It's very hard to compare times, the reprint of Pat Labone's story from over 10 years ago had Chris Williams using the phrase "the past is another country" and nowhere is that more true than in football.
The Labone article became a series of nostalgia responses in which many people identified a warmer, more community-based world. We went to Goodison Park, it cost 1s/6d to get in. Dave Hickson was our local hero... and all was well with the world.
In fact, we were crap in the fifties, we had a group of ageing Irish players and others of various local nationalities and we played every week at 3 pm on a Saturday (2:15pm in December and January; no floodlights). We finished in the bottom half of the old First Division. Many of the crowd had come straight from work and still had their knapsacks with them. The consolation was Liverpool: Second Division Liverpool were crapper. (Please forgive such grammar from an ex-English teacher!)
Players could kick each other to death, getting booked was very rare and I can only remember Brian Douglas of Blackburn being sent off. Every club had at least one very hard lad whose aim was to show the opposition's skill players that their skill could be neutralised.
On the other hand, there was little simulation; there was an offence called obstruction, which warranted an indirect free kick. Most modern defenders could not play if they did not obstruct by blocking a route to the ball or grabbing an opponent, as they cannot or are not allowed to make a tackle. You could tackle then and, as long as you got the ball, it was legal. For those of my generation, think of Alex Parker's slide tackles. Grabbing or holding an opponent was rare, and the raking of opponent's with your studs was an unknown crime. Now it happens twenty times a match.
Football. It was a very different game. More importantly, it was a very different time. I remember sitting behind Chris Lawler on the top deck of the 27 bus as we went towards Anfield. Chris Lawler, Liverpool and England, and he travelled on public transport. I remember playing cricket in an ad hoc game with Brian Labone and his old Flo Melly mates in Walton Hall Park and playing bowls with him at The Hermitage. I even remember seeing Cyril Lello walking from his club house near the ground to go into Goodison smoking and chatting to fans.
We really can't compare the past and the present. Nostalgia and rose-coloured spectacles are false. I loved my Liverpool 7 childhood in the 1950s but I don't want my grandchildren to learn their football on the 'oller, created by German bombs. My grandson plays in a team with facilities, he's seven. When I was seven, it was normal for a 14-year-old to clatter me to the floor if I had the temerity to try to beat him to the ball.
I, after whooping cough, attended Alder Hey every three months for check-ups as I had a shadow on my lung. I never knew a bathroom or inside toilet till I was 18 and went to university. I slept in the same bedroom as my parents till I was 15....
Just as life was, shall we say... narrower, so was the football; Everton were exotic in the 1950s, we had four Eire internationals. Now, if three England players turn out for a team, it's a rarity. Which is better? I don't honestly know. They are different countries.
But I think, if I'm honest, I prefer what I've got now to the past and I prefer the levels of skill in modern football. I don't like the way younger people seem to get all their football through Sky and it is judged and filtered for them by so many ex-Liverpool players, but overall, I think life's better and so is the football.
Reader Comments (45)
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1 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:52:38
However thank you for this article pointing out the inconsistencies in nostalgia. Life is better now for more people than is has ever been before. I don't remember the 50s but I remember the 70s and they were awful, and we thought then that things would only get worse (they didn't).
Of course we all miss things from the past mainly I miss being younger and fitter with less aches and pains and general physical decline as opposed to the world as it was in the 70s. I would much rather be alive 100 years from now than now things will be even better then (and maybe Liverpool FC will be a lot worse!).
2 Posted 17/04/2017 at 10:06:05
Great article. Did you live in the tennys?
3 Posted 17/04/2017 at 10:07:43
4 Posted 17/04/2017 at 10:48:49
5 Posted 17/04/2017 at 11:17:52
6 Posted 17/04/2017 at 11:20:00
But when I finally go to the Goodison in the sky, it won't be this one with cladding and muriels, but the old one with 4 tall floodlights, 2 square clocks and a proper Leitch stand.
It will smell of damp people, Woodbines, tea with sterrie in, Higsons, piss, both equine and sometimes it has to be said, human... but the football will be exquisite...
Every week and by the time I've walked down to The Fountains Abbey, got some chips, eaten them inside with bread and butter the Landlady puts on, had a few pints, the Footy Echo man will be doing the rounds before James Alexander Gordon re-reads the full football results again at 5:55 and fades out to the Home Service Sports Report, theme presented by Eamonn Andrews.
7 Posted 17/04/2017 at 11:34:33
But the reality of life then and now, makes me want a different world for my grandkids and a new ground for Everton!
8 Posted 17/04/2017 at 11:38:22
My post was for you.
9 Posted 17/04/2017 at 12:37:50
I was born in Walton in 1948 in a house with no hot water, tin baths and an outside lav, down the yard. I didn't feel deprived or underprivileged or need counselling. It was what it was, and my mates all lived in the same houses, so not an issue.
5-minute walk to Goodison and my family was an Everton family so went with my dad and older cousins. No alternative was considered.
First game 1954 in Division 2. Probably shite football but who cared? Like Derek I remember the experiences, the smells, the noise, some swearing, eruptions of noise and excitement. I loved it all and became an enthusiastic addict.
The gents in the Street End were made of huge slabs of slate bolted together with a trough to piss in and open to the sky so you got drenched just going to the toilet. No wonder some didn't bother.
Then Collins, Parker, Vernon, Young, West, Gabriel, Kay, Stevens, Ring, Lill, Bingham all in fairly short order. Every visit to Goodison was like a trip to the best sweet shop you could imagine. And it got better after that as well, at least for a while.
Society as we know it was more family orientated, which made for a closer, more civil, a bit more controlling mostly in a benign way. Social conditions were still not so clever, in a city still recovering from the war, and behaviours were still mostly from prewar times, with deference dressed as respect and some racist attitudes, some unconscious and some not. The Civic buildings were all black with soot from the smog that still prevailed then.
The sixties in Liverpool were great, football and music, bright clothes , mini skirts, all of these things, but mainly because we were young and everything seemed possible.
I don't buy into all that Swinging 60s stuff, which was an invention by the likes of the Mail, and the Permissive
Society and drugs was mainly practised by the same class of people who were in the Roaring Twenties and every other version you can think of musicians, artists, upper class twits, people with the money to indulge themselves and be indulged.
Although I did have a good look for it.
Rick, it is different for sure and I wouldn't have missed it for the world (maybe the brutal Catholic education but at least they didn't try to shag us) but it's really about now and only now. I'm 69, but apart from the aches and pains, well that's just what it is too. What else do I expect?
I'm married to a great wife, my sons are good men and my grandson is a delight and a blessing.
So I'll take the now, be grateful for the then, and be hopeful for the future.
10 Posted 17/04/2017 at 12:49:15
11 Posted 17/04/2017 at 13:13:30
I echo the outside toilet and sleeping with my granddad till a teenager that Chris mentions. No tele, not much news... but we were well fed and were out every night getting plenty of exercise.
Okay, we are much better off now in very many ways, medicine, technology, labour-saving equipment to mention but a few, but I don't envy my grandchildren growing up in this hectic world.
That's just me, and I appreciate that it's very easy to take a completely opposite view to mine!
12 Posted 17/04/2017 at 13:21:43
On a recent visit to Liverpool I took my Mum over to the Everton Red Triangle Boxing Club (a fantastic place run by Joan Stevenson; and her sons do the coaching there as well).
They have followed on the great traditions on which the club was originally founded, ie, to help get the poor young kids from the area off the streets and through boxing, and other sports at the time it was originally Everton Red Triangle Lads' Club learn some lessons to help them prepare for life ahead.
I know your Uncle, the great Nel Tarleton started his boxing career there.
Anyway, we then went on to Kensington where my Mum grew up and sadly the area was generally in bad shape. My Mum commented on the state of some parts of the area, where rubbish was just dumped in alley ways, and commented that back in her day her Mum would have been down on her knees daily scrubbing the steps and the part of the street in front of their house.
No matter how badly off people seemed to be then, they had a sense of self respect and took responsibility for themselves as best they could.
As I say, not true in every case but probably a fair generalisation.
13 Posted 17/04/2017 at 13:43:05
Joe Curran ran the Triangle in his own inimitable way for years, a great man and an unsung hero, as are all the men and women who give their time for nothing in return. Joe is no longer with us sadly.
14 Posted 17/04/2017 at 13:50:36
Although, looking back, they were harder, you never thought it was tough, you just got on with it and lived your life day to day.
I always look back with affection on those days and although 'remember ' is a place from long ago; I would rather be back there in many ways.
And, as someone else has commented, I don't envy the life my lovely grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to endure.
15 Posted 17/04/2017 at 13:58:27
Joey Curran was a good friend of mine and Alan Hartley, is the club Joey ran the same as Steve is talking about, or have they just moved the premises to the other side of Everton Road?
The Everton Red Triangle Joey ran had the boxing upstairs and a great nightclub below. It is now a block of apartments.
16 Posted 17/04/2017 at 14:10:02
Yes, I've heard of him. I guess he ran the club when it was situated at its original location on Everton Road? It has since moved to Albion Street, not far from its original location. It is great to know the club is still in good hands.
By the way I have a photograph of my grandfather, who started his boxing career at the ERT, with Joe's Uncle, also Joe Curran, which I believe was actually taken at the ERT back around 1930!
His Uncle (Joe Curran) was a top flyweight back then and fought a great battle for the British and European flyweight title against Jackie Paterson in 1946.
17 Posted 17/04/2017 at 14:23:58
The one Joe ran was in the original location you both mention. Many a good night in there with Joe and Biney. Good people. Alec Sweeney was another good mate of Joe's.
18 Posted 17/04/2017 at 15:00:26
I agree that the football is better these days, as are the pitches. I think it would be a good idea if we had standing again, the 'safe standing' that's been proposed.
Although the football now is better overall, I remember the late 60s side as sublime, especially the season 1968-69 before we won the league. The quality of our football was astonishing, unequalled anywhere else in Britain.
Although players are fitter now, I'm not sure the difference is a great as some say. In the 60s, I used to read a magazine called Goal, and I seem to remember a statistic saying the average 1st Division player covered about 6 miles during a game, about 10 km, which isn't greatly different from now.
I remember games at Goodison after wet weather, about an hour before kick-off there would be blokes in the centre circle with garden forks, forking the bare soil to drain the water. So different now, with pitches near-perfect all season.
I tend to compare past and present in terms of technological advances, particularly medical, and the differences here are great of course, and these include personal things. For me, in the 60s, in addition to Everton having a great decade, it was a decade that changed things a lot for me, as did the 70s. The 70s is 'my decade' in the sense of a transition from child to adult, but Everton weren't so good then!
I think it's difficult to say that one era is better than another without going into specifics, but I can say I'm happy with today. That includes our club, and our new era with Moshiri and Koeman.
19 Posted 17/04/2017 at 15:02:43
Old Jack single handed ran the boxing and football teams plus every other kind of entertainment for the most enthusiastic bunch of scallywags that could be imagined. John Moores donated 10,000 quid to move the club to its current address in Miles Street.
As mentioned above, in those days, we were all in the same boat... but I wouldn't call it the good old days.
20 Posted 17/04/2017 at 15:18:15
21 Posted 17/04/2017 at 16:42:35
I've been supporting our great club for over 70 years following in the steps of my father and grandfather who really was back in the day! I am still hoping for a return to our glory days for the sake of my sons.
22 Posted 17/04/2017 at 17:33:58
All of them great men, give their time up for not a penny in return. Many a kid saved from Hornby Road through the work of these people. George Vaughan and Harry Currie at the Transport ABC, two more good people.
Makes me chuckle how some of these people get OBE, MBE for playing sport or singing a record when you have men with the character and backbone these trainers showed. Saying that, if they were offered they would probably knock it back.
23 Posted 17/04/2017 at 17:52:07
24 Posted 17/04/2017 at 17:55:29
25 Posted 17/04/2017 at 18:36:37
In DC Wednesday, be in Fado's in good time.
26 Posted 17/04/2017 at 19:12:57
That was the one and only time I used this route my preferred way being the football bus from Old Swan. I got the 61 to St Oswald Street and the footy buses were lined up on the other side of the road, where Aldi now is.
Even this was an experience; H&S being then unheard of the buses were often overloaded with men sitting up the stairs and many of them smoking, both upstairs where it was allowed and downstairs where it wasn't.
Post match the buses departed from Priory Road and from Cherry Lane you could get football buses to most districts; ones I remember being Belle Vale and Huyton.
As I started to find my way around I discovered that local women stored bikes in their back yards. You'd see them touting for business at the side of the road; 'tanner a bike mister'. For kids it was 3d and I started using a backyard off Bullens Road. Regular were entitled to a sought after perk; namely a speck in the outside lavatory when it was raining! In the days before plastic bags this guaranteed a dry bike seat after the match. On particularly bad days I was even given a cup of tea by the bike lady's daughter!
On the football itself, yes, we were piss poor and usually hovering just above the relegation zone (only 2 down in those days in a division of 22 clubs). We were never in serious trouble but the consolation, for the occasional home tonking, was that Liverpool were in Division 2.
Admission was 9d in the Boys Pen (girls and women were thin on the ground) and 2/-in the ground. The goal stands were an out-of-reach 4s 6d. The programme was 3d which was soon afterwards hiked up to 4d.
Crowds really fluctuated in those days. One week it could be around 20,000 and the next home match could be 50/60/70 thousand. I recall a few crowds of around 75,000 one of those being v Burnley on a Boxing Day. Burnley were one of the top sides and won the League in 1960.
Every man, and his dog, seemed to smoke in those days and you could see crowds of smoke drifting across the pitch, particularly if it was a dampish day or a night match. Talk about passive smoking! I reckon with the bus journey and the match I must have inhaled the equivalent of 20 cigs without actually buying any.
After years of dross, including a 10-4 defeat by 'Spurs and 8-2 v Newcastle, it was great to see a really good side being assembled by Carey. Catterick added the steel and method to Cary's football and we were on our way.
I have rarely missed a home match since but must admit the initial successes were the best; the Vernon/Young Championship side and the 1966 Cup win.
27 Posted 17/04/2017 at 19:47:04
Catterick, like Koeman all these years later), tightened the side up whilst retaining, for the most, the football.
Harry Catterick was never a track suit manager but was tactically astute. He was one of the first in going with a back four when he paired John Hurst with Brian Labone at centre back.
A vastly underrated manager who has, largely, been forgotten outside of Merseyside.
28 Posted 17/04/2017 at 20:15:54
Your childhood was a bit before mine (the 70s) but I enjoyed the article a lot about your memories. Many great replies on the thread too.
Football is still a great game it's just the circus around it that's hard to stomach.
29 Posted 18/04/2017 at 01:15:23
Bill Watson your two posts, brilliant, I've really enjoyed every word you wrote and agreed with every word dot and comma of your post.
John G Davies, thanks for your posts especially mentioning Joey Curran and his wife Biney, the two of them were good company and very good singers, you left out their great kids, Kathleen, Betty, Josie, Joey Jnr, Anthony, Peter, Paul sadly gone along with Marty, and the baby Stephen who plays the guitar and can sing a song.
Thanks also for putting a word in for Georgie Vaughan a great amateur and professional boxing trainer a good man also a good Bluenose, and Harry Currie a lovely man and a good trainer who looked after the lads in The Red Triangle, trained them well and did it all for his love of boxing, any lad trained by Harry got a good boxing education and learned it from a very genuine and good man. I've had a lovely night, had a few, but not bevvied. And to come in and read this thread has been an absolute pleasure, keep it going I'll read the rest in the morning, Goodnight God Bless.
30 Posted 18/04/2017 at 02:51:40
Liverpool used to allow us to go right in but at Belfield we had to sit on a perimeter wall, in Sandfield Park. In those days it was just a few kids, unlike now when Melwood is inundated with foreign Kopites standing on wheelie bins and taking selfies over the wall.
One incident at Melwood really brings home the way football has changed, since then. After training, Liverpool players used to have a packed lunch in a wooden pavilion before being bussed back to Anfield. We'd go in and chat to the players and get autographs etc. One day Alan Acourt, their star player and an England international, reminded the manager Phil Taylor (the one before Shankly) that he had a dental appointment the next day so would be late for training. Taylor replied, "Okay, Alan, but don't forget to bring a note in from the dentist." Imagine that, today. He'd be right on to his agent!
Liverpool used to leave the goals and nets up and most nights a few of us would climb over the low wall and have a kick around in the goalmouth. The groundsman, a guy called Algi, was always trying to catch us. He used to whizz around the ground on his Ariel Leader.
On some nights, Liverpool would be running the rule over kids and trialists, under the lights, so we'd still be kicking our plastic ball around but out of the way. One night Algi caught us and, in triumph, was escorting us out of the ground. We were about 13 or 14. As we walked past a game this guy in a track suit came over. It was Shankly. He asked Algi what the problem was and Algi told him we were always in there, at night, playing football. Shankly looked around and said, "Well, Algi, I reckon that's what we do here. Do they damage the nets or anything?" Algi had to admit we didn't and Shankly told him to let us go.
Liverpool had a few club houses next to the Royal Standard pub, in West Derby, and I had 3 Liverpool players on my paper round. Yeats, Tommy Leishman and my favourite one, Kevin Lewis, a winger with a cannonball shot.
Kevin was my favourite because he got me complimentary tickets for Everton matches and they were in the Gwladys Street, upper stand which I could never have afforded. In fact, I was using one of Kevin's tickets at the first Derby after they were promoted. It was 2-2 and, if I remember correctly, they equalised at the death (so things haven't changed that much).
Our centre forward, at that time, was Jimmy Harris and his girlfriend lived next door to Kevin Lewis with her mum and dad. You'd often see them waiting at the bus stop for the bus to town!!
Everton were much more at arm's length so we just collared the players as they got off the coach and then nipped around the other side to watch them from the wall. One day they forgot to bring the nets and asked us to come in and be ball boys behind the goal. It was just before the start of the season and was the 1st team v the reserves.
I was behind Albert Dunlop's goal! Other players were Young, Vernon, Brian and Jimmy Harris, Tommy Ring, a young Labone and Frank Wignall a player who went on to play for Nottm Forest.
31 Posted 18/04/2017 at 06:20:11
I began watching in the Boys Pen in 1950 and visited two years ago and had a wonderful time watching the boys beat Burnley and Man Utd while I was there, with two of my sons who are also true blue.
Memories of that horrendous 10-4 loss to Spurs bring back a smile when I remember my dad. He was a Red. I'd kept out of the way that Saturday afternoon when I heard the result. He was dying to say something when I got home. The Football Echo dropped through the letterbox and he came walking through, holding it, with a big grin on his face.
"Seen the headlines son?" he asked.
I had no reply.
He started chuckling, "Dunlop tires?" he laughed.
He made it up but he was referring to Albert Dunlop being in goal. The whole thing in those days was both sides could have a joke when the occasion presented itself and get on with it. I wouldn't swap those days for now no matter how much conditions have improved, the W-M formation of the game produced some exciting attacking football. Not like this 'keep-ball even if it means playing 70% in your own half while boring everyone witless' modern version where nobody can tackle and 80% of full time footballers are one footed and can't even cross a ball with any consistency.
I hope the plans our new management have for the club reach fruition in the next 3 seasons. I'll be 77 next week and I would love to experience the new stadium and new dawn that promises to bring. It is the only thing that will bring me back from Brisbane one more time.
32 Posted 18/04/2017 at 09:29:59
33 Posted 18/04/2017 at 14:20:32
Kevin Lewis was Liverpool's record signing, before they signed Ian St John and Ron Yeats, at £16,000 from Sheffield Utd. He was born in Ellesmere Port.
I think he scored Liverpool's first goal in that 2-2 draw at Goodison. He played derby games that season at centre-forward; St John was injured for both games.
34 Posted 18/04/2017 at 17:13:00
For us he played 33 league games and scored 15 goals including one in his only appearance in the 62-63 season. A return of which even Rom would be proud. There were quite a few groans around the ground when we found out he was playing as it usually meant that Young wasn't!
You also referenced in an earlier post Moores replacing Carey with Catterick. You are quite correct. Just like now, we scored goals for fun at Goodison between 1960 and 1962 but there was one season in that time when we did not win one game away from home.
35 Posted 18/04/2017 at 17:22:33
I thought he'd scored but wasn't sure. Needless to say, I was popular with the reds, in school, (remember when, back in the day, Liverpool had local supporters?) and was often given autograph books for them to sign.
They lived 100 yards from me and, in the afternoon, St John, Furnell et al were often hanging about with Yeats and Leishman. In fact, Furnell lost his place, to the Flying Pig, after he managed to trap his hand in the car door at the local newsagent lol.
Yeats gave me 5/- (25p) every Christmas which was a lot as my paperboy wages were only 8s/6d a week lol. It was another world; a time when footballers lived in the local community, in normal houses, drove ordinary cars or got the bus.
36 Posted 18/04/2017 at 17:26:10
You're right, Wiggy played for England and scored for them too I think. He came from Horwich RMI from memory. Yes, I remember the groans too.
37 Posted 18/04/2017 at 19:20:05
I think Frank played a couple of times for England but he had some bad injuries. I recall him moving around the East Midlands clubs.
I was always surprised Catterick sold him as he liked burly centre forwards.
38 Posted 18/04/2017 at 19:24:16
I always felt that, if we could have kept him, he'd have been a better long-term investment than Fred Pickering.
39 Posted 19/04/2017 at 01:40:04
Around about that time... wasn't it an alleged dart thrown at Bill Brown, the 'Spurs goalie, that resulted in the semi-circles being created behind each goal?
40 Posted 19/04/2017 at 07:15:18
Not exactly the responsible response.
41 Posted 19/04/2017 at 22:28:43
I think that 1-3 game for Spurs was one of Alex Young's first game for the Blues. He was still in the Army; his performance that day made you wonder why we had paid all that money for him. Little did we know what lay ahead!!!!!
42 Posted 19/04/2017 at 00:01:15
They were both in the Director's Box and waved to the crowd!
43 Posted 20/04/2017 at 09:21:02
If it was that match, the only thing I can remember of Alex is of him rising like a salmon and putting a header over the bar from fairly close in.
44 Posted 20/04/2017 at 09:29:52
Chris (#43) you could be right, that it was Alex's first game, not sure, you are certainly right in that it was a very murky and dull day, Alex wasn't very good but Dave McKay was magnificent for Spurs.
Don't know if anybody remembers Dave Mckay's brother Willie being on Everton's books? Not bad but I don't think he ever got past the reserves.
45 Posted 24/04/2017 at 09:04:07
My first memory is when my dad sent me down to the front of the Gwladys Street, only to be heartbroken on discovering that I couldn't see over the wall. I noticed that all the other kids had crates or stools to stand on.
Another young lad kindly let me share his milk crate & I witnessed my first Goodison goals, scored by Alan Ball & Joe Royle as we beat Sheff Wed 2-1.
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