By Mark Ellis
Gwladys Street Memories: No Place Like Home
[quote]This isn’t falling in love with an inanimate object; the Gwladys Street has a heart and soul that pumps the blood through the veins of Goodison Park.[/quote]
The Iconic Gwladys Street has been a home from home for me for 28 years; ever since I walked through the turnstiles on September 6 1986, I fell in love with the stand.
I have sat in every corner of the ground since then but there truly is no area of Goodison Park quite like the Gwladys Street. Watching videos of Everton before my first match, I was obsessed with (still am to be honest) the famous Bayern Munich semi final. I had never heard such noise, such fervent passion. This was the epitome of what the Twelfth man should be.
The goal that really captured my imagination was Trevor Steven making it 3-1. After rounding off a flowing move involving Sheedy and Gray, going clean through and slotting past Jean Marie Pfaff with consummate ease.
The Gwladys Street looking as if it had 50,000 fans in it, simply erupted…. “It’s settled now, Rotterdam, here we come!”
For me the Gwladys Street was made for this goal. I wanted to be in a crowd celebrating like that. The raw passion, the sheer joy. A game woven into the fabric of our history was an inspiration for me. I knew my heart belonged to Everton and my place was the Gwladys Street.
Nothing quite matches a goal at the Gwladys. You always feel you have somehow contributed to the goal going in. The ball does get drawn to the Gwladys much more than the Park End stand. I could be statistically totally wrong here, but that’s how it feels.
The best thing about the Gwladys Street is that you can end up four rows down on top of someone and no-one gives a monkeys. The crowd becomes a roller coaster as the emotion and sheer joy of a goal pours out.
One such occasion was in April 1997; losing 1-0 at home to Liverpool, Steve Harkness poorly headed it into the path of Big Dunc, and with seemingly nothing of the goal to aim at, he turned on a sixpence and buried it in the bottom left hand corner. The shot was right down my throat. I couldn’t believe it went in. The gap he got it through was no bigger than a postage stamp.
The crowd exploded. The Gwladys Street felt as if it had been lifted into orbit. There were fans getting thrown about like we were in a giant tumble dryer. I ended up 4 rows down, on my back, on top of a face down Scottish lad in a kilt. Good job he wasn’t facing up!
You can always tell the importance of a goal by how much pain you’re in the next day.
Big Dunc’s incredible equaliser was responsible for me walking round for a week like I’d just completed a marathon. As always, it was undeniably worth it.
The Gwladys Street can be truly inspirational when it wants to be; the crowd can really get the players going. In some instances the Gwladys Street can dictate the tempo of the game.
I have never seen this more in evidence than another Big Dunc inspired night. This time in 2005 with the unforgettable 1-0 victory over Man Utd. A win which went a long way to sealing our Champions League qualification
At 0-0 and the game beginning to drift, with Ferdinand and Brown knocking it around in defence, the crowd, seemingly out of nowhere, sensed something was on.
The Gwladys Street revved up the noise for no obvious reason, and Big Duncan set off to chase down Ferdinand and Brown who hurried the ball out of defence. As a consequence, United lost possession needlessly on the halfway line.
The crowd, now baying for blood, watched as Everton attacked and drew a free kick close to the family enclosure touchline.
Arteta lined up the freekick……
All I could see was the ball landing in the 6 yard box and big Duncan stooping to bury his header to make it 1-0. The atmosphere was off the scale madness., more bruises and a mess of fans. In trying to get ourselves back to our seats it felt as if we had killed the last 35 minutes stone dead.
Despite United’s quality, we knew instantly it was the winner.
The celebrations simply never died down, despite United attacking relentlessly. It was almost as if the enthusiasm of the crowd was enough to keep United out.
The magic of the Gwladys Street begins outside. The old stand has such an iconic presence. I get transported back in time as I walk down there; thinking of all the fans who have lined up outside, queuing up to see some of the greats.
I feel a sense of pride that I support this great club and have the chance to sit in the greatest “home end” in world football.
The sight of the pitch for the first time on a Saturday gives me as much of a buzz now as it did 28 years ago. The magic of the Gwladys Street, each game a new chapter, another chance to create a lifelong memory.
With our wonderful manager Roberto Martinez leading us into a brave new dawn, I’d like to think my memories have only just begun.
And when the golden times arrive, The Gwladys Street is where I’ll be watching them.
There simply is no place like home.
[box style=”Gray rounded” ]
And I’m feeling Gwladys all over
Yes I’m Gwladys all over
Baby I’m Gwladys all over
So glad you’re mine[/box]