up for all that. It was brilliant.
Scotty Road people were, and probably still are, among the best in the world.
Anyway, when the lunchtime rush was over it was my turn to go with Uncle Joe to the match. God’s honest truth, I can’t remember who we were playing but I can remember walking up to the Park End and seeing this small and very smartly dressed young man among the crowd, smiling and signing autographs in the street.
It was Alec Young, the Golden Vision himself.
Times have changed, I know, but a star of such magnitude in such a position nowadays is unthinkable. But it’s something etched into my memory and it doesn’t require any effort to re-see this Royal Blue legend in my mind’s eye, happy, among the hoi poloi, just going to work. He scored that day, too!
I must have done a good job at Grandad’s because I went to the chip shop every Saturday afterwards, and to every Everton game; first team and reserves.
It was at Goodison that I had my first brush with the law.
Times have changed and I live in Worcestershire now, and only get to Goodison for a handful of games in the season. I bring my granddaughter up to watch the women play at Walton Hall Park and I fastidiously renew my official membership every year.
But the memories stay with me: of fleeing the long arm of the law, and persuading my Dad to let me go, unaccompanied, to watch Everton play Inter Milan in 1963, (0-0, one shilling and sixpence in the boys’ pen (9p), chapped hands, raw knees and cavalry trousers and, most of all, seeing a diminutive, well-dressed and pleasant ordinary man (Young) change into the Royal Blue God who scored on my first visit to Goodison Park.
Just a note to say that my grandad’s chippy lives on at the corner of Bedford Road and Stuart Road where Byrne’s Chips, (run by his grandchildren, the Dickson family) continues to serve.
Some would say, the best fish and chips in Liverpool - and therefore, the world!
By Paul Ferguson, Evertonian