Talking Blue – Alex Young

Talk to anybody ‘of a certain age’ and their eyes will mist over as they recount how he enchanted them. They’ll remind you that he was our Golden Vision. Fellow Bluenoses, I bring you Alex Young.

The following is an extract from Talking Blue, the 2000 book that answered all those nagging questions that had bothered Evertonians for years in a collection of interviews given by the royal blue heroes of past and present to submissions by fans via the Internet. It's still available for purchase on Amazon.

Talk to anybody ‘of a certain age’ and their eyes will mist over as they recount how he enchanted them. They’ll tell you he was cut from a different cloth than your run‑of‑the‑mill centre forward, right down to his beguiling smile, halo of flaxen curls, and slight frame. And how they would roar as they witnessed him outwitting the toughest of the lot with his cunning and sublime skills. They’ll remind you that he was our Golden Vision.

Injured a couple of days earlier playing for the British Army up in Aberdeen, Alex Young hobbled into Bellefield in November 1960 with torn ligaments and wearing a back splint – his price tag read £42,000, the record fee for a Scottish player. It was three months before he pulled on the sacred number 9 shirt. But those same people will sigh, and tell you it was worth the wait, and that they were the lucky ones.

Fellow Bluenoses, I swell with pride as I bring you the most dignified, unassuming and gracious man of all, Alex Young

When he started playing, did he find that he had the ‘touch’ or did it come through a lot of training?
David Tickner, Bowring Park, Liverpool

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I was about seven when I became really interested in football, and after a short time after I found I could control the ball quite easily.

I was born in a place called Loanhead, and there weren’t a lot of cars around then. We only had a tennis ball, but I would go off with two or three other boys and try and score goals through the gates of people’s houses. If I did practice it wasn’t deliberate, I just used to play with a ball all the time and it seemed to come quite naturally to me. It was only when I got older that I used to try and copy special players.

Who were his greatest influences?
Phil Pellow, Waterloo, Liverpool

When I was a young lad in Scotland you didn’t get many games on telly, but now and again we saw guys like Stan Matthews playing. Tom Finney was a tremendous influence on me, he could play on the left wing, the right wing and through the middle, he was a fabulous footballer. I played with Dave McKay at Hearts before he was transferred to Tottenham, and to play on the same side as him was something special.

Surely he was aware of the Everton tradition of centre forwards in the mould of Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton and Dave Hickson, so what on earth was a namby-pamby big girl's blouse like him doing in an Everton number nine shirt, for God's sake?
Billy Williams, Cologne, Germany

When I came to Everton I’d obviously heard about Dixie Dean and the other great stars that’d worn the number 9 shirt, but the enormity only hits you when you’ve been there for a while.

I wouldn’t say I was a big girl's blouse. I had to struggle all the way through when I was a kid. I was from a working-class area and I had to look after myself, and maybe I wasn’t as big as Dixie or Tommy Lawton or Dave Hickson but I had to battle just the same.

What was Catterick like to play for, as his public persona never suggested he would naturally embrace flair yet his teams were packed with it?
Neil Wolstenholme, Chelsea, SW London

What was he like to play for? Hellish. Before Harry Catterick even arrived at Everton the top sports writer for the Liverpool Echo at that time, Leslie Edwards, warned me to beware. He said Harry Catterick was after my blood because he didn’t like the way that I played, and that was before I’d ever met the man.

It never changed all the time I was there. It was a constant battle all the time I played for him. He couldn’t encourage me to play because if he said anything I didn’t believe him. He had some good sides, but I don’t think he liked to go a great deal for flair players.

Alex was never the most powerfully built man and was not very tall. He was, however, terrific in the air with the ability to hang. Was this an instinctive attribute or was it hours of practice and training?
Pete Rowlands, Enfield, N London

It wasn’t practice and training, it was something that I had even as a kid. I was about 13 when I started to realise that I could jump high and I could hang a bit. I would always take one or two steps before I jumped and tried to give myself a couple of yards when I knew the ball was coming into a certain area.

Ask him if he remembers signing a brilliant painting of a donkey with a number 7 shirt on, the most treasured possession of a young (and now old) Everton fan.
Paul Tollet, Oxford, England

I can’t remember it but I would have been delighted to sign a picture of a donkey. Who was the donkey meant to be – the number 7? Hopefully, that was our lucky mascot and not a player.

And what did he weigh?  10 stone 10 lbs. wet through, yet he competed against (and destroyed) some relatively massive centre halves. He drove Harry Catterick mad because he could play a complete game and never get his shorts dirty. He never lost his balance and went to ground - the big guys just couldn't get near enough to tackle him. His only weakness was those blistered feet – do they still trouble him? 
David Catton, Sheffield, England

Not as much now, because I’m not running up and down a football pitch all day, but even before I came to Everton I used to be bothered with blistered feet, it was the bane of my life.

I performed well when there was a little bit of give in the pitch and I could get the studs into the ground, but when I was on top of the pitch, even before half‑time my feet were raw with red blood blisters.

Before games, I used to turn up about an hour ahead of the rest of the team and get my feet bandaged up like a mummy. Then I had to pull my boots on and inside my stockings was a half-inch of foam rubber, taped on with 2” tape to try and take the soreness out of my feet.

If I’m going to make excuses, lots of times I drifted out of games because I was absolutely shattered with blistered feet.

Was Roy Vernon the greatest ever penalty‑taker?  Did they just naturally gel together as a partnership, or was there a lot of work on the training ground to develop that understanding?
Phil Pellow, Waterloo, Liverpool

Roy Vernon was the best penalty‑taker I’ve ever seen and even to see him practising was brilliant. After training he would take about ten against Gordon West or any goalie that wanted to go in. He always scored ten out of ten, and in all the time that he played at Everton I can’t remember him missing one penalty.

The partnership just happened. He was a brilliant runner off the ball and fantastically fast, which suited me down to the ground. He couldn’t head the ball, or anything, and he couldn’t even kick the ball with his left foot, which was amazing, really. Roy played number 10, he was all right‑footed but a fantastic footballer and when he played in the middle of the park he’d make surging runs right through the middle.

He used to say to me it takes two to make a pass, not just the guy who passes it but the guy who picks it up and runs with it, and Roy was fantastic at that. There was nothing, really, that we worked on; it was just a natural thing that sometimes happens between certain players. Roy and I just clicked.

When you signed for Everton I lived in London and the London press were regularly touting you as 'London's next soccer import', with Spurs the glamour team being most frequently mentioned. Was there any serious likelihood of your signing for Spurs?
Dave Morris, Glasgow, Scotland

I think that’s the connection with Dave McKay. I remember once or twice I innocently went down to Tottenham to see Davey because I was doing National Service in London, but there was never any talk from managers, and I certainly didn’t realise that the press was writing about it.

Evertonians worship him, but why do other football fans look blank when we mention his name? Why didn't he win more Scottish caps? Why wasn't his genius universally recognised?
John Reynolds, Co. Wicklow, Eire

I think it’s because lots of times I didn’t play as well as I should have. I should have been better, like a lad with his school report card; I did all right but I could have tried harder.

At that time there was no Scottish team manager. A committee picked the team and the majority had a West of Scotland bias. There was a divide between the West and East of Scotland, and when it came down to a vote, sometimes the West of Scotland players would get it.

I got eight caps for Scotland and, of course, I should have got more than that, but it was my fault that I never played to true form. I’m a relatively shy kind of guy and it takes me a while to get used to the surroundings I’m in and I couldn’t do my best until I felt adjusted. For Scotland, you didn’t get time to adjust, you were just thrown in the team and that was it.

Did he ever meet the late Eddie Cavanagh of 1966 FA Cup Final "And he's lost his jacket, he's lost his jacket!" fame? And what was the consensus of opinion among the Everton players that day regarding Eddie's pitch-invading antics, hooligan or overenthusiastic supporter?
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

He didn’t do anybody any harm. He was so happy he just wanted to run. We all know how that feels – sometimes you just need to run.

They all knew him and liked him enormously; he could be a very funny guy. He used to come and talk to lots of the players, Brian Labone and Brian Harris in particular. He was a real character, a real Scouser and a tremendous Everton supporter. He died just lately and I heard there was a huge turnout at his funeral. He will be sadly missed.

Which winger, from either side of the pitch, was the best he played alongside?
Phil Pellow, Waterloo, Liverpool

There were some good wingers in those days. Derek Temple, John Morrissey and Alec Scott - all three of them were good wingers. John Morrissey had a bit of a slow start when he came from Liverpool, he didn’t really come in until the last three or four years of his career. I played a short while with him and then I came out of the team in 1968. At that time John Morrissey was just as much an influence on the side as Bally, and that’s saying something. He was a really special left-winger and as good as anyone in the first division. Temple had sheer pace and they were great to play with.

Does he realise how many sons were named after him? I named my own son Ian Alexander and Ian named his son Andrew Alexander, and so the tradition goes on.
Mike Coville, New York, USA

I’m absolutely flattered. I didn’t know that and I feel very proud and honoured. I hope all of those boys grow up to be fine and decent men. Thank you very much.

What was his best or weirdest derby match memory?
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

I remember one terrible derby match at Anfield, it was 64/65 and for the first time ever they beat us 5-0. Before the game, we were about 6th in the league and I think they were top.

The week before the game Harry Catterick must have panicked a bit and we were put on heavy weight training; squat thrusts like the weightlifters in the Olympic Games. We were doing all these squats and thrusts and pumping iron with our legs and everybody was shattered.

Derek Temple at that time was the left-winger and he called off - I think he had a sore back from lifting the weights - and Johnny Morrissey came in. John hadn’t been involved that week in the heavy training and he was the only player in the Everton team that day who could run with the Liverpool team that day and wasn’t a yard short of pace.

It was 5-0 at half time and it finished 5-0 and that was the weirdest game I’ve ever played. We never did the heavy weights again after that.

Would he like to play in today's game with the much greater protection forwards are afforded by referees?
John Reynolds, Co. Wicklow, Eire

There’s supposed to be no tackling from behind now. Defenders do it sometimes, but they get penalised. When I played in the 50’s and the 60’s defenders could kick right through. I used to come off at half-time and both of my heels would be bleeding. They would put their studs down the back of your legs, and they were allowed to do that then.

The game’s a lot easier now, and if the ball is played to your feet in the box defenders are frightened to tackle because a tackle from behind is going to be a penalty. It would be great to have played now with the extra protection. It would have helped a lot of the skilful players I knew in those days.

With his delicate feet, did he ever try any 'old wives' remedies for his blisters?
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

I used to get all kinds of letters come to me suggesting things to do. One, I remember said I should pee on my feet. Others said I should try methylated spirit and salt water - I tried everything, even the ancient cures. I used to get hundreds of letters, all wishing me well and there was none of them I didn’t try because at that time I would have done anything.

How much did he used to get paid? It was 40 years ago now, so it wouldn’t be breaking any confidences.
John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England

When I was with the Hearts I was getting £20 a week plus £3 for a win. That was the maximum, no bonuses, nothing.

I went to Everton and after about two weeks, I was getting eight quid with £3 to stay over for the weekend in digs with an Everton player called Micky Lill.

I was transferred in November, and until the following July, I was on £8 and the rest of the players were getting £20, but there was nothing I could do about it because that was the rule in England if you were doing National Service.

Ask him if the height he could jump was ever measured, especially for the goal he nodded home at the Gwladys St end to clinch the title against Spurs in 62/63? My Dad reckons he was about three miles into orbit, or maybe that was my Dad after the goal.
Ste Daley, Speke, Liverpool

I never used to jump off two feet. I used to give myself one or two paces and then jump, and everybody knows that a running jump will get you higher than a standing one.

That day it was a wee bit of timing. Maybe I got the jump and run, but the ball just seemed to rise. The goalie came off his line and I just headed it over him and high into the net. That more or less put us in front and we were never headed after that.

I was obviously delighted because Tottenham were the big danger to us in the league that year. The season before they had done the Double, and it was the first time it had ever been achieved in England.

Ron Yeats – pussycat or yard dog?
Phil Pellow, Waterloo, Liverpool

He’s not a pussycat. Ron was a formidable centre half, a big powerful guy and tremendous in the air. We used to be bosom pals but it sort of changed a bit after one or two of his attitudes on the park after the game. He wasn’t like the Ron I knew when I was in the army and he played for Dundee United, he suddenly changed into a different sort of guy, but he was never, ever a pussycat.

Did Roy Vernon really used to have a crafty smoke in the shower after training?
John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England

He did. It’s incredible, but he was the only person I ever knew who could smoke in the shower. Sometimes, when we were leaving the dressing room, he would have a secret ciggie and flick it out halfway down the tunnel – obviously, none of the officials saw him, but he would put it in the pocket of his trousers until he came back in again. He was an awful guy for smoking the fags, and they were the ones with no filters in too.

Did he think it was a penalty in the Final against Wednesday and did he and the team believe we were dead and buried at 2-0 down?
John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England

It was a sure-fire penalty Ron Springett pulled my instep. I’d taken the ball past him and it was going to be a narrow thing for me to get to the ball and then just roll it into an empty net, but on my last step he pulled my foot away. There was no use appealing; the referee had made his decision.

Immediately you go 2-0 down in a game you feel dead and buried, but fortunately we got one back relatively quickly, and when we got one we knew we were going to get more. I think we may have been the only team who’s been 2–0 down and gone on and won it.

Overlooking for the moment the blatant 'non-penalty' award in the 66 Cup Final, what did he think of the referees at the time compared with today?
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

The referee in the Cup Final seemed to be running behind the play all the time, and right through the game he gave us a bit of a hard time – in fact, if he gave us anything at all, it was grudgingly. I think they’re fitter and more athletic these days than they were back then.

I would like to know whether he thought Catterick was right to drop him in favour of Joe Royle against Blackpool.
Mike Coville, New York, USA

Joe is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in football. He was a young lad then and maybe they put him in too quickly, but I came back in again and we won the Cup that year. I felt sorry for Joe in that game but he proved his worth in the side and he went on to be a terrific centre forward at Everton. He played differently to me, but we were always friendly and I was never jealous of Joe or angry with him.

A certain Alan Ball scored for Blackpool on that same sad day (we lost 2-0). If you were with the team, did you see anything special about him back then, or did you ever think he was special? 
Tommy Davis, Texas, USA

I wasn’t there that day. I was back at Goodison with the reserves so I didn’t see the game. I hadn’t seen much of Alan then because I think Blackpool were in the second division. I saw plenty of him when he came to Everton, though. He was a terrific player, a dear friend, a great signing for Everton and a pleasure to play alongside.

Alan Ball and Alex Young at St George's Hall

One more link to that day that will live in infamy with many older Blues was the incident with Harry Catterick being ‘assaulted’. To me, it looked like a harmless scuffle, with Catterick slipping on the ice. Did Alex see it and what did he think?
Tommy Davis, Texas, USA

Whoever said that has got it 100% right. I wasn’t there but I’ve spoken to a few of the players who were, one of them was Brian Labone, who quite liked Harry Catterick. He said nobody touched him; he slipped and fell on the ground then got himself up. Catterick said hooligans assaulted him and he said the next week he would bring the ‘hooligans' team’, which meant Gordon West and Jimmy Gabriel and myself were back in the side.

We went about 18 games undefeated and we won the Cup that year. The story from all the players that were there said that nobody assaulted Harry Catterick, he slipped and fell. Maybe somebody jostled him, but it wasn’t any real assault.

Did he feel his Goodison career was over when Fred Pickering scored a hat trick on his debut?
John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England

Yes. I didn’t know Fred was coming, obviously, but the week before we’d played at Tottenham. We won 4-2 and I scored two, so I was quite pleased with that, and then along came Fred. I met him and really liked him, and when he left the club I was still there.

I was disappointed that Harry didn’t say anything to me. He just put the team sheet up and I was put in the reserve side at Nottingham Forest. That was the thing that upset me the most - the silence. I was suddenly in the reserve side and he never even said a word.

What was his best goal, and why?
Mike Coville, New York, USA

One of the goals I enjoyed the most was a home game against West Ham and we were kicking away from the Gwladys Street End. Bobby Moore was in the team and they were a good side.

We were on top in this game and I was playing wide right, number 7. Everton suddenly got the ball in the middle of their half and pushed right up to the half-way line. It was chipped over the back four, right over Bobby Moore’s head The goalie had come out, so I hit it high and to see the ball rolling into an empty net made it one of the goals I enjoyed most. It was a similar type goal that David Beckham scores now.

Which team does he support? I have always wondered.
John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England

My father's team was Motherwell, so when I was a little lad it was Motherwell for me, too. I didn’t much care for the Hearts, but after a wee while I became acclimatised to the team and I began to like them. Then I arrived at Everton. I knew that Everton was the team for me, and to this day Everton is the team I follow and support and it’s always the first result I look for.

Over the seasons, who has caught his eye at Goodison?
Pete Rowlands, Enfield, N London

I admire players who have grit and determination in the way they play. Dave Watson is one, and so is Neville Southall – who wouldn’t want to go and see him? I like to watch skilful football. We’ve not really had a great deal of skilful players, in the last few years to be honest but I want to see them winning and I always give players the benefit of the doubt.

Howard’s 80s side, 83/4/5, was the best Everton side of the whole lot. They played attractive football and they had quite a few players I enjoyed watching. I really liked Kevin Sheedy he had a magical left foot, and Andy Gray of course, did a terrific job.

It was a magnificent team and so unlucky. They were going to rule Europe but we were banned after the Heysel disaster and the team broke up. Players went different ways and it was a very sad episode.

What did he think of the 'Tony Kay Affair'?
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

I was very sad about Tony. He was a terrific player when he came to Everton and I really felt sorry for him. He swears that he never took any bribes, he told me that and I believe him.

He was still at Sheffield Wednesday at the time and the week before he had been talking to a guy in a club and told him that they would struggle at Portman Rd because Ipswich were a very good side. Everybody knew at that time they were one of the hardest teams to play, especially on their home ground. Tony got 9/10 in The People that day for his performance, he played his heart out and after the game he went back to the nightclub in Sheffield.

This guy gave him fifty quid and said to him: ‘Thanks for the information, Tony’. Tony was about eighteen or twenty then, so it was a lot of money to him and he took it. It wasn’t as a bribe; he thought it was a present. That’s what Tony Kay told me, and I believe him.

What tips would he now give to someone like Cadamarteri, who is a genuine player, on how to beat a defender? Is this teachable?
Ian Bonnar, Plaistow, E London

It’s hard for me to give advice to young Danny. In the last few games he’s come on as substitute and he looks as if he’s playing a bit better wide right. He seems to be very effective and he turned the game in one I saw on television.

Players are all different and lots of Danny’s game is based on pace. I couldn’t tell him how to control or how to beat a man. I think he would just have to practise things. He has one of the main things needed, nowadays, and that is his genuine pace. He just has to really, really practise his short passes and close control and he’ll become a good player.

Does he know where George Thomson is these days?
Phil Pellow, Waterloo, Liverpool

I wish I did know where he is he owes me money.I’ve not seen him since about 1971, which is almost thirty years. I’ve heard he’s down in Liverpool and in Blackpool and sometimes in Edinburgh, but I’ve not seen George. We were transferred at the same time and he was a good friend of mine, but where he is now I honestly don’t know.

Who would win in the following fights?
Frank Hargreaves, Anfield, Liverpool

Brian Labone versus Ron Yeats:

In a football fight or a scrap? I don’t know, Ron Yeats was a fantastically strong guy and Brian was a gentleman and a nice guy. I was with Ron for a year and a half in the army but before that he used to work in a slaughterhouse up in Aberdeen. He used to kill the bulls by hitting them on the head. Enough said?

Alex Young versus Roger Hunt:

We were different sorts of players’ altogether. Roger Hunt was excellent, he had good pace and was really strong, stocky, powerful and a formidable player. Lots of people never noticed it, but Roger Hunt was a terrific striker of the ball and Ian St John really rated him.

Alex Young versus Ian St John:

The same sort of thing, similar heights, but Ian was a bit more powerfully built and he would rough and tumble a bit more than me. It’s no use if your 5’8" and 10 st 10 going roughing it about with guys who are 6’2" and 14 stone – it doesn’t make sense. You try to beat them with skill and a bit of pace.

Ian and I had relatively similar heading styles and he was very good in the air, too. He was good on the floor and had great control, but one of the things that Ian had over me was confidence. I had to surf for confidence sometimes for games, and how I felt affected my game. Ian was the type of lad who oozed confidence and nothing seemed to bother him. Even when he appeared on television it was no bother to him, but I could never have done that.

I was fortunate to witness what must have been one of your last games, and that was a semi-final appearance against Leeds at Old Trafford. You came on as a sub and mesmerized us all with a run down the wing, and then you just trapped the ball against the corner flag so that, I think it was Paul Reaney, couldn't get the ball back into play. Johnny Morrissey used to try the same trick, so I am sure you must have taught it to him, but the question is: Did you feel that you finished too early and that you could have played on a bit longer, or was it an injury‑enforced retirement?
Tony Field, Rotterdam, Holland

That wasn’t my last game against Leeds. My last one was at Goodison against Coventry I think we beat them 4-1 and I had a good outing, but I didn’t know that it was going to be my last game. The following week I was taken into the manager’s office and they told me I wasn’t going to be played that week, but I was going to be coming back into the team because I’d done well on the Saturday. But it was the last game I played.

From about 26 or 27 I had a knee injury, trouble with my ligaments, but there was another thing that people don’t know and I’ve never really said much about it. It must have been happening for years before, but from about 24 I gradually became deaf. The last three or four years especially, I couldn’t hear much at all. When you’re playing football the players are shouting all the time: "Watch your back, man on, give us the ball", and I couldn’t hear those shouts. I was looking around a lot over my shoulder and that curbed it a bit, but the main thing was my knee injury, maybe deafness and the fact that I was forced out.

I remember coming home from the Cup Final in 84 and sitting down to watch the full three hours of Grandstand - breakfast with the lads, Wembley Way and the big build‑up. There was a fine piece with Eddie Cavanagh recounting the Cup final of 1966, but then it all changed, went a little moody and a little blond‑haired girl was asked:

"What does your Daddy do?"
"Play football", came the reply.

Then, interspersed with her confirmation that she was the daughter of the ‘Vision’, was the most haunting music and a man who seemed to be moving alone between Subbuteo players fixed to the pitch. It was enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. How is your daughter and send her our regards.
Frank Hargreaves, Anfield, Liverpool

Jane has grown into a very pretty woman. She’s slim, still looks good and is in excellent health. We live about half a mile apart and she has three daughters of her own now, Charlotte, Becky and Abi.

I’ve got a copy of ‘The Golden Vision’ and it does me good to see it once in a while. I didn’t know it had even been made at the time, so it was a complete surprise to me, but my daughter came across well and I was so pleased with it.

Which game stands out in his memory when he reminisces about his career?
Mike Coville, New York, USA

The game against Tottenham, which was magnificent, and to score a goal which more or less let us go on to win the league was fantastic, but I think maybe clinching the league championship in one of the last games of the season. We won the league by a load of points, but against Fulham we clinched the title and Roy Vernon scored a hat-trick - that was a fantastic day. There was an unbelievable crowd at Goodison that day, there must have been 60,000 at the game and there was the usual tremendous atmosphere.

The games I loved most of all were at Goodison, I played my best football then. I played some good games when I was at Hearts when I was twenty-three, but between twenty-three and twenty-six I was in my prime at Everton. But things happen, and when I should have done better some things went wrong and my knee injury curbed my career.

Alex Young (right) – FA Cup winner with the Blues in 1966

According to my records, he scored the winner in the FA Cup Final versus Newcastle on 21 April 1906, but I've never seen a description of the goal. Could he take me through it step by step?
Billy Williams, Cologne, Germany

I didn’t know there was another Alex Young until I got there. It’s a strange coincidence because it’s not a common name. I heard some of the older guys talking about Sandy Young, but I didn’t meet him and I haven’t even seen any pictures of him, but it’s certainly strange.

Did – or does – he ever hold any management aspirations?
Iain Cooke, Basel, Switzerland

Why stop there? He's only sixty-three, surely he could still pull his boots on for us?
Ken Myers, California, USA

I had to finish when I was thirty-one with the knee injury. That was still quite young and I was shattered about it. I felt I might have been able to do it quite well in management, and I had a little shot of it in Northern Ireland, but I found after a while that it wasn’t really for me. I decided to try something outside football and I started a new company, and when you do something else the years just fly by and your days for management are past.

Does he still have a furniture shop in Stockbridge in Edinburgh? If so, where is it? I tried to find it when I lived there and never could! Mark Kenyon, Minnesota, USA

Lot’s of people think I’ve got a furniture shop, but I was always a wholesaler in soft furnishings and I supply lots of things to the soft‑furnishings market, like curtain poles, tracks, tapes and hooks and accessories for the upholstery and carpet trade. We trade under the name of Richard Wylie Ltd. It’s reasonably well known in Edinburgh as a wholesaler in Scotland and certain parts of England, but hardly anybody knows that I started the business, I’m the major shareholder and I still work there.

Does he think that with the money players can earn today they can never have the same kind of bond with the fans that he had? Ian Bonnar, Plaistow, E London

Maybe not. I think there is some kind of bond, but I think the fans are thinking these guys are making twenty-five grand a week whereas lots of the times I played at Everton, especially when I first started, the fans were making more money than me.

I think there was more of a bond then when the supporters realised the players weren’t getting a lot of money. That way they were playing for a living and trying their best for the team, and maybe there was a feeling that they weren’t money‑grabbing.

Even though the players are getting plenty of money now, they’re still trying their best and playing some great football, but I think the bond isn’t there as it was before.

During his career (many) players were underpaid and exploited. Now they're paid massive salaries with the power to hold clubs to ransom. Have things gone too far?
John Reynolds, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

I think it has, yes. I think the better and more skilled players now can hold a gun to the head of their clubs. I think this Bosman Ruling is helping the elite at the top of the leagues and pushing the others further down. All the money is going up to the few who are getting unrealistic sums of money and the Bosman ruling was the turning‑point.

Is there anyone in the game today whom he admires for their style and talent, or does he think that the increased athleticism and speed of the game is making it harder for unusual talents to shine?
Neil Wolstenholme, Chelsea, London

The one I think of right away is Harry Kewell at Leeds; he’s got a special talent. David Beckham is a terrific player, as is Andy Cole.

I think, bit-by-bit, the players are becoming more athletic. They’ve got a good diet now. I was brought up during the War when there wasn’t a lot of food about. I think they’re gradually getting stronger, more competitive and faster, and their training methods are improving. The game is stepping forward all the time. It’s very tough to maintain the levels of fitness needed nowadays, but they’re on so much money I don’t think they care about that.

Would he like to re-iterate his stance on the magic of Goodison Park just so I can hear it again? It kept me going in the GFE dark days!
Frank Hargreaves, Anfield, Liverpool

Goodison Park, to me, just seems to be a magical place, like when you go into certain houses where the great ghosts have been. There was something there that made the back of my neck tingle when I ran onto the pitch for Everton, even when the place was empty.

It’s still the same whenever I visit. That tingle is still there – you can feel the vibes from the fans. I loved playing at home, and that’s why the majority of the games when I really turned it on were at Goodison Park. I could feel the goodwill coming from the fans.

I felt it again in February when I was down for the Millennium Presentation. I won an award and my wife, Nancy, came on the park with me and she said it made her millennium. It was the greatest thrill she’s ever had, going on the pitch with a 35,000 or 40,000 crowd and everybody wishing us well.

For me it’s a magical place and the best place I’ve ever played football, and I’ll never, ever forget it.

Could he put his boots back on just one more time so that I could say I saw him play?
Mark Kenyon, Minnesota, USA

I would dearly love to do that, but, unfortunately, the ravages of time have taken their toll. I don’t think I would dare to try. It would be lovely to be able to turn the clock back, though.

Did he realise just how much of an icon he had become whilst at Everton? Does he realise that he still is?
Pete Rowlands, Enfield, N London

It has dawned on me now, and I thank everybody for that. To be remembered after such a long time - I’m gobsmacked, sometimes. I visit Goodison 3 or 4 times a year and I stay with friends. My pal is Mike Pender, who’s the lead singer in The Searchers. We’ve known each other for about thirty-five years and our wives are great friends, too.

There’s something about Liverpool that I love, and I really appreciate that they’ve been so kind to remember me. They accepted me right from the very start and I’ll never forget that. I always love going down to Goodison. I feel as if I’m going back home again.

How much does he think he would be worth on today's transfer market?
Ian Bonnar, Plaistow, E London

I’ve honestly got no idea. It would be nice if I was worth a million and I could get 10% of that if they sold me. I’d be quite happy with that.

© Becky Tallentire 2000

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Reader Comments (5)

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Mark Wilson
1 Posted 27/02/2017 at 23:48:29
Amazingly sad to read this again but it's also a record of a proud man's thoughts on his love of our club. It's a record of dignity and pride, a record of how it was during a bygone age which is so different to our current experience. Yet every one of Everton's young players above the age of 15 should read this, and all of the first team squad.

RIP Alex, what a man you were, truly a Vision.
Pat Waine
2 Posted 28/02/2017 at 16:31:31
A great read and a real hero of the Blue past.
Geoff Williams
3 Posted 01/03/2017 at 13:40:53
Thanks for this piece of history.
Dave Richman
4 Posted 01/03/2017 at 21:13:25
Rick Tarleton
5 Posted 04/03/2017 at 15:37:08
I've just returned from a month in Australia where I heard that Alex Young had died. The idea of writing a comment on my Android was not practical, especially considering the roaming charges.

Young was simply for me the most charismatic player I've ever seen playing for Everton, not the best: Collins, Vernon, Kay, Harvey, Ball, Wilson and perhaps Labone were better, but he was the most charismatic player I've ever seen. In the sixties there seemed to be more players with charisma than there are now, but I was a teenager then and now I'm an old man.

Young was charismatic in a way that was unique, he wasn't flamboyant like Law or Greaves, but he had that aura of magic. Even when he did something special, like the headed goal against Tottenham, it was done with a quiet modesty.

Honeycombe and Ken Loach christened him the "Golden Vision"; before that play, I'd always thought he was the "Golden Ghost", but the "Golden Vision" he became and stayed. In that play, his modesty and simplicity shone through and the talent that he had was worn with a quiet humility and great dignity.

Alex Young is still the Everton player who epitomises what I want Everton as a team to be. Supremely skillful, yet quietly and modestly going about his business.

He is the player whom I would most like to see again. How good he'd be in the modern game, with the protection forwards now get? He and Vernon would be the greatest pair in the land, as they were in 62-63.

Oh, Alex Young, I doubt if we'll ever see your skill, your character and your charisma again. You were simply unique and I am honoured that I had the privilege of watching you in your prime in the blue shirt of Everton.

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