He would only ever show me victories, never defeats. What he told me, as his level smile always implied, was for my own good. Everything would improve, he promised. There would be glory. I must trust, I must keep the faith. He tells me what I long to believe. He was, and still is, very convincing.
It was my Dad who groomed me into one of Goodison’s most dedicated patrons. It was he who showed me the way. It was he who educated and indoctrinated me, it was he who recalled our healthy list of honours every day to me as if it was as important as learning the alphabet. It was thanks to him that I found love, real love.
I always swayed towards my Dad and his Everton spell, I was hypnotized. I would ask everything ranging from the players, the trophies all the way up to the width of the Goodison pitch, I had found my passion.
I would daydream in school and just say ‘Everton’ over and over in my mind. The name had an aura around it, like an amulet, a charm that had survived from an unimaginably distant past. Without his guidance, would I at this moment in time feel frightened, the fear that is now tightening my muscles, tensing my spine and pulling me so taut that I’m certain I would break if touched? I doubt it. But that’s just pre-derby day jitters.
It is an indescribable feeling which extrudes, expands and winces before it all begins. You can't diagnose it, only Everton can effect and overpower you in this way. Come 19:50, I will be sitting in my Gwladys Street seat. I will lower my head and close my eyes. I will listen to the held breath, the almost inaudible gasps, the shaking transpiring behind my back. I will pray silently. I don’t know what it means, but it will feel right, and it will have to do, because I don’t know what else I could say to God. Because this game is everything to us, defeat is not an option. Maybe my antics are a sign of insanity, but Everton are my therapy.
If I am to leave Goodison Park come the final whistle and my Everton, our Everton, have lost, I will feel empty. You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will generally make a sound. This would be how I feel, the sound of glass. I would feel like the word shatter. And I owe that all to my old man.
I often liken Everton to a room. Hear me out. A room where things once happened and now nothing does, except the pollen of the weeds that grow up outside the window, blowing in as dust across the floor. I’ve wanted to change that for years, I’ve wanted my Everton to seize the moment and believe in themselves. I still do. I still believe they can attain our dreams.
Whenever Liverpool visit, I feel surrounded by a smell, the smell of a cooped up animal in a dirty cage filtering through our beautiful Old Lady. A smell of arrogance. I can safely say that nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing those red shirts trudge off the electric Goodison grass come the final whistle having been outfought, outwitted, outbattled, ‘outeverythinged’ by my Royal Blue heroes, it would possibly draw me to tears.
They say sanity is a valuable possession, but my Dad made me give that up the day he proudly helped his son but on his first Everton jersey. I would wear it day in, day out. Come rain or shine, my Danka would more often than not be on show for the world. It gave me a sense of identity, a sense of unbridled pride.
He would tell me that I was part of a transitional generation. It was the hardest for those my age. He helped me comprehend the sacrifices you are expected to make. He helped me accept my Everton duties with a willing heart.
He still tells me we’ll be great again, and I believe him. I believe in everything he has instilled into me from an early age. This deluded, and somewhat contradictory way of believing seems to me, right now, the only way in which my mind can really believe that we can beat our red nemesis.
The greater the risk, the greater the glory. Come on you Blues.
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