My Everton #113: Our Tolkien-Like Quest

I grew up on Bingley Road, close to both Goodison and Anfield. On Saturdays ,we could hear and feel the powerful roars from both stadiums rolling down the street, and rattling the window panes on the houses. We knew the score from that alone. 

The gang of almost feral children that I ran with — parenting seemed to be a laissez-faire sort of activity back then, a round of catch, feed, then release back to the streets and back entries — made it our mission to go to the source of this powerful and intimidating volcano of human voices. 
The gang set off one Saturday morning on our Tolkien-like quest to find the quaking, fiery source of our curiosity. 

Our ragtag group first came across a long line of empty and unguarded double-decker buses on Utting Avenue. We ran riot through them and discovered that in the gaps between the seat cushions there was change — pennies, ha-pennies, thrippences and shillings — a veritable pirate’s loot for the gang and the source of some harsh words and pecking order establishment with regard to its distribution. 
We had heard, but didn’t quite trust the information, that you could access Goodison at 3/4 time for free because the gates were opened at that point. We passed through those blue gates slowly, wary and cautious like a posse creeping into a slot canyon to confront outlaws hidden in the rocks. Bonanza was a TV staple for us at the time and fuelled much of our imaginative play. Once through the gate and actually in the grounds without incident, an official noticed us and herded us to an area known as ‘the Boys’ pen’. 
The Boys’ pen was a small area high up in the stands with high, chain-link fencing corralling the boys into a small viewing area looking down on the pitch. 

Being in there was electric. Here we were, actually in the stadium, immersed in the sounds, smells and seeing the game in real time. But was that enough for this intrepid crew? No. 

After a while it became clear that there was a possibility of getting free of this pen, getting over the fence into the actual stands themselves. A lone attendant was charged with securing the front fence of the pen to prevent escapes. He shuffled back and forth trying to watch the game while keeping a disgruntled eye on his unruly charges. 

I am not sure quite how this next part happened. 

There was no communication between the boys but, as soon as the attendant reached the far end of the pen, a wave of boys, me among them, ran for the fence and scrambled up and over up it like a wave of chimpanzees. The guard went to stop us but it was far too late and we were through.
I dropped down from the fence and squirmed between the swarms of supporters in the stands to evade capture and distance myself from the pen. 
‘This was it’, I thought to myself, I had made it into the stands. The real deal, the proper place to watch the game. It was packed and I had to strain to catch a glimpse of the action on the pitch but I was absolutely ecstatic. 

Things were so different back then.

My senses were filled with shouts and smells and the energy of being in a crowd but the Gwladys Street would sway from one side to another, particularly as the ball came towards our end. So much so, I was almost picked up off the floor.

After the game, as we streamed out of the stadium, I was able to link up with my friends and we regaled the tales of our heroics to reach the stands.
Not long after completing this rite of passage and in my tenth year of life in Liverpool, my family emigrated to Canada. 

Seven days on the Empress of England crossing the Atlantic and three days on a Canadian Pacific train landed us in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A long time after that, nearly 55 years later, I was back at Goodison, sitting in a seat this time, watching Everton play and beat Burnley in the last game of the 2018/19 season. It was so surreal going through the narrow turnstiles and studying the girders and rivets layered up in thick blue paint. I reflected on all the history contained in the structure, all the drama and the changes as generations have come and gone. All the emotions that have been expressed, the joy, the grief, the anger and the laughter all seemed now to be absorbed and residing in the building itself, as though the steel and concrete and the grass had breathed them in. 

As I turned to depart after the game I thought about how years ago my little escapades became a small part of the collective history of this place called Goodison. 

A tiny drop in the sea of human life and energy Goodison has witnessed and contained over the years. 

She will be missed when the Blues start to take to the pitch in the new stadium, perhaps in the way I missed my grandad as I waved goodbye to him through the taxi window all those years ago on the way to Canada. 

By David Eadie, Evertonian

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