Mention the spring of 1977 to Evertonians of a vintage old enough to remember the time, and chances are most will remember twin bitter disappointments; one of being edged out 3-2 by Aston Villa in a marathon second replay of the League Cup final, or the other of being robbed by the dastardly pantomime-villain referee Clive Thomas, when he disallowed Bryan Hamilton’s perfectly-good winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final.
For me, though, between the first and second League Cup final replays came my first visit to Goodison, and life has never quite been the same since.
For as long as I can remember, I have understood that my family are Evertonians. I knew that my older brother and Dad went to the games at Goodison, and that I had blue and white scarves and football shirts in my possession given to me by family members keen for me to carry on the tradition. However, when asked, I would usually say that I liked playing football more than watching it.
This was true, as far as I knew, until one Saturday in March 1977, a few months before my ninth birthday. I don’t know who dropped out of going that day, but I was informed at some point that morning that there was a spare ticket, and we were going to Goodison to watch Everton v Tottenham.
I don’t remember being particularly enthusiastic, but I agreed to go, and we set off, driving through the Mersey Tunnel from the Wirral, then walking what seemed miles through teeming, bustling streets, until the enormous shadow of the Goodison Main Stand loomed above me. I’d never seen so many people and such a huge building before, and I was immediately in awe.
The crucial moment came next. After climbing up the steep narrow staircases of the Main Stand, we stepped out into what seemed a vast arena, overlooking a beautiful expanse of green turf. The criss-cross blue and white patterns of the Bullens Road Stand opposite caught my eye.
At this point it’s fair to say that I’ve just fallen in love with a building and a football pitch. Then there’s a huge, bellowing roar as the crowd responds to the militaristic snare beat opening of Z-Cars and I’m basically gone, standing on my seat and shouting my head off, totally lost in the moment.
Quite early on in the game, Martin Dobson scores at the Park End followed by another even more deafening roar and I know this is exactly where I want to be. For life.
The match finished 4-0 to Everton and the scorers that day were Dobson, King, Latchford, and Lyons, all names synonymous with the era, and absolute heroes to me to this day. In context, the game was a routine victory against a soon to be relegated team in an ultimately disappointing era. But for a nearly nine-year-old who lived a quiet life, it changed Everton from a vague idea into one of my life’s great passions.
Within a couple of years, I was a season-ticket holder in the Bullens Road, watching as Gordon Lee’s teams ultimately came up short in terms of winning trophies, playing some great football but always being negatively compared to the all-conquering Liverpool team of the same era. But that’s still my team, even more so than Howard Kendall’s wonderful title-winning team that followed it.
In 1990 I left Merseyside, first to study and then to work elsewhere, but Everton has always loomed large wherever I’ve been in the world, whether it’s making the pilgrimage back to Goodison at least once a season or finding a bar in some remote country to watch a League Cup game on a Tuesday night.
In the years since 1977, I’ve seen some great teams and some not-so-great, but Everton has always symbolised nostalgia, home, identity, friendship and family to me. Although ultimately, it’s just a sport and a pastime, those things are real and meaningful to me. In 2014, I took my son, then aged six, to his first game at Goodison. As Z-Cars blared out, he threw his arms around my neck and said: “Daddy, I love you.” As heightened moments go, they don’t get much better than that.
By Mike Furber, Evertonian
Everton and technical partner hummel are proud to collaborate to present My Everton, a weekly series of first-hand accounts describing the most-treasured memories of fans, players, and staff both past and present.
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