My Everton #121: GMT+TOFFEES

I'm from the UK in a literal sense — I was born there, both of my parents are English, and I love a queue — but having spent my entire life outside of the UK, Everton provided me with a sense of belonging and identity which is irreplaceable.

As a six year old, in Beijing at the time, I grew loving football through my older brother's interest in the game. However, while he was swept up with Sir Alex-fever and donned a Manchester United shirt, the highlights packages that would appear on television each weekend were beckoning me towards this team in royal blue.

With no tangible connection to any club at the time, it was unexplainable as to why I was drawn to (at that time) Moyes' Everton, although I now understand - and truly believe - the notion that Evertonians are born, not manufactured.

My earliest memory is watching Andy Johnson and co. pour misery on our local rivals in a 3-0 home win. Being short in stature myself, Tim Cahill quickly became my idol. I felt he encapsulated the Everton spirit in his constant doggedness and perseverance.

Equipped with a blue top almost constantly through my younger years, I was surrounded by superfans or casuals of your traditional Premier League-era high-achievers - but I'd speak at length in both English and Mandarin, to anyone that would listen about the charm of the culture built around stoics like Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman, our fiercely loyal and passionate fanbase, our rich history and I would take great pleasure every time a Chelsea or an Arsenal lost at Goodison.

I've since moved to Australia, where 4am weekend bedtimes become commonplace when following the Toffees. Midweek games right before work can make or break your day — after the Palace and Newcastle games from two seasons ago, I'd never felt happier walking into a dreary office, while also providing an early alarm clock for everyone in my block of flats.

Flying to Sydney to watch Everton v Celtic last season was a standout memory for me, as it summed up the importance of community which is fostered around our club.

Having gone alone, I was grateful for our Facebook groups which connected otherwise complete strangers, each with their own unique Everton story, away from your average banal footballing discussions which can often fester amongst other fanbases here.

I was lucky enough to see us beat QPR at home 3-1 in 2014, in what was my first live Everton game, as my family would return to the UK every few years for Christmas. After spotting a certain Phil Neville walking outside the ground and asking him for a picture, he promised to come back in a few minutes and darted off into a building. I thought it was another case of 'Don't meet your heroes', however he stuck to his word and returned. Another amazing memory.

Wherever I am in the world, I only follow one time-zone: GMT+TOFFEES.

By Finn Todd, Evertonian

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