By Dominic Kearney.
I don’t have Everton stories as such. What I have are memories.
Pieces of Jigsaw puzzle that I shake out of the box and turn over. Some are corner pieces; others are straight edges; others are grass or sky. Some are missing, so the complete picture is impossible to make.
What you are left with is a partial picture of me. It’s not a picture of Everton, but Everton infiltrates all the pieces of the jigsaw. Dates may be wrong, details may be wrong, but this is the way the pieces look to me.Patricia Phillips pointed to the screen and said, “There’s your Dad.” I believed I could see him, although I know now I couldn’t, and when I saw him the next day, I told him.
Patricia used to help my Mum looking after the children, particularly my younger brother, Jamie, who has learning difficulties. Back then it was called being mentally retarded. It was the FA Cup Final, 1968, which Everton lost 1-0. Other people talk of going round to neighbours who had colour televisions. We were the neighbours they came round to.
My Dad had a stall on Birkenhead Market, selling day-old bread and cakes. He worked Saturdays, but he’d get to the match often enough. He knew a director who got him a ticket for the directors’ box most Saturdays. He came home one day and said that Colin Harvey had played a blinder. I didn’t know if that was good or bad, but he told me it was a good thing.
A yard dog was a bad thing. Ron Yeats was a yard dog.Because of work, and because he got a ticket for the directors’ box, my Dad didn’t take us to the game that often. When we were a little older, we’d go to midweek games with him. Occasionally, family friends would take us.
Us was me and one of my older brothers. We all went to Catholic schools.
The boys, apart from my younger brother, went to St Joseph’s on Menlove Avenue. It isn’t there now. It was run by an order of brothers – Redemptorists I think, although I’m not sure. When you’re young, the way you live is the norm for the world, and you just accept things without question.
The brothers all supported Everton or Manchester United. Brother Slattery used to take us to a few games. I think we were at the game against Sheffield United when we went 2-0 up and then lost 3-2. I think David Smallman scored our goals. We missed the title that year. I don’t remember the context. I remember if the swearing around us got a bit too much, Brother Slattery would unzip his anorak to reveal a dog collar, and turn around and ask people to keep the swearing down because there were young children there. And they apologised and cut out the language for a while.
Brother Slattery and Brother Augustine took us to Old Trafford to watch us play in a League Cup game. 1976, it must have been. We won. I wore my school uniform and a blue mackintosh and my scarf. We ended up covered with spit.
That must have been one of Bingham’s last games, around the time he signed Rioch and Duncan MacKenzie. I saw Gordon Lee’s first game. He came out to greet the crowd and raised his arms above his head to applaud the supporters. His sheepskin coat hunched around his shoulders. Swindon Town, I think it was. Dave Jones got the winner.
On the way back from the Andy King derby, I saw Jimmy McGrain from school. He was a red, and used to be big friends with Bernie Norton. I asked Jimmy if he’d enjoyed the game. He just stuck up two fingers and walked on. My older brother and I were going to the games by ourselves by this time. Mum used to drop us opposite Gwladys Street on Walton Hall Avenue, and then pick us up where it meets the Drive.
My little brother was too young to come with us then, but he was always in the car.
She knew a circuitous route home, through Norris Green, West Derby, and Broadgreen. You missed the traffic on the Drive that way. We still go that way now, when we come back for a match. We go in either Paul or John’s car.We went to a testimonial at Anfield.
It was either for Emlyn Hughes or Ian Callaghan or Tommy Smith. There was no scoreboard, and the Kop wanted to know the score. They began chanting ‘We want a scoreboard.’ Then ‘Everton have got one.’ Then ‘Everton don’t need one.’
When we got back to the car, it had gone. I asked my dad if this was the right road. He told me not to be so stupid. We called the police who found the car in the next road.
Some time in the 70s we got new neighbours, a couple in their sixties. They needed a bungalow because of her heart condition. Not long after, he was made a director of Everton. Gordon Lee came round to their house once, and had bacon and eggs. We peeped through the fence at him. Late he came down out drive with two Everton books, signed for me and my little brother.
I used to deliver papers for MacNaughton’s on Woolton Road. I brought the Echo to our neighbour. He was in the front garden, puffing on a fag, taking a rest from mowing the lawn. The back page announced the appointment of Howard Kendall, with a line from Philip Carter saying he was the only one we wanted. My neighbour said that was funny because they’d been on the phone to four different managers only that morning. Our neighbour would give us tickets for the Top Balcony.
My little brother was old enough and confident enough to go to the games by then. Although we’d get free tickets, I saved up my paper round money and bought a season ticket which got me into the Street End and the Park End.
I felt a proper fan gave money to the club. And a proper fan stood up. And if we won the League the trophy would be presented in the directors’ box and I wouldn’t be able to see from the Top Balcony. There was one game against Wolves when we’d got there really early and got places right in the middle above the central aisle which went from one side to the other. Alan Joliffe said that if we scored the barrier would give way.
I ducked under and stood on the wrong side of the barrier, but it ended 0-0. Jimmy Birkenhead and I went to Birmingham away. Ian Moran had done something wrong that week and his Mum said he couldn’t go. We went by train. When we got into the ground it looked like there were skirmishes everywhere. I spent the whole game scared and didn’t relax until we got into Lime Street.
When Bob Latchford equalised against West Ham in the semi-final replay, I was overjoyed, but part of me thought it was just delaying the inevitable, giving hope where that wasn’t any really. That’s the way I think. Just get it over with. I was in line with Frank Lampard’s header. I saw it spin into the net. My Mum used to tell my brother Jamie that Everton had won, no matter what the score was.
One day he called her into the dining room where he was sitting with the Sunday paper. He pointed to the page showing Everton had lost.
‘You told me Everton had won,’ he said. He had taught himself to recognise words.
Jamie is on the official DVD of the Everton-Spurs semi-final. We were sitting in line with the edge of the penalty area at the end where Amokachi scored his goals. There must have been a camera directly opposite us. When he got the second, Jamie was the first out of his seat.
My Dad lost his temper completely at the Maine Road semi-final replay in 1977. He kept on yelling at the people in front of us to sit down. When my brother asked him to stop shouting, he stormed off. He came back about 10 minutes later.
After the game, when we were walking back to the car, a gang of City fans approached us looking for trouble. My Dad told them where to go. He remembers this, but not losing his temper during the game.
I had an old BMW 5 Series. It was maroon and smelled worryingly of petrol and I couldn’t really afford to run it. Paul Kinsella and I went to the Wimbledon game in it, and also to the Spurs semi in it. It was a lucky car.
There was a girl at university called Judy Wilson and I really fancied her. She came back to Liverpool with me one weekend. I’d got Paddock tickets for the derby. She was from Scotland but supported Liverpool, although she didn’t tell me this until we were in the ground. That was the 5-0 game and she celebrated every goal.
That night we went to see Waiting for Godot at the Playhouse.
You could hear the singing and cheering and sirens from inside the theatre. I danced a jig in front of the big screen in the union at university with a boy whose name I never knew when Everton beat Watford. Later that night I spent a lot of time trying to kiss Sue Crawford while my girlfriend sat laughing at me. Sue Crawford laughed at me too.
I also lost an hour and a half during which I think I wandered round Jesmond. I never kissed Judy Wilson.
My Mum supported Liverpool. She used to visit my grandfather – we called him Pop – every day after my grandmother died. He loved cricket and horse racing, and was a big Liverpool fan, and used to talk about football. In order to be able to have better conversations with him, Mum began reading the Liverpool news.
She always said she wasn’t bothered about football, but she hated Alex Ferguson and could tell you who played left back for Middlesborough.
I booed Clive Thomas the first game he refereed at Goodison after disallowing Hamilton’s goal. I think it was a third round game against Villa and we won 4-1.
I regret not buying an I hate Emlyn Hughes badge.
My little brother Jamie and I moved to Northern Ireland last year. I married an Irish girl. She has red hair and I occasionally call her Alan Ball. Jamie and I joined the Everton Supporters Club of Northern Ireland. We come to Goodison for the odd match still, and watch games with other Blues in a pub in town or in the Derry City Social Club.
We prefer Institute to Derry City because Derry City play in red and white stripes. They’re nicknamed the Candy Stripes but it’s red. Institute play in blue. There’s more than one kind of sectarian divide. My Dad lives in a residential home in Woolton Village. He is very deaf and his memory’s going. When we visit he asks us if we’re going to the match.
We say ‘yes,’ or ‘there’s no game today.’ Then he’ll ask us the same question a few minutes later. He also asks, ‘any news of the ‘Blues?
Mum wrote a book for Jamie to teach him to read. He wasn’t interested in Janet and John, although he liked A Fish out of Water.
He can still remember ‘Never feed him a lot, no more than a spot, or something may happen, you never know what.’
Mum’s book was all about a boy called Jamie who loved Everton. She wrote it by hand, and Jamie keeps the book in a special box. Our sister Gaye also wrote in it, on the last page. She wrote, ‘In my opinion all the Everton and Liverpool players are fairies. In fact the only team which is not made up of fairies is _____ . _____ are magic and are going to win the league.
The blanks would have said Manchester City, because she fancied Denis Tueart, I think, and always said she supported them. It might have been Colin Bell, come to think of it. Jamie rubbed out Manchester City and wrote Everton instead.
My first game was in 1970. We beat Chelsea 5-2. We left early to avoid the crowds. I once made a Geoff Nulty badge. It was the only Geoff Nulty badge in the world.
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About Dominic Kearney
Author and journalist Dominic Kearney was born and brought up in Liverpool. He now lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with his wife and brother.
Dominic published his first novel, Cast-Iron Men, in 2011. A tense, pacy, and violent crime thriller, Cast-Iron Menwalks the line between the bright gloss of Liverpool’s emergence as European City of Culture and the grim underworld always lurking beneath the surface. A native of the city, Dominic brings Liverpool to life on every page, in all its beauty and ugliness.
Dominic also works as an art critic for Culture Northern Ireland. He has written for the Derry Journal and the Irish News, and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Foyle. Read an interview with Dominic on the Derry Journal website.
Dominic supports Everton FC.