The Leaving of Goodison

By Nick Timmons  ::  21/04/2013 I really knew what Goodison Park meant to me when I sat on the terraces of the Gwladys Street back in the mid '90s. I was in my early thirties and It had been a tough time. I thought to myself, "Well, partners come and go, jobs come and go, houses come and go, even friends come and go... (For me, most of the aforementioned had fairly recently just gone) but I've been coming and standing or sitting in this place for 30 years." And I looked around at our still magnificent Old Lady of Goodison and felt, well, at home, in the way home speaks back to you about who you are and who you've been. And tomorrow, after what's now 47 years, I'm going for the last time.

What Goodison Park said to me, as a 4-year-old, approaching the ground on my Dad's shoulders, having ‘driven’ the bus at the front of the top deck and jumped off at the Mons 'cos the exercise kept him going, past the Water Works and through the terraced streets, then St Luke’s and Goodison Road,... What Goodison Park has always said to me, is 'Wow!'; a secular cathedral of epic scale, proportion and beauty.

Think of the dizzying precipitous view, up the impossibly steep steps, from the top tier of the Main Stand, not just of the ground but the City beyond. Or emerging from up the steps of the Street End for an evening game, with the luminous emerald green baize of the pitch below, and the feeling your life too could be the setting for something spectacular. I wanted a place there and every other week the Old Lady had one for me.

I first went to Goodison in 1966, with my Dad, and even saw Pele and Eusebio there in the World Cup, but I have only fleeting memories of the games. My first great hero was Alan Ball who, mudcaked and battered, but alert and absolutely focussed, embodied for me the fact that sometimes the one who wins is the one who just keeps going and going and going....

I still remember like yesterday the devastation when I read about Ball moving to Arsenal. It was on the torn back page of the previous day's Daily Mirror on the dusty floor of my parents' bedroom. And a chasm of misery opened up beneath my feet. It couldn't be true... but it was — the blueprint of all future disappointments, maybe the exact point at which innocence started to turn to experience.

And then there was a period, late childhood to mid adolescence when my happiness or misery absolutely depended on Everton's fortunes. Going with the older sons of neighbours and then with mates from school, when Everton scored it was communal ecstasy on the Street End, jumping up and down, hugging strangers, swearing joyously at the top of our not quite broken voices, as Latchford (more often than not) notched up another from a Ronnie Goodlass or a Dave Thomas corner.

But then, of course, as teenage years turned to manhood, that buckling of your heart to the Old Lady inevitably started to loosen. And I'm bouncing up and down, arm in arm with the sweaty lad from Allerton who always came on his own, 'cos Andy King scored that goal, but I'm thinking I hope Jackie Cushing, or was it Jackie Heynes (I had a thing for girls called Jackie...) turns up to the church hall disco tonight. And it was a moment of existential angst, Everton scoring I knew to be the greatest happiness known to schoolboy, and yet if Jackie H... or, well, either of them really... were just to give us a second look....

By the mid 80s, I was away from the City and in my first 'big' relationship, the beauty and happiness of which was mirrored when the team from Goodison were the uncrowned, but widely acknowledged, greatest team in Europe. Sadly it, like the relationship, wasn't to last. But one of the few games from the hundreds I've seen that I can clearly remember was our Andy Grey led 2-0 destruction of Sunderland in our greatest ever season. Bracewell's crossfield pass, facing the wrong way, for Steven's goal was a rare thing of passing beauty. Maybe I remember it too 'cos it was the only time both my sisters and my brother and I all went to the game together, and we couldn’t have gone to a better one. One sister was, and is, a Red.

It's funny how lots of the best memories don't have a lot to do with the games. I remember Moyes terrifying the players with his, pale as milk, nobbly knees as he took the warm-up for his first game in charge, and taking a pensioner neighbour to the game, who was thought to be a bit down, shall we say, on Catholics, but who I knew to be an Evertonian, when we had a ticket spare and getting an education from him in the Medlock on the Club and the teams in the 50s and early 60s. Or my Dad slipping on the steep steps in the main stand and spilling hot coffee on a Wolves fan. Far from turning nasty he turned out to be a great bloke and we had from then on a ‘second’ team.

There are lots of things I won't miss about going the game of course. The deafening tannoy, the bloody awful 80s playlist (I don't think I really need to hear Spandau Ballet's 'Gold' ever again really, ever....), Pukka pies you need a Wonga loan to buy, and the pissin' post in front of the penalty spot from our end of the Lower Bullens. And I won't miss those fellas for whom 'going the match' is obviously still bearing too great an emotional burden: "Fuckin' ref!! Bet you're a fucking red shithouse bastard"....etc...etc. To which one can only reply. "It's just a throw-in, mate."

Although of course I've probably been him a few times myself. But I'll miss the Toffee Lady, Johnny Todd, the Fellaini wigs, and the pre-match drinks in the Medlock. I'll miss the 'auld ones' with their sticks in the Lower Bullens, the Dutch, German and Scandinavian Evertonians and the foreign school parties who also tend to sit round here. I'll miss sitting here with my lad, now grown up himself, and the brother and sister who never went astray. And the stewards who do their best to get me up the steps, even threatening to carry me up if I don't get a move on.....

So my disability means I'm not going to get to the match much any more, and living in Berlin (about which I write here here).....doesn't help either; although having a wonderful wife helps with pretty much everything else. And no, she's not called Jackie.

ps: Final game — Everton 2-0 QPR. 'Nuff said.

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John Shepherd
026 Posted 22/04/2013 at 15:38:12
I can relate to that story, although I wasn't that sweaty kid from Allerton but I did go on my own.

From the age of 13, when my parents deemed me old enough to work a paper round so that I could pay for myself, I used to get the train from Prescot to Lime St then walk across to Central an jump the train to Kirkdale and walk the 10-15 minute trip to Goodison. It wasn't cos that was the quickest route, I just hate goin past you know where on the 27 Shield Road bus.

It was more for the atmosphere, the journey to Goodison was a big part of that for me the good old days when £3.50 got me to the match and in the ground a great day out and a bit of an adventure for a kid on yer own.

I mentioned this to me lad who is now 14 and he just laughed when I said "Get a job and pay yourself." I suppose he's got a point when he said I'd need a pretty big paper round to do that now.

Gerry Morrison
030 Posted 22/04/2013 at 16:15:38
Great read Nick. I started going to the match a couple of years before you, but have similar memories. (Right down to getting the 60 or the 81, although we got off at the stop after the Mons.)
Chris Matheson
046 Posted 22/04/2013 at 17:12:01
What a wonderful article. It sums up how every Evertonian's experience might be different, but at the same time all our experiences are the same. So much of what you write resonates across the years and across the memories.

I note your personal circumstances, however I desperately hope that, geography permitting, you are indeed able to go again to Goodison in the future; that somehow a way can be found to bring you 'home' again.

Thanks for a great article.

Peter Warren
059 Posted 22/04/2013 at 18:20:38
Terrific read. I hope the team still get your hopes up from time to time in the years to come.
Mike Berry
060 Posted 22/04/2013 at 18:25:09
What a great essay! Its 50 years in August since I first walked into Goodison. And I still get the same thrill. One day I won't be able to drive over from Yorkshire. On that date a few tears will be shed.
Rob Sawyer
097 Posted 22/04/2013 at 21:44:55
Nick - that's a lovely emotive and evocative piece. Thanks.
Barry Thompson
101 Posted 22/04/2013 at 21:36:22
As I read your article Nick I found my mind drifting back over the years of my own association with the "Old lady" and my conclusion is - God, I loved those years in the old Park End. I truly hope you get to meet her again and I'm not talking about Jackie.
Jay Harris
202 Posted 23/04/2013 at 14:45:28
A lovely story Nick that brings back memories. was taken in 1959 at the tender age of 7 and sat on the handrails in the company of my, Dad, Uncle and Grandad.

My particular hero of the 60's was Roy Vernon (mainly because everyone else doted on Alex Young) but to watch Roy swerving around the opposition and then the Goalie was a joy to Behold. He was also an expert penalty taker.

Then it was Ball, Harvey and Kendal ( who I still insist was the finest all round midfielder I have ever seen.

Then the great 80's team who as a unit were undoubtedly one of the best teams in the world with big Nev as my hero of that decade.

I have watched games from every quarter of the old lady (even the restricted views) and there is no experience like it when it is rocking. The "bayern" night will stay long in the memory.

Thanks for sharing yours.

Tony I'Anson
210 Posted 23/04/2013 at 15:30:59
What is the value of a billion memories?

Above was my spec from 1984 to 1988 before taking a notion for to cross the ocean wide.

Is this why we spend half our lives on forums like this and invariably end up talking about Everton with friends, boring our better halves to high heaven.

Andy Crooks
339 Posted 24/04/2013 at 00:24:55
Nick, you have a real feel for a certain era that is just true. Really good stuff.
Richard Reeves
482 Posted 24/04/2013 at 16:51:08
I remember seeing my first game at Goodison as a child, I was truly terrified. My dad, brother and myself watched from the top tier of the main stand and all I could think about was tumbling down the (as Nick Timmons describes it) impossibly steep steps.
Bobby Mallon
492 Posted 24/04/2013 at 17:21:01
What a great article! It just makes you proud to be a blue.
Chad Schofield
833 Posted 26/04/2013 at 00:21:47
Wonderfully written Nick!
Frank Boyle
029 Posted 26/04/2013 at 21:07:46
Lovely piece, Nick.

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