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Dennis Stevens dies after long illness

21/12/2012

Football League Championship Winner in 1963

Dennis Stevens, one of Everton's great players from the 1960s, died on Thursday after a long illness, aged 79. He joined Everton from Bolton Wanderers in 1962 and played in every Everton game until August 1964, meaning he'd been ever-present for over two seasons, including wining the Football League Championship in 1963. By 1965 Stevens was playing a lot less football for the Blues and, he moved to Third Division Oldham Athletic for a fee of £20,000.

Tribute from David France

Remember 1963? Well, it's almost 50 years since Everton won their first post-war title. You'll recall that Harry Catterick's team boasted many kilted talents — Alex Young, Alex Scott, Jimmy Gabriel and Alex Parker. There were so many that it's easy to overlook the less glamorous contributions of Dennis Stevens. He was an unsung hero — the Lee Carsley and Darron Gibson of his day but much better.

I had seen him playing for Bolton at Goodison Park in early 1960. In fact, he scored the winner for the Trotters that afternoon. I remember admiring him for the first time in blue and white at White Hart Lane against the recent double-winners. Everton lost 3-1. The contest is best remembered for the only time that Roy Vernon missed a penalty. That afternoon should be remembered for Stevens tackling everything in sight — including the corner flag on one occasion. He was tireless and hard in that infamous Bolton kind of way.

I was impressed by his performance but Blues around me asserted that he was no Bobby Collins — the kilted star that he had been signed to replace. Unlike them, I was impressed by his pedigree — he was the cousin of Duncan Edwards, arguably the greatest British footballer of all time.

At Goodison Park, Stevens lived in the shadow of Young and team-mates as well as the lingering shadow of Collins who had been sold to Leeds and went on to win the Footballer of the Year award in 1965. Despite driving the Everton midfield to the title in 1963, Stevens never won international recognition. Nevertheless, his contributions alongside Gabriel and Kay were enormous.

Perhaps as a direct result of replacing Wee Bobby, Dennis wasn't a fans' favourite. He was no Alex Young. That is something that he mentioned to me when I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife Eileen at the Adelphi. Afterwards, I deeply regreted that he hadn't been inducted into the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame. I suppose there have been many more popular and better players in our long history but I for one will never forget the joy that he brought to my young life.

Dennis had struggled with ill-heath for some time before succumbing to the combined ravages of Parkinson's disease and dementia. His death means that there are only eight members of the trophy-wining 1962-63 squad:

  • Billy Bingham, who is very poorly;
  • Tony Kay,
  • Mick Meagan,
  • Johnny Morrissey,
  • Derek Temple,
  • Alex Young,
  • Ray Veal, who lives in New Zealand, and
  • Jimmy Gabriel, who lives in my neck of the woods in the United States.

I hope that I'm not the only old Blue who thinks that it's time for the club to celebrate their collective accomplishments. Of course, Alex's contributions will be heralded in the new Tabacula film entitled ‘Alex the Great' which will be released in the New Year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the title winning season.

Unfortunately, Dennis was too ill to appear in the film but told me of his great pride in playing for Merseyside's top side, alongside Alex Young.

Quotes or other material sourced from EvertonFC.com

Reader Comments

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Dave Roberts
212 Posted 21/12/2012 at 14:28:34
I've just heard that the Official website is announcing the passing away of Dennis Stevens. I remember Dennis as an ever-present in the championship winning team of 1963.

RIP Dennis and thanks for the memories.

Jay Harris
217 Posted 21/12/2012 at 14:43:08
David France is spot on with his anaolgy of Dennis.

He was The Darren Gibson of his day but in a more attacking sense.

He was acknowledged by all his fellow professionals as an essential cog in the side and that in itself says so much for the man but a goalscorer he was not. I remember a number of occasions when he would scoop the ball over the bar from about a yard out but that should not detract from the selfless workrate and contribtion all over the pitch.

Another great Blue gone.

RIP Dennis and condolences to all of your family.

Ray Roche
221 Posted 21/12/2012 at 14:56:34
Very sad, Dennis Stevens was a player who could fit into any team from any era. An all-action player with ability and a workrate that would not be out of place in today's side. Ahead of his time.
Brent Stephens
222 Posted 21/12/2012 at 15:08:32
I remember Dennis Stevens as well as the others of that group. An important contributor to a great team. I hope his family read the memories of those who post here - maybe the Editor can send a copy in some way.
Norman Merrill
223 Posted 21/12/2012 at 15:07:39
Sadly another member of our 1963 Championship team, has passed away.

One thing Dennis could not be accused of, and that's being work shy. A great signing by Harry Catterick, and the main part of the engine room.
RIP, Dennis, alongside your cousin the great Duncan Edwards.
Brian Keoghan
227 Posted 21/12/2012 at 15:31:02
Yes, Dennis "was no Bobby Collins"... but, then again, who was? However, he was a much better footballer than he was given credit for.

I remember his debut in an 8 - 3 victory over Cardiff City and his class was there for all to see; his signing I recall was prompted as a result of Everton's poor away form which was preventing us from challenging for the top spot. Dennis changed all that as he was intimidation – proof! and made the difference between finishing 4th or 5th and winning the league.

When Tony Kay joined us in mid-season our midfield of Stevens, Gabriel and Kay had steel and skill in equal measure and stormed to the title. So Dennis, thanks for the memory; you made your mark in the history of EFC.
Tom Evans
235 Posted 21/12/2012 at 17:14:10
An unsung hero in every sense of the phrase. My attendance at Goodison Park for my first few games was to look at the likes of Alex Young and Roy Vernon, but it was Dennis who caught my eye.

RIP.
Bob McEvoy
236 Posted 21/12/2012 at 17:16:01
It was Dennis's grafting that allowed Young and Vernon to flourish. RIP, Dennis.
Tony Dove
237 Posted 21/12/2012 at 17:14:26
Harry Catterick's greatest skill was to to get the right mix of work horses and thoroughbreds. Dennis Stevens was one of the former but no less influential or important than Alex Young or Roy Vernon.
John Keating
238 Posted 21/12/2012 at 17:14:18
I seem to recall Dennis getting flattened off the ball by - I think RonnieYeats.

After having a chat with Jimmy Gabriel I remember them both going on the rampage. Not only did we win that derby but I think the RS had half a dozen players out the next match!
Good player, chipped in with a few goals too. In these days when mediocre players earn a fortune what would Dennis, Alex Young, Roy Vernon at al be on??

Wish we had that Championship winning team now...
Fergus McCarthy
240 Posted 21/12/2012 at 18:01:44
He was an unsung hero, but his great contribution to the team was to snuff out a counter-attack in opposition half with tenacious tackling and high workrate. Happy memories of the 1963 season.
Alan Beesley
242 Posted 21/12/2012 at 18:32:32
Dennis Stevens was a player I never saw play but my story of him is this:

I was born on 21 April 1962 — the day Everton played Man Utd at Old Trafford. My dad and grandad went to the match, much to my mum's annoyance. My dad had said whoever scores for us today he will name me after... so Dennis Stevens scored.

When they both got to the hospital, my mum's reply was "We are not calling him fucking Dennis!" — so Dennis I never became...

RIP Dennis.
Trevor Lynes
244 Posted 21/12/2012 at 18:41:21
I saw Stevens all through his time with the Blues and he was a typical inside right of the day. I must admit I was unhappy at Collins being let go as he was also a ball winner and a great passer. Stevens was overshadowed by Young, Vernon and Kay but he added steel. He would have been called the water carrier of the team.

Catterick liked workrate and gradually let Vernon and Young go although they were the crowd-pleasers. The fans however always liked the flair of the old Collins, Young and Vernon trio and even attacked Catterick physically when he dropped Young to bring in Royle.

Stevens was not a star and never won a cap but he did a job for the team. I'm afraid he would not get into my best EFC eleven but he always gave 100%.

RIP Dennis.
Brian Harrison
248 Posted 21/12/2012 at 19:08:45
Yes Dennis was a hardworking halfback as they used to be called, funny how the positions are called different names now. As stated earlier Catterick sold Bobby Collins to Leeds and replaced him with Dennis, I know he took a fair bit of stick from the crowd in the first 6 months of arriving at Everton. Bobby Collins was a firm favourite with the fans, and went on to win the footballer of the year award the following season.

I don't think he was ever the fans favourite but you could not fault his non stop running.

George Orr
256 Posted 21/12/2012 at 20:55:43
Dennis Stevens was the first Everton player to score for us in Europe. He was more than a work horse, he was the glue that bonded the forwards and the midfielders.

Far better than Gibson or Parkinson. Young and Vernon knew that the supply from midfield would never dry up in a match. Dennis played every second until the whistle went.

I am lucky because I have been honoured to meet many of the players from my Dream Team of 1962-63 through the Hall of Fame nights and membership of the EFC Heritage Society. The only one I had not met was Dennis and then, a few years ago, he was at the Adelphi. I went over to him and told him that he had never been forgotten by Evertonians. We had as much respect for him as we did Alex, Roy etc. He seemed to be surprised but he smiled and said thank you. I said "No, it us Evertonians who have to thank you."

He was a very good player, he was a nice man and he was an Evertonian. Condolences to his family and all his friends.
Adolf Ng
272 Posted 22/12/2012 at 00:55:46
RIP
Denis Byrne
310 Posted 22/12/2012 at 11:55:50
RIP Dennis and thank you for the tremendous part you played in our great championship winning team. David's eulogy is touching and and as usual, when one of our own leaves us, there is a hole in the world.

We are all bewildered at the lack of tribute to the 63 team from the club? Have we missed something or is there planned event later in the season? Its inconceivable that the players will not (as a minimum) be invited to the old lady and presented to the crowd.


Denis Byrne
311 Posted 22/12/2012 at 11:55:50
RIP Dennis and thank you for the tremendous part you played in our great championship winning team. David's eulogy is touching and and as usual, when one of our own leaves us, there is a hole in the world.

We are all bewildered at the lack of tribute to the 63 team from the club? Have we missed something or is there planned event later in the season? Its inconceivable that the players will not (as a minimum) be invited to the old lady and presented to the crowd.


Ken Crowther
382 Posted 22/12/2012 at 14:38:06
I remember a comment by Roy Vernon, who, on being congratulated an one particular scoring feat, said "I just put them in, and then I look over my shoulder and see Dennis Stevens behind me with his tongue hanging out."; but don't forget that he chipped in with a few goals - more than a hundred in the old first division. We didn't have midfielders in those days, you were either an inside-forward or a wing- half. He was one of the former.

You're well remembered Dennis. RIP


Ken Rushton
385 Posted 22/12/2012 at 15:41:08
The late Nat Lofthouse attributed a large proportion of his goals at Bolton to the unselfish play and sheer graft of Dennis before Harry Catterick brought him to us to do a similar job for Alex and Roy.One of my royal blue heroes as a young man R.I.P.
Richard Tarleton
464 Posted 22/12/2012 at 19:45:03
Brian Labone once told us at the Collegiate that Dennis Stevens from his point of view was the most important member of the great 1962-63 team. He covered and ran so Young and Vernon could stay upfield. To me, the 62-63 team was the best of Everton's great teams of the 60s and 80s.

Incidentally is Alex Scott still alive? He is fondly remembered as a very good footballer and an unselfish one as well.
Peter Hall
480 Posted 22/12/2012 at 21:19:18
I watched that Championship season from the boys pen. Detailed memories fade but we all agreed then that Dennis Stevens was he was right up to the standard of the team and did as much as anyone – maybe Vernon apart – to win the league that season.

I only saw the home matches of course.

Paul Thompson
641 Posted 23/12/2012 at 16:42:51
Dennis got a lot of stick from the more fickle and less far sighted fans. But as others have said, he was the steel among the silk. A similar player would not come amiss now.
Norman Merrill
643 Posted 23/12/2012 at 16:52:23
Richard Tarleton, Sadly Alex Scott passed away some years ago.
Colin Foster
704 Posted 23/12/2012 at 20:12:38
Dennis was a very important member of that Championship-winning team and Harry did very well to add him to the team.

RIP Dennis.

Steve Green
741 Posted 23/12/2012 at 22:14:17
Great comment by George Orr. RIP Dennis and a Big Thank You for your very important contribution to the overall history of our Great Club.
Peter Fearon
952 Posted 25/12/2012 at 16:52:55
Sorry to hear about the death of Dennis Stevens. But isn't Andy Rankin still alive, making the number of survivors from that championship winning team nine and not eight? Someone tell me if I'm wrong.
Bill Griffiths
047 Posted 26/12/2012 at 12:23:15
Brillianly summed up by George Orr.

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