My Everton #118: Bellefield Bliss And Brylcreem

I was brought up in post-war Wavertree, in the shadow of the gasworks, whose giant gasholders dominated the closely-packed terraced houses around that part of Liverpool. 

The area had taken quite a battering from the Luftwaffe and us kids found our own “playgrounds” in the bomb-sites which still littered the neighbourhood. Our football was played in the narrow streets, as there wasn't much traffic to worry about in those days. 

My brother, Ken, and I loved playing football but I must say in those very early days we had not settled on an allegiance to the Blues or the Reds.

My Dad and his brothers were all from the Dingle and were Reds. Mother was born in Everton and when we asked her which team we should support she was unequivocal, “Nevermind your Dad, you are both Evertonians like me, and that’s it!” 

So, that part of growing up was sorted. 

My Dad was a very skilful amateur footballer and a sports groundsman by trade who had tendered the pitches of the Liverpool Boys Association and the British Insulated Callender’s Cables looking after all their sporting spaces. He loved working outdoors.

He also wanted the best for us all, which included moving out of the housing he was used to and into more pleasant surroundings. In 1954, he fulfilled that ambition and was appointed head groundsman at Everton’s training ground in West Derby, Bellefield.

The Blues had just returned to the first division after a short stint in the second tier, my brother and I were surrounded by training pitches, tennis courts, trees and green spaces. A small house was provided for us at Bellefield and for mum and dad, for the first time in their lives now had a house with a bathroom and indoor toilet... in leafy West Derby... heaven!

So, Ken and I became up close and personal with the Everton first team, who trained on the pitches and sprinted on the asphalt drive outside our front door. Dave Hickson, Jimmy Harris, Albert Dunlop, Bobby Collins et al. and a young lad who graduated from my dads’ ground staff, Derek Temple. 

No doubt about it now, brother Ken and I were proper Evertonians. 

I was still a bit too young to attend matches on my own but as my dad earned some overtime as a matchday steward in the stands, he would sometimes take me along. In the late 1950s I can recall him taking me to visit the Everton dressing room just before kick off. We bumped into Alex Parker, who was dipping into the largest tub of Brylcreem I had ever seen. My Dad said, “Go easy, Alex, the ball might slip of your head putting that much on!” 

The players also helped themselves to a large box of Beechnut chewing gum, which made me very envious!

By the time we moved on from Bellefield in the early 1960s I was old enough to attend matches with my pals and we became season ticket holders. A years’ season ticket cost £3 in those days, a slight saving of the 3s per match fee but, of course, most importantly is meant guaranteed entrance. 

From 1961 to until I left Liverpool for work in 1966 I was lucky enough to witness a great Everton era. The best moments are difficult to pick out but three matches stand out for their significance. Roy Vernon’s hat-trick against Fulham at home to clinch the 1962-63 league title, our first European Cup game against Inter Milan the following year and THAT Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday in 1966, when a former ground staff boy from Bellefield scored the winner (Derek Temple, of course). 

After leaving Liverpool at 18, I didn’t return to live on Merseyside but the die was cast and I remain a loyal supporter to this day.

Apart from taking in the odd home game when visiting relatives and supporting the team for away games in London and Manchester when I've lived in those areas, my attendance has been somewhat limited over the years. So you can imagine the joy I felt when my brother and I attended the 1878 Lounge to celebrate my 60th birthday. 

The ticket included seats in the Directors' Box when we rubbed shoulders with Bill Kenwright, Phillip Carter and Howard Kendall. During the lunch, I spoke to the restaurant supervisor and explained our 1950s Bellefield connection. A little later we had a visitor to our table when the one and only Dave Hickson came in to say hello! What a gent he was. I also had the privilege of presenting Phil Neville with his Man of the Match award after the game (pictured above).

What a Club.

By Roy Watts, Evertonian

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