A Health Report from Vancouver Island
I grabbed the phone on the third ring. The fusion of Texan and Canuk twangs with rich Lancashire vowels was unmistakable: “Howdy Michael — what kept you!” — It was that nice lass from Victoria, British Columbia, the Real Toffee Lady and she was in full flow:
“Anyway, greetings from sunny BC! Nowadays, everyday is a beautiful day — the sun is shining and we are just one point behind Arsenal. I bet it’s raining cats and dogs on the mainland? How are you? Do you have a spring in your step?” Could I get a word in edgeways? The onslaught continued:
“Thought I’d give you a quick heath update — thanks to you and the power of the internet, we’ve received 30, possibly 40 e.mails a day from concerned Evertonians. But don’t fret, I‘ve gone out of my way to reassure each and every one of them that the condition of David’s Collection is stable. Also I’m pleased to inform them that the other patient is as irritable as ever. And Michael, he is back home but has yet to read the interview on ToffeeWeb. I hope it didn’t offend anyone. Anyway wasn’t it your idea? I do hope that you’ve got expensive counsel.’”
‘Ah yes,’ I stammered… ‘Legal action; someone threatened that only last week…’
“Michael, were you too embarrassed to ask me about the Sons of St Domingo initiative? I guess you had better turn on your tape recorder and I‘ll bring you up to speed. Ready?
“Now tell me, do you remember your first visit to Goodison Park?” I retorted: ’Of course I do — 1964; my dad supervised the initiation for a league game against Blackpool. Everyone remembers their first pilgrimage to the promised land!’
Obviously I had played straight into her hands because she didn‘t even pause for breath: “Well to be honest, I can’t recall much about the script or the drama at my Goodison baptism but I can vividly recall the scenery. It was magnificent! The criss-crossed ironwork of Archibald Leitch, the rain trapped in the floodlights, the emerald, olive, bottle, jade mosaic of the manicured turf, the haunting resonance of Z Cars and of course the decibels of raw passion pulsating from the Gwladys Street terraces.
“Why am I telling you this? Well given today’s prohibitive cost of admission to Premiership fixtures, and I understand that it cost £30 at St James’s Park, David is trumpeting his latest and hopefully final cause — The Sons of St Domingo. Has he told you all about it?”
She continued without waiting for my response: ‘No? Then I shall! To make up for the big gap — some £200,000 — between the market value of the collection and our bargain offer to Everton, David has asked the Club’s hierarchy on more than one occasion to consider a gesture of goodwill. That is for them to donate 20 tickets for any 10 Premiership games per season, for 10 seasons, to the Sons of St Domingo.
“These tickets would be distributed to royal blue dads who can take their royal blue boys or girls to their first games at Goodison. Hey, catch them while they are young! Or at least before their school-mates tell them about the unobstructed views at the new Stanley Park Stadium and the glamour of mid-week Champions’ League football! I think that it would be a fine legacy — much better than The David France Mound! ”
I hadn’t heard about it but I was intrigued: ‘ So what’s the catch. More important what was the Club’s response? I bet that you are still waiting for a response…’
She laughed: “Michael, be serious. You know that there was only one snag. Lamentably, The Sons of St Domingo like many noble ideas fell upon the barren land cultivated by that man from the Midlands”
With tongue firmly in cheek, I countered: ‘Aren’t you being a tad unkind? Despite the failings of Mr Dunford, surely we are still respected as an innovative club. The first to introduce double-decker stands, even triple-decker stands, under-soil heating, goal-nets, matchday programmes, 45-minute clocks, dug-outs, etc. I know there are many more items on the list. In fact didn’t Mr Dunford agree to chronicle them on a blue plaque to be erected at Goodison Park?’
I sensed that I’d been lured into her trap: “So where’s the plaque? You know very well that the only innovations over the past 15 years have come from the fans! Mr Dunford was a cautious follower. How’s that for understatement? He followed behind the likes of Derby County and Notts County … and behind anything that wiggled (allegedly) …
“But seriously, I think that he was leading us into the land of Coca Cola football and royal blue insolvency ... one of David’s e-buddies claims that his brand-new Saab soft-top is always parked outside HQ Goodison and that he may still on the payroll as an advisor (allegedly). Whereas I think that he is simply the Protector of the Skeletons!”
“By comparison, and believe me it only scant comparison, I think that the new-CEO is more professional, more honorable, more rigorous, more creative, and far more receptive to other people’s ideas. He also has lots of good ideas of his own.
“I’ve only met him once. I warmed to him because he smiles — which in itself sends out positive vibes to his staff and to his customers. In fact, we’ve been encouraged by recent cheery e-mails from — what did you call him, ah yes — ‘Keith the Don.’
“However, David believes that a CEO should be seen to call the shots and, with respect to the Collection debate, should focus the fans towards deliberating about the nitty-gritty of how to best display it, build on it, display it, etc. I bet Mr Wyness agrees deep-down. Certainly we both endorse his leanings towards the formation of an independent trust to secure the collection and other memorabilia as part of a strategic heritage management plan for The Everton Family.
“And The Everton Family is special! They really do care for one another! Did you know that after appearing on Alan Jackon's phone-in programme, David was in the process of leaving the Radio Merseyside studios ladened with a big box of memorabilia when two cars pulled up on Paradise Street... he thought that he was going to be mugged ...
“But fear not, they were two cars full of burly Evertonians who had heard the show and wanted to make sure that he got home safely! So they escorted him to his car! That's special!
“Have I mentioned that since we met at Friday Harbour, David has been spending more sterling at Christies — from his sick-bed. Who do you think acquired Gary Stevens’s medal? It beggars belief — what with the greenback at only 50p or thereabouts. Isn’t David supposed to be selling the stuff at Christies?”
I added: ‘Let me assure you that 99% of the fans want the club to act quickly and sign the necessary paperwork to secure the collection until the Wyness Trust is set up. Obviously, we need to strengthen the squad … pay down the debt, etc … What else would we do with the money in the near future? The overwhelming feedback is for the club to secure the collection and sort out the ownership and finances at a later date. I hope that ‘Keith the Don’ is going to announce a fait de compli at next week’s AGM…’
She interrupted my flow: “Michael, I’m afraid that next week may be too late. He’s been invited — not by Everton — to return to the UK as soon as his skeleton is deemed strong enough to travel. Of course, he continues to investigate ingenious alternatives. In fact before going under the knife again last week, David took the time to review the club’s dilemma with his old mentor — a really big kahona from the Houston oil business. Let me read the mentor’s recommendations to you. Please excuse the jargon:
“First, the Principal (which I guess is EFC) takes the lead.
“Second, the Benefactor (a wealthy and respected Evertonian) must be invited to join the fun — as should the Stakeholders A (aka the long-suffering ordinary fans) and Stakeholders B (the more affluent fans such as Mr Tesco, Mr Chang, Mr JJB, not forgetting the Directors, the players or the manager aka the Messiah — every Evertonian who receives an annual salary of more than the target amount of £800k).
“Third, a simple formula must be promoted - such as all contributions from the Stakeholders A & B will be matched by the Principal. ‘
“Are you following me Michael? Fourth, the Principal sets up a Vehicle (The Everton Heritage Trust). And in this fantasy world - I gather that the Benefactor cherry-picks certain items to the value of £220k and makes a long-term loan of these items to the Vehicle. Next the Vehicle secures the remainder of the collection with a £50k deposit then advertises to match all donations from the stakeholders during the next 8 to 12 months. Stakeholders A could contribute through a nominal £10 to £20 surcharge on their 2005-06 season tickets or by purchasing a copy of the Collection Book or via a 50p increase to the price of the matchday programme.
“Of course, they could also write cheques or drop coins into strategically placed begging bowls. Also Stakeholders B are tapped for say £10k each for a total of £50k which the Principal also matches to increase the down payment of £100k.
“I may have got the order muddled but it sounds like a tasty and digestible piece of cake! So monies roll in to the Everton Heritage Trust to acquire, insure, house and display the collection from the Benefactor £220k, the Principal £100k and Stakeholders B £50k by December 2004, followed by more funds from Stakeholders A £220k and matching funds from the Principal £220k by around July 2005. And the whole shooting match could be run independently by 6 trustees plus a qualified museum expert.”
“By the way, did you know about the new book project. Sir Philip Carter suggested the idea to us at the Tottenham game and David and his pal ‘Preno the Magnificent’ have already drafted it. It’s a real eye-opener. It not only profiles the collection but also uses certain items to tell the real story of Everton Football Club - warts and all.
“They wrote it with two purposes in mind. 1) to celebrate the acquisition of the collection for the Everton Family or 2) to document the collection for the benefit of future generations — just in case it is sold off.“
I volunteered: ‘Yes, I know all about it! We’ve already alluded to it on ToffeeWeb.’
For once, The Real Toffee Lady was lost for words. Her tones became more Red-Rosed as she rasped: “Well Michael, I bet you don’t know that they have intentionally left the final page blank — like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Dickens drama where the audience decides the ending. That sounds rather appropriate in today’s climate.
“So do you want to know how the memorabilia saga is going to
end? Can you keep a secret? If so, put your ear closer to the
telephone … Come closer … Closer ….
Everyone at ToffeeWeb sends their kindest regards to David France for a speedy recovery. The latest heath report (or health warning!) was that he was convalescing at his home on Vancouver Island. However, we can confirm that Dr France is indeed flying back to the UK this week. The purpose of his visit, however, is not known…