"I Felt Like I Belonged There" – Nancy Young

Taken from ‘Real Footballers’ Wives – the First Ladies of Everton’ 
by Becky Tallentire in 2004, Nancy Young, the wife of Everton legend Alex, recounts her story.

Alec and Nancy Young, Ayr, 1957
When the pit horn went at 3.50pm, you could hear it all over the village and the women would get the dinner on the table knowing their men would be home in 10 minutes. Back then they didn’t have showers at the pithead, so the miners would come home dirty and wash in a tin bath in front of the fire. They reminded me of black beetles swarming up the streets.

My dad was a mechanic at the Lady Victoria colliery and used to maintain the vehicles that delivered the coal, he occasionally worked underground but spent most of his life under a lorry covered in oil. He wore a beret and overalls all the time and when he was issued with a new pair of overalls he used to make us laugh by parading up and down like a catwalk model. I was the second of six children; five girls and one boy called George.  Mum stayed at home and looked after us but before that she was in service and worked as a kitchen maid in a big posh house.

The pit closed in 1981 but the houses are still standing proudly on 1st, 2nd 3rd and right up to 10th Street. We lived on 9th Street and Newtongrange primary school was right over the road. At playtime I used to run home to have a wee go on the piano. I could only play Chopsticks, in fact, nobody in our family could play anything and I don’t know why we had a piano, but I used to love it and I dreamed of having lessons, but there was never any spare money for such luxuries. Life was like that for pretty much everyone in Newtongrange.

Although I passed my exams to go to High School, my dad thought it would be pointless. He said I wouldn’t stay in and study because I would want to go out to play all the time. Newbattle junior secondary school was all right, but instead of learning languages or science you got domestic science, dressmaking and lessons on how to iron. I didn’t really excel in anything but I was quite good at sports because I was double-jointed.

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You had your pick of jobs then, so I left school at 15 and went and worked in a grocer’s shop for a few months and then Isa, my older sister, got me a job in her office at an insurance company. I didn’t like writing in the ledgers or anything like that but the machines they used for invoices before the days of computers, fascinated me. They were called punch keys and they punched data into a card that the tabulators would read. I used to sneak away to look at them at lunchtime, when everybody was out, and one day one of the bosses asked what I was doing. I told him I liked the machines so they moved me to the Hollerith department and that was where I stayed for the next four years.

There wasn’t much to do for teenagers in Newtongrange, so every Wednesday and Saturday night my best friend Helen and I would go to the Bonnyrigg Regal dance hall. It was 1957, the Bill Haley era, and we would get dressed up in high heels and flared skirts with two or three petticoats, but we’d take our flat shoes with us so we could jive the night away. One night I managed to break her wrist with my enthusiastic jiving, and she still reminds me of it to this day.

Alex was from a nearby village called Loanhead; he worked down the mine as an engineer during the week and played for Hearts at the weekends, and he turned up this particular night with a couple of other players; Dave Mc Kay and Tom Mc Kenzie.
They were all dressed the same, in maroon blazers and grey flannels, because they’d been at a club do and thought they would drop in at the local hop for an hour on the way home. Alex had been to Bonnyrigg before but it was the first time I’d noticed him. He caught my eye because he had lovely blond hair and was so good looking. He was feeling especially brave that night because he’d had two halves of Harp lager so he plucked up the courage to ask me to dance. When it was over we made a date for the next week, and I couldn’t wait for it to come.

Trades Week is when all the local factories and mines closed down for annual holidays. The Edinburgh side used to have the first fortnight in July and the Glasgow side the second, and entire villages would be deserted. You’d see people at the beginning of Trades with their big suitcases bursting open on their way to Blackpool and Scarborough but in the summer of 1957 Helen and I had booked to go to Butlins in Ayr. It was the first time we’d been away without our parents and we couldn’t believe we’d been allowed to go. One evening we were in the Butlins dance hall when Helen nudged me and looked over towards the door and there was Alex, he’d followed us up there in his car. ‘Mr Wonderful’ by Peggy Lee was top of the hit parade and it all seemed very appropriate.

Alex and I were together for about a year before we got engaged, then he went off to join the army in 1959. For a year of his national service he was based in Aldershot but he was still playing for Hearts, so he got to come home every weekend. They would fly him and Ron Yeats to Turnhouse airport near Edinburgh and I would drive his mother there in Alex’s little black Volkswagen Beetle every Thursday night to collect them. It was before the time of cassettes and he was the second person in Edinburgh to have a record player in his car, so off we’d go with Frank Sinatra crooning at full blast.

Big Ron was so huge; he would be hitting the roof with his head while his knees were tucked under his chin all the way to Mrs Young’s house, where he would stay the night. There was no sleeping together in those days so I would go home and on the Friday morning Alex would drop Ron off to go to Dundee United and he’d go to Hearts for training.

When we were courting we’d sometimes go to the pictures. We never used to eat sweets, we would take cherries and different kinds of fruit and half way through we would change seats because there would be a mound of pips and we didn’t want anyone to know we’d left a mess. We never saw the beginning or the end of a film because we’d have to wait until the lights were down before we went in and leave before the end so nobody would see him, because people used to really pester him. In Liverpool, the fans were lovely, they were interested, they genuinely liked him and loved the game but the Scottish supporters were different.

Mr and Mrs Young were so sweet. She was really fond of me and was just like my mother; she was so timid that if you spoke to her she would blush. She was of that generation that was brought up to respect people in authority and would practically doff her cap to policemen and doctors. Alex was the baby of the family, he had two sisters and two brothers, but he’s the only one left now.

I didn’t know much about football, but by coincidence my older sister was already married to a bloke called Jackie Neilson. He played for St Mirren and sometimes Jackie and Alex played against each other. My Dad wasn’t football minded at all and didn’t follow anybody, but he did go to one or two games once I started courting.

I remember my mum being ill for a long time but it never crossed my mind that she would die. Nobody ever mentioned the word cancer and it was an awful shock when we lost her because we spent all our time reassuring each other that she’d get better. I was 20 and gave up work to take care of the house and my two younger sisters, Marian and Kate, they were eight and four at the time and I think it was a tremendous relief to my dad because he had no idea what he would do with them. I didn’t feel as if I was making any sacrifices; I didn’t really have any aspirations or ambitions so it suited me to look after the kids and I willingly volunteered my help. I looked after them for a year or two, until I married, then my other sister Ellen took over.

Eventually Dad remarried. His new wife, Katie, had been in his class at school and was also widowed. She was wonderful and we all called her mum and loved her dearly - she brought the girls up with her own daughter, Carine, and we became one big happy family again.

When I heard Everton wanted to sign Alex I was thrilled to bits because I had an uncle and aunt who lived in Wakefield and I would stay with them over the summer holidays when I was a kid. I always said I would live in England when I grew up and got married. I loved it and really liked English people so although I didn’t know anything about Liverpool, it was all terribly exciting for me. Alex signed in November 1960 and moved into digs in Maghull with Mickey Lill and Jimmy Gabriel. He was still doing his national service but he was injured at the time so was getting treatment from Everton. He made his debut just before Christmas and I stayed in Newtongrange with my dad and sisters but I missed him terribly.


Alec and Nancy Young on their wedding day

We waited until the summer of 1961 to marry because we couldn’t have had a honeymoon otherwise. Alex was demobbed on the Friday night and we married the next day, in Newtongrange church. It wasn’t a huge white wedding, it was supposed to be a wee, small occasion, but the local press got wind of it and they turned up, so we’d have been as well having a big wedding after all because it ended up in the papers. I didn’t mind the press being there but I was terribly shy in those days and blushed all the time. For our honeymoon we flew from Edinburgh to London then caught a train to Bournemouth, where we stayed for two weeks. It was the first time I’d flown and it was a great big adventure.

I moved straight down to England. Everton had found a house for us in Bullbridge Lane, Aintree, and we bought it for £3,000. It was a brand-new three-bedroom semi and really big compared with what I was used to, but we had to stay in the Lord Nelson hotel for six weeks because it wasn’t quite ready to move into.

While Alex was in the army he was only allowed to earn £8 a week. It went up to £20 when his national service was over, but there was a ceiling on wages until 1962. As soon as it was lifted, he and Roy Vernon got pay rises to £35. My Dad was only earning £14 a week then, and my father in law was a miner on about £8, so it was big money.

Norma Vernon became my best friend. She was absolutely beautiful, like a little blonde doll. We were together every day for the six weeks Alex and I stayed in the hotel and we became very close. Neither of us had a car to go anywhere so while Alex and Roy were training, I would be at her house helping her control her two boisterous boys, which was harder than any training session. I don’t think any of the wives worked and we were often on our own while the men went off training, or for days in hotels to build team spirit, so it was quite an isolated life at times.

If I could get a lift I’d go to the away games, usually with Pat Gabriel’s dad, who would drive us there in his van, but I would go to all the home games without fail. Normally, I would travel with Alex to Goodison and sit in the car reading until it was time to go in, because there was nowhere for the wives to wait. The other players had to report an hour before kick off but he had to be there two hours early so they could try and do something to stop his feet from blistering.

His feet were the bane of his life and would have to be bound up with foam and bandages and plasters before he played to help ease his pain, but by the time he got home his socks would be stuck to his feet with blood. We’d have to soak them off and he would pop the blood blisters with a pin. It was so horrible.  They used to allow tackling from behind back then and they would scrape down the back of his heels. He never had any toenails either - especially his big toe, but I think that was just an occupational hazard because they’ve grown back now.

It was great to see him run on to the pitch but I didn’t understand the game at all and had no idea what was going on; I just used to watch him even when he wasn’t on the ball. Alex didn’t have a pre-match ritual and wasn’t particularly superstitious, but he always wanted to be the second-last man out of the tunnel, and when he was at Hearts his mother would give him a drink of raw egg in sherry because it made him feel great.

Apart from the match, the highlight of the week was going out in Liverpool with team-mates and their wives. We’d all go to the Royal Tiger club and occasionally the Pink Parrot. The Tiger was our favourite and there was always a crowd milling around outside hoping to be let in. When an Everton player knocked on the door, a little peephole would open and we were whisked straight inside. If I’d been in Scotland, I’d have been going home at 10.30pm instead of just starting the evening. I’d never been to a nightclub before, it was all terribly exciting and it made up for the two years I spent staying in while Alex was in the army.

I fell pregnant early on in 1962. My mother was gone and I had nobody to turn to who could tell me what to do, so six weeks before I was due, I went to stay with Mr and Mrs Young because it would have been tragic if it had been a boy and not been able to play for Scotland. There was nobody I could ask, I just did what I thought was right and spent the last six weeks at their house. Mr Young went into the spare room and I shared a bed with Mrs Young in case something happened during the night.

You didn’t speak about your emotions then, everybody does now but then you just got on with it. Your hormones are changing but nobody explains it to you so I was crying all the time because I missed Alex so much and I didn’t understand what was wrong. You shouldn’t be separated like that, we know that now, but then you just did as you were told. A fortnight before Jane was born I couldn’t bear to be away from him any longer so I went against all advice and travelled down to see him. I was like a barrage balloon and I’m surprised I even fitted on the train but it made me feel so much better.

Jane was born in November 1962 at Simpsons Memorial hospital in Edinburgh. Everybody raved about what a great place it was but it was so regimented I’m surprised they didn’t clap me in irons. You were tucked in at night and you hadn’t to move the covers. Nobody was allowed to sit on the bed and you could only have one or two visitors at a time and only one of them men. It took Alex 10 hours to get from Liverpool to visit us because 1962 was the year of the big freeze. He was able to come away because all the games were cancelled as the pitches were frozen solid and I don’t think there were any played for six weeks. I was in there for 10 days but it seemed like a lifetime and I couldn’t wait to get back home to Aintree.

When they’d finished training the players had a lot of spare time on their hands. Alex used to love playing golf but his real passion was the races. He and Roy Vernon were always together at Manchester, Aintree or Haydock and when Roy left he hooked up with Alan Ball. They would go to Haydock or Aintree whenever they had the chance and he even went halves on a racehorse with Bally called Daxal, but they didn’t make any money out of it. One afternoon he told me they had extra training, I was changing Jane’s nappy on the living room floor and when I glanced at the television, there was him and Bally right in the middle of the screen at the Aintree racetrack

I don’t think I ever met anybody official from Everton. The wives weren’t encouraged at all and were generally regarded as trouble. We were kept in the background as much as possible and although we got a free ticket for the home games, it was in the stands like the rest of the crowd. Mr Catterick, the manager, wasn’t very keen on the wives being around, he thought we were a distraction.

After we won the League in 1963 the club took us all to Torremolinos for a fortnight and it was absolutely wonderful. All we did was lounge around the pool sunbathing and eating nice food. That was all we could do, the hotel had just been built so it was in the middle of an undeveloped building site and there was nothing but rubble outside. Apart from Jean, Alex Parker’s wife, breaking a leg when she fell into an empty fountain and Norma’s suitcase going missing for a day and a half, we had a great time. Jane was only about six months old and we left her with Mr and Mrs Young. They would often come down to Liverpool to stay with us and they loved it because they didn’t get any holidays at all until we moved to England.

All the wives went down to Wembley by train for the 1966 Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday. We were booked into the Waldorf hotel and it was really special because we didn’t get away very much. There we were, all dressed up to the nines and dying for the lads to win and suddenly we were 2-0 down. It was just terrible; it was the most gut-wrenching feeling you could imagine and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Eddie Cavanagh was a mad Evertonian and all the players knew him well, he spent a lot of time at Bellefield in their company and when we drew level at 2-2 he couldn’t contain himself and he ran on to the pitch. When the policeman finally caught him, he wriggled out of his jacket like an eel, weaving and ducking and diving; it was hysterical. Nothing really surpassed that day; I think it was the proudest moment of my life when I saw Alex holding up the FA Cup.

We’d moved house to Aughton by that time and when Roy Vernon was transferred to Stoke City in 1967 Alex lost his dear friend and team-mate and I lost Norma, too. I missed her terribly but shortly afterwards Alex was introduced to Mike Pender of The Searchers, and he invited us to his house just up the road to meet his wife and family. I hit it off immediately with his wife, May, and the four of us are still great friends to this day; our children all grew up together and we still see each other frequently. We still laugh about our first meeting, Mike confessed that he was all excited about ‘The Vision’ coming to his house and Alex and I were equally thrilled about being in the company of a pop star and the singer of the hit record ‘Needles and Pins’.

The last couple of years at Everton Alex played No7 - wide right. Harry Catterick didn’t pick him for the 1968 Cup Final against West Bromwich and Jimmy Husband took his place. We both travelled down but we didn’t get to find out the team until we were actually there in the hotel room. He was supposed to be sub but at the last minute he put Sandy Brown in instead and Alex was absolutely devastated.

Catterick didn’t like Alex and I don’t know what that was all about; he’s so placid and there are not many who wouldn’t be able to get along with him. Johnny Carey signed him and before Catterick even arrived at Goodison, he’d passed on the message via Les Edwards the journalist that he didn’t like Alex or the way he played.

It seems very strange that he would pass judgment before he’d even met him, but that’s the way it was and he really seemed to go out of his way to make his life a misery. Alex would get the vibes from him and he said they were not right, and that was it. It was probably a struggle for him most of the time but it was the crowd that kept him there, I think. The fans adored him and he loved them back.

That was about the time the filmmakers approached Alex to see if they could make ‘The Golden Vision’, which was a BBC Play for Today. They came to the house and shot the parts where he was talking, and Jane made her TV debut too. It took days and days to shoot a few minutes of film, I had no idea it was so complicated. Jane was only about five at the time but she was quite unphased by it all and performed magnificently. We still have a copy of The Golden Vision and every few years we dust it down and watch it again.

There was no way I was going to have my next baby up in Scotland and go through all that nonsense again, so I booked myself into Park House, the nursing home run by nuns in Waterloo when Alex Jnr was due. There were some complications, too, so they phoned Alex to ask him if it was OK if they did a caesarean.

It was about 10 O clock at night when Alex arrived to visit us but he didn’t realise there was a night bell and a day bell. He was ringing and banging on the door for ages trying to get in but he was pressing the wrong bell. A stony-faced nun eventually opened the door but she let him know how strongly she disapproved of the noise.

Alex didn’t really sustain any serious injuries that I can remember but he did have an operation on a cartilage and it was a knee injury that finished his career in the end but his blistered feet were legendary. You really had to see them to believe it and it was the same every week and if the ground was dry and hard then he suffered even more. We got hundreds of letters from people with remedies, old wives’ tales and tried-and-tested tonics, but nothing worked. Somebody even posted him a pair of boots, but it was hopeless. He almost got used to it.

Some nights he would re-live matches in his sleep. I could feel him starting the game, with the odd twitch now and again and it would progress to full-blooded kicking of an imaginary ball - but of course it was the back of my legs. I remember one night after a match he’d scored in when he stood up on the bed and was scrabbling around on the wall behind the headboard. The next morning he said he was dreaming that he’d scored and got tangled up in the net trying to get the ball back.

There was nothing I really hated about being a footballer’s wife. There were times when other women were after him but it didn’t bother me too much. The only thing that got on my nerves was that we didn’t have a lounge where we could wait after the match, like the Liverpool players’ wives did. It was awkward because we were all sitting in cars - assuming we had a car of course, and if they didn’t they would be standing in the rain. It was nothing to do with the fans, it was to do with the club and they just didn’t cater for us. The players were their livelihood but we were their wives and it showed such disrespect to us. It wouldn’t happen now but we weren’t treated very well at all.

One day, in the summer of 1968, Alex came home and told me Harry Catterick had sold him to Glentoran in Northern Ireland. I don’t remember having much of a reaction because we all knew that was part of the deal. I didn’t question things really; I just went along with it. He went over there to have a look then we packed up and all went with him. We didn’t sell our house, we didn’t even rent it out, we let a friend of a friend move in and look after it so it wasn’t standing empty.

We left Glentoran after about two months because the troubles were just starting and there was a very unnerving atmosphere in the town and he signed up with Stockport County where we stayed for about 10 months until his knee finally gave out and he hung up his boots for the last time.

We were a couple or three months without a job and we decided we’d go into the licensed trade. There was a pub going in West Linton, Peebleshire, called The Linton and we chose that one because it had a house attached where we could all live. We did that for two years and they were a long two years. We enjoyed it but it was hectic; it was a workingmen’s pub but it was out in the country so it wasn’t horrible or anything, but you couldn’t get it clean. I was scrubbing the floors all day then watching them come in at night and grinding their cigarettes out on my clean linoleum. The first six weeks we didn’t have one day off, from first thing in the morning til midnight, and we had to buy a sun lamp to give us a bit of colour. It was one of the old-fashioned ones you would just sit in front of to give you a bit of a glow because we looked like a couple of ghosts.

After that we took a day off a week and got Alex’s dad to run it for us while we went out for the afternoon. His mum looked after the kids and we’d come back again in the evening. It was the only break we ever got. We did it until I fell pregnant with Jason. It wasn’t going to be a normal birth again and I had to go in to hospital a month before he was due. Jason was also born by caesarean on March 1, 1972, and when I came out of hospital the pub was sold and Alex had bought a pram and a house in Penicuik near Edinburgh where we still live.

We were unemployed for six months and all our savings seemed to disappear because we’d been self-employed so we couldn’t go on the dole or anything like that. That was when Alex went into business with my childhood friend Helen’s husband, and opened up a soft-furnishings warehouse in Edinburgh called Richard Wylie Ltd. We still have the business and we all still work there in varying degrees.

Alex Jnr played football when he was younger and Jason still plays semi-professional now. Alex was quite good but Jason was better and signed for Hearts as a schoolboy and Celtic were after him too. He was 15 when he was chosen to play for Scotland in an Under-16’s tournament in St Malo, France and he used to partner Duncan Ferguson up front. He suffered a horrific injury against East Germany when he broke a thighbone and was never the same again, he lost a bit of pace and never went on to fulfill his potential. He’s played first, second and third division Scottish senior league but sadly not Premier which is a shame because Alex says he had ability to be a better player than himself and he would have been a star.

I loved being a footballer’s wife and there was nothing about it that irritated me. People would knock on the door occasionally to say ‘hello’ or to ask for autographs, and it never bothered us. He was always signing them when we were out but that was just part of the job. I don’t know whether I’d like to be a footballer’s wife now, I imagine they don’t have much of a private life and I would hate that. The money would be nice because you could do a lot for your family but I wouldn’t like to be in the limelight as they are these days.

There were some proud moments for me and I loved it when we won the FA Cup in 1966 but the most amazing feeling was when I went on to the pitch at Goodison Park.

The first time was when Alex was presented with a ‘Millennium Giant’ award at half-time during a night match against Leicester and he took me with him. The place was packed and I felt a bit nervous while I was waiting in the tunnel but when they announced his name and we walked out, it was to the loudest roar I’d ever heard in my life and I felt like I belonged there. I told Alex I’d have been scoring goals all day with a crowd like that cheering me on.

The last time I went was for Alex’s testimonial. Both teams formed a guard of honour and our whole family was there. Our granddaughters were the team mascots and our children were in the stands. It was absolutely amazing and it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Whenever we go back to Liverpool people always recognise Alex. Hardly anybody in Scotland does or if they do, they don’t let on. His status among Evertonians never fails to surprise me. It’s been an awful long time now but people still adore him, its just wonderful and I still love seeing his face light up.

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Reader Comments (58)

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Christine Foster
1 Posted 27/02/2017 at 23:41:33
What a magnificent set of memories and a wonderful life too... does not show the club up in a great light in the '60s nor Catterick, but I hope in some way the club has atoned and given Alex Young and family a welcome into our hearts and one hopes, a wonderful send off. Thank you for posting that, Becky.
Eugene Ruane
2 Posted 27/02/2017 at 00:12:24
A great read.
Geoff Brown
3 Posted 28/02/2017 at 00:36:18
Agreed! What a heartfelt series of memories from Nancy. The Vision was my first football hero and I still have his photo as my wallpaper.

I was crushed hearing about his passing. Deepest sympathy to all his family.

RIP, legend.
Steve Ferns
4 Posted 28/02/2017 at 00:59:13
Wow. That was great stuff.
Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 28/02/2017 at 01:30:39
Nancy sounds as down-to-earth and as humble as Alex was. A great story told with an easy roll to it, it could have been loads of people I knew growing up.

Alex and Nancy, two nice people with no airs and graces, just so natural and easy going, a thousand miles away from football stars and their wives today, and all the better for being that way.

I hope Nancy and her children get through this very sad time, I'm sure that they will find some comfort on the thread dedicated to Alex's time at Everton.

Gary Russell
6 Posted 28/02/2017 at 01:32:35
A magnificent read.
Dave Brierley
7 Posted 28/02/2017 at 02:38:11
On such a sad day, it was heartwarming to read this. Lots of great memories there to add to the ones from watching Alex play. What a lovely couple.

As Dave above said, how different to the celebrity lives modern footballers lead today. £200k per week versus £35. Crazy.

RIP The Golden Vision

Alan J Thompson
8 Posted 28/02/2017 at 04:27:06
I never met Alex but I did share a table with his wife one lunchtime in the Kong Nam Chinese restaurant in town, a lovely lady.
Brian Porter
9 Posted 28/02/2017 at 06:43:13
My sincere sympathy goes to Nancy and all Alex's family. He was genuinely my footballing hero during his time at the club. I loved watching him play. He made the game look so easy, such was his skill and vision. Treated very shabbily by Harry Catterick who didn't seem to realise just what a star he had in his squad.

Loved her reference to the Pink Parrot. My RAF mates and I would often visit the place among others during weekend trips to the city while stationed at Finningley near Doncaster. In those days we could hire a small minibus (called a JU) from the MT section and eight of us would 'do the clubs' then crash out on my cousin's living room floor at night.

Thanks for invoking those almost forgotten memories, Nancy. I still enjoy watching a DVD version of the '66 FA Cup Final, perhaps Alex's greatest moment in an Everton shirt. It was the first time my Dad took me to Wembley. What a day!

Thanks for the memories Alex. Rest in peace.

Tony Hill
10 Posted 28/02/2017 at 06:44:24
Becky Tallentire
11 Posted 28/02/2017 at 11:13:56
Thanks for your lovely comments.

Nancy was my inspiration for writing Real Footballers' Wives.

I was on the phone to her one evening when I asked where she met Alex and she told me about the Bonnyrigg dance hall. I asked if he could dance and she said no.

I realised that everything about Alex was documented and nothing about her so I wrote 10 questions and the next morning I called her and typed up her answers. My thinking was that when she was gone, there would be no record of her life or her contribution to Alex's career and her grandchildren deserved to know.

Of course, one thing led to another; she asked me to do the same for Norma Vernon and it was only after I'd written three of four stories that I realised this was a totally untapped vein of information. Nobody knew the players better than their wives, yet nobody had bothered to ask them.

I've had 5 Everton books published and while it's not right to have a favourite child, this is mine by a million miles.

Nancy emailed me on Saturday evening to tell me Alex was in hospital and the doctor had told her to prepare herself because he wouldn't be coming home again. I replied on Sunday afternoon expecting her to have maybe a month or even a week with him. When she called me at lunchtime yesterday, I assumed she was ringing for a chat. I was genuinely stunned.

The Youngs are a truly lovely family; they're kind, close knit, hardworking and wonderful company. Losing Alex will leave such a huge gap in their lives, it doesn't bear thinking about.

I'm proud and honoured to have been the custodian of their stories and it's my absolute pleasure to share them with you.


Tony Abrahams
12 Posted 28/02/2017 at 11:20:26
I'm glad you did, Becky, because it was a beautiful little story that was really touching, and you can indeed see how much Nancy will miss her husband after reading this. Lucky in life, and lucky in love, you can feel how genuine Nancy seems, just by reading this small piece!
Chris Williams
13 Posted 28/02/2017 at 11:55:09
What a lovely 'human' story, about what seems to have been a loving family first and foremost, who just happened to have a genius in the family, worshipped for decades by many, many people.

It speaks of an experience that is light-years away from the lives of today's Premier League players and their WAGs, and in their own honest humble words.

I was touched by the impact losing their great friends, Alan Ball and Roy Vernon and their wives had on both of them. Something I had never considered at the time, being young and enjoying Liverpool life in the sixties.

Nice to read Becky's comments, above, too

An eye opener in many ways.

Phil Fortune
14 Posted 28/02/2017 at 12:03:55
Wonderful memories of a great couple. I must have been about 11 years old when my sister Veronica went in to Park House in Waterloo and found she was next to Nancy. I was over the moon because she came home with my nephew Conrad and an autograph of my hero Alex Young!
Eugene Ruane
15 Posted 28/02/2017 at 12:04:41
'Nobody knew the players better than their wives, yet nobody had bothered to ask them.'


You would think that players' wives would be the first people to be asked, when looking for real insights into their (famous) husbands.

Maybe not surprising they were ignored though, especially when you read Nancy's comments on attitudes at the time (certainly by the club) towards 'the wives.'

It suggests that their input on anything (other than shortbread recipes or scrubbing floors) was never even considered and in the male-dominated world of sports 'journalism'; my guess is this type of thinking (though maybe less blatantly) still prevails.

Personally I would love to read more (similar) pieces by wives of former players – even players who weren't legends like Young.

What did the Darracotts do when Terry retired?

How did Mrs Valente find Liverpool?

Was there a Mrs Bernie Wright?

Certainly beats (hands down) "We were devastated after our 1991 Zenith Data Systems cup final defeat by Palace, but it made us even more determ..." etc waffle bore...

Terry Underwood
16 Posted 28/02/2017 at 12:06:49
National serviceman: "Can I have a weekend pass sarge?"
Sarge: "Why?"
National serviceman: "Cos I'm Playing for Everton"
Sarge: "Make sure you're back on time or I'll ave yer guts for garters."

RIP Alex Young. The bluest of the blue

Trevor Lynes
17 Posted 28/02/2017 at 12:33:51
A lovely read and it has brought back so many great memories. Catterick never liked many people at all, he was a reticent man by nature. Most of the real greats we had back then were bought by John Carey who was a wonderful player himself and truly appreciated ball players.

Catterick never really got on with Young, Collins and Vernon. Vernon and Collins had egos and were outspoken but disliking Young is surprising as he was a pretty quiet person.

Anyway, although Catterick won trophies, he gradually replaced the real crowd favourites with work horses like Denis Stevens Catterick's best buy was Tony Kay.

Young, Vernon and Collins were a magnificent trio who entertained us royally. All were different characters. I likened Young to the Brazilian Tostao. Vernon was similar to Ian Rush with a bit of extra venom. Collins was the best long passer we have ever had. He was in the mould of Scholes and he left us far too soon. He was Revie's best ever buy (Revie's words).

For all-around entertainment value, the Carey side was the best I ever saw playing for EFC.

Tony Heron
18 Posted 28/02/2017 at 12:44:56
Lovely read and a privilege to be allowed to share Nancy's memories. Thank you, Becky. Strange to think that some of today's players think they are Gods, yet Alex, to me and many others was a God in our eyes. He earned this adoration because as well as thrilling us, he never forgot where he came from and how fortunate he was to earn a living playing football. He and his contemporaries remained close to the fans and were loved for it.

Since Sky stole the game off the working man (and woman), it has been overtaken by greed and hype. I regard myself as fortunate to have lived through the great times of the '60s and seen such greats as Alex and Bally, Royston, Westy and Labby. I feel sorry for the modern fan who must wonder why myself and other older fans became so attached and grieve for the passing of such greats. It's because, unlike today, the players of our day loved the club like we do and did not see it as a stepping stone or constantly cause ripples to agitate for a move or a better contract.
God bless Alex, RIP.

Sue Brown
19 Posted 28/02/2017 at 13:14:24
Thank you, Becky, what a genuine, heartwarming story. Nancy sounds like a lovely lady, the old saying "God makes and matches 'em" comes to mind.
Jay Wood
20 Posted 28/02/2017 at 13:35:20
I tell you what, Becky, this is as good a read I've had on TW in many a long day. All the more so in the wake of yesterday's devastating news that the Golden Vision has left us.

I wasn't even aware of your book, least of all that it is dedicated to the forgotten ladies behind the players of Everton.

I'll certainly be seeking it out to buy. If all the chapters are as beautifully and sensitively crafted as this piece on Nancy Young, I'm in for a cracking read.

Genuine heartfelt thanks for sharing this with us, Becky.

Bob McEvoy
21 Posted 28/02/2017 at 13:58:16
Becky, wonderful stuff. I remember standing outside Bellefield, probably summer 1963. As the players came out to clamber on a waiting coach to take them to Goodison to get changed, I could overhear the conversation between Alex and Roy Vernon and it was solely about horse racing.
Paul Thompson
22 Posted 28/02/2017 at 14:04:22
That was a magnificent slice of social history and many thanks to Becky for sharing it. Everton may not be as successful as we were in the 60s, but we are so much better now as a club and they way we treat players, their families and the community.

As I've said before on this site, as a kid, I lived on Bullbridge Lane, just down the road to the Youngs in an English Electric company house. As a kid, Alex was my idol, but aside from occasionally hanging around outside their house to catch a glimpse, they were rightly left alone. Different days.

Mike Gaynes
23 Posted 28/02/2017 at 14:07:33
A lovely memoir. Thank you for sharing, Becky.
David Graves
24 Posted 28/02/2017 at 14:43:26
This is taken from Becky's excellent book about the "First Ladies of Everton" and it is a fantastic read.

Copies still available on Amazon!

Peter Cummings
25 Posted 28/02/2017 at 15:03:56
A wonderfully poignant story of a life spent with one of the true greats of football, I have already penned my personal tribute to Alex on TW but your life story with him reads like a chapter of how life was for the working classes, especially those who slaved at the coal faces of the country and looked forward to their Saturday afternoon game of football, be it amateur or professional.

As well as the privilege of watching your 'Golden Vision' weave his magic at Goodison, I wonder if you remember my visit to your home in Maghull/Aughton to fix a fault on your gas cooker and then sat me down for a cup of tea and cake it brings home that you were still that working class family from Scotland, love to think that you did. Good Luck and God Bless to you and your family.

John Otway
26 Posted 28/02/2017 at 16:29:27
Paul Thompson (#22). "As I've said before on this site, as a kid, I lived on Bullbridge Lane, just down the road to the Youngs in an English Electric company house."

I know you did because I lived next door to you!! 07977 069257 if you fancy a catch up!!

Paul Thompson
27 Posted 28/02/2017 at 17:09:18
John (#25): well there is a blast from the past – I will give you a ring.
Matt Williams
28 Posted 28/02/2017 at 17:13:39
Brilliant read, Becky, thanks.

Sincere condolences to all the Youngs. RIP Alex.

Alexander Murphy
29 Posted 28/02/2017 at 19:15:19
Alex was "The Golden Vision", was, is and will be in perpetuity.

This piece of writing is every bit as wonderful and immortal.

Evertonians worship our players, none more so than "Our Alex". Hearing such affection proves so powerfully that this truly is a love returned.

We are chosen.

Tony Kelly
30 Posted 28/02/2017 at 19:15:28
That was fascinating reading, Becky. Nancy talking about her friendship with Norma Vernon makes me realise we have got to covet our Blue greats. Alex, quite rightly, has been honoured by the club, but while we mourn the loss of Alex, I think it is the time for the club to recognise the part Roy Vernon played in our history.

When I think of some of the players honoured as Goodison giants, it makes my blood boil that Royston has never been honoured by the club. Let us hope that the club right this wrong and give this all-time great Blue a place in their Goodison Giants.
Len Hawkins
31 Posted 28/02/2017 at 20:43:01
Thanks, Becky, what a wonderful couple they were.

I remember the wives of the England players on the night of the World Cup victory were separated from their husbands/boyfriends; I think they were even in a different hotel.

Reading about the Young family I am sure he knew how much he was loved at Everton and it must be a comfort to them at this sad time. I'm not one for showing emotion but this is the third time in the last 10 years I have had tears welling up: Bally, Howard and now Alex– three of the greatest players ever to pull on the Royal Blue. RIP.

Paul Conway
32 Posted 28/02/2017 at 22:08:11
I hung onto every word.
RIP Alex
Danny O'Neill
33 Posted 01/03/2017 at 00:23:17
Eye dusting... simply eye dusting!

Alex is Everton, Everton is Alex.

Paul Conway
34 Posted 01/03/2017 at 09:35:36
Simply riveting read and a great insight into past times.

Thank you very much for sharing your memories with us.

RIP Alex.

Alexander Murphy
35 Posted 01/03/2017 at 11:44:15
Oh Becky, forgive me, please. I'd not read your comment when I posted.

Your contribution to Evertonianism, in my view, ranks alongside the France's.

I'll complete my act of contrition by seeking and purchasing your books. No guesses which will be the first.

Thank you, Becky.

The Bird is Blue.

Tony Abrahams
36 Posted 01/03/2017 at 12:11:06
The way me dar speaks about Roy Vernon, Tony, I can't believe he's never been inducted as an Everton Giant. I was going to say this is the wrong thread to talk about this on, but judging by how close "The Youngs" were to "The Vernons", then maybe I'm wrong?
Chris Williams
37 Posted 01/03/2017 at 12:23:01

I agree about Roy Vernon. It's one of the reasons I call him The Forgotten Hero. An absolute genius and on his day unplayable.

I swear he decided from time to time to really turn it on then did so. The Fulham game in 1963 is an example.

Never really had the recognition he deserved, especially from the club, as a Championship winning captain, goal scorer and fan icon.

And a mate and partner of Alex Young, who definitely rated him. There is an interview with Alex when he describes the best players he played with and replied "Vernon and Ball".

Peter Murray
38 Posted 01/03/2017 at 14:35:31
Magnificent read, Becky, but exactly as he will always be remembered by any/all real blue supporters.

We as supporters, were just so lucky to have witnessed him in a blue shirt & then so much later again, last November on his last return – the Goodison pitch, taking more ecstatic cheers from all our crowd !!

It's hard to explain Blue history to our youngsters, (know my grandson, thinks this) – but the God came from a different era – that unfortunately has gone.

We of this ilk, were so fortunate to have witnessed skills, abilities, dedication & a pure love of the game, that will always be remembered, till our dying day at Goodison Park!!!

RIP Alex Young

Liam Reilly
39 Posted 01/03/2017 at 16:53:23
Great story – truly remarkable woman and man.

Ray Roche
40 Posted 01/03/2017 at 17:49:44
Thank you Becky, lovely story about a lovely family. Unfortunately, Catterick doesn't come out of it as being a very nice chap. Some of us aren't surprised because he always seemed a bit of a cold fish.How could he not like Young?

Trevor Lynes (#17): "work horses like Denis Stevens". I think that's a bit harsh on Stevens; he was more than that to Everton. Vastly underrated player. Cup winner with Bolton and a League winner with Everton, playing in every League game in the 62-63 Championship winning season. We could do with a work horse like that now. Maybe Gueye will fit the bill.

Shame we saw so little of the wonderful Tony Kay but I'm not sure he was Catterick's best buy. I think Ball shades it there.

Sid Logan
41 Posted 01/03/2017 at 20:09:46
That was a moving and inspiring read. I used to deliver papers to Alex's house although I never saw him there but saw him around Aintree Village.

I moved from Walton to Aintree in 1959 and was amazed to find my neighbour was Bobby Collins (Everton had purchased a few houses in the locality) – to be followed by Goerge Thomson and then Jimmy Gabriel in the same house. As a 14-year-old I was chuffed when all of them used to wave to me without knowing I was an Evertonian.

We now live in different times but it's great to be reminded of how things were and compare it with today's mega rich footballers most of whom have by-passed any ordinary working life that most of us know.

You could, after reading this article, only have huge admiration for her sheer niceness and endearing nature of which less is seen in today's world. And yes, that's an older person' s view but they're you go!

Derek Ward
42 Posted 01/03/2017 at 21:01:43
Thanks Becky, for sharing this fabulous story and insights into the life of the man we all adored.

Yes, Peter, totally agree, we were so, so lucky to have seen him play. Those graceful images never leave. As others have said, we were watching football and ballet at the same time. On those pitches with heavy caseys to boot.

Thoughts go out to Nancy and the Young family.

'Bless the Alex and Roysten too'
'Bless em all'
RIP, Alex.

Becky Tallentire
43 Posted 01/03/2017 at 21:31:45
I've just come back to this thread and am filling up with the reaction to Nancy's story. Thanks, it makes me feel so proud.

Real Footballers' Wives – the First Ladies of Everton has 18 stories similar to this from: Harvey, Labone, Lyons, Hurst, Morrissey, West, Vernon, Thomas, Gabriel, Scott, Dobson, Royle, Stevens (Dennis), Kay, Lee, Temple and Sagar.

Each time I completed a chapter, I thought, "This is the best one yet... it won't get better than this" and that hasn't changed. They are all precious and as wonderful as each other.

My publisher contacted me after it was launched and said that the Everton Megastore was refusing to sell it as it was detrimental to the club. I was enraged with the club and I told them so. Then they changed their story and said they didn't have enough room to stock all the Everton titles so this was left out.

So it never really got out there to the public, although I did go on Radio 4, Woman's Hour with Pat Labone to talk about it... but my wives never got the recognition they deserved.

Since it was published in 2004, six of the players and three of my wives have passed away so I feel incredibly proud that I wrote down the stories before they died with them.

Mainstream, my publisher has since been taken over by Random House so my 'niche market' books are out of print. I put RFW online as an ebook and updated it a few years ago... but every time I see a copy on eBay, I buy it and put it away. I'm not sure why, I just want them to be safe. My sister calls me JR Hartley (a gag only the 'elders' will appreciate).

I'm delighted you enjoyed reading Nancy's story and I hope it's given you an insight into the life of the Youngs from another perspective.

I'm happy to have Lyndon publish any other chapters you might want to read on here. We go back a long way when the internet was in its infancy. Who knew it would come to this?

Take care, Bluenoses, it's been a privilege to share this with you. X

Dave Abrahams
44 Posted 01/03/2017 at 21:58:31
Becky (#43), I will try to buy this book. In the meantime, I'll take you up on your promise to have other chapters printed on ToffeeWeb, Dennis Stevens was one of my favourite Everton players, I know he was a genuine man, so would love to read about him and his family.

Thanking you in advance.

Rob Brown
45 Posted 01/03/2017 at 22:44:06
Wow, what an amazing piece! When I read about The Lady Victoria, it made me shiver. I was born in Newtongrange in 1975. My grandfather would have been working at the pit at the same time Alex.

I started supporting Everton in 1984 when I moved down to England. I didn't realise the he was a Nitten boy. RIP, Alex.

Danny O'Neill
46 Posted 02/03/2017 at 07:55:55
Becky, any thoughts on publishing online (e-book)?
Chris Williams
47 Posted 02/03/2017 at 08:08:41
From this story and from Becky's comments above (#43), the club does not distinguish itself by its behaviour does it.

Those old enough may be unsurprised by Catterick's conduct, but this sort of paranoid censor type behaviour is a much more modern vintage.

On reflection, maybe we should be unsurprised by that too?

James Welford
48 Posted 02/03/2017 at 13:50:03
Hi Becky,

I really enjoyed reading this article and have just purchased


Hope you get a few pennies from that sale. Sorry to hear that EFC messed you around with the sale of the hardcopies.

Peter Fearon
49 Posted 03/03/2017 at 01:39:50
That just about had me in tears.
Derek Thomas
50 Posted 03/03/2017 at 06:20:26
Becky; I'm off to Amazon.

Golden words about the Golden Lady behind the Golden Vision – and not a Gold Bentley in sight.

Jim Potter
51 Posted 03/03/2017 at 18:14:15
A revealing and wonderful read. Thank you, Becky.
Lenny Kingman
52 Posted 03/03/2017 at 20:42:28
The tales from the deep blue sea that is Everton FC do not get any better than this. Respect to Becky for bringing this truly magnificent pearl to the surface.
Terry White
53 Posted 03/03/2017 at 22:37:34

Tony K (#30), Tony A (#36) and Chris (#37), I agree completely with what you have said about Roy Vernon. I think it is a disgrace, the lack of recognition from the club to his accomplishments.

101 goals in 176 League games. 3 hat tricks including the all-important one against Fulham in 1963. His partnership with Young was a delight to see.

He was sold very quickly by Catterick in 1965 after scoring 18 in the 1963-64 season in 31 games. It is known he was not Harry's cup of tea (Roy was a Carey signing) and, given the reduced number of games in the season when Fred Pickering was signed, perhaps he had an injury?

Regardless, Young would not have been the success he was without Vernon, just as Roy would not have seen his success without Alex. They go together hand-in-hand to those that were lucky enough to see them play between 1960 and 1963.

As the captain of a Championship-winning team, he is entitled to all the honours that our club has to offer. It's not too late.

Tony Hill
54 Posted 03/03/2017 at 22:46:23
The best pure finisher, Vernon, I have ever seen at Goodison over a proper period, though I hope Lukaku will challenge him. A wonderful player, who was his own man without compromise. Those sixties players were true men, weren't they? No sentimentality, no shite.
Jay Harris
55 Posted 03/03/2017 at 22:55:42
And no big wads to spend on drugs, cars, girlfriends and gambling Tony, although they did their best.

Roy was one of my all time favourite players. Watching him dribble around the opposition and then around the goalkeeper was a pleasure to watch.

Mike Hughes
56 Posted 03/03/2017 at 23:43:20
That has to be a strong candidate for one of the best articles I've read on here. Strangely enough, it was like a black-and-white film unfolding in my head.

A great account of a true blue legend.

Sadly for me, the great man was before my time.

(Harp lager – is that stuff still going? I vaguely remember the 1970s TV ads.)

Alexander Murphy
57 Posted 04/03/2017 at 12:36:35
Becky, whatever you do, write more PLEASE.

Football is still such a thoughtless sexist empire, but fans, players, coaches, managers all have mams, wives, sisters, cousins! This doesn't mean that ALL the fans, players, coaches, managers, mams, wives, sisters, cousins are male. NOT!

My three favourite Blues are my cousin, her sister in law and me mam.

Me mam went regularly to the match before ever I was born. She LOVES Everton. She'd go to "the other place", because her Dad & brothers were going. Even went on the kop. "It stunk of wee".

I'll never ever forget the look in her lovely BLUE eyes when I went with me dad and granddad to my first night match. "You make sure they win, sunshine! And don't bother coming home if they lose. Bring us some chips when they win!" Me kid brother was about three at the time. We won.

She's had a couple of strokes and lives in a Nursing Home now. She's not so articulate anymore. But Dave Hickson appeared on the telly a while back, "Oooh, Dave Hickson. I'd LOVE to run me fingers through his hair". Steady on, mam!

(For the record, she's a VERY prim Catholic lady, VERY).

The Bird is BLUE!

Terry White
58 Posted 04/03/2017 at 15:03:03
Roy Vernon is, rightly, of course, a member of the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame.

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