In My Blue Life 2

More chance acquaintances for a lanky lad from Knotty Ash.

Fran Kearney 15/10/2013 21comments  |  Jump to last

Mick Lyons and David Johnson

As a 6-ft -in tall 13-year-old, I was always going to be first pick centre-half for my school. I always seemed to play in good teams when I was young, teams always filled with much more talented players than me, but not many bigger. I must have been half-decent though, because I played continuously for about !6 years at a good level, and had trials for both the Catholic Schoolboys and Liverpool Schoolboys.

Three former Everton first team players and a former Liverpool Scottish International bring back some good and some bad memories from these days: David Johnson, Mick Lyons, Alan Whittle and Ron Yeats.

In the space of two weeks, I played against and marked both David Johnson and Mick Lyons in a competition called the Martindale Cup in Liverpool, and I remember vividly the difference in both temperament and sportsmanship, as displayed in later years by both players, both later gaining full England International caps; Lyons's caps were for the "B"team, and Johnson got eight full caps.

If, as a 15-year-old centre-half, playing in a cup semi-final against one of the largest schools in Liverpool wasn't daunting enough, I was tasked with marking the darling of the Liverpool Schoolboys Team at the time, centre-forward David Johnson.... St Martins from Toxteth versus Gateacre Comprehensive, what a mismatch!!

Barnham Drive playing fields in Childwall, on a freezing cold blustery Saturday morning; perfect for an upset, nothing to lose for us. Their team was full of schoolboy proteges, especially Johnson. I had been training with the City Schoolboys team for a while and had seen first hand the attention he demanded, and was given.

My fellow centre-half was Alan Yen, a giant of a lad from Kent Gardens in the City Centre 6-ft 4-in, who I swear started shaving in Primary School. Alan didn't say much, he didn't have to, but he couldn't half defend. I remember another lad of Chinese origin at the City Schoolboy trials, a lad called Leon Koo, my god he was some player, from St Anne's School... I often wonder what happened to him...

All psyched up, ready to go!!! Hang on no David Johnson; he hadn't turned up, still in bed. Believe it or not, the game was delayed for half-an-hour until young David was ready to play!!!

From the very first time Johnson touched the ball, until he gave up trying after one hour, he moaned, complained and eventually cried real baby tears. He really couldn't believe we actually tackled him! I could see the disgust on his face as we dared to challenge him, it was a definite "Do you actually know who I am?" I also saw the fear in his eyes when he realised, "They don't give a shite who I am."

Alan Yen took it on himself to mark Johnson, and mark him he did... his legs, his back, his neck he marked every single part of him.

The Gateacre coach on the line was almost as bad continuously screaming for Johnson to get more protection from the thugs from Toxteth. Johnson walked off in tears after an hour, handing the game to us on a plate. We watched him walk off the pitch; they played in white, like Real Madrid, and his kit was still snow white speckled with Alan Yen's sweat straight into a waiting car, without looking back. We eventually won 2-0... it's always easy against 10 men, though, isn't it?

Up next was the Final at the famous Penny Lane Playing Fields one of the best playing surfaces in the whole of Liverpool. Our opponents that day were De La Salle from Croxteth; they were captained by a young sportsman who would go on to make a name for himself as captain of Everton: Mick Lyons.

Chalk and Cheese come to mind to me when comparing Mick Lyons and David Johnson one a gentleman, a great sportsman, a great competitor, and someone you would guarantee to give 100%... and the other... David Johnson.

I did get to mark Mick Lyons that day and what an experience it was: he started off as centre-forward, went to centre-half, into midfield, then right back, and eventually back to centre-forward as De La Salle went for a late winner. No moaning, no crying he gave back everything that was dished out that day. He galloped around that pitch for 90 minutes and I couldn't get near him. Thank God, we drew the match 1-1 and shared the trophy for six months each.

After the game, it was handshakes all around, and Mick Lyons was rightly awarded Man of the Match. He really was a colossus, even at the age of 15; he was a man amongst boys and you could tell he was destined for the very top.

It took me years to fathom out why Mick Lyons was never anywhere near the Liverpool Schoolboys set-up at the time, but De La Salle was a Grammar School and so their pupils were excluded from competing for the City.

Ron Yeats

I was sitting in a sauna isn a gym near to Switch Island and the M57, minding my own business, when half-a-dozen "meatheads" walked in. Apart from myself, there was another bloke sitting high up on the bench with a towel over his head. The loud conversation between these lads consisted of "Pecks", "Six Packs", "Abs", "Neck Thrusts" etc... which went on for a good 10 minutes. It was interrupted by the bloke with the towel over his head saying, "Listen, lads, it's your legs; concentrate on your legs, forget all the power lifting and look after your legs. Once your legs go on you, you're finished."

There was a silence for 10 seconds... then more incessant chatter about Pecs etc. It soon emptied out and me and towel head were on our own. You know when you feel you know someone but you cant put a name to the face, well towel head was him...

He had a very softly spoken Scottish accent, and I thought for a minute I was sitting in the sauna with my flip flops on, talking to Sean Connery.

"You told them there, mate," I said. I asked if he was a teacher of PE or something similar and he said, "No. But I do a bit of coaching..."

"Oh, football?" I said, "Yes; at Liverpool FC."

"The kids' teams?" I asked; "No, the first team," he said... !!!

"Jesus Christ, Bill Shankly's still alive!" I thought...

Suddenly it hit me: "You are Ron Yeats," I said; "Yes, that's me."

"I used to hate you," I blurted out; "A lot of people say that," he replied.

There followed a conversation for about an hour about all things Blue and all things Red. I left the sauna one stone lighter and a lot more respectful of a thoroughly nice gentleman that I once hated, with a vengeance.

Alan Whittle

Cardinal Heenan High School in West Derby is renowned for its famous former sportsmen, including the current England Captain Steven Gerard. The PTA dances were legendary and a good night guaranteed: bingo, Elvis Clayton, local comedian and Scouse with crusty bread all for a fiver.

These events were sold out months in advance with all the proceeds going to the school. The night we went, we were sat on a table for eight; six of us regulars and two people we hadn't seen there before. Ten minutes before closing time, I was told by someone it was Alan Whittle and his wife, the little striker who's goals almost single-handedly won the League for Everton in 1969-70.

I had sat chatting to this bloke all night, played bingo with him, asked him and his wife if they wanted a sneaky Jameson's whisky, you know the ones that my wife always keeps in her handbag... We even jived, all eight of us, to Elvis Clayton as the night went on. In five hours, he never mentioned once who he was, or what he'd done for a living, so I had 10 minutes to totally embarrass myself and tell one of my favourite Everton players of all time how much I loved him. This was the local lad who scored 11 goals in 15 league games at the back end of the season during an injury crisis, to win us the league. He listened to me he didn't pretend to listen to me and don't forget, Guinness and Jamesons don't make for very intellectual conversation. Alan Whittle could have been a Diva that night, a big "I am"; nothing of the sort... he was one of the nicest down-to-earth people I have ever met not like some of the so-called stars I have come across "In My Blue Life 2".

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Mike Doyle
1 Posted 16/10/2013 at 09:03:52
Great article Fran. Agree with you totally on Mick Lyons & Ron Yeats.
I was one of many kids who had the pleasure of turning out for Malpas - the Sunday League team Mick Lyons ran - and named, as I recall, after the road he lived in on the Croxteth estate. A truly great bloke who gave up hours of his own time to encourage us. West Derby & District Football League played their games at Barnfield drive, and familiar faces on the touchline at games included Dave Jones and (hiss!) Phil Thompson who Mick roped in to hand out prizes at the end-of-season awards.
Several years later, as a student working in the Fruit Market, came across Ron Yeats. As I recall Ron was running a cafe in Old Swan and came into the market buy his ingredients. Although by this stage his career was long over he looked in great condition - and had time for everyone and was a generous tipper to the porters who delivered to his van. Also happy to engage in the red v blue banter.
2 top blokes who plainly deserve the respect they are held in.
Dick Fearon
2 Posted 16/10/2013 at 10:37:04
I could understand onfield rivalry between players from both camps yet I thought it rather odd to be carried over into their personal lives.
I lived in Maghull as did a fair number of Reds and Blues in club houses.
You would never see players from one club mixing with those of the other. Each lot stayed with fellow club members even in after pub kick abouts during the summer on the old Meadows field.
when sides were sorted they always turned out to be Blues vs Reds.
The pros on both sides were careful, one could say gentle when tackling the ordinary Joe Blows but it was a different story against opposite pros.
Tackles would be flying in and tempers were occasionally at breaking point.
It was noted in the paper that Yeats sported a mysterious shiner in a Derby match.
What wasnt reported was that it resulted from a bit of fisticuffs with Fred Pickering in a Maghull betting shop just a few days earlier.
I don't know what started the argy bargy but both lots of players were 'up for it'.
Fortunately there was enough level heads on both sides to break it up and calm things down.
Brian Harrison
3 Posted 16/10/2013 at 12:27:03
I remember when Mick played for us quite often he would call into the Bulldog pub and chat to a neighbour who incidentally was a red. So I used to chat to Mick quite often, he told me a funny thing about Bob Latchford apparantly Latchford hated playing with the orange balls that they used mainly in the winter. Mick never said why Bob didnt like orange balls but used to moan he could never score when we played with an orange ball, another superstition I suppose. I would also say to him before a derby " Mick don't say anything to the press" as the headline in the press on matchday usually had a quote from Mick saying we would win, which happened very rarely in those days. He reckons he never spoke to press guys before the derby but they would print something about him predicting an Everton win anyway.

On another point a friend and I were lucky enough to get tickets for the Everton players banquet to be held at the Lancaster hotel in London on the night of the final against Watford. Well it was either going to be a very quiet night or a great celebration thankfully it was the latter. We got there about 10 minutes before the players arrived and I was ordering a drink at the bar when in walked John Bailey and Derek Mountfield, John was still wearing that tall hat that he ran round Wembley with. Bailey refused to let me pay for the drinks. Then Kevin Ratcliffe came in with the FA Cup, well we had Known Kevins father Brian so he arranged to have a photo taken with Kevin holding the cup. We then took our seats for the meal and I was lucky enough to be on Peter Reids table with his family, during the meal Peter asked me had I seen his winners medal, I said no so he says to his Dad to let me see his medal. I obviously handled it with great care but Peter insisted that I get it out of its case and hold it, what a feeling me holding the Cup winners medal that had been presented only a couple of hours earlier fantastic!!!. Later on in the evening John Bailey told me that after the game Howard Kendall said to the players look I know you will be taking the cup to your banquet but leave me the plinth to take along to the directors venue that was being held at a different hotel from the players. But Bailey had different ideas and put the plinth into a carrier bag, so we had the cup and the plinth not sure how that went down with Howard and the directors.

Eugene Ruane
4 Posted 16/10/2013 at 13:46:15
Many moons ago, I went with my (late) pater to buy paint on Scotland Rd

("Shhhcottie lid?" Does 15 minutes of hilarious Billy Butler-style anecdotes on nits).

Anyway we get in there and the feller in charge goes out the back, returns and tells us "Be about 5 minutes mate, he's just sortin' your order out"

Rain was hammering down outside so we just waited.


The door opens and in walks Tommy 'you'd go mad if one moved in next door' Smith.

He hands the feller a piece of paper and immediately the feller becomes the most obsequious suck-hole you've ever seen.

"Yeah remember this Tommy, won't be a minute Tommy, it's all ready to go Tommy..."

The feller then goes into the back.

When Tommy looks in our direction, we say fuck all but are both trying to come up with a facial expression that will convey "I fucking hate you"

The feller comes back with a box of tins of paint.

"Sorry for the wait Tommy, it's all there Tommy, good luck Tommy..."

Me and my 'oul feller are both thinking "you arse-licking red cun..."

But we were wrong.

The SECOND 'Tommy' is out the door, the feller REALLY lets rip.

"Fucking fat poc-marked dirty horrible red twat" he says VERY angrily

He then catches himself on and looks at us.

"Sorry" he says.

My dad (now laughing) says "Don't apologise, we agree with every word.

The feller says "Bet you thought I was right up his arse"

We said "Well..."

He says "Hey business is business..but he'll be painting my golly on his walls the fat cun.t)

Brent Stephens
5 Posted 16/10/2013 at 14:21:28
Eugene - golly in the paint. That's the reason I never upset air stewards (no, meals not paint).
Ken Crowther
6 Posted 16/10/2013 at 14:19:02
I remember being at a function, at which Harry Catterick spoke, in the late 60's.

One of the players mentioned was Alan Whittle who I'd seen only once, or maybe twice, in the reserves, and who hadn't impressed me at all. He (Catterick) was asked who, among the up-and-coming young Blues was going to be "the next big thing". "Make no mistake," said Catterick, "this lad Whittle will one day be the idol of Goodison."

To be honest, I dismissed the thought; sure he was a striker, and was very fair-haired (shades of 'the Golden Vision') - but I thought "No, chance". However for those few weeks in April/May of 1970 nobody, but nobody, has ever deserved the title "idol" more.

Peter Mills
7 Posted 16/10/2013 at 16:12:42
I was in the Punch Bowl in Sefton last week, it brought to mind that it was once Mick's watering hole. The story goes that one day he was in there on his own, literally crying into his beer. A concerned customer approached him and asked what the matter was. "They've sold me to Sheffield Wednesday". "Thank fuck for that" came the reply.
Bob McEvoy
8 Posted 16/10/2013 at 19:46:59
Great stuff, Fran. I'm in the same school year as you but lived in Halewood so we played in the Huyton competitions at that time... I played at Barnham Drive a few times... bloody freezing the place had it's own eco system .

Dave Johnson lived on the Mackets Lane estate in Halewood so why he went to Gateacre Comprehensive, I don't know...

On the subject of waiting for superstars to turn up, I attended Sefton Park Junior in Wavertee before we moved to Halewood. In November 1960, I was selected as 12th man for the 4th year team. I was 2 years younger than my teammates. It was an experience thing... a bit like taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup. Come the Saturday morning, we're one man short. Our centre forward was still in bed. "Shit," I thought, "I'm going to get a game." No chance. The teacher sent a couple of kids round his house to get him up and 20 minutes later he sheepishly appears. His name: Alan Whittle.

I've hated him ever since. My brother met him a few years ago and told him this story and both had a good laugh at my expense.

Mike Doyle
9 Posted 16/10/2013 at 20:10:21
To complement Peter Mills' story. Just after Mick Lyons made his debut for England U23s (I think), one of the Sunday papers ran a story linking him with a move to Coventry I recall.

Mick arrived for the U12s match looking ashen faced. I do remember him saying that he had no plans to leave and didn't want to play for anyone else. All the kids (and dads) in attendance could sense the sincerity. Once a real Blue always a real Blue top man.

Peter Mills
10 Posted 16/10/2013 at 21:36:51
Mike. I doubt there has ever been a player as whole-hearted for the Everton cause as Mick. He played as we would all want to play. Unfortunately he also sometimes played as we all would play!

Mick was synonymous with an era of almost. I think he even missed the Andy King derby in 1978, his own goal at Anfield still wakes me up in a cold sweat, and the sight of him moving up front for the last 10 minutes was as desperate as it gets. He is probably the only player or ex-player who might tap into ToffeeWeb occasionally, if so, all the best Mick, you put far better footballers to shame with your attitude.

Ray Roche
11 Posted 17/10/2013 at 10:49:59
Around about 1970 my soon to be wife and myself played badminton at Huyton Hey School in the evenings, a sort of night school thing. There were us two, a young girl of about 17 and... Emlyn Hughes. He was as nice a bloke as you could meet, friendly, funny and certainly not a Big Time Charlie and he'd talk footie all night, with no side to his comments. God only knows what happened in the interim period to turn him into the "Everton are tragic" twat who sang that crap from the steps of St Georges Hall.

I was also playing at Rhyl when Ron Yeats and Tony Hately became Manager and Trainer for a while. Yeats was a gentleman, nothing like I'd expected, although Hately was a bit distant. He also brought his son, Mark, to train with us.The training, though, was superb.

Eugene Ruane
12 Posted 17/10/2013 at 11:47:03
"Tony Hately, not worth a ha'penny!" - possibly the first Everton chant I can remember (the pre-decimal currency reference certainly dates it)

We used to joke 'He took a penalty once and used his fuckin' head' - the inference being he was just a big plant-pot who could do no more than occasionally get his head on Peter Thompson's crosses.

(we possibly used the same hilarious gag re Toshack although in fairness, I think the Welshman had a bit more to his game).

Tony J Williams
13 Posted 17/10/2013 at 12:20:02
I know what you mean Fran about really listening.

I took my arl fella to an Everton do for his 70th birthday last week and we were sat on the table with Derek Temple. What a genuinely interesting and polite fella he was. Couldn't do enough when asked questions and opinions. He is 75 and looked in great shape, still training everyday apart from running.

Best part of the night though was meeting Gordan Banks, shaking hands with a World Cup winner.

Dave Arrow
14 Posted 17/10/2013 at 13:27:45
Heres some thoughts that this article and comments have reminded me of:

Anyone remember the alleged Holly Lodge incident, Messrs Johnson and Whittle were shipped out by The Cat pretty soon after that story broke. They went within a month or so of each other. Johnson to Ipswich and Whittle to Crystal Palace. By my geography thats a long way from Liverpool particularly in the early 70s. It may just have been coincidence.....

The part-exchange deal for Johnson heralded the second worst centre forward Ive had the misfortune of seeing play for Everton.

The manager of the schoolboy team I played in during the early 70s ran a furniture shop in London Road with Alan Whittle.

Big Mick deserved better with Everton.
I remember he scored a perfectly good goal in the derby at Goodison that was ruled out for some spurious reason (the start of things to come). I think it was the Alan Waddle derby. He deserved to score against the right end.

Mike Doyle
15 Posted 17/10/2013 at 14:50:55
Dave. With Rod Belfitt being second worst, does that mean you have Bernie Wright in top spot?
Bill Griffiths
16 Posted 17/10/2013 at 18:54:32
Blimey this brings back memories.

Mick may not have been one of the best footballers to ever play for Everton ability wise but he was and probably still is one of greatest Evertonians to wear the royal blue jersey. I imagine that if this site had been going at that time he'd have had as much stick as Ossie and Naismith put together.

Mick will always be loved by Evertonians of that time and era. Does anyone know what he's doing these days?

Eugene Ruane
17 Posted 17/10/2013 at 19:25:40
Might I suggest that from this point on, the unintentional multiple TW post is known as 'doing a Lyons'.
Mike Doyle
18 Posted 17/10/2013 at 19:53:09
Bill. As far as I'm aware Mick Lyons is still living in Australia. In recent years he coached a couple of Aussie clubs. He parted company with the last one about a year ago and I'm not aware if he's coaching anyone else at present.

One thing is for sure though, he'll be watching all our games... and, I'd like to think, mentally putting himself upfront for the last 10 mins.

(Mick if you are reading this, post an update.)

Dave Arrow
19 Posted 18/10/2013 at 07:57:12
Mike 927,

Unfortunately so.

There are 2 versions of the Bernie Wright transfer saga.

One that The Cat was finally losing his marbles the other that they simply bought the wrong player.

From the cup-tie against Walsall The Cat had identified Alan Buckley as the transfer target and somehow they ended up buying Bernie the bolt.

You can guess I prefer the latter explanation.

Chris Williams
21 Posted 18/10/2013 at 11:49:13
Fran, lovely stuff.

Your comment on Cardinal Heenan School reminds me that in the days when it was called Cardinal Allen, the head boy was one Colin Harvey, who even as a 15 year old was playing for Everton B.

A good honest straight forward lad with no airs and graces, he was universally popular. I went on a school trip to Germany and so did he, and we played against a gang of German lads and we beat them I even scored, a very rare occurrence but even on a shite pitch with coats for goalposts he was magnificent.

A few years later, when he was an Everton regular, he came to our sports day to give out the prizes. My team had got through to the final and he refereed it. We won and he gave out the prizes to us. Fantastic for a young Blue.

He was exactly the same nice, down to earth lad he'd always been with time for a chat with a scruffy little scouse lad with no arse in his kecks. My mum and dad were there (he was a blue too) and he was beaming all day long.

The great Blues have all been nice in my experience over the years.

Ken Farrington
22 Posted 05/11/2013 at 14:21:46
Many great posts about players of yesteryear from the posh end of the city as I used to believe it was, being an Everton boy myself attending Breckfield Secondary Modern in the shadows of (ugh!) Anfield.

I've had a couple of brief encounters with the aforementioned.

Once in the early 1980s at Hillsborough I met Mick Lyons in the changing rooms when he'd moved to Sheff Wed, who weren't a bank holiday then!

Then a brief but embarrassing encounter with Colin Harvey prior to the 2009 FA Cup Final when I assured him that he'd won the league for us as manager. He equally assured me and two generations of my family that he hadn't but a great bloke who had time for us.

One of my school mates and a good mate as well was Archie Styles. (I still maintain that I gave him his name as he was always known as Arthur befeorehand.) He played 23 games for us prior to being the makeweight with Howard Kendall in the Bob Latchford transfer.

Interestingly, he played in our school team in goal and went for a trial with Liverpool school boys fo that position but was converted into a left back and was shortly to play at Wembley for England schoolboys against Scotland when he was 15.

The other issue of note from that era that I recall was playing for my primary school team, St Georges, against the renowned Billy Liddell's twin boys. The great man was on the touchline but never said a word, just observing the great football on offer!

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