You would be forgiven if, upon reading my name as the author of this post, you assumed I was a red-headed fellow with freckles from a lower-class area of Dublin who consumes Tullamore Dew in place of his recommended daily intake of water. That said, you'd be a little off. Though my heritage is Irish, I've lived all my life in The USA, where a small but growing number of people support the mighty Blues.
Though any Blue may enjoy this post, I'm writing this specifically for that contingent of Evertonians, as well as any others from areas outside of England. My hope is that my story will inspire someone to make the same pilgrimage.
My third journey to England (each time for the sole purpose of seeing an Everton game) began when I saw flights for around $400 round trip to from Baltimore to Europe on Wow Air There was little further decision to be made. I was going to England. My choice of match became predicated on when I could get a few days off work and, more importantly, which match would allow me to the obtain the most potent trash talk. I went over a scenario in my head:
“Who do you support?”
“Ever been to a match?”
“No.” [An overwhelmingly more likely response than “yes”]
“So I've been to more Manchester United games than you have.”
With that, the decision was made. I would go to the match at Goodison against Manchester United.
I bought my tickets through EvertonUSA and ended up with seats in the Upper Gwladys Street End. I can't recommend EvertonUSA enough. Even if you can't make it to Goodison, you can get tickets through them to go to an away match, as I did for the Norwich game last year. As far as I know, Everton is the only club in the PL who offers that level of privilege to fans traveling from abroad.
I planned a couple stopovers: Dublin on the way there, The Netherlands on the way back, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the airport, ready to head across the pond.
I landed in Dublin and was greeted by a border patrol agent who asked my purpose for travel. I wasn't going to pretend like I was a normal guy on a normal vacation. “I'm on my way to England. I'm going there for the weekend to see an Everton game.”
I was fearful for my prospects of entry in in to the Emerald Isle upon hearing his response, “I support Liverpool.”
As I assumed was customary, I offered my most thoughtful statement of solidarity, “I hope Tranmere get promoted in back-to-back years. I wouldn't want you to go too long without a derby,” I said. It's probably best that he didn't get the joke. He stamped my passport and I was in.
After a thoroughly enjoyable Friday of wandering around Dublin and smoking Cuban cigars [completely legally] like the untamed rebel that I am, I made my way back to the airport to get on the plane to Liverpool.
I don't know if there is a time when flying Ryanair can be described as anything other than 'an adventure.' You can't go wrong for 11 dollars, though. If it's not going to get me killed, I can roll with it. After watching a clearly inebriated man in front of me in line spend over a minute attempting to locate his passport (which was in his hand the whole time) I boarded a plane, the interior of which looked slightly more like a bus to Sea World than a 737. After a short, 45 minute flight, we landed, bounced back up in the air for a second, then returned to the runway, eventually coming to a stop at John Lennon Airport.
I spent Saturday wandering around Liverpool and then taking a trip to Wrexham so I could check Wales off my list of places I've been. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like it's just England with a higher ratio of sheep to humans. Google said there was a Wrexham match that day, but to my dismay, Google was wrong. I had a pint at a pub called The Turf, while watching the Chelsea/Man City game, wandered around town for a bit, then headed back up to Merseyside.
The next day was game day. I climbed out of bed, considerably less grumpy than I am most mornings and put on my Everton festive jumper, because it's Christmas in Liverpool, not fashion week in Paris. I got the 86A bus to City Centre, and as the bus filled up, a Scouser with a perfectly reasonable looking Liverpool scarf sat next to me. 'What a reversal of stereotypes,' I thought. There I was, a foreigner wearing an absolutely ridiculous looking Everton shirt, sat there next to a Liverpool supporter who is actually from Liverpool and is not wearing a full kit, complete with shin guards.
I decided to take the heel and toe express up to Goodison, about three miles from downtown, by way of Prince Rupert's Tower. Being from a town just outside of Philadelphia, I can appreciate that a drunk tank is the symbol of the club that I love. The tower itself isn't exactly overwhelming, but the view of the city from there on a day as clear as Sunday is breathtaking.
I made it to the Goodison ticket office and claimed my ticket, then I headed across the street to the Winslow. My credit card however, decided of its own volition that it didn't want to join me on that short journey. It stayed behind at the ticket office.
After panicking at the realization that my beloved debit card and I had been separated, I realized there was nothing I could do. I decided to savor the moment and worry about the card later.
I met a couple guys, Jason and Jamie, who had made the journey from Lincoln, in the East Midlands, to see the game. We started talking about our respective journeys to Merseyside, how we became Evertonians, and our thoughts on the starting line up.
I should note here that Evertonians specifically, and Scousers in general, are the most welcoming, friendly people you could ever meet. Merseyside is a lot like the American South, except without the alarming rate of morbid obesity and general ignorance. If you suspect that you won't be welcomed there because you're an American, you could not possibly be more wrong.
The three of us were joined by Eric, another American, who had made the journey from San Francisco. After chatting in the pub for a bit, we made our way over to the fan zone outside the park end where we watched the tail end of a Q&A with referee Mark Halsey. Following the interview, we were treated to live music and the introduction of a Paralympic athlete from the area.
Jason and Jamie made their way in to the ground while Eric and I continued to talk about the trips that led us to Merseyside.
I entered the stadium to find my seat in the Upper Street End. The view was slightly obstructed, but you can say the same about most of Goodison. The character of the stadium is very similar to Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston. It's beaten up, in a lovable way. The only thing I can really compare it to is an old guitar. The paint might be chipped off, the tuners might be all rusty, but its appearance implies a thousand stories of where it's been. Sitting in the ground, you can't help but think 'Dixie Dean scored his 60th here,' 'this is where we beat Bayern Munich in the '85 Cup winners Cup,' or 'Pele himself played here in the '66 world cup.'
The game began and the play was not quite as overwhelming as the history surrounding me. United controlled the proceedings but were toothless at the front, while Everton just couldn't get going at all. The ball remained in the middle third for most of the first 45 as our defense held strong, Funes Mori replacing Jagielka.
Neither team really threatened, and it took a defensive blunder from Everton for Ibrahimovic to break the deadlock for United, Stecklenburg turning up way out of position. The Swede's lob of a shot floated in the air, bounced, then after it appeared, from my viewpoint, that it was going over, made its way across the goal line via the crossbar and post.
The halftime whistle blew and it was hard to see a way back in to the game for the blues. About 15 minutes in to the second half though, the team came alive, with Goodison following suit. The uptick in attacking prowess coincided with the introduction of Gerard Deulofeu in place of a struggling Tom Cleverley. Further substitutions were forced as a result of injuries to Coleman and Bolasie, the latter proving to be a much more concerning situation.
An angled shot from Kevin Mirallas coaxed a song from the terraces. Everton continued to press, with Valencia going close and forcing De Gea to work to hold on to the lead. The United keeper's efforts would soon be undone by the skill of Idrissa Gueye, the clumsiness of Marouane Fellaini, and the left foot of Leighton Baines.
De Gea guessed right on the penalty, but the net bulged anyway. I screamed until my throat literally started bleeding. 4 days later, I still can't talk right.
The full time whistle went, with the scores level, and “I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues” rang around the ground. We were the better team, but I wasn't going to get salty about the draw. I was in my favorite place on Earth. Nothing was going to ruin my mood, not even the fact that I had about 13 quid, no voice, and no debit card.
The last place a had used my card was one of Merseyside's premier eating establishments, located in Liverpool One. I rounded a corner and saw its yellow, blue and red sign, reading, “Burger King,” and entered to begin my card search. Almost immediately after entering and connecting to the wifi, I saw that I had earlier received an email from EvertonUSA and the Everton ticket office, informing me that my card was at the ticket office. Much as I appreciated the effort expended by the club and EvertonUSA, I had no way of getting back to the ground in time to reclaim my card.
Thanks mostly to my loving mother and partially to Travelex, I had enough cash wired to me that I was able to enjoy enjoy a Monday in Amsterdam and an Every Time I Die concert in Eindhoven that night. I somehow survived and made my way back to the states on Tuesday, another wild trip to Europe and used-to-be-Europe in the books.
I'd like to sincerely thank all those mentioned and everyone I ran in to for playing a part in making my trip such an unforgettable experience. To those reading and thinking about making the pilgrimage, do it. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to respond in the comments, and so will just about every other blue on this site. Goodison Park is like nothing else I have ever experienced. Sadly but necessarily, it doesn't look like it will always be there. While I look forward to the future of the club, hopefully down by the docks, I think most Evertonians will echo my belief that if you have the means to get over to Goodison, you really should.
Until next time, come on you Blues!
Reader Comments (23)
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1 Posted 09/12/2016 at 18:52:19
2 Posted 09/12/2016 at 19:52:30
Funnily enough myself, wife and son ,were outside Wrigley Field in the summer and, er... I've got to say it's in better nick than the Old Lady, but that's another story.
Yes, us Scousers can be welcoming but so can our friends across the pond as I found out in New York, Chicago and Florida this summer. Hope you get to pen another piece soon, Patrick.
3 Posted 09/12/2016 at 20:04:51
4 Posted 09/12/2016 at 22:17:49
Good luck and good health in the future.
5 Posted 09/12/2016 at 22:31:49
6 Posted 09/12/2016 at 23:33:55
I particularly enjoyed your comparison to Wrigley Field, where this Chicago native grew up and sobbed countless tears. I'm still deliriously celebrating the World Series triumph of the Cubs, who sport virtually the same shade of blue as Everton, and I fantasize about a similar title celebration at Goodison Park.
Two questions how did you pick a place to stay, and did you arrange to meet up with anybody (either through EvertonUSA or TW) for pub-crawling and watching the game?
ps: Hope you've learned the lesson that I learned from years of international travel -- there is no such thing as a border agent with a sense of humor.
7 Posted 09/12/2016 at 00:11:19
8 Posted 09/12/2016 at 00:14:53
Mike, I just searched for places on Kayak. I stayed at the Premier Inn by the airport. I landed at 10pm on the way in and left at 7:30am on the way out, so it was a pragmatic decision. I'm sure there are better hotels closer to the ground and the city centre, but considering what I needed, I was pretty happy with what I got.
To answer your second question, I didn't arrange any meet ups or anything, but I'm sure it's possible. Each time I've gone over there, I've managed to meet people. You can strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone.
And I've actually noticed that writing "Everton Hajj" as your reason for visit on your UK immigration slip will typically make the border agents crack a smile.
9 Posted 10/12/2016 at 00:45:56
Mike Gaynes, in my opinion Chicago is THE city to visit way before anywhere, including NYC, no matter what time of year!
10 Posted 10/12/2016 at 01:57:40
11 Posted 10/12/2016 at 03:34:02
12 Posted 10/12/2016 at 03:53:06
I'm your neighbor to the east a bit, at the Jersey shore. I live in Point Pleasant so if you're a proper Philly-adjacent shoobie as stated you probably head down to spots an hour or so south of me AC or Avalon or Wildwood. Anyway, it all seems close enough so maybe one day we'll storm Europe together!
Interesting the tentacles of fandom that Everton has out there. Well worth it, I pity the front runners who somehow seem proud to claim to be Chelsea or Man Utd fans. Fucking dorks.
I do think the club missed a big chance to really grab American soccerfooty fans by the balls with Tim Howard and the Landon loans a few years back but hey, we are the few and the proud. Now we need a goddamn WIN!!!
13 Posted 10/12/2016 at 04:42:44
Mike, regarding tips, meeting up, where to stay, get on the Offside Forum on here mate and you will get all the tips and affection that you deserve.
Google ToffeeWeb Offside, would love to have you on there, we even have yanks!
14 Posted 10/12/2016 at 04:45:15
Mike, the offside lads will take you to the Winslow before we head off to the new ground on the docks.
15 Posted 10/12/2016 at 04:54:30
Don, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Haven't lived there in 30 years, but on my last trip back, I was in the house with Lord Stanley to watch the Blackhawks win the Cup. And the pizza is as glorious as ever.
16 Posted 10/12/2016 at 08:55:05
My optimism of last week almost paid off so I will dip my toe in again and forecast a bumper win at Watford.
17 Posted 10/12/2016 at 10:05:39
I'd have loved to have been there the day they clinched it because, as Don said, it's an amazing place. It's actually my kind of town [ahem]... Well I suppose if the Cubs can do it, then so can we... can't we?
18 Posted 10/12/2016 at 10:55:08
Next time you come over, email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
19 Posted 10/12/2016 at 11:27:34
I can tell you Wales is more than just a few northern sheep! Glad you enjoyed the experience of Goodison and hope you manage many more excursions in future.
20 Posted 10/12/2016 at 14:29:02
Terry, thanks, nice to meet a fellow fossil... the old AOL email. I will save it and ping you when I'm on my way.
21 Posted 11/12/2016 at 18:11:38
22 Posted 11/12/2016 at 18:30:10
A cracking read!
Do it all again the trip and the post.
23 Posted 13/12/2016 at 17:30:05
Apologies to any Welsh fans from there but Wrexham? I'd need more than the one pint!
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