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COLUMNIST JOE JENNINGS

Matchday

By Joe Jennings :  24/01/2009 :  Comments (0) :

It’s a delicious February day, with all the summer’s promise hovering in the air. A daybreak full of sunlight and hope.

Each morning of an Everton game I awake with hope and optimism, but by the night I’m usually a prey to despondency. I have no fixed agenda to mislead myself, far from it, I only seem to do so because I lost all sense of reality the day I realised Everton were the team to follow, I surrendered to fate. I still await the consequences with optimism as opposed to indifference.

We may walk with a dragging, uncertain step along ‘Shitty Road‘, but it is not until you are struck by the bastion that is Goodison Park - our Sistine Chapel, Niagara Falls and Great Wall of China all rolled into one - that you relinquish the fears of doubt now firmly entrenched within your mind regarding the opposition. You don’t bother soiling your thoughts with the impure proposition that anything other than an Everton victory will transpire. This is Everton, they never let you down. You believe.

The seductive Goodison breath stings you in the face like the saltwater sea as you catch a first glimpse of the sight of all sights, the monument of all monuments, the landmark of all landmarks - the Gwladys Street end. I am still incapable of comprehending the full force and extent of the Gwladys Street infatuation, I just know it’s where I belong each time Z-Cars is played.

My Dad buys me a burger and has a smoke outside on Goodison Road. We watch on as supporters of all shapes and sizes go past in their droves. The fanzine sellers are out in force, hoping quick sales will allow a pre-match pint, whilst the other street traders hope for a surge in the want for hats, scarves and badges. Walking down Goodison Road, I’m greeted with the usual hustle and bustle that it provides, that unaccountable smell, the litter, the familiar faces — I feel at home.

I trod along in a sort of reverie — a sort of stupor. Step by step I relive some of the precious moments I have experienced whilst inside Goodison Park. Snapshots flutter through my mind. Duncan against United. Rooney against Arsenal. Johnson against Liverpool. A vision — a transcendently seductive vision arises before me. It’s Tim Cahill, it’s the last minute of the Merseyside Derby at Anfield, it’s 0-0. A short corner from Mikel Arteta finds Tony Hibbert, who for once, glides a perfect ball into the six-yard box for our talisman to power home into the Anfield Road End net. The Evertonians go berserk. There’s no way back now for the conceited Redmen. I smile at the prospect as I reach my turnstile.

You somehow clang through the Goodison gates and from thereon in you’re on a mission. You want nothing more than to climb the Goodison steps to reach your seat. As you do, you are instantly struck by the vastness of the towering stands, the royal blue vibrancy, the electric green grass. It is at this moment that the feelings of pride and belonging overpower you. This is spiritual. You feel almost motionless, your gaze riveted upon a truly magnificent sight. It requires no word of explanation.

There’s only one thing now left to warm your heart.

Until you’ve experienced the feeling of excitement and passion which grows inside your chest when the first drum roll of Z-Cars reaches your ears before kick off at Goodison Park, you cannot possibly imagine it. For me, Z-Cars and the roar of the Everton faithful which envelops Goodison a split second after the first beat, encapsulates everything which is great about Everton Football Club. Dads look at lads, both grinning from ear to ear, there's an obvious pride. It is only the Z-Cars tune that can make you feel as if you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment in time, heart beating fast, emotions into overdrive.

The players enter the Goodison bear-pit. We dare to dream.

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