My Everton #126: Celebrating In Dorms & Rising Before Dawn

I first got into football in 2014. My mom's side of the family always takes a trip North Carolina over the summer and, of course, we can't spend all our time on the beach, so after the days out that year my dad had the World Cup on non-stop. 

As an American, this was Tim Howard's tournament, in my mind. I was awestruck not only by his heroics in that historic match against Belgium, but also by his pure presence and command on the pitch. 

The next summer, having first got into the MLS, I found out that Howard played for Everton through his biography, The Keeper. From then, it still took me another season to really go all-in with the Blues, but by 2016/17, I was fully invested. 

By that time, of course, Howard had come home to play for the Colorado Rapids - the main rival of my beloved Real Salt Lake! However, he'd mentioned Romelu Lukaku not only as an admirable opponent in that World Cup match, but also as a great teammate, so I had a familiar face to look out for as I learned the team. My love for the club steadily grew, and I watched more and more matches over the next several years. 

Having started college in August of 2020 at the height of COVID precautions, I made some friends in the dorm across the street from mine. We ended up watching lots of TV together in their common room, but never Everton matches - or any football, really. However, in February of 2021, as our spring semester was starting, Everton were set to play Liverpool in a crowdless Anfield in one of those odd limbo-time Merseyside derbies. 

I can't recall being as emotionally invested in any single sporting event in my lifetime. 

I genuinely did not sit down once between the first and last whistle. When Richy slotted home the first goal I went running and shouting up and down the hall, and as the full-time whistle went it was a feeling of utter elation.

In April 2022, I finalised plans to study abroad in Bath for the fall semester of my junior year, just as the announcement about Everton's pre-season tour of America the coming summer was made. I was going to be home in Pittsburgh the entire summer, and Baltimore is (in American terms) relatively close, so I knew I had to get to the Charm City to see my heroes in action. 

The weekend was wonderful, despite the loss to Arsenal. Simply the sight of my favourite club in action right in front of me, not thousands of miles away on a screen, was more than enough to make me unbearably excited at the prospect of getting to Goodison in the coming months. 

I ended up buying a ticket for the match home to Palace on 22 October 2022. I was up before the sun to take three trains through Bristol and Birmingham to get to Liverpool in time to have lunch and explore the hallowed ground before a 3pm kickoff. I ended up at a picnic table in the Fan Zone with three lifelong Evertonians (whom I still keep in touch with - hey Stef, Rob, and Lizzie!) and had a lovely conversation before checking out the tables in St. Luke's and heading to my seat in the Upper Bullens. 

From the moment I got past the turnstile, I knew this would be a totally transformative day for me. 

There is so much magic in every single part of the Grand Old Lady, and I felt every ounce of it washing over me as I went up the stairs and saw the pitch with my own eyes for the first time. I would be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears sitting there before the match, but I collected myself in time to enjoy a raucous 3-0 victory. 

Every time I look at my photos from the day, I can't help but long to be back amongst that crowd. I'm not sure I'll make it back to Goodison before she's gone, but I received a stone in the Everton Way at Bramley-Moore Dock as a birthday gift this past summer, so I'll have to make the pilgrimage again to see that in due course. 

Until then, UTT.

By Charlie Forster, Evertonian

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