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.
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.
Thank you, Bob Latchford.
Now, everybody, just for old time’s sake, one more time…
“Bobby Latchford walks on water…”
Reader Comments (29)
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1 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:16:32
2 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:18:23
3 Posted 02/08/2018 at 17:56:43
...but Latchford scores the rebound.
4 Posted 02/08/2018 at 18:14:44
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.
5 Posted 02/08/2018 at 18:28:20
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
6 Posted 02/08/2018 at 20:02:00
7 Posted 03/08/2018 at 12:28:47
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 dont forget, lad, youre only half as good as me!”.
Ive been fortunate to meet Bob a couple of times, hes a very pleasant, unassuming guy.
9 Posted 03/08/2018 at 13:28:09
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.
10 Posted 03/08/2018 at 16:42:59
11 Posted 03/08/2018 at 20:47:49
12 Posted 03/08/2018 at 21:44:40
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 thats 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.
13 Posted 03/08/2018 at 21:51:34
How time has flown. Like the rest of the so called big 6, we beat them away as often as we see Haleys comet.
But M&M, will help and turn around EFCs fortunes. Its early days but they seem determined and focused.
Lets hope tomorrow, we play well.. and win.
14 Posted 04/08/2018 at 00:58:37
15 Posted 04/08/2018 at 01:14:21
Such as shame, poor fella. Remember the headline (possibly), “Ill make Everton great again” when he signed, well almost.
Disclaimer: it was 23 plus years ago, I could be wrong.
16 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:15:05
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.
17 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:25:44
I thought Limpars head went after he got burgled and decided he had to leave the area because he and his wife didnt feel safe?
18 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:28:02
19 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:32:23
20 Posted 05/08/2018 at 09:50:45
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.
21 Posted 05/08/2018 at 11:43:52
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?
22 Posted 05/08/2018 at 14:06:26
23 Posted 05/08/2018 at 16:48:22
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.
24 Posted 05/08/2018 at 22:06:07
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.
25 Posted 05/08/2018 at 22:19:52
26 Posted 06/08/2018 at 09:23:18
27 Posted 06/08/2018 at 12:36:28
On the subject of him not scoring against the red shite, similarly I don't think Keegan ever scored against us.
28 Posted 06/08/2018 at 13:53:22
29 Posted 06/08/2018 at 16:47:00
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...
30 Posted 08/08/2018 at 07:48:47
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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