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?My Young and my Vernon long ago?

By Rick Tarleton :  15/06/2007 :  Comments (12) :
When, in the early hours of the morning, I find myself wide-awake, I usually find drift to thoughts of things blue. Not usually to thoughts of the location of the new stadium, or to the tactical conservatism of Moyes or the posturing of Kenwright, but to the Evertons of my life.

I think of the mid-eighties, when Ratcliffe makes the art of central defensive play seem so easy and elegant. His speed of foot only exceeded by his speed of thought. Of Sharp destroying Hansen with power and skill. Then to that wonder season of 1969-70 when the Holy Trinity flowered so wonderfully, Ball driving them on, Kendall adding power and muscle and Harvey sublime skills. All destroyed by the effects of the 1970 World Cup played at altitude, when Ball returned and was a shadow of his former self.

But above all I slip back to the winter of 62-63, the coldest winter I can remember, when Everton ruled supreme. I was sixteen and football was never quite like it again. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven." I get to the ground about an hour before the kick off, I take my place in The Paddock, in our "spec" just past the half-way line, towards the Park End, first barrier back. The Everton of Young and Vernon, the greatest strikers I've ever seen at Goodison.

Enough has been written of "The Golden Ghost" (Gordon Honeycombe christened him "The Golden Vision" for his seminal play). He was a magnificent player and one who even to this day is rightly celebrated by Evertonians as a footballer of the highest class.

But it's Royston Vernon on whom I wish to focus. He was the captain of that magnificent team. In 176 League appearances he scored 101 goals, (Young's record was 227 appearances, 77 goals).Yet he was more than a goalscorer often dropping back into midfield and feeding the wingers with superb weighted passes. No one ever felt Vernon was soft; he was ? to put it bluntly ? quite a dirty player, one who thrived in the roughest of games, who enjoyed the heated atmosphere of the vicious derby games of the mid-sixties.

Yet, when Evertonians talk of their greatest players, Vernon's name is rarely mentioned and I wonder why the man from Ffynongroew is so neglected. In appearance Vernon was unprepossessing. He was "as thin as a biro" as someone, memorably described him, with a blue jowl that shaving six times a day could not hide. If Young looked golden, he looked distinctly seedy. Yet he played with such charisma. He was a chain smoker who was reputed to run out of the tunnel at half-time still smoking, it was rumoured he smoked in the showers... you couldn't confirm that from the paddock.

It was suggested that, when Everton signed him from Blackburn, they had to pay his gambling debts as part of the deal. And it was in a betting shop of the early sixties that Roy Vernon would have looked most at home.

Yet it was at Everton, representing us, that he was in his pomp. Never have I felt so confident of an Everton player scoring from the penalty spot as in those days when Vernon strode up and placed it expertly, usually in the bottom left corner of the goal. I can't remember him missing. His lovely trick of running up to a defender, pointing with his left hand to the left hand corner flag and rapidly accelerating away to the right, seemed to work time after time in those days before television exposure destroyed such trademark tricks.

Vernon had it all. On the day when we were crowned champions, he scored a hat-trick against Fulham.

I somehow wonder how this great player has slipped below the radar. I never read of him coming back to Goodison as a guest of the club. I never see any reference to him in any way as to what he is doing and where he is. I'm not even sure if he's still alive... but I am sure that he was one of the greatest players to wear the blue of Everton, a player who in his own words ranked alongside Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves. "There's Denis Law, there's Jimmy Greaves and there's me." and he was dead right.

Reader Comments

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Frank Downey
1   Posted 16/06/2007 at 09:01:16

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Yes Rick, your memories of the superb Royston Vernon mirror my
own. He was built like a whippet
couldn,t have weighed more than
nine stone soaking wet and smoked
like a chimney. Ah but what a footballer, one of the deadliest
finishers ever to wear the royal
blue. My favourite memory of his
undoubted ability to take it to
the opposition occured in the 62/63
derby. We were attacking the street
end and the play ended with the
flying pig taking the ball. He gave
it the wellie and the players were
trotting back when Roy, passing
Yeatsie, gave the big galoot a wee
tap on his ankle, you can guess the
reaction. The crowd roars, ref turns round and spots Rowdies
retaliation. Free kick to us. The
ball is floated in and it,s in the
net, ( can,t remember who scored ).
Oh , the joy of it. God was in his
( royal blue )heaven in those days
and Graham Poll hadn,t been invented. Sadly Rick, I believe the
maestro passed away some years ago,
but for those of us fortunate enough to have seen him in his heyday, he was right up there with
the very best of them.
hal leonard
2   Posted 16/06/2007 at 09:36:46

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perfect assesment of one of everton’s finest players, and perhaps one of britain’ most underated. a privilege to have watched him.
David Williams
3   Posted 16/06/2007 at 11:39:32

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Thanks Rick, wonderful article. Roy Vernon was one of my Dad’s all-time Goodison greats.

I live not far from Stoke. You mention Roy Vernon to any of their old timers and they go a bit misty too.

Dave Williams
Reg Gates
4   Posted 16/06/2007 at 11:34:15

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What a good post.It made me remember what a GREAT player he was. Roy died age 56 of lung cancer.Can you guy’s remember when Roy took a penalty against Man U in the charity shield match played at Goodison 63/64,it was at the park end.Gaskell was in goal, Roy ran up stopped and put his foot on the ball as if to tie his lace,Gaskell done the big dive,everyone was laughing except the Man U player’s ,Cantwell had Roy by the shirt front.When Roy finally did take the pen the goalie never moved an inch one way or the other.The other story about Roy was when he went to Stoke,Tony Waddington was the manager,at half time during one match Waddington had a go at a couple of player’s for not getting the ball to the forward’s,Waddington then has a go at Roy for not making space and for him to do more running,Roy’s reply to Waddington was "if these guy’s can’t hit me with a ball while i’m standing still what chance have they got with me running around.Great Player,what price him today.
Ted Johnson
5   Posted 16/06/2007 at 18:55:39

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I have been watching Everton since 1959 and I am sure for many in my generation Vernon, even more so than Young, was the embodiment of the club in the early 1960s. He did nothing in an ordinary fashion - he had style, class, a swagger and an arrogance as did the club and the team at that time. He was fast, he was slick, he could shoot and when he passed the ball it seemed to skid with back-spin on it. I can see Vernon now picking the ball up on the half way line, with his hunched shoulders over the ball, holding the cuffs of his long sleeved jersey, heading towards the Stanley Park End and the crowd alight. He seemed to revel in night games and the electric atmosphere that he in part produced. In the time I have been following Everton there are only two players who I could say you could virtually bet your life on to go out, on a one-off, and produce a result: one was Peter Reid and the other was Vernon. Both have largely been overlooked by the football establishment. Reid was the outstanding midfielder of his generation and Vernon was the best inside left I have ever seen - bar none.
Ian Newall
6   Posted 17/06/2007 at 03:16:53

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Great article Rick, what a player.He played with so much style and elegance. For such a slim guy he was also as hard as nails.Whenever he got the ball I always felt that anticipation that he would do something magic, and generally he would.
I never could,and never will, understand why he didn’t get the credit he deserved.
7   Posted 18/06/2007 at 13:48:24

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I am just going with the flow on the tributes to Roy Vernon, everything Rick has mentioned about the welsh wizard gives credence to the mans ability.

When we were drawn to play Inter Milan in the European cup in 63/4
the then Inter milan manager HERRERA, bought a East German international defender, to try and
quell the ability of Roy, the players name I cannot spell but it started with S & ended in K. I am sure my memory serves me right, when I say Roy had a goal disallowed for a dubious off side
decision, and we lost the return leg to a goal from a Brazilian winger
Great memories Rick.
chris williams
8   Posted 19/06/2007 at 00:08:27

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Great article about a great player and man. I was born and bred in Winslow street and my dad worked at goodison for over 20 yrs.I would wait outside the players entrance for hours collecting autographes and running messages to the corner shop for the players (how things have changed, and not for the better!).Roy Vernon would always have time to talk to us kids as he made his way to the upstairs room at Wally’s cafe for a brew and to watch the racing on the telly with the other players.He was of a generation that has sadly been lost ’A PEOPLES PLAYER OF THE PEOPLES CLUB’ I am glad that I experienced his magic and skill.
9   Posted 19/06/2007 at 02:58:25

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Nice thoughts. For some reason I am going through a time of reminiscent Everton memories.. the first time I was taken to the match, the things I have seen us win etc...

In retrospect I am so lucky that the club I support has won the top competitions (or most of them) in my lifetime.

We could have done so much better as we have been unlucky so many times but I am still be proud of what we have achieved, so many clubs have won f# all.

I thank my family for being blue. I thank my Granddad for taking my dad to the match when he was a kid and my dad for taking my brother and me many years later.

That’s all Folks.
another chris williams
10   Posted 19/06/2007 at 11:56:26

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Royston was a genius - simple as that.I was born and bred in Hans Road about 5 minutes away from GP, the oldest son of a long time supporter who used to regale me with tales of ?bunking in? to Wembley in 1933. Our whole family were Blues and by 1959/60 I knew I was watching something special in Roy.

We?d had Bobbie Collins who up to then was the best I?d seen, and Davie too, but I knew that Roy was in a different league altogether. He was arrogant, nasty bad tempered and inclined to put it about. In those days skillful players had to get their retaliation in first but his skill,touch,pace,shot and passing ability were sublime. On his day he was the best and he knew it. And I swear he could just turn it on at will, when he felt like it - witness the hat trick when they won the league in 62-63. Like all great sportsmen - golfers,cricketers,whatever, the greats can do it when it matters.

His partnership with Young was greater than the sum of it?s parts. 2 greatly gifted craftsmen playing at their peak confident in their own and each other?s ability. I?ve never seen anything like it - ever.My favourite memory was against Blackpool in 1960 on Good Friday. We won 4-0 and Roy got 2.

At the Street End, he went out to the corner flag on the right and received a short corner from Mickey Lill, and proceeded to dribble the ball into the box, beating player after player until he went round the keeper(a speciality of his) and leathered the ball into the net from 6 inches. I an still see it in my mind?s eye very vividly. I swear, only Roy! Why he?s not more prominently revered or commemorated I don?t know, but he?s the best I?ve seen for us bar none.

Michael Brien
11   Posted 20/06/2007 at 14:44:15

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Great article Rick - a reminder of a true Everton great who it would seem has been too readily overlooked in recent years. I had a quick check on the " Hall of Fame" and I couldn’t find his name included. This should surely be rectified in the near future.
I was first taken to Goodison by my Dad in 1964, I was seven so I think it must have been the 1964-65 season. I think I saw Roy Vernon play - but sadly as I was so young I don’t have any memories of seeing him play.It was only from the following season - 1965-66 that I can recall specific games.
My late father told me loads of stories about Roy Vernon. I was interested in what you said about his penalty taking - as my Dad would always tell me " I’ve never seen anyone take a penalty better than Roy Vernon"
It is really very sad that his memory is not given greater prominence in our history. After all - when we won the League in 1962-62 - he was the first Everton captain in 24 years to lift a trophy. That title was probably the culmination of a great revival for the Blues after several seasons of struggle in the 1950’s. Personally I also find it sad that the manager who brought Roy Vernon to Goodison - Johnny Carey - is also often overlooked.Remebered it would seem only for the method of his departure - the infamous "taxi".I recall my Dad telling me how Johnny Carey brought some "fabulous" (my Dad’s words) players to Goodison such as Tommy Ring & Mickey Lill.Did he also sign Bobby Collins ? I’m not sure on that one.
My Dad was always a strong Johnny Carey "advocate" indeed he often told me the ’63 Title side was in the main Carey’s team. I think my Dad believed that Roy Vernon was more a Carey player than a Catterick type of player.I’ve read the stories about Roy’s smoking and I’m sure Catterick would’nt really have approved!! Anyway a wonderful article Rick, I wish I could borrow Dr Who’s Tardis and go back in time to Goodison in 1962-63!! I’ll have to make do with the history of Everton video and the too few clips there are of this Everton great.
Roy Coyne
12   Posted 07/07/2007 at 23:55:25

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Thanks for a great article, Rick. I have loads of memories of Roy. Although I was christened "Roy" I would only reply to "Royston" ? such was the hero worship we had for him.

One fond memory was at Elland Rd, Leeds, in the cup: we got a penalty, I think Charlton handled in the box, and we waited for Roy to step up but Alex "Chico" Scott put it on the spot; he takes the kick and the goalie (I think it was Gary Sprake) saves it. Our hearts sunk... but the ref ordered a retake and Roy just took the ball off Scott, gave him a look of utter distain, then slotted the ball home. It ended up a 1-1 draw but for speed, coolness and skill how I wish we had him now.

I go on about that era a lot and get the piss taken out of me but I am just thankful to have witnessed the players of then. Even now, the names roll off the tongue... great days indeed!

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