The Day I've Been Dreading

Stewart Oakes 27/02/2017  6 Comments  [Jump to last]

Well, the day I've been dreading for the past few years has finally arrived, but first let me give you a bit of background.

December 2nd, 1963 and my first trip to my spiritual home. The reason: Everton vs Glasgow Rangers in the second leg of the British Championship. It was a cold Monday night and the chill in the air took your breath away... or so I thought until I turned the corner and caught my first glimpse of the majestic stadium, Goodison Park.

I was seven years old and living in Crewe, I didn't know I was going till I came home from school, so to say I was excited is an understatement. The throngs of people around me, the shouting of the programme sellers, the old guy with his bible and cross telling us we were all sinners and that now was the time to repent (he must have had God on his side as he never seemed to get any older), the smell emitting from the chippies and cafes and the cigarette smoke filled the air.

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The one thing that didn't surprise me was the accents. My Dad was from Garston (South Liverpool) and my Mum from Drumchapel (North Glasgow). Once inside (in the old Park End Stand) we had a cup of Bovril – weirdly I've only ever had this at football grounds – and a pie.

My Dad was very clever and took me up from the concourse to the seats just before the players came onto the pitch. The first strain of Z-Cars started and was immediately drowned out by the cheers of just over 42,000 fans as the 22 gladiators took to the pitch. I know I stood there in awe as I took it all in as the floodlights concentrated your gaze on to the pitch with its billiard-table smooth grass.

The game started but I was too busy at the start taking in everything around me, but after about 10-15 minutes I started to watch the game and then that's when I saw him.

He looked smaller than everyone else with the golden hair making him stand out in the floodlights making him look like a God. If I'm totally honest, I don't remember that much about the game, but I do remember that God, as I and many others where to call him, scored.

I remember that his balletic-type movement made all the other players look like clog-dancers in comparison and I know that at every game after this one I smiled like a Cheshire cat every time his name was read out on the team sheet. He was to be my first hero and while other players have come and gone not one of them can make me smile like the memories of this man can.

I cried when he was sold to Glentoran, and later on went to watch him play for Stockport County before a knee injury forced him into retirement. I still got a tear in my eye every time he was brought out and introduced to the crowd before games at Goodison.

Well I'll be shedding a few tears tonight as he makes his way upstairs and thanks to that other feller for keeping his seat warm, because today my hero Alex Young has left us.

RIP, Alex. You will for ever be in my heart.

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Reader Comments (6)

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Dave Wilson
1 Posted 28/02/2017 at 14:39:55
Nicely told, Stewart.

Such an outpouring of emotion over the death of such a quiet unassuming man. My God we loved him.

Evertonians everywhere seemingly wanting to pay their own little tribute.

Yours was a fine one.

Tony Heron
2 Posted 28/02/2017 at 16:23:42
Brought a tear to my eye, Stewart. Thanks for sharing your memories.
Dick Fearon
3 Posted 28/02/2017 at 21:48:34
I cannot express in words how Alex showed that our game is so much more than muddy madness on a Saturday afternoon. It has a dimension that most can only dream about let alone aspire to. God bless you Alex for demonstrating to us that football really can be a beautiful game.

My sincere condolences to his family. RIP.

Danny O'Neill
4 Posted 01/03/2017 at 00:17:23
Beautifully crafted piece told from the heart with sharp memory, Stewart. I'm too young to have witnessed Alex, he was my dad's early generation followed by the 70s team. Mine was the 80s side into the 90s; my son's is the Moyes team into the present.

No matter what, the icon that was Alex Young passes through the generations and has the respect of all. God bless a man who became of true Evertonian; they're not always born like us but those who come never look back.

John Keating
5 Posted 01/03/2017 at 11:14:41
He was my hero. I worshiped him and Vernon.

I shed a tear when I heard he been sold and shed a tear now he has left us.

Stan Schofield
6 Posted 01/03/2017 at 22:02:33
When I was a kid, I used to read the stories of heroes like those in Greek literature, like Odysseus and Achilles. Men with god-like attributes, who did things other men could try to attain but seldom achieve.

As an adult, I came to realise what the Greek writers were doing. They were creating figures for ordinary men to admire and aspire to. The experience of being an Evertonian and witnessing the genius of Alex Young and Alan Ball, made these notions concrete reality. I could see what the Greeks were doing, manifested in footballers who to me are the equivalent of Achilles, with abilities that we can only call god-like.

I'm not overstating anything here, and I'm a 63-year-old with degrees of scepticism about many things, that many folks would label cynicism. But in this life we need heroes to inspire us.

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