“What wall do you want?” He asks.
“That one.” I reply.
“Right, I’ll have those two walls then” he states firmly like that’s the end of that discussion.
“Hang on a minute” I say, before pointing to a tiny strip on the fourth wall of the bedroom, the wall almost covered by a double wardrobe. “Who’s getting that wall? And does that mean you get the doors as well?”
Discussions developed between me and my brother similar to two opposing countries at the United Nations. These discussions continued until an agreement and settlement was reached. These were the rules, they were set in stone and there was no room for manoeuvre.
That is until we both saw the benefits of each other’s wall space, or needed more room for another poster and decided, that a change was necessary, and the discussions started all over again.
When the discussions ended there was always a rush to see who could get their posters up the quickest. And the first poster to go up was always the team football poster. Whoever succeeded in getting their football poster up first could walk around with a smug face on for a week or so, it felt like a victory. In fact, if you only got that poster up, as long as it was the quickest and the team poster, you didn’t have to put any other posters up, the point had been made.
I suppose when I was growing up, if I wasn’t a mad Evertonian and my brother wasn’t a mad Liverpool supporter it wouldn’t have mattered. But when there’s only two of you, and one’s a blue and the other’s red, and you’re like chalk and cheese, every day could be a battleground between brotherly love.
After the first poster went up, it was a case of trying not to break a thumb getting the drawing pins into the rock-hard woodchip wallpaper. Was any poster worth the pain? Yes, the Everton team poster.
My brother filled his walls up with two types of poster; Liverpool Football Club and Madness. The rest of the walls were filled with the obligatory Liverpool scarf or an up to date flag celebrating another trophy to add to their tally. I, on the other hand, the younger and more sensible of the two, filled my walls with Everton posters, an Everton scarf, several Everton pendants, Bruce Lee posters, and Monster Mags.
Even though my brother’s Liverpool flag had list after list of trophies they’d won, the satisfaction I got updating my pendant in biro writing 1984 under the year 1966 in the FA Cup Winners section, after that glorious day, was unbridled joy. “Stick that up your European Cup Winners arse, sucker!”
Living with the enemy meant everything in our house was either blue or red. We didn’t have any other colours. At Christmas it couldn’t have been any easier for my mum to buy presents. A Liverpool jigsaw for my brother, an Everton one for me. A blue Adidas t-shirt for me, a red one for our kid. A red Liverpool pen for our kid, an Everton one for me. A Mick Lyons photograph from the Toffee shop for me, a Liverpool player picture for our kid. A blue scrap book for me, a red one for our kid. A red and white football for our kid, a blue and white one for me. Blue jimjams for me, red jimjams for him.
I even think my mum bought me a Mr Spock action figure because he wore a blue top. Then again, I can’t remember our kid getting a Scotty action figure.
Living with one enemy could have been bearable but I lived with two. My dad was the other, and the biggest Red I knew. We had the Liverpool crest made out of matchsticks over the mantlepiece. The amount of times I thought about throwing that work of art on the fire and coming up with a likely story was a weekly occurrence.
Luckily for me, even though my mum didn’t really care too much about football she came from a family of staunch Toffees. Every weekend my brother and I would go to my Nan’s and for the whole day talk of Everton was a moment away. When the football results came in there would be loud cheers or silent groans. There would be an update every time Everton scored. If on the odd occasion Liverpool were getting beat there would a whisper and a snigger from someone. No one ever crucified my brother when Liverpool lost. How could we, it was the seventies and early eighties and we had little to cheer about.
However, I do remember my dad being crucified by all my uncles and my granddad at a family party once in the mid-seventies. They ganged up on him for a derby result and gave him stick. I felt sorry for my dad. He was a mad red who went to every home game and a couple of the cup finals, he certainly wasn’t your average Kopite. He didn’t retaliate to the abuse, but how could he, everybody at the party was a Toffee except for him and my brother.
Living with the enemy gave me an insight into how their minds work. It was hard to work them out sometimes. For example, every so often my dad would come back home after the match, via the pub, after a match they’d won by a goal or two to nil, screaming and shouting, “We should have had a pen, the cheating fucking referee!”
“But dad you won, didn’t you?”
“Shut up, we still should have had a penalty regardless.”
Having a red brother made Subbuteo interesting. Especially if you accidentally wanted to give Jimmy Case a taste of his own medicine. Flicking Jimmy Case hard off the pitch was juvenile justice and pure enjoyment. Having a Liverpool supporter as a brother allowed me to beat Liverpool once in a while. The truth was it didn’t happen very often. But when it did, in my head I’d plan an open top bus victory parade around the streets of Liverpool.
The worst Subbuteo moment was when my dad came home once after a Liverpool match where they’d been beaten. I didn’t say anything to him when he walked in except, “Good game?”
He lashed out at the tiny plastic Subbuteo footballers, said something nasty ending in “off” and the game was abandoned. “Put that away now.” My mum said.
Some people might think that this was an over-reaction by my dad but I didn’t think so. I thought it was funny. My cheekiness had got the reaction I was looking for without telling him directly that they’d lost.
On another occasion, once again after the match and after too many beers, he was brushing his teeth and I was taking the piss out of Liverpool and gloating about Everton winning, whilst looking through my Everton scrapbook. My dad snatched it off me and decided to brush Andy Kings teeth for him. He ruined the picture.
I think I cried and my mum gave my dad down the banks and told him to grow up. It was only years later I realised why he did what he did; it hurt him that much that Andy King scored ‘that’ goal in ‘that’ game. I laugh at it now but like a holocaust denier my dad denies it ever happened – “Yeah, Mr Geobbels”.
Another thing he did which I did consider nasty, was using my video cassette to tape over the highlights of Everton beating Liverpool 2-0, which I’d taped off Match of the Day. This was a special game for me because it was my first derby at Mordor, I mean Anfield.
He said it was his video cassette, and no matter how much I protested, because I knew it was mine he just wouldn’t listen to my defence.
“Dad, it is my video. I know exactly what’s on that tape.” I begged him.
“No, you don’t.” He said defiantly.
“It’s got the film Slapshot on it. That’s one of my favourite films and you don’t like it that much. If you’re not a fan of that film why would you tape it?” I protested.
“You’re only saying it’s got Slapshot on it because it’s written on side of the video.”
“Yeah, but I taped it. It’s my film, my tape.” I looked at my mum for some support. My mum’s eyes looked up the sky. She was fed up with these games.
“No, it isn’t.” He said and snatched the video off me.
“Dad, it is my video!” I screamed in one last attempt for him not to use the tape.
“How can you prove it?” He asked.
“Look, it says ‘Mark’s Video’ on it.”
It didn’t matter, he still used it, and taped over Everton beating Liverpool and Slapshot, possibly the greatest ever sports film of all time.
Yes, living with the enemy gave you a real insight into them. Sometimes I felt like a spy, a Blue James Bond, spying for my blue brethren.
When I joined up with my blue mates I often started the conversation with, “You’ll never guess what, have you heard the latest from them?”
I had inside information, inside knowledge. I knew what was going on at their club. To win arguments with Liverpool fans at school all I had to say was, “Yeah, well our kid said he’s shit. And our kid goes the match. How many games have you been to this season?”
If someone tried to come back at me with a clever retort I could knock them back with some interesting little fact I’d picked up from listening to my dad or our kid. It was a brilliant strategy. And all I had to do was keep my ears open at home.
Apart from getting the inside knowledge on all things red, the best thing about living with the enemy was you could say anything you wanted to about their team, their players and their supporters, and there was no chance any harm was going to come your way. They might disagree with you, call you bad names but there was no way it was going to end in violence.
If I had a derogatory thing to say about anything Liverpool Football Club related, I could freely say it with no fear of being castigated or chastised. It was superb.
When things got too heated and I’d over stepped the mark, my dad would say simply and calmly, “Go away, Mark.”
And that was the end of that. All I had to do was walk out the room with a smirk on my face for a few minutes, return and not mention the thing I’d said to upset them for a week or two, and then try it again.
Fellow Toffees might read this who come from a family full of Blues and think that when I was growing up, because I lived with a red dad and a red brother, that I didn’t hate Liverpool as much as they did, but they’d be wrong. I hated Liverpool Football Club as much as the next Toffee. I went to school with ‘red necks’ and they’d only talk about the match if they’d won. But the thing was they wouldn’t know who they’d beat or who scored for them.
The only Liverpool fans I ever got on with were the ones who weren’t glory hunters, red family members, and the lads we used to knock about with in the street to play footy with. The paradox was, I hated Liverpool Football Club, for everything it stood for, but loved my brother and my dad, the two biggest reds I knew. I lived with the enemy and I loved the enemy.
When I think back to growing up, and my life living with the enemy, I smile. It was great living with them, I wouldn’t have changed it for all the world.
Reader Comments (35)
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1 Posted 20/06/2018 at 09:37:47
2 Posted 20/06/2018 at 09:53:21
When they won the league back from us in 88, she wanted to go to the open top bus parade, and only being six and out numbered I had to go with them.
So I went...wearing my NEC 87 EFC Kit. (still my favourite Everton shirt actually).
3 Posted 20/06/2018 at 11:29:21
4 Posted 20/06/2018 at 11:41:32
He's only 4, so he doesn't realise the consequences just yet, but I will do more than brush one of his picture's teeth if he his though, simply because football can make me lose all rationale.
His twin sister is a blue, I've promised to take her on the fast train to Wembley, and can only hope it happens soon. If my son decides he's a red, then my biggest hope is that he's a proper little jinx, because it's the only way I will be able to live with him! It's that crazy.
5 Posted 20/06/2018 at 12:26:21
6 Posted 20/06/2018 at 12:35:17
8 Posted 20/06/2018 at 12:51:46
9 Posted 20/06/2018 at 12:53:44
My best mate growing up was a red though. You can't be stupid about these things. You learn to get along and to know when and what to talk about and not talk about, with respect for the person if not for their team.
10 Posted 20/06/2018 at 12:55:52
My missus is a semi-red, due to her arl fella being one but she wants our daughter to be a dancer and singer, so the chances of me converting her into a Blue are very, very slim.
Just hope that when she gets older she doesn't bring home a red. I am already dedicated to the fact that, when she hits her teenage years, I will be hitting the gym big time and pumping iron to intimidate any fucker who tries to touch my little angel.
11 Posted 20/06/2018 at 13:04:44
Have to say as we got older she got better and took me to the 84 cup final replay at Maine road even though we were in the RS end. When they won she played it down and even defended me from RS fans who were taking the piss out of me! We can now talk about football objectively but the 70s were painful in our house.
Great article and something we can all relate to.
12 Posted 20/06/2018 at 22:08:11
13 Posted 20/06/2018 at 22:25:05
I've got a dad who is getting old but I think it's Liverpool FC that is keeping him alive. We got BT and Sky put on for him after my mum passed away a couple of years ago, and a big telly, now he's sort of happy-ish.
I've got two brothers: an Evertonian who lives down south, and a Liverpudlian who I see every day.
My mum prayed for a draw every derby game so that family harmony would be maintained.
14 Posted 20/06/2018 at 22:25:56
15 Posted 20/06/2018 at 22:48:33
I also remember how there wasn't the hate then nor was there in 89 (I went to Cup final then and mixed with loads of reds). Sorry we lost but didn't feel sad, everybody mingling and had a great day.
Perhaps it was because I was young but my recollection was respected and didn't hate the red shite then. Unsure when it changed, sometime in 90s I guess but honestly don't know why or precisely when.
16 Posted 20/06/2018 at 22:53:58
"After the match and after too many beers, he was brushing his teeth and I was taking the piss out of Liverpool and gloating about Everton winning, whilst looking through my Everton scrapbook. My dad snatched it off me and decided to brush Andy Kings teeth for him. He ruined the picture". Pissed myself at that (sorry, Mark).
As a blue, I also suffered with a red dad, but I can really identify with that lovely way to end: "The paradox was, I hated Liverpool Football Club, for everything it stood for, but loved my brother and my dad, the two biggest reds I knew. I lived with the enemy and I loved the enemy".
Thank you, Mark. Thank you.
17 Posted 20/06/2018 at 23:00:03
18 Posted 20/06/2018 at 23:36:42
I started to dislike them when Emlyn sang his little ditty to the welcoming crowd, half of whom were blues. I heard later that rs players pissed over the balcony on some nuns, and felt disgust as the rs denied it.
I shamefully drifted away from watching the blues for a couple of years when I bought my bike, doing things that bikers do, but always checking for our results. I mellowed and probably felt neutral about the rs as they racked up more silver.
I came back at the start of the 83/84 season when my bike got nicked and decided not to replace it when I saw some decent footie getting played. I watched the 2 Milk Cup games on the telly because I couldn't get tickets. Pissed off when we lost but didn't hate them.
I had a chance of a Wembley ticket against Watford but declined it to stand as best man for my best made who would say "oval?" if you asked him what shape a footie ball was, and he grew up 2 doors away from me. Haven't seen him for years and can't remember his bride's name.
I do know the exact moment when I started to hate the rs though. I skipped out the reception for a bit to go and see my Street End mates in the local. We were all pissed up and having a great old time singing our songs in our own little group, as you do. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a table came flying towards us, followed by anything that could be thrown, and a melee ensued.
After all the years of watching the rs celebrate year after year without any trouble, the pub was cleared out by the police and our celebrations were ruined. That's when I began to hate them. All the things that have gone on since have only reinforced my hatred.
Only recently I questioned their so-called YNWA crap. I lightheartedly said "YNWA, unless you are a young goalie who dropped as many clangers in one game as he had in 22, eh?" "Eff off, go and eff yourself, what have you won?" etc etc etc.
I don't think I can stop hating them. But I still love my brothers.
19 Posted 20/06/2018 at 23:55:45
20 Posted 21/06/2018 at 00:15:39
21 Posted 21/06/2018 at 00:56:35
The only red in my family was an uncle â€“ my mother's brother-in-law. I still remember him going on about Ron Yeats. My dad used to say: "Double bad taste that you have!".
Don #17, my feelings, exactly. The two wars and then Heysel. How much can a man cope with?
22 Posted 21/06/2018 at 05:16:15
But our daughter's a blue, although she shows no interest in football now.
23 Posted 21/06/2018 at 07:03:19
24 Posted 21/06/2018 at 08:30:54
This fantastic piece could hopefully start a trend of contributors documenting experiences of reds who are family or friends.
I reckon most ToffeeWebbers (particularly from the city?) will have experience of this kind of situation from either back in the day or possibly even now, as the media is saturated with RS nonsense unfortunately.
25 Posted 21/06/2018 at 09:42:29
One of the proudest days in my life was going to work one morning and reading in the paper a little piece in the bottom corner with the Great Britain Amateur boxing team named, lightweight. Jimmy Dunne, my mate, he'd never said a word about the chance of going to Tokyo but must have been hoping he would be selected after winning the ABA title that year, just brilliant news for me and honestly that selection was as great as any Everton winning year for me.
But I still hate loads of armchair Reds now with a vengeance. Tony I could have told you about Joseph, knew it the day I saw him in the hospital the day after he was born, I was going to tell you to call him "Damian" but hoped against hope I was wrong, he might change but don't bet on it, as for Ava, our little toffee girl, she will bring us luck.
26 Posted 21/06/2018 at 10:55:45
27 Posted 21/06/2018 at 20:50:18
I can relate to everything you say- great memories!
28 Posted 22/06/2018 at 12:06:14
Wonderful â€“ The Observer.
The Best Football Related Piece I've Read In Ages â€“ Me.
Truly observant, funny, witty a great read â€“ Washington Post.
29 Posted 22/06/2018 at 19:49:34
He was brought up as a Blue and had his photo taken with the Cupwinners Cup, League Championship trophy and the Charity shield (the same photo that Gerrard had).
Just after Hillsborough (he was about 8) I came home from work and my wife told me he had something to tell me and I'd better sit down first. He ran out, up to his bedroom, and I wondered what he'd done. Trouble at school? Caught shoplifting? Fighting? Strangled the cat? etc etc.
It was worse than any of that. My wife said, "He said he wants to support Liverpool." I was gobsmacked. I literally didn't see that one coming.
However, one has to make the best of a bad job and it's saved me a fortune on footy kits and I was able to give up my Family Enclosure tickets and move back home to Gwladys Street!
30 Posted 23/06/2018 at 02:15:16
The hard thing is raising the kids blue despite all the temptations of the Dark Side. My father managed to waylay my nephew who lived in Leeds and who was in danger of becoming a Leeds fan and converted him in a single afternoon at Goodison. He is a proud blue to this day, 40 years later.
31 Posted 23/06/2018 at 15:16:59
I totally agree.
32 Posted 23/06/2018 at 20:55:26
33 Posted 23/06/2018 at 21:46:14
34 Posted 23/06/2018 at 21:53:34
Great article, sir!
35 Posted 26/06/2018 at 16:17:54
36 Posted 29/06/2018 at 18:38:08
Whatever happens to my beloved club from here on in, I will take Kingy's goal in '78 to my grave with me... my happiest moment of supporting our great club as we did indeed beat the finest team on the planet at the time.
The late '70s team is still the one I truly love; they were only 10 minutes away from a League Cup victory over Villa, but it wasn't to be... this is also one of the reasons I always mention THAT Trophy... and always will, until it is finally won.
We simply have to start to win Silverware, Blues â€“ or end up as a footnote in Footballing history.
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