Music Was My Heartbeat

Becky Tallentire   28/11/2017  40 Comments  [Jump to last]
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Real Footballers' Wives – Ann West

Gordon West joined Everton from Blackpool for £27,500 in March 1962, ‘a world record that will never be broken’ according to the press, as the miner’s son from Barnsley became Harry Catterick’s first signing. Athletic, agile determined and composed, West played in goal 399 times for Everton and collected a full complement of medals before leaving the club in 1973. Tempted back out of retirement by Tranmere Rovers in October 1975, he played 17 games in total and provided first-team cover for four years before calling it a day. He appeared three times for England and it would probably have been more but he withdrew from the 1970 World Cup squad for family reasons.

Gordon passed away peacefully on June 10th 2012 following a long illness.


Collegiate Grammar was an all-girls school in Blackpool; I was quite academic, enjoyed it very much and left with 5 O’ levels, 2 A’ levels and a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. The great love of my life was music and I’ve often wondered why.

My mum was six and Edie, her youngest sister, only five when their mum died and they went to live in Blackpool with their older sister Emmie, who was 19. Mum was quite musical and would have loved to follow that path but there was never any spare money. Instead, she resolved that when she grew up she would have a daughter named Ann who would play the piano. I went to ballet lessons like most little girls do, and think I was given the choice of ballet and piano. Fortunately I chose the piano because the size of me now, God help us all.

I was born in Aunty Emmie’s guesthouse during the war into a nearly all-female household: Aunty, her husband Walter, their two daughters, Marie and Dorothy, my mum and Edie. Mum managed a tobacco and fancy goods shop at the time and Dad was doing his National Service, he saw me the day after I was born then was posted to the Middle East, Greece, Italy and Palestine. The next time her saw me was in January 1946 when I was four and he was demobbed and resumed his job as a carpet and furniture salesman.

I was five when mum and dad bought the guest house next door to Emmie’s and that was about the time I began studying piano. As far as I can remember I was conformist and a very well-behaved child who only became noisier with age.

There was always lots of family around; my grandparents and dad’s sisters, Elsie and Hilda lived two streets away and we had a constant stream of visitors from Easter until the Blackpool Illuminations ended in November. Everyone in my family could turn their hand to anything, from waiting on tables to peeling potatoes, washing up, making beds and cleaning. We offered three cooked meals a day for 10/6 and had a hectic life with Dad staying up to serve biscuits to anyone who wanted them and redecorating during the winter break while also holding down his full-time job. We all developed a strong work ethic because we never stopped. They were happy days and we laughed a lot.

Music was my heartbeat. I played a lot of duets with my friend Valerie who travelled on her own from Preston to Blackpool for piano lesson from the age of nine and we shared our first attempt at smoking after winning five Woodbines on a slot machine and carefully cutting them in half. It was a bad move, she still smokes to this day and I only gave up in 1995.

I played a Mozart concerto with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain when I was 13, live on television at 15 and accompanied the Blackpool Girls’ Choir from the age of 12. We even did concert tours of Norway so I’ve actually played on Edvard Greig’s piano and it was quite something to be allowed to do that, so I felt incredibly honoured that I was granted permission.

I was 13 when my sister Susan was born, now there was a surprise for us all. Like me, she was born in Emmie’s guest house but she arrived in September, during the Illuminations and when it was packed with visitors. I was absolutely thrilled to bits to have a sister because it was so unexpected, it had never crossed my mind I might have any siblings.

Sue was a breath of fresh air, turned life upside down and didn’t sleep through the night until she was about four. She was a complete tomboy who always seemed to be standing on her hands and causing ructions. She was very musical, too, but unlike me she had a wonderful voice and sang solo with the Blackpool girls’ choir, which was also live on television. She was very temperamental and didn’t like performing. I can remember her throwing a complete wobbly before an event, then singing beautifully, as if nothing had happened. My poor mum.

There’s such an age gap, we never fell out and Sue can’t even remember me living at home. She was my bridesmaid when she was six and she’s actually closer in age to my kids than to me, so she was very much like their big sister and they were very close. I remember when Alan Ball lived over the road from us in digs in Blackpool, and he used to knock round for Susan to see if she was coming out to play.

My family all liked football. Mum and Dad even went to Wembley when Blackpool beat Bolton in the Stanley Matthews final of 1953, so I suppose when we heard these friends of ours had young footballers, Gordon West and Malcolm Starkey, staying at their guest house, it seemed like quite a good idea to go and have a look at them. I’d left school by then and I think I was just killing time before I took up my scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London the following month.

It was Gordon’s great sense of humour that struck me the most. I was quite enchanted, he was so charismatic, good looking and different from anybody I’d ever met before. I was 17 years old and had been surrounded by academics, musicians and people from completely different backgrounds all my life, so his individuality played a big part in the excitement and the attraction. He was 17 too and we had our first date in August 1960, a month before I left for London and he made his Blackpool debut in December.

While I was at the RCM, I shared a flat with a girl from the Wirral but travelled home on the train at the weekends and so Gordon and I could continue our courtship. I wanted to enter into the spirit of things, so I supported Tottenham Hotspur for one game because I thought it would be like going to watch Blackpool but with a few more people and I went to see Gordon whenever he played against London club. He would get me a ticket and I would meet him briefly before the match then wave him off on the bus afterwards.

After a year in the Smoke, I transferred to Manchester Royal College of Music which was much more enjoyable and it meant I could live at home. Gordon and I would go out for dinner to The Lobster Pot in Blackpool where they served the finest scampi and steak, followed by a visit to the Clifton Hotel opposite the North Pier where we’d drink Pimms.

When we got engaged in January 1962, Gordon moved into my parents’ guest house and he did his share of helping out. The long winter nights would see us in front of the fire with Gordon making lamps from empty liquor bottles. He used to love my mum’s mixed grill that she served up when I got home from college in Manchester. A fine offering of steak, chop, mushrooms, bacon, sausages, egg, liver, beans, tomatoes, fried bread and chips. When his dad visited, he would request a special serving of it for him, too. It was fit for a king.

After about nine months in Manchester, I decided I’d had enough of college so I packed it in. I’d always played the piano at concerts and when you go to college that stops because you’re too busy learning your trade and there aren’t the venues available, but I’d been so used to playing all over the place that I found it quite strange not to be performing. Looking back, I think what I needed was a gap year, but they were unknown back then; you just had to get on with it. I didn’t give up music for Gordon; I just stopped because I’d had enough.

Everton’s manager, Harry Catterick came to watch him play a few times and in March 1962, backed by John Moores’ millions, signed him for £27,500 making Gordon the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. Catterick wanted his all his players to be married and settled, so he actively encouraged it, and we were wed in June 1962. It took us six weeks to organise the wedding, I don’t know what these people who plan them for months and months in advance are thinking about, they must be mad.

Gordon and Ann West on their wedding day

The wedding was wonderful, I’m a bit of a show person so getting done up in a wedding dress was fabulous. We married in the Holy Trinity church in South Shore, Blackpool. It was quite a big bash, we had about 100 people there and although it’s nothing to how they are today, we had a nice do at the Cliffs hotel in Blackpool then flew from Manchester to Paris for a week’s honeymoon. We were both 19 and it was the first time I’d ever flown.

Nearly all the Everton players lived in Maghull and we moved into a nice three-bedroomed semi, 81 Claremont Avenue, and thought it was wonderful. Mickey Lill was an Everton player and he had lived in there before he’d been transferred to Plymouth. Mickey and his and his wife must have taken in lodgers because Jimmy Gabriel’s name was on a shelf in the airing cupboard. After the bright lights of Blackpool, Maghull was a real shock to my system. It was like living in a backwater and although it was only an hour away, my mother always used to protest that it was so far.

Beryl Harris, Brian’s wife, and I became great friends and we were very close for a long time. I must have driven her mad because having given up everything to be Gordon’s wife in Maghull; I had nothing to do so I used to pop round there every morning to visit her. She lived a bus ride away in Lydiate, near the Coach and Horses pub, which was very handy for Brian, and he often used to pop out for a ‘shovel full of coal’. She had a son, Mark, who was a baby at the time, and few years later had Ian, and I would be there all the time, I must have driven her insane.

The other person I was really very close to was Rose Hurst. We were both from Blackpool and spent a lot of time together and we saw quite a lot of Pat and Brian Labone, too. We didn’t do anything spectacular; we just went round to each other’s’ houses, had coffee, chatted and looked after the kids. I liked a lot of the other wives but I didn’t see much of them other than at the match.

I was at a terrible loose end and three months after I married, I started my professional career when I was asked to play at Blackpool Music Festival as an accompanist, from then on I worked as a freelance.

Just before we arrived at Everton there was a ceiling on wages of £20 a week. Shortly afterwards, they lifted the cap and they were hailed as the £100-a-week footballers. I think Gordon’s new contract gave him £45 a week, but that was a lot then, and there were win bonuses and extra money for big crowds, so it did add up, especially if they were on a winning streak and the supporters were pouring in. In 1963 they were earning significantly more than the average man in the street. I look at it as being £100 a week when the normal man’s wages was about £10, so we were very well off.

It was nothing to what it is today, and if you want my opinion, I think it’s immoral and obscene and it’s not doing these kids any good at all. That they can earn in a week what a nurse earns in five years. It just can’t be right and it’s spoiling football. They’re no longer interested in winning and they can’t be disciplined because even if they’re dropped, they still get paid these extortionate amounts. There can’t be any incentive to win for them anymore.

I was about five months’ pregnant when we won the League in 1963 and the club took us Torremolinos. I was so cheeky. I’d been invited to do a concert that clashed with us being away, and I asked John Moores if he would pay for Gordon and me to go separately so I didn’t miss it. He said ‘no’ and we all had to go together. Looking back it was a bit of liberty, but you’re like that when you’re young.

Torremolinos was very interesting. Can you imagine it in 1963? It was nothing more than a building site. We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Las Tres Carabelas but when I went back there 20 years later I didn’t recognise the place. It was horrendous. We had a lovely swimming pool and there wasn’t a lot to do beside sit around the pool, eat and drink, but how luxurious to be taken away for a fortnight. I was quite big at that stage, and I always remember one of the reporters rang up for some reason after Stephen was born and told me he hadn’t realised I was pregnant, so he must have just thought I was fat.

I would go to all the home matches and when I had the children they would go over to my mum and dad’s quite a lot of weekends. They were fantastic grandparents and Steve and Mark have great memories of their time spent with them and their cousins Jonathan and Daniel who lived close by. I can only imagine the mischief they got up to with Sue only eight years older joining in, too.

It wasn’t really strange to watch Gordon play because I was used to performing myself so it was second nature to me and I don’t think I let myself in for anything I couldn’t handle. I felt very proud of him though and I can remember the first England cap he won. I flew from Speke airport to London and went to watch him at Wembley. They played Wales and I don’t think there was a big crowd there but I felt enormously proud watching him when the National Anthem was played.

A lot of the players would go out to clubs on a Saturday night but we weren’t into that scene at all. I liked to have a drink, but I didn’t go to nightclubs. I suppose the local pub was The Punchbowl, The Meadows or the Coach and Horses. We’d go for a meal or to the pub but I was never part of the Royal Tiger scene. The Tiger was a club in the city centre where loads of the players and their wives went most Saturday nights.

I’m a very sociable person and even more so now than when we were married, but I think what really bothered me was that I was never sure if people liked you for who you were or if it was for what you were. I didn’t like that uncertainty. I’m sure a lot of them were genuine and good people, and we did have some good friends, but if you went out for a meal with non-footballers or as a couple then people could be rude. I think they should leave you alone when you’re out privately. We weren’t bothered that much but it was always in the back of my mind that they wouldn’t have been there if Gordon wasn’t an Everton player. Having said that, we did have some very good friends, Vera and Tony Pope and Gwen and Eddie Owen and lots of neighbours whom I hoped liked us too.

Gordon did get very uptight and nervous before a game and I think that’s well documented. They didn’t know much about digestion and diets back then, and they used to eat the wrong food - their pre-match meal was steak and toast. He used to get very anxious before a match because he is a nervy kind of bloke, and I think its folklore now about how ill he would be, but that’s the way it should be. Nerves play a big part when you’re a performer and it puts the edge on your game. I don’t think you should be there if you’re not nervous and I believe that even Stan Matthews used to throw up before games.

I can remember Gordon getting very annoyed one night because he had a match and people were coming over from Blackpool to watch so they would be coming back to the house afterwards for supper. I wasn’t a great housekeeper and I thrust a Hoover in his hand and asked him to get the lounge smartened up a bit before we went to the game. I don’t think he had too much time to let his nerves get to him that night. Looking back it was terrible of me but it was a job that needed to be done and I was often on my hands and knees cleaning the kitchen floor before playing with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra because people would be coming back to the house afterwards.

Whether he had any superstitions in the dressing rooms I can’t say, but he had none at home. He wouldn’t have worn the same clothes for consecutive matches because they were probably still in the laundry basket.

Typical boys, my sons were both born on really inconvenient match-day Saturdays and they were both born at home because my mum had her children at home and I saw no reason not to carry on the tradition. I was very lucky looking back, but you don’t consider any risks when you’re young. It’s only as you get older you start to think more about situations.

The Wests with baby Stephen in 1963

The Wests with baby Stephen in 1963

Stephen came into the world on October 5th 1963. I’d taken cod liver oil on the Thursday to try to bring on the birth; I needed him to come because I was due to start work in a fortnight. I don’t think the cod liver oil worked, all it did was give me terrible stomach ache and he decided to be born on the Saturday lunchtime by which time Gordon had gone off to play at Birmingham. Derek Temple and Tony Kay scored that day and we won 2-0.

Mark was even better. Again Gordon was away because Everton were playing Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Goodison the next day, so I went to stay with neighbours so I wasn’t on my own. I got up the next morning, went home and lit the fire and thought ‘I’m having this baby.’ I rang my friend who was a nurse, then rang the midwife and she suggested I might just be excited because it was a match day. I told her not, so she told me to get into bed and headed over. Mark was born about two hours later. The match was an evening kick off, March 11 1967. Gordon rang up before the game and I told him he had another son. Alan Ball got the winner that night and Mr Catterick very kindly sent me a bunch of flowers.

I remember one time when Yorkshire Television came over to film out lives and showed it on television and another evening when we were watching Question of Sport with the kids and a picture of Gordon and I came on. Strangely enough, they didn’t get Gordon and they thought I was a model. We were quite happy to get the kids to bed at 7.30 and sit in chatting or watching the television. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time going over to Blackpool at the weekends because there was so much more to do.

As Gordon got used to Liverpool he didn’t go to Blackpool as frequently but I went over most weekends for piano lessons and to take the kids to see their grandparents. I’m sure Gordon socialised more in the later years in the clubs but not early on and in those days he actually didn’t drink very much and neither did I. We’d get the kids to bed, make a cup of coffee and watch the telly, in fact, it was pretty boring now as I come to think of it.

I don’t know that I ever had many dealings with the club. The fact that there was no players’ lounge and the wives were left standing out in the street did used to bother me a little, but I don’t remember being furious about it. Looking back it was wrong but it didn’t really bother me.

They didn’t go away too often pre-season, not like they do now, but I remember when they went to Australia for six weeks when Stephen was a baby. I would have wished he hadn’t gone for so long, but more often than not they’d go to Llandudno and Blackpool for weekends of ‘special training’, and I didn’t mind that at all, it was just part of the job.

The Everton players' wives at Lime St preparing to travel to London in 1966

The Everton players' wives at Lime St preparing to travel to London in 1966

Going to Wembley was absolutely great and I remember real excitement at the thought of it. We all went on the train together from Lime St station, then were herded into the hotel and to see the Joe Brown show in the evening. I don’t think clubs would get away with shunting everybody around like that now, but it was all part of the excitement then and we were so young we didn’t question very much.

We were 2-0 down and suddenly Mike Trebilcock scored two, it was unheard of, he’d hardly had a game before that and was only brought in at the last minute when Fred Pickering was injured. When Derek Temple sealed the victory, we were shrieking with delight. I’ve still got the photo of Princess Margaret presenting Labby with the Cup and Gordon is beside him - that was a fabulous day. We had a good night, too, but I seem to remember we had an ever better night two years later after we’d lost. I think we drank more and tried harder to compensate for the bitter disappointment.

The second time we got to Wembley, in 1968, we stayed at the Waldorf again, and it was still as posh. After our night out, we all went back to my room for a drink. I remember ringing down to the bar to ask them to bring a bottle of something up to the room and being politely told that we might have had enough already. I think it was done in a nice way but they made themselves clear. We weren’t over the top or anything, because in those days one didn’t do such things, but they thought we’d had enough and to be honest, they were probably right but we got the bottle we wanted in the end.

The Everton wives outside the Waldorf before the 1968 FA Cup final

The Everton wives outside the Waldorf before the 1968 FA Cup final

We were sitting around talking about the dresses we were going to wear for the after match dinner. I’d bought mine from Lytham in Lancashire and it cost 25 guineas, which was quite a lot in those days. Maureen Temple started to describe hers and it dawned on me that it was exactly the same only in a different colour. I thought I would go out on the Saturday morning and try to find something different but I couldn’t of course, so we just kept well away from each other.

I’m sure Everton did a lap of honour as losers in 1968, it was the first time it had happened and Gordon led the way. I can also remember Alan Ball throwing his losers medal on the floor. It was the most wretched feeling you could ever imagine.

I decided to go and teach music in Seaforth, north Liverpool, for a while and did a bit of ‘concerting’. Then I decided that I wouldn’t mind playing with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra so I went and auditioned for that and did two concerts with them. I didn’t make any sacrifices for Gordon’s career and he wouldn’t have wanted me to. I did keep a scrapbook of our achievements and I’ve got it here right now, it’s a bit tatty but it’s still here. In it are the newspaper cuttings from when Gordon declined to go the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. I don’t know why he made that decision, but he did and it was totally his choice.

The England squad went to Mexico for 10 days or so the year before to get them acclimatised. Gordon Banks’ dad died and he was sent home so Gordon played and injured his shoulder and Peter Shilton was flown out to replace him. When Gordon came home he made up his mind that he wouldn’t be going the next year, and it absolutely amazed me.

In a way I was pleased that he didn’t want to go but I’m not sure he gave the real reason for his decision. He didn’t like being away from home for that long and again I guess nerves played a part in it, too, because that really was the world stage, but he made that choice. I daresay it wasn’t the best decision he made in his career but you can’t turn back time.

He was second to Gordon Banks and they were in their prime at the same time but on his day, I think Gordon West was much better. It was hard for him to break in and when he had that chance he could have made his mark but he chose not to. If he’d decided to go, we might have seen a different set up altogether but we all know that hindsight is a wonderful thing. Gordon Banks didn’t have too many bad games and was less flamboyant but Gordon West was a great keeper and I suppose that decision practically finished his international career.

I don’t know whether he regrets it, but I suppose he does now. I know I got blamed for him not going and I’m thinking back and there were times when I asked him not to go on tour. Who would want their husband to go away for a long time? But to be honest, I’d have been quite pleased for him to go. So, next time you see Labby, tell him to stop making up stories about me.

The West family

I didn’t hate anything really about being a footballers’ wife, but I’ve always been ex-directory since we got home from a derby game where we’d been beaten 5-1 and somebody rang up and shouted ‘Thanks, Gordon’ and hung up again. We had a couple of calls in the middle of the night, too, and that was quite menacing, but as far as people knocking on the door, that didn’t really happen apart from the young kids knocking round for Stephen and Mark to go out to play.

In 1971 we decided that one of us needed to get qualified in something because his career would eventually be coming to an end and he wasn’t qualified in anything other than playing football. I encouraged Gordon to try and get into teaching because he was a really hands-on father and very good with kids, but I’d already got A levels so I could easily go back to college or university to gain some qualifications. A bloke who taught at CF Mott training college in Prescot said they had a beautiful Bosendorfer piano from the BBC Manchester studios at the college and he asked if I wanted to go and see it.

It was wonderful and I fell in love with it. I knew a lot of people at Liverpool University and when the Professor there knew I wanted to go back into education he said I could go there but that was going to be too academic for me and they had this beautiful piano at CF Mott and that was the deciding factor. So that was where I went to train as a teacher and the day I started teaching in 1974 at St Dominic’s Catholic school down the road from CF Mott and I had to ask for the morning off to go and get divorced. My lifelong friend, Joanne accompanied me to the court for moral support, she’s a professional singer and I’ve accompanied her in a musical capacity ever since. I had no concept of how awful divorce was and the terrible effects it can have on a person’s life and it took me a long time to get over it.

I taught for 20 odd years, initially in Huyton where I stayed until 1977, then I married Ray and moved to the Isle of Wight. He taught Craft, Design and Technology and we met at St Dominic’s. I brought my parents from Blackpool to the island in 1998 so they’d be closer to me.

Sue went over to Australia in 1977 for three months for a ‘look around’ with her fiancé, Paul and they’ve been there ever since. They’ve been married 25 years now and have two teenage children, Ben and Louise, and have settled in Mount Lawley, Western Australia. In spite of the distance, we’re still very close. I’ve visited seven or eight times and in 1992 I went out there for a year on an exchange. My parents loved Australia, too, and I go back as frequently as I can. It’s like a second home to me

Ray got a job teaching in the International School in Papua New Guinea. They wanted us to go as a couple but my mum was unwell so it wasn’t a good time for me to leave, but I went over there a couple of times when I retired from teaching. An exciting if rather terrifying thing happened the one time I was there. I was booked to play an outdoor concert and was just about to sit down at the piano when in true Hollywood style a gun was fired just outside the venue. It turned out not to be too serious, just an attempted hijacking which was quite run of the mill in Port Moresby. Mum made her recovery and things were looking up then a routine operation went wrong and had to be repeated and I lost her in 2003. It was totally unexpected and I still find it hard to believe she’s gone.

Where my boys are concerned, Steve is a mad Evertonian, Mark used to say he supported Liverpool but I think that was just to cause trouble, in fact he had a season ticket for Southampton a couple of years ago, I think he loves football but nobody in particular. They both play a lot of football, both in goal and I think they could have been professionals if they’d had the dedication but I imagine it was too demanding because it takes over your whole life.

They didn’t do music and I didn’t force it on them at all. Stephen did start to learn the piano and now like everybody regrets not having continued. He seemed to have a natural facility for it and he also started learning the violin and the oboe but I’m sure he wouldn’t like to be reminded of that.

Mark is married to Lisa and they have children of their own now but he played and trained for Lancashire at tennis before we left the North West for the Isle of Wight and went on to do the same for Hampshire for a time. I think going across the water on the ferry to training on cold Friday nights really tested his dedication and it became too much for him in the end but they both play a very good game. They were sport minded and I thought that would always keep them off the streets. Snooker, cricket, golf, football anything to do with sport they had a love for but Stephen’s true passion is Everton. He travels the length and breadth of the land following the Blues and in 1985 he travelled to Czechoslovakia and all over, he made it his business to follow them everywhere, he’s just mad about them.

It doesn’t surprise me that Gordon still has legendary status, because Evertonians remember everybody who ever played for them, so he’s in the right place to have that sort of recognition. He was pretty famous at the time and wherever we went people would recognise him. I remember on holiday in Spain and Italy people came up to him in the street, in fact I’ve just returned from Madeira where I bumped into an Everton season-ticket holder and it only took moments before Gordon’s name was mentioned. Probably because his career was cut quite short his name isn’t the first one that springs to mind when people think of a goalie, they think of Banks, Shilton and Bonetti but when you go back into the record books, he did have a very good career.

I wouldn’t like to be a footballer’s wife now although I would like the money but not really for myself. I could give it away so my family had mortgage-free houses. I’m happy just settling down to be a quiet-ish 60 year old. I still can’t get over the sheer delight of being a grandmother. The fair at Ryde is not quite Blackpool pleasure beach but provides me and Mark’s kids with endless hours of fun.

I’m sure the current footballers’ wives love it but some of them are famous in their own right so they’re not short of a few bob either. They live a completely different life now, and I’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t live in a three-bedroomed semi in Maghull. I can’t say that I’d like to be a part of what it’s become now, but I have very few regrets and I really mean that.

****

Gordon West passed away on June 10th 2012, his funeral was held in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral which was packed to the rafters. His wit, generosity of spirit, kindness, wisdom and gentleness will always be remembered by those lucky enough to have known him.

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Reader Comments (40)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 28/11/2017 at 22:57:57
Thanks Becky. Yet another journey to a time when the players were closer to the fans. A different world.
Steve Green
2 Posted 29/11/2017 at 00:43:45
Can still remember the excitement when as a 9 / 10 yrs old in 1969 / 70 at linacre school in bootle our teacher brought her mate in to play some piano to us and teach some music. Our teacher Mrs rowntree only brought in ann west. Wonder if she remembers, I still do!
And the useless fact of the year I can still remember from 1970 which pisses my wife right off cos I can't remember what she said last week... Mrs rowntree's husband was captain of a boat called the ss potosi which did a regular south American run to chile and our class got taken to it and shown round it in liverpool docks one day!
Better than the coach to balliol road baths!
Don Alexander
3 Posted 29/11/2017 at 02:11:41
Don Alexander
4 Posted 29/11/2017 at 02:11:41
In the summer of 1969 Alf Ramsey took an England team to Mexico to prepare for the 1970 World Cup. He chose Westy above Banksy as the goalkeeper. That's how good Gordon West was. It's such a shame that his innate mental fragility prevented him fulfilling his destiny.
Don Alexander
5 Posted 29/11/2017 at 02:11:41
In the summer of 1969 Alf Ramsey took an England team to Mexico to prepare for the 1970 World Cup. He chose Westy above Banksy as the goalkeeper. That's how good Gordon West was. It's such a shame that his innate mental fragility prevented him fulfilling his destiny.
John McFarlane [Snr]
7 Posted 30/11/2017 at 10:50:26
Hi Becky, I have only read your account of the lives of the wives of, Roy Vernon, John Hurst, and now Gordon West, and one thing strikes me immediately and that is. that these young ladies are far removed from today's "Footballers Wives".

The wives you have interviewed appear to be normal well-balanced girls, who, while enjoying a lifestyle a little above some of their peers, managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that their counterparts encounter today.

I take pleasure in noting that your choice of Ann West, coincides with an article that I have currently running,"Favourites aren't always the best" I look forward to your next submission, and who knows it might be a case of great minds think alike. Best Wishes.

Kevin Moorcroft
8 Posted 03/12/2017 at 23:13:50
Gordon could throw the ball further than most goalies could kick. I think it became habitual after he had sustained a thigh injury and started to throw the ball in an over-the-shoulder long arm action. It was effective.

Great save to keep us in the FA Cup at Molyneux after Alan Ball equalised from the penalty spot. We won the replay on the Tuesday 3-0 in front of 63,000.

I worked very near Gordon's home in Clermont he was always about and spoke he drove a Cortina 1600E in White and Green Special Edition.

Lovely story when football was football and less focus on business. Gordon was a great goalkeeper.
Charles Barrow
9 Posted 04/12/2017 at 11:52:30
Gordon West was one of my favourite players. I remember as very young kid in the Gwladys Street stand with my dad and brothers in the 60s being amazed at how hard the ball was kicked and why he didn't get out of the way! What a brave man I thought.
Jay Wood
10 Posted 04/12/2017 at 12:35:25
I can claim some family association with Gordon, via an aunt who married me dad's brother. They lived in Blackpool where, like many a Merseyside family, we regularly holidayed each summer.

He'd long left Blackpool for Everton when the Blackpool family - knowing I was a mad Evertonian – always swung it that I could meet him as, of course, his wife Ann's family lived there.

The first meeting with Gordon I was in absolute awe of the man. He was an imposing figure – a very handsome man. And he couldn't have been more charming, amusing and tolerant of a dumbstruck kid.

One of my most precious possessions at that time was (correction – IS!) a personally signed photo of him (that HE arranged) in match play, a classical full-stretch keeper's pose, captured in mid-flight.

That photo is nigh on 50 years old now. I came across it 2-3 years back and although the ink has faded, you can still just about see the etched message and signature.

On more than one occasion, he also provided me and me dad match day tickets which we would collect directly from him at the players entrance.

It was painful to learn of how he fell on hard times later in life, but as ever Everton (and Labby in particular) acted as his saviour.

A wonderful, WONDERFUL man and GREAT goalkeeper...and I for one can understand how 'Ole John' picks him as his 'favourite' keeper in all his years of watching Everton over (possibly) the better Neville Southall.

Dave Rusk
11 Posted 04/12/2017 at 14:27:13
I got to know Gordon a few years before he died through my uncles who used to drink with him in the Volunteer Canteen in Crosby.

I used to nag Gordon for anecdotes and I'll share two, both of which highlight howmuch has changed since the 1960s.

Firstly, when I asked about his medical (as the most expensive goalie in the world), Gordon just laughed. He explained that the club doctor had an office at the top of a flight of stairs. He asked Gpordon to run down and then back up. He listened to Gordon's heart with his stethoscope and said "You've passed" !

Secondly, I asked why 'keepers in the 1960s never seemed to wear gloves. Gordon said that they did, but only if it was very wet or exceptionally muddy. However, there were no specific goalkeeper gloves but Gordon wore gentleman's gloves he bought from Greenwoods the gents outfitters on the corner of Church Street and Whitechapel. Mid season he would approach the club secretary to ask for a new pair. He was told "Buy them but get a receipt". With a grin Gordon told me "They cost ten bob but I asked the girl for a receipt made out for 12s 6d and I then went and had two pints in the Caernarvon Castle on Everton". Can't imagine Jordan Pickford doing that, can you ?

Like many old pros Gordon was never bitter about the money he would have earned today. I also asked him what his thoughts were when Peter Bonetti's mistakes in the 1970 World Cup quarter final virtually knocked England out. Rather than slag Bonetto off or say how he would have saved the Germans' shots, with disarming modesty Gordon just said "I just thanked God I hadn't made those mistakes".

A true gentleman, sorely missed.

Dave Long
12 Posted 04/12/2017 at 14:59:32
Great story. I remember my Dad playing in the same charity game as Labone and West for the Weld Blundell pub in Lydiate back in the late 1970s. Maghull, my hometown referred to as a backwater!
Terry White
13 Posted 04/12/2017 at 19:21:49
Jay (#10), very interesting stories. In thinking about his later hard times, let's not forget the wonderful work that Everton Former Players' Foundation does in helping our former players when they have fallen on hard times later in life.

As you say, of fans of his generation, me included, it is easy to see why John McFarlane, Sr. would classify him as his "favourite" goalkeeper although we would all agree, I think, that Neville was a better goalkeeper. Between Gordon and Neville between the sticks, after Andy Rankin, we had wee Georgie Wood (who I thought was a decent keeper, also signed from Blackpool), then a succession of "not so good, Hodge, Dai the Drop, Lawson, McDonough, Arnold (who wasn't bad). Thankfully Big. Nev. came along.

John Raftery
14 Posted 04/12/2017 at 23:39:32
Great keeper and an even greater personality. I frequently bumped into Gordon around Crosby. He would always be happy to chat about football and Everton in particular.

I remember him saying he hated playing at Molyneux because of the crowd immediately behind the goal pelting stuff at him. He hated playing against Ray Crawford of Ipswich.

One of the incidents he remembered at Goodison was when Crawford handled a ball in Maradona style to score at the Street End in 1969. Gordon went mad, as did the crowd. The referee, a Mr Fussey, ignored Gordon's protests. We drew 2-2 after Alan Ball missed a penalty in the last couple of minutes.

Steve Boardman
15 Posted 05/12/2017 at 17:38:12
Does anyone else remember when Gordon followed through his trademark long throw with his right fist into Mike Summerbee and knocked him cold? I think it was a replay in the 1966 FA Cup run, against Man City, and Summerbee had been putting it about to the point where Gordon decided to take the law into his own hands but made it look an accident!

As mentioned earlier ,his save at Molineux was unforgettable. I think that was a cup tie too?

Ray Robinson
16 Posted 05/12/2017 at 18:07:35
I remember Westy getting sent off at Newcastle for laying someone out. Sandy Brown took over in goal, I think, and we lost 1-0 from the resulting penalty.

I was a goalie and modelled myself (badly) on Westy. As has been said, no proper goalies gloves in those days but goalies still seemed to be able to catch the "casey".

Jay Wood
17 Posted 05/12/2017 at 18:16:36
Ray @ 16. Poor Sandy Brown. He was the butt of many a Westy wind-up.

Legend has it that in the Newcastle game you reference, Gordon had the gall (or, more likely, the wicked humour) when the team returned to the dressing room after the final whislte to berate Sandy for not saving the penalty awarded when the keeper got sent off!

Lovely, lovely fellah.

Brent Stephens
18 Posted 05/12/2017 at 18:19:18
Sandy Brown was an unsung hero. Played anywhere he was asked to and played in almost every position for us – or so my memory tells me! Anybody know how many positions he did play in for us?

Jay Harris
19 Posted 05/12/2017 at 18:57:41
Don't think anyone has mentioned the banter that went on between St John and Westy every derby game.

Didn't St John bring a handbag on for Westy one game?

Can't quite remember what Westy gave to him, maybe a dig in the face.

Steve Hogan
20 Posted 05/12/2017 at 19:26:15
Jay (#19)

Don't think it was St John who brought the handbag on for Westy, my memory (fading a little), but I believe it was at a derby game, when a spectator at the kop end ran onto the pitch before the game, and handed it to Gordon. I'm sure I was at the same game.

In those days, it was quite the 'norm' for crowds to question a player's sexuality, not sure how the pink fluorescent boots and hairbands would be viewed today?

John Keating
21 Posted 05/12/2017 at 19:36:13
Jay
I remember a few times Gordon getting a handbag on the pitch.

Another thing he used to do was when he came out and went into the goal to warm up he'd jump up and pull the bar down ! How it never broke I'll never know.

Talking of St.John I remember his missus, Betty, had a hairdressers in County Road, a white fronted shop with her name etc in bright red. If we walked to the match along Great Homer Street rather than the "top" way along Netherfield Road we would invariably have to negotiate the glass window, on the pavement, which some lads, every other Saturday afternoon, would put in.

Dave Abrahams
22 Posted 05/12/2017 at 19:41:03
Steve (20), your memory may be fading a little but it is spot on, the fan came onto the pitch and handed the handbag to Westy exactly as you described it and Gordon took it graciously and I think put it in the net with his other gear, showed his class, no fuss or bother.
Ray Robinson
23 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:17:44
Steve and Dave, didn't the handbag incident trigger a retaliation from the Everton fans at a subsequent match who handed a banana to Ian St John? Or am I imagining this?

As far as I recall it wasn't a racist gesture at all and was accepted in good grace by Ian St John who also appears to be a top bloke despite being a red. If I'm making this up, then I'm either losing it or have a very vivid imagination.

Can't see any reference to it on the internet, so, I'm relying on the other old gits on here to confirm or put me right!

Steve Hogan
24 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:34:19
Ray (#22),

I believe I was at that game as well, I'm sure it was when St John was playing for a different club, I seem to recall it was Coventry City.

I don't think he accepted it with 'good grace' though, seemed to remember he threw it back at the lad who threw it from the Gwladys Street?

Why is it I can't remember what happened last week, but I can recall vividly seemingly minor incident's from games that took place over 40 years ago?

Nurse, where's my tablets?

Ray Robinson
25 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:35:21
John (#14), I remember that Ray Crawford handball incident. I also remember Ball missing the penalty with the last kick of the match. He actually hit the post from the spot kick, netted the rebound only to have it disallowed because the same player cannot touch the ball twice from a penalty. I still remember feeling pig sick after that game!
Ray Robinson
26 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:38:25
Thanks Steve. I'm just glad I didn't imagine it! If it's any consolation, my memory works in exactly the same way as yours!
Steve Hogan
27 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:39:03
Ray (#23)

Sadly, the incident with the banana could be construed as a racist gesture, the chant from Evertonians at the time was "St John is a monkey, oohh, oohh"

Thankfully, we live in different times now.

Dave Abrahams
28 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:41:18
Ray (23), can't recall anything like that. I worked with his brother Billy in Manweb, he was easy going, liked a bet as well as a pint or two. He flew a few kites as well here and there
Ray Robinson
30 Posted 05/12/2017 at 20:42:00
Steve, I was probably too young and naïve to realise it at the time. As you say, thankfully things have improved on that front.

Better watch my five and out.

John McFarlane [Snr]
31 Posted 05/12/2017 at 21:00:18
Hi Steve [24] you're quite right, it was a Coventry game but the incident happened nearer the half way line, two fans ran on to the pitch to hand to hand the banana to St John,

If memory serves me well St John had the last laugh because he scored in a 2-1 win for Coventry.

I'm off now to watch the second half of the Manchester United Game. Best Wishes. John.

Steve Hogan
32 Posted 05/12/2017 at 21:37:58
John (31)

You're right, I remember the incident now, still not sure he was very happy about it...

Mark Murphy
33 Posted 06/12/2017 at 06:33:30
Hang on a minute – was St John black then?? I didn't know that!

So I suppose in today's times there would be outrage at both incidents – one a homophobic gesture and the other racist.

Dave Abrahams
34 Posted 06/12/2017 at 09:15:59
Regarding Ian St John, Noel Cantwell brought him to Coventry City as his assistant manager. Later Cantwell was sacked and they offered the job to St John, he refused the offer saying Noel brought him there so he'd be leaving with him. Nice bit of loyalty there which you don't always see, especially in football.
John McFarlane [Snr]
35 Posted 06/12/2017 at 14:13:44
Hi Dave, [28] my uncle worked for MANWEB for many years, and he spoke of Ian St John's brother, my uncle's name was Tommy Traynor. I wonder if your paths ever crossed if so, as they say, ("It's a small world.")
Brent Stephens
36 Posted 06/12/2017 at 14:23:20
John. Tommy Traynor. Didn’t live in the Old Roan did he?
John McFarlane [Snr]
37 Posted 06/12/2017 at 14:44:36
Hi Brent, I don't know if you've read my post on the 5/6 limit, I don't for one minute think that you meant to give the impression that I requested extra posts, and as far as I'm concerned there's no damage done.

My uncle Tommy was from the Cabbage Hall area of Anfield.

Lenny Kingman
38 Posted 06/12/2017 at 21:09:29
What a great article; thank you, Ann, for sharing, heartfelt.

I bumped into Westy, and came out worse off, on quite a few occasions in the Raven in Waterloo back in the late 70s. We had a mutual affection for the original imported Stella Artois they served there. Didn't talk much about football, got the feeling that was done. Time to chill and enjoy freedom.

A big, burly and gregarious man, I think the straight shooting Yorkshireman never left his side. A pleasure to have shared his company.

Dave Abrahams
39 Posted 06/12/2017 at 21:15:40
John (#35), I worked for Manweb at Marsh Lane, Bootle, I worked in the stores. I can't recall the name – what did your uncle do? Was he a spark, jointer or maybe alongside some of the tradesmen? As he was from Cabbage Hall, he was more likely to have worked at the plant behind Newsham Park.
John McFarlane [Snr]
40 Posted 06/12/2017 at 22:47:02
Hi Dave [#39] my uncle Tommy worked on the cable laying, and he worked just after the war, on laying cables from Clarence Dock to various districts of Liverpool.

He was an ardent Everton fan and he, my Granddad, and five uncles sowed the seeds that resulted in me being what I am today.

I may have told you that when my Mother died I (along with my brother and two sisters) moved from Everton Road to live with my Grandparents in Anfield.

Every Saturday night when they returned from the pub, I would sit enthralled, listening to tales of former players, so much information, and as an 11-year-old boy, I couldn't get enough football.

My teacher once said that, if I took as much interest in my school work as I did in football, I could go to university; I think he over estimated me.

I had been attending games two years before my Mother died in 1950; in actual fact, she passed away four days before the semi-final against Liverpool at Maine Road.

How did we get from the power station at Clarence Dock to Maine Road in Manchester?

Brent Stephens
41 Posted 06/12/2017 at 23:03:05
Hi John (#37) – thanks for that.
Rick Tarleton
42 Posted 17/12/2017 at 05:56:28
A really good flamboyant keeper, he was part of two teams that won the League. I remember the way he would swing on the crossbar to pull it down an inch or two. Except for Southall, no keeper's been better.

I always wondered why the Everton keeper in those days always wore black shorts when the rest of the team wore white?

Thanks for a lovely article.

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