Heroes

Mark Cuddy 02/08/2018 29comments  |  Jump to last

The hours I must have spent staring at that team photo on the wall and trying to mimic him: his powerful stature, the way he folded his arms, the way he looked cool, even the way he wore his hair. This was the days before the perm of course. Let’s forget the perm ever happened – please. The less said about the perm the better. And now, years later, here I was only a few feet away from him. I was going to meet my hero and I was nervous as anything.

As a kid, he was everything I wasn’t and everything I wanted in a hero; handsome, muscular, dashing, charismatic, heroic and some said he even walked on water; in truth a god. While I, on the other hand, was just a scrawny kid who didn’t even want to be a striker, I wanted to be a goalkeeper. But it didn’t matter, he was still my hero.

He was going to win a trophy or the league for me and allow me to feel what it was like to be a winner, a real winner, he was my hero. The man who helped me through my childhood with dreams of football glory.

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The fact he never did win me a trophy or the league was by-the-by, he was still everything I wasn’t and the hero I wanted to be. And now, I was moments away from meeting him. I was lost in the kid I used to be and worried that I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to say.

Before I knew it, the queue had shrunk to the point there was only two or three people in front of me. I looked at my wife, the person who had bought the tickets for me to meet my hero and I cursed her because my nerves were jangling. What would I say to him?

“I love you”

“You were my hero”

“You were the only shining light in the dark seventies”

“You kept hope alive”

“How did you walk on water?”

It didn’t help my nerves that I was clutching an old blue track top I wanted him to sign. A miniature track top that went back nearly twenty-five years to my childhood and was so small it was hard to believe I ever fitted in to it. And yet there it was, after all these years, covered in sew on badges that my dad used to buy me from the sports shop outside the ground after taking me to the match. Patches that my mum had carefully and lovingly sown on for me. A garment that revealed a happy childhood, full of colour and hope and dreams.

And then the time came, time to meet him, my hero.

Words fumbled from my mouth.

I don’t know what I said to him. Those couple of minutes shot by in a second but I’m sure I never mentioned the perm.

Whatever I said I can’t remember.

Besides, what could I say that he hadn’t heard a thousand times before from a thousand other faces similar to mine?

The truth was, I probably said, “Blah, blah, blah.” I had had a few. To calm the nerves, of course.

Whatever I said didn’t matter because the man who looked down on me from my bedroom wall when I was a kid was now shaking my hand. And the thing was he hadn’t changed, he looked just like he did all those years ago. While I was no longer a boy, I was in my early thirties.

When he shook my hand, I never wanted to wash that hand again. It had touched greatness. I said to my wife that if I died tonight in my sleep I’d die a happy man. And it was true, very, very true.

The following weeks were spent talking about the time I met my hero. I’d slip it in to every conversation I could.

Someone at work would ask, “What did you do this weekend, Mark?”

“I saw Bobby Latchford three weeks ago. It was amazing.”

Politely, they’d say, “Yeah, I know, you told me that last week and the week before that. But what did you do this weekend?”

“Well”, I’d start, “a couple of weeks ago I shook Bob Latchford’s hand. I haven’t washed it since.”

Disappointed, they’d say, “Mark, you told me that last week, and the week before that. What I’m asking is, did you do anything the weekend just gone?”

“He signed my old blue track top, you know. Do you want to see it?”

Strangers were no different. A woman at the bus stop, “Eh lad, what times the bus due?”

“Bob Latchford, love. Should be here in Bob Latchford minutes.”

In a darkened room at a séance, “Is there anybody there?”

“Are you there, Bob Latchford!” I’d shout disturbing the mood.

“He’s not dead, you fool.” A voice would utter in annoyance.

“Did I tell you I met him? He signed my blue track top, you know?”

Every time I could I’d mention it. I’d even take the track top to work to show people like it was akin to the Turin Shroud.

When I got home from work each evening I was half expecting Granada Reports or some foreign news agency to be at my door wanting an exclusive with the man who shook the hand of the man who allegedly walked on water in the 1970s.

Over time, as the years went by, I eventually stopped talking about meeting Bob Latchford. When I moved away from Liverpool for work reasons, if it came up in conversation, most people didn’t know who Bob Latchford was. “You’ve not heard of Bob Latchford? Where’ve you been?” I’d scold them.

“I wasn’t born until 1990, he was before my time, before I was born.” They’d say.

“You don’t know of him because he was before you were born, was he? But what about Jesus, you’ve heard of him, haven’t you?” I’d say whilst dismissing their ignorance.

Meeting my hero wasn’t the greatest day of my life by a long way, but it was a great day nevertheless. When Bob Latchford left Everton I only ever had one other hero in my life after that. So, meeting one hero was a huge thing for me. The other hero was Bruce Lee. And he was already dead, so I had no chance of meeting him and he never played for Everton either.

I was content with my one and only meeting with Bob Latchford; my hero.

Then, years and years later, I got the chance to meet him again. This time in Birmingham at a book signing, and a question-and-answer session. I couldn’t resist. How would things differ this time? I’d grown up and was now a proper man, in awe of nobody. Heroes were for kids, weren’t they?

This time I was sober and surrounded by loads of Birmingham City supporters who still loved him. They loved him as much as we did. As I sat there listening to him, my thoughts wondered back to why he was my hero in the first place. What made him so special to me as a young boy?

When it came to asking him questions, once again I can’t remember exactly what I asked him but I remember telling him that he was still a legend up in Merseyside and was still my first-ever hero. So much so that even now, as a man in his mid-forties, I named my dog, Bobby, after him. He laughed, they all laughed. They would have laughed more if they knew my dog's full name was Bobby Latchford Catweasle Cuddy.

When the obligatory photo came, I stood next to him and realised he was just another man. But he was still my childhood hero who could fill my head with dreams and make my dreams come true (even though he never did).

Bob Latchford scored a lot of goals at Everton and was a hero to thousands of kids in the seventies. He became a legend. I’ve heard people say "You can’t be a legend unless you’ve won something." I don’t believe that. I doubt Southampton fans think that when they think of Matt Le Tissier, or Newcastle fans when they think about Alan Shearer. I’ve even talked to Evertonians in their early twenties who love Big Dunc and Tim Cahill and see them as a legend. What is a legend anyway? Just a hero. If the stats add up, even you could be a hero to someone – honest!

You’ve got to have heroes, its all part of being a kid growing up, all part of being a human, all part of following a football team. I’m glad I chose Big Bob Latch as mine and I’m glad I supported Everton.

Heroes

Thank you, Bob Latchford.

Now, everybody, just for old time’s sake, one more time…

“Bobby Latchford walks on water…”

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Reader Comments (29)

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Mark Cuddy
1 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:16:32
ps: Thanks ToffeeWeb for allowing me, an exiled Blue, the time this summer to bathe in some nostalgia. Everton is a drug and not being able to get to Goodison leaves me cold turkey. All the best, up the blues and keep the faith.
Mike Galley
2 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:18:23
Haha. This is brilliant. I'm 48, and like a lot of Blues my age, big Bob was all I had to hang on to during the horror of my RS infested early football years. He certainly did walk on water!
John Pendleton
3 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:56:43
Best badge ever.

Jesus Saves...
...but Latchford scores the rebound.

Bill Griffiths
4 Posted 02/08/2018 at 18:14:44
Great read Mark. I too idolised Bob Latchford and also like you got to meet him, probably to his dismay.
He attended a garden fete at the monestary at Pantasaph along with Gary Stanley and Dai Davies.
When I found out he was going to be there off I went along with my wife and few months old so n Michaeln. Plucking up courage I approached him for a chat and asked if my wife could take a picture of him along with me and Michael. I asked would he mind holding Micheal for the photo and he said ok. Whilst my wife was taking the photo Michael decided to regurgitate some of his milk all down the lapel of Bob's suit jacket. Got to say he was great about it.
Got to say I also loved Dave Thomas who greatly helped Bob score those 30 goals.
Dave Ganley
5 Posted 02/08/2018 at 18:28:20
Excellent post, like all the above Latch was my hero too. For a brief period Big Bob and Dave Thomas had almost telepathic feeling between them. Wherever Thomas crossed the ball big Bob was there to nod it in. To be fair, we did have a decent team in the 70s, had a good crack at the 74/75 title which we really should have won, tailed off 77/78 when Forest won the title, not to mention that 77 season when we got the final of league cup and robbed in the FA cup and big Bobby Latchford was a massive part of that.

No you don't need titles and cups to be a hero, he was as big a hero to.me as could be. Who can ever forget the 30 goals? Amazing.

Think I would be as much in awe as you Mark if I ever Met the Latch

Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 02/08/2018 at 20:02:00
I met Bob at a Villa v Everton game in Birmingham long after he retired, me and my son Tony had a good chat to him for a good few minutes, he said he loved his time at Goodison, Tony was made up meeting a player he had a lot of time for, Bob, to be honest, wasn't my favourite player, most probably because I'm from a much older era, but I have to say it was a pleasure talking to him, seemed to be a very genuine man.
Peter Mills
7 Posted 03/08/2018 at 12:28:47
I was a big fan of Bob’s, he provided some great moments, his diving header at Elland Road against West Ham being one of the best.

His pursuit, and attainment, of 30 goals in a season was memorable, especially the manic atmosphere of the final match against Chelsea, when Mick Lyons was booed for scoring! And I liked the story Bob told of William Ralph Dean at Goodison after the match congratulating him on the feat, then winking at him, saying “But don’t forget, lad, you’re only half as good as me!”.

I’ve been fortunate to meet Bob a couple of times, he’s a very pleasant, unassuming guy.

Chris Brennan
9 Posted 03/08/2018 at 13:28:09
I went to a footy night at Old Parkonians last year and was lucky enough to to be sat next to the great man all night (it was my turn to be on the top table). Suffice to say, he was top drawer.

Total gent, funny, sincere, entertaining and great company. It was like I was chatting to an old mate. At the end of the evening, he shook my hand and thanked me for my company!!! They say you shouldn't meet your heroes (I was in the St End when he clinched the 30th) — I was glad I did.

Steve Carse
10 Posted 03/08/2018 at 16:42:59
I've met him myself and as everyone says here, he is a very modest and unassuming man. I recall asking him whether he thought he'd be such a regular selection in these days where a centre forward is expected to not just score goals but do alot of leg work in chasing lost causes, pressing opposing defenders etc. After all, Bob was hardly renowned for this aspect of his game. Duncan McKenzie once quipped that you knew when the ref had whistled for half time because Bob moved - a bit rich coming from Mackenzie, but reflective of the great man's strength being just putting the ball into the net. In answering, Bob was sure he would be successful in the modern era without having to change his style. And who would argue. A goalscorer as good as Latchford would still be sought after without running round like a headless chicken. And if Lukaku (someone else not in the habit of putting in the miles on the pitch) can fetch 95m then what price Big Bob?
Tom McEwan
11 Posted 03/08/2018 at 20:47:49
Brilliant Mark!
Paul Birmingham
12 Posted 03/08/2018 at 21:44:40
Superb write and read, and echos, those golden days now long gone when life was simpler.

EFC, came so close to cracking it a few times, but bad luck, finishing, and the dreadful Clive Thomas, saw to it, that we were enigmas of the 1970s.
Unsurpassed in the air and especially near post headers but a general knack of finishing well and a few good Volleys to add.

QPR away a few times, and a few good days at The Toon, and also numerous Golden Days at GP, when the match was a very special time, sacred perhaps more then than now.

Buts that’s life and thank God we had Bob Latchford, along with others, including Thomas,Todd, McKenzie,King, Lyons, Pejic, Dobson, Wood, Kenyon, who actually gave an iota for the club and cared for the club.

It would be something if such spirit could be rekindled.

I met Bob a few times, and a total gent, and very humble human being.

Thanks for those memories.


Paul Birmingham
13 Posted 03/08/2018 at 21:51:34
And how could I forget, he’d regularly get a brace against Manure away. In them days and up to the late 80s we had a grip on them at their place and won more often.

How time has flown. Like the rest of the so called big 6, we beat them away as often as we see Haley’s comet.

But M&M, will help and turn around EFCs fortunes. It’s early days but they seem determined and focused.

Let’s hope tomorrow, we play well.. and win.

Steve Ferns
14 Posted 04/08/2018 at 00:58:37
My Hero was Anders Limpar. I was 16 when we last won a trophy, 15 when he signed. We were a shite team back then, but he was a shining light in that team. Sure, Kanchelskis was probably better, but his brilliance was due to speed. Limpar could do magical things with the ball. There was better in blue before him and after him, but he’ll always be my favourite.
Paul Kelly
15 Posted 04/08/2018 at 01:14:21
On your hero Fernsy, met Joe Royle with a few mates of mine, had a good laugh, he signed a few pics for us, but back to my point, my mate asked him what was going on with Limpar, didn’t even make the squad I think for no apparent reason, Big Joe said he broke out in sweats, panic attacks (I think) before the game in the dressing room.

Such as shame, poor fella. Remember the headline (possibly), “I’ll make Everton great again” when he signed, well almost.

Disclaimer: it was 23 plus years ago, I could be wrong.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:15:05
Paul. (15), Big Joe rarely picked Limpar after Terry Darracott told him Limpar had said "I hope they (Everton) get beat" when Joe dropped him or left him on the bench at Blackburn. Anders was just showing his frustration and Terry should have kept his big mouth shut.

When Everton were getting twatted in one game at Goodison with a few minutes to go, I walked along by the players bench and said to Limpar, making sure Joe could hear me: "You should be on the pitch instead of being left here on the bench".

I think we all broke into a sweat when Anders gave the penalty away versus Wimbledon but he was an excellent player with fantastic skill and made that goal at Wembley v Man Utd.

Steve Ferns
17 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:25:44
He also won us a penalty in that same Wimbledon game. The one time one of our players blatantly dived and we got it. But then again, the ref knew if he didn’t give it, we’d have lynched him!

I thought Limpar’s head went after he got burgled and decided he had to leave the area because he and his wife didn’t feel safe?

Alan J Thompson
18 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:28:02
Paul(#15); Gordon West was the same as before every game he used to throw up in a bucket before going out. Trying to remember when Westie said it stopped but it was after one game and it never happened again.
Alan J Thompson
19 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:32:23
Just finished posting above when something on here, I think, quite some time ago when an ex-player said that Billy Bingham used Bob's transfer requests to light his cigars. Anyone else remember that?
Dick Fearon
20 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:50:45
Dave, 16, I wish some of our present mob would do as Darracot did by calling out self important smart arses who think they are too good for the team.

Lookman is another who is full of that kind of superior attitude and his professional career has barely started.

One or two of the senior players should pull him into line.

Paul Tran
21 Posted 05/08/2018 at 11:43:52
Thanks Mark. Big Bob was my second Everton hero (first was Joe Royle).

A proper legend. Not a good for one year then faded legend, not a piss your talent away legend, not a so bad we'll make him a cult figure legend. Proper striker, proper goalscorer.

The winner in the semi at Bolton (before Duncan missed the penalty). The equaliser in the final first replay at Hillsborough. The opener in the second replay. The equaliser in the semi replay at Leeds. Big Bob, big goals.

Take a look at YouTube at our highlights from 1977-79. You'll see Bob scoring goals for fun in a team that played great football and was a good keeper away from great things. I'll never forget him burying that penalty for his 30th, felt like a trophy win in those days.

We'd kill for a number 9 like Bob now, wouldn't we?

Dave Abrahams
22 Posted 05/08/2018 at 14:06:26
Dick (20), Dick, I should have pointed out Darracott was on Blackburn's coaching staff at the time, makes a bit of a difference, Terry was carrying tales, none of his business and as I said Limpar was just showing his frustration not being big headed.
Peter Gorman
23 Posted 05/08/2018 at 16:48:22
Steve Ferns - how bizarre, I thought I must be the only one who idolised Limpar. I still don't quite know why but it must be as you've stated, the shining light. By 1996 I pretty much idolised the entire team - players like Stuart and Parkinson were massively under-appreciated outside of the club.

After Limpar it would be Kanchelskis, if only for one full, fantastic season. I genuinely couldn't get my head around the fact he had signed for us. It would be like signing De Bruyne today.

Steve Ferns
24 Posted 05/08/2018 at 22:06:07
Peter, did you go the whole hog and copy his haircut? I had a dodgy centre parting in those days, and even got my head shaved when he did! My mother went mad!

I also loved Joe Parkinson. Slow Joe wouldn't last 5 minutes with today's refs, and he told me that last season when I stopped him on Goodison Road after a game. He was also far too slow for today's game, but I loved him all the same.

Andy Peers
25 Posted 05/08/2018 at 22:19:52
I was there for the 30th goal. It was fantastic. If I remember he never scored against The Shite. Is that correct?
Dave Abrahams
26 Posted 06/08/2018 at 09:23:18
Andy (25), yes Andy Latch never scored against Liverpool along with Alex Young, Big Bob missed an absolute sitter vLiverpool with a few minutes to go at Anfield, that was the season we could have won the league under Billy Bingham, Bob was through on his own, ten yards out and instead of lashing the ball past Ray Clemence he gently lobbed it into his welcoming arms.
Martin Nicholls
27 Posted 06/08/2018 at 12:36:28
Dave - I too remember that miss well!
On the subject of him not scoring against the red shite, similarly I don't think Keegan ever scored against us.
Dave Abrahams
28 Posted 06/08/2018 at 13:53:22
Martin (27), not sure Martin, I'll take your word that he didn't, great player and he was recommended to Everton before Liverpool by a well known ex player, can't think of his name, maybe he wasn't that well known !!!!!!!, anyway we never took up that option.
Jack Convery
29 Posted 06/08/2018 at 16:47:00
I remember when he came to Goodison Park, there was a bit of anger as we gave Birmingham, Howard Kendall, Archie Styles and a wad of cash meaning the fee was a whacking £350,000. Unheard of in those days.

However, he won the faithful over immediately. He scored simple goals (if there is such a thing ), headers / shots he scored for fun. Thomas and he were lethal together. I particularly remember the Coventry match at home – 6-0? I think it was and The Latch scored a hat-trick with the 3rd bringing the stadium to its feet.

Watched on ITV the next day and Gerald Sinstadt was having orgasms about the hat-trick goal – Pejic to Dobson to Thomas who scampered down the Bullens Road and in one move crossed to the far post where Bob volleyed it past their goalie, absolutely magnificent.

Thomas today would be worth an absolute fortune as would Big Bob – no doubt about it. I saw the 30 goal match from behind the goal in the Gwladys Street end – Fucking Brilliant!. I also saw his limp lob into Clemence's hands at the Anfield Rd end – Bob though Clemence was rushing out and tried to lob him but Clem to his credit saw it coming and was there to catch it. Great memories – though I will refrain of the story about a car radio, a girl, the back of a mini and Bob scoring against West Ham in that semi-final...

Eddie Dunn
30 Posted 08/08/2018 at 07:48:47
I loved the guy and was in the Park End on the 30 goals demolition of Chelsea. He was introduced to the crowd away at Swansea a couple of years back – to generous applause from all sections of the Liberty Stadium.

I remember him hammering 30-yarders past hapless keepers – you can't beat those thunderous shots that rocket into the net from distance. He is most definitely a hero.

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