Gwladys Street's Hall of Fame
Mike Royden, a fan for over 50 years was privileged to attend the Gala Dinner for Gwladys Street's Hall of Fame, at the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool
HALL OF FAME
|Gwladys Street's Hall of Fame is a project put together by David France, author of recent books redolent with Everton Nostalgia. The object is to honour 80 of the greatest Everton players from the past.|
So there we were, on a Thursday night in March 1999, walking up the
steps of the Adelphi and into the cavernous reception area, Blind Date auditions
in the room on the left, but no blondes with legs up to their ears could
compete with the delights in store. (Ok I confess I still get the
horn just thinking about the 80's).
As we stood chatting with other Evertonians, player after player came up the steps to join the throng. Then came Bill Kenwright, chatting to everyone in sight, signing autographs and in no rush to move on.
Out came Brian (Blethyn?) the Assistant Manager & star of the fly-on-the-wall documentary 'Hotel' about the Adelphi (catchphrase "Just cook will yer!") to announce that the proceedings were about to begin.
We slowly filed into the banquetting hall, to find our numbered table. And wouldn't you know it, we were right in front of the top table and sitting next to the soon-to-arrive 80's 'dream team'.
The compere began, "Well you know how the music goes..." that's all he said... and to a man everyone began singing the first stirring notes of Z Cars and kept it going, banging the beat on the tables. (without the tape playing!) we looked to the back and through the doors came a procession of the greatest Evertonians still alive! One of those shiver down the spine moments.
Sharpie, Heath, Ratters, Waggy, Tricky Trev, Stevens, Reid, Lyons, Brian Harris, Tommy Wright, Labone, Gordon West, Jimmy Husband, Derek Temple, Colin Harvey, John Hurst, Joe Royle, John Bailey, Ray Wilson, Dave Hickson, Tommy Jones, Tommy Eglington, Bobby Collins, Roger Kenyon, Howard Kendall and others I apologise for forgetting.
On the top table were Elton Welsby, Lord Grantchester, Kenwright, Phillip Carter, Walter Smith, Derek Hatton, Mickey Finn (comic) Neville Smith (author of the Golden Vision TV play), John Keith (author Dixie's Biog/Daily Express journ.), David France (author of the Hall of Fame book and man behind the whole event).
There were toasts to a variety of people (Alex Young, the Club, Dixie Dean) including the Queen, where Hatton refused to stand and got into an entertaining argument with an upset royalist on the next table. (No, not Reid).
A tasty meal, followed by a few inaudible speeches, except for Kenwright, who spoke eloquently as a fan and PR man. He was passionate a gave a stirring speech. The moment demanded it, and he spoke with great hope for the future & funding, finishing with words to the effect of 'I went to Old Trafford for last weeks match, looked around and saw what we once were, knew what we need to do and I promise we will become again..' (Tumultuous applause). You can't deny the man's love of the club and his belief, its just that it hinges on what is currently there.. anyway lets get back to nostalgia-land.
There then followed the official induction into the Gwladys Street's Hall of Fame of those players who had been voted in by a panel of fans, journalists, ex-players, shareholders, etc..(including the world-famous Mark Staniford). There were 80 covering the clubs full history 35 are still alive and most were there. Those that couldn't attend sent apologies (Jimmy Gabriel in the USA; Billy Bingham very ill; Bob Latchford wife seriously ill with cancer; Alan Ball club business on that morning prevented him from travelling at the last minute etc., Alex Parker ill, Southall well he didn't go to the post cup final bash in 1995!).
Derek Hatton was the MC and Sir Philip Carter presented each player with a commemorative plaque, and most gave a speech. Dixie Dean's was received by his daughter.
Later there was an auction of Everton memorabilia including Derek Temple's shirt worn in the 1966 final. That went for £2,500. (The whole event was in aid of Alder Hey Children's Hospital.)
As the evening was the result of David France's book (Gwladys Street's Hall of Fame) (NB proceeds also go to Alder Hey), everyone received a free copy of the second edition. This prompted an even greater wave of autograph hunters, but then I also had the first edition with me, plus Everton A Complete Record, a 35-mm camera and a digital camera 'borrowed' from work. I wasn't going let any opportunity pass! Signing stuff is obviously an expected part of the job, mainly by fans of course. The players on Thursday were superb. They were hammered by autograph hunters constantly for over 4 hours, and I mean constantly.
They signed everything. I didn't see anyone refused, and they posed for every photo with a smile. Even during the meal when officials appealed to everyone to give them a break (when one ineffectual bouncer was placed nearby) other players constantly brought menus around for them to sign (mainly, John Hurst, Tommy Wright and Alan Whittle). There was one amusing moment when Whittle was frog-marched away by the said bouncer, as Kendall and Reid tried to pull him off to say it was OK! (with the bouncer saying 'listen mate I've told you before, now **** off).
What else? The punters. What a crew. I've been to a few such evening's over the years, but nothing compares. The atmosphere was electric, with songs, chants, heckling, all in good fun. One group led a 'And we love our Tricky Trev.' chant which must have gone on for about 20 minutes without let up, while the named players sat smiling and laughing alongside us.
At the beginning, some even chanted the names of players, waiting for the acknowledged wave as per the start of matches! (complete with a cheer or boo, depending on the reaction of the player). No room for respectable proceedings here.
Above all it was a joy to see the older players, especially Ray Wilson and Tommy Eglington, who stayed long after most of the other players had left, still buzzing, still signing, still having pictures taken and loving every minute of it.
Alex Young had travelled down for the event and was staying in Cheshire. He was to have received the big award for the evening (most votes for No 1), but he developed a severe ear infection just before the day. He is already deaf in the other ear and it was affecting his balance, so sadly he couldn't appear. Therefore they saved the big finish for Kendall, who received by far the loudest and most overwhelming reception of the evening. (He was having a good time and getting a massive boost from fans and players).
As Hatton passionately shouted out in middle of all this, "I just wish the present players could be here to witness the feeling and belief here tonight, so they could realise where they are and what they should represent". Too right!