I am an Evertonian, I come from Gladys Street. I like to sing I like to fight, I get kicked out every week. It’s an old football song. It is nothing but fantasy. One, I don’t come from Gladys Street. Two, I do not fight and I’ve never been kick out of a football ground.
I once had a fancy for living around Goodison Park. I could have mates round on match days for a few drinks before the game. It was a fantastic idea; focus on the word fantastic. But I’ve been dedicated to Everton Football Club for my whole life.
I religiously went to every home game and went all over the country to see them. In the mid-eighties I would start up the Old Queen and we’d set off on a quest to some far flung away ground.
I loved driving. Most of all, I loved driving to new places: Barnsley, Nottingham, Oxford, Ipswich, Sheffield, Oldham, Leeds, Stoke, Blackburn, Derby, Plymouth, Norwich and Leicester.
The day after Boxing day in 1986, we returned from Newcastle after beating them four nil.
After dropping my friends off I consequently drove on down to Tunbridge Wells. Such dedication is admirable. Isn’t it?
All this time, I had an Everton sticker on the rear windscreen and a delicate sliver of blue tinsel streaming from the aerial.
For a lot of that decade, I was considering the possibility of moving away. I wanted to be a teacher. Being a teacher is a mobile facility. But after getting my degree in 1985, it was not looking good. I’d had rejections for a PGCE from a few colleges. Instead I contented myself with a high workload and a dedication to the blues. And I had the Old Queen.
Ever since my mate George bought his nearly new Mark 4 Cortina in 1983, I’d coveted this bronzed beauty. It was fast and quiet. I’d put a storming stereo in it and we rocked. Once, we were flying down the M6 to Villa park when we spotted a car full of Man U supporters. Manchester United were not doing very well. We were going to win the league. My mate Pete spotted them. From the front passenger seat he wound the window down, (seventies technology) stretched his six foot two frame out and began to give them total abuse. He had no care for the fact that we were doing ninety.
When he sat back down, his head looked like an explosion in a spaghetti factory.
That was the nature of our football adventures. Nothing was too much trouble. We (or I) drove everywhere. We were free spirits. Once at Barnsley for the fourth round of the FA cup, the crowd after the game looked a bit threatening. Now I hate violence. In all our football travels, we’d had great banter with opposing fans but to start hurting each other is low.
Some of the sub-species started to kick out at random. Now I say thank-you to Ros. Ros was one of my piano pupils. When I told her I was going to Barnsley she asked “Can you get me a Barnsley hat?” I duly obliged. (I have no idea why she wanted a Barnsley hat-probably because she was fourteen).
Anyway in the midst of the carnage, I slipped on this hat and started saying “EE by gum.” I got back to the car safely.
There are so many away day stories. One perfect day was in late November in 1986. We were away at Manchester City. It was my thirty first birthday. Outside the old ground we met Pete’s mate Brendan. He lived close by. So we piled into his house at twelve thirty to discover that he had a copious supply of home brew.
I think we won three one. Then it was back home to do my birthday Seacombe pub crawl.
As luck would have it, one of our party was always willing to drive back so I was often free to let loose. That night, I did not cover myself in glory. But I covered the bedroom floor in re-cycled kebab.(Too much information.) Football was not the only dedication.
There was music. I started going to piano lessons in February of 1969 when I was thirteen. Because I’d learned the recorder and cello at school, I had a good knowledge of the bass and treble clef. Once at my mate Rob’s house I sat at his piano and began to realise that I could actually locate the notes on the song in front of me; D’ye ken John Peel. I began playing it (slowly), Rob’s mum came in to see what was going on:
“Oh Stephen are you having piano lessons?” she asked. “Do you practise?” She gave her son a glance which said “why don’t you practise like that?” “No,” I replied. I’ve never sat at a piano before. The one in our house is locked.” Then I drank my orange juice.
The following Sunday, while my dad was having his usual much deserved lunchtime pint, I broke into the piano at home and played the same tune from memory.
Mum knew I had some musical skill and her reaction was the usual matter of fact “Oh you can play, I knew you could.” She greeted the news of my success at gaining an LTCL some sixteen years later in the same manner. My mum was an expert at hiding her feelings but I knew she was just bursting.
Needless to say, the whole road knew within a week. But she never gloated; that was her outlet for the pride. I had a wonderful time with music. It was like having free access to mind altering drugs. Unlimited legal highs.
In the Autumn of 1969 my mum agreed to take me to a local series of concerts in Liverpool. These were “Industrial Concerts” at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
To hear a live orchestra was mind blowing. As a member of Wallasey Youth Orchestra, to play in a live orchestra was mind-blowing on steroids.
Sooner or later I will document my musical journey. Suffice to say, it was better than anything I’d experienced. Oh hang on. What about May bank hoiday in 1985 when I stood in the Gladys Street end to watch Everton clinch the league title? Hmmmm. No, these are two different highs. I cannot compare my two fields of dedication. I was sitting in the living room of an old musical friend Jules. We taught the piano in the same private outlet. We were very good friends. On the stereo (yes, vinyl) was Pollini playing Beethoven’s final piano sonata. In the second movement variations, there is a fabulous ragtime bit. When Beethoven wrote this he was stone deaf.
Personally, I think he had a window to the future, life and beyond. Jules and I stood up to perform some flapper style dance. “This is better than sex,” she exclaimed. Do you know what? I agreed.
Thank-you for reading.