My Everton #97: In My Blue Life

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The death of my son-in-law’s nan, a fervent blue, has prompted me to put down on paper a few observations about this popular saying: "born a blue, live a blue, die a blue".

My son-in-law’s name is Neil. His nan, May, and my old Auntie Annie, along with my dad, were three very similar people in age and passion, and this very point is emphasised in these observations through my blue teary eyes...

I was born and raised in Sussex Gardens, a tenement block off Park Road, Liverpool 8, in Dingle. My dad, my Grandad Tommy, my uncles, and all my brothers except one supported Everton. I think all families have one red sheep, don’t they?

The first match I went to was Everton v Fulham in 1962/63, when Roy Vernon scored a hat-trick and Everton won the Football League.

Me and my mate George Bramwell honestly saw the light that day, and have followed it ever since.

The next big Everton memory for me was Wembley and the 1966 FA Cup Final versus Sheffield Wednesday. 

My dad drank in The Little Woodman pub off Grafton Street, Liverpool 8.

He came home from the pub on the Thursday night and said to me, "Do you fancy the Cup Final!?!" Friday night at midnight, me, George Bramwell, and as many others that could, got on a double-decker bus and left Liverpool 8 for Wembley.

My Dad was a steel fixer, big and strong, and not a man of great emotions... or so I thought. From the leaving of The Little Woodman until arriving at Wembley at 6:30am the next morning, my dad sat on the floor of the coach, allowing me and George to use his seat... 

Okay, the crate of Mackeson’s ale he put away probably numbed the pain, but this was a different dad, a relaxed knowledgeable funny dad I hadn’t seen or heard before. Then again, the darts team from The Little Woodman would have given 'The Comedians' a run for their money.

What an education that journey was; no motorway cafes then, just endless pitstops along the way.

Being 15 years old, and a lad of few words, I hounded my dad to see my ticket. "Don’t worry about your ticket, I will sort it later," he kept saying.

It turned out he didn’t have a ticket for me but spent the next eight hours offering a king’s ransom to any Cockney tout he could find.

We even stumbled upon the late great British heavyweight boxing champion, Henry Cooper, helping out on his family’s fruit and veg stall in Wembley... still no luck.

Anyway, we ended up watching one of the greatest Cup Final comebacks of all time, sat in a little cafe in Wembley.

Coming home from Wembley after beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 was one of the best days of my life.

I had never seen so many grown men cry, laugh and sing at the same time. 

The big strong steel fixer was a revelation: I didn’t know he could sing — I bet Chrissy, my Mum had never heard him sing either — but he sang, drank and danced the full length of the bus, up and down the stairs and alongside the bus at traffic lights.

Winning the FA Cup and seeing a different side of my dad will live with me forever.

I think I have dealt with ’born a blue’ in part, but in the 1990s I somehow got to fulfil a small part of ’live a blue’ when, through another lifelong friend, Peter Rice, I got a job working on the turnstiles at my beloved Goodison Park.

Free pass to all parts of the ground; free seats anywhere I wanted; even a treasured official Everton tie to wear on match days. Start at 1.30pm and finish when Z-Cars started.... Blue heaven!

You needed to go into The Wimslow pub on Goodison Road before, during, and after the match, to experience the passion, the humour and especially the warm Guinness.

The half-time pass-out session was especially enlightening. Why Walter Smith and Howard Kendall didn’t come over, I don’t know; it was easy, I sorted the defence, Peter sorted the attack and Wally the midfield, all in fifteen minutes and three pints of warm Guinness.

I was finally on the official payroll of Everton Football Club, with an Everton tie... the old steel fixer would be smiling down on me now.

The extras that went with the job are for another day, from stewarding Wembley Specials, to making obnoxious away supporters stand in the pouring rain while I double- and sometimes triple-checked their sodden tickets are memories I will always treasure — and some I daren’t repeat!

I am just turned 71 now and I really thought I might lose a bit of passion with age, but I still get as excited now as I ever did.

I’m not going to change now — and why should I? The legacy started by my Grandad Tommy and his dad before him will live for ever.

My Grandad Tommy, my dad, my Auntie Annie, and May are a good example of the often misused premise 'born a blue, live a blue and die a blue' — all sadly passed away. 

And all, I am sure, lived passionate lives, but are now settled in their own blue heaven.

By Fran Kearney, Evertonian