As a child growing up in Southport, I was indoctrinated to become a Bluenose at the age of about 6 or 7 (in the mid-1989s) by my next door neighbours who had moved to Southport from Liverpool.
Season ticket holders together during the mid-90s ‘glory years’ – I have since moved away to Suffolk and usually only now make it to 1 or 2 games a season. The passion still flows and I watch the live TV games without fail – and constantly find myself searching Blues websites repeatedly each day for no good reason. (Does everyone else do this??)
My challenge is now with my son, aged 6 – I have well and truly started the indoctrination process with him. From the first day of his life, he has been associated with Everton: the first ever picture of him circulated on social media, he was wearing an Everton bib (much to his mother's horror). Swimming trunks, footballs, shirts and tops followed through the early years.
Up to now, he has compliantly and enthusiastically accepted that he is an Everton supporter, wearing his Everton kits to football practice and wanting to see the Everton highlights / goals etc (although he struggles to concentrate enough to watch an entire match yet). Luckily the Sam Allardyce period seems to have passed him by and does not seem to have affected him too greatly.
He knows which players he likes – Pickford, Walcott (had a picture taken with him over the summer) Coleman, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Ronaldo and Messi – he is adamant these 2 are ‘awesome’ and are better than what we have... and there is the challenge. When you are aged 6-8, being the best is what matters! Being a top-half team (top 6 if you take slight liberties in explaining what level Everton are currently at) is utter rubbish through eyes of a 6-year-old. Over months of explanation and reiteration, he begrudgingly accepted that 6th out of 1000 teams is actually pretty good (okay, I exaggerated this number slightly to make my point stronger).
Success was mine – another lifelong Evertonian in the bag, albeit a bag 300 miles away. Or so I thought. As his classmates (and older kids) are now starting to align themselves with their chosen teams, they are choosing the usual ones we all expect: the top 6 darlings that deliver trophies or at least the threat of trophies (the real top 6 that is – without the People’s Club).
Suddenly one day, while getting ready for footy training, he starts to cry when getting his Everton top on. Naturally, I question what is the matter? ‘Everton are rubbish, daddy, I never want to wear this shirt again’ was his tearful response.
Crestfallen, I peeled myself off the floor, my dreams of going to take him to his first game at the Grand Old Lady hanging by a thread. Upon further digging, I uncover the reason for this sudden and potentially fatal change of heart – a few stray words from his friends, supporters of the other clubs directed towards ‘the only Everton fan in the village’.
Gaining the respect or at least acceptance of your peers at this age is seen as crucial through the eyes of a 6-year-old. Anything that singles you out as being different or having made a bad choice is to be avoided at all costs.
Having never actually made the ‘choice’ to support Everton, and having zero backup from other Everton supporters (I guess only kids in the northwest can get this), he quickly decided that the best way to get back on-side would be to select another team – luckily he had not finalised which team, but was leaning towards the Kane/Alli axis of serial non-winners – which, I decided was no more likely to quench his thirst for success than my own beloved team!
So, with the pressure mounting, I delved into my bank of excuses / reasons why he should support Everton and came up with two that appeared to resonate. Firstly, I explained the best thing about supporting a team is that other people support other teams and they will constantly tell you that your team is rubbish – it is the whole point of football!!! It is your role to tell them that their team is rubbish and inform them that actually your team is ‘the best’. This seemed to strike a chord with his Top Trumps / Pokemon mindset and his face lit up!
To build on the momentum gained, I admittedly got a bit giddy and further suggested that Everton are a very cool team that are on a journey to be in the top 3 in a couple of years and they will start to win cups and leagues – then he will forever more be able to say he chose to support the best team in the land.
So, for now, Everton is back in favour and he is content to say he supports the Blues. However, living so far away from Goodison Park and the localised support network, I fear that there will be more challenges ahead to keep the Blue Thread going... A spring visit to Goodison Park for his 7th birthday (Man Utd or Burnley depending on ticket availability) will hopefully seal his fate – so long as we win!Lastly, there is a thought inside my head, questioning my insistence that he supports my team. Am I being selfish in wanting him to share my passion for The Toffees, to share match experiences in the future with my son (and younger daughter when she is ready)? Or should I let / encourage him to choose a team that would be more accessible and potentially more fun to support??? Am I in danger of pre-determining a life of football-related disappointment for him for which he may resent rather than thank me???
After all... my own dad is a Nottingham Forest fan!
Reader Comments (26)
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1 Posted 09/12/2018 at 20:54:05
In 1977, closing in on the final whistle of our final replay against Aston Villa in the League Cup Final, pacing up and down my grandparents' kitchen off Rose Lane, I informed my dad that, if we didn't win, l was switching to Nottm Forest.
It took a couple more days of pondering... and, baring a 3-year period, I've regretted my decision ever since. Being an Evertonian, however, toughened me up and sharpened my wits. He will remember his first game, and so will you. Coyb
2 Posted 09/12/2018 at 22:10:23
It's not a case of him choosing, because support is not a rational decision, but rather something that grabs you and gets in your blood, or doesn't.
3 Posted 10/12/2018 at 05:44:19
I have told my lad that we also support Barcelona, even if I couldn't care less about Barcelona really! And his mum is French, so he has been wearing an Mbappe French top since the summer.
If I'm honest, I'm careful when giving him his kit for after-school football. When Everton have done okay, it's a no-brainer, he wears his Everton kit. Last week, it was either the French kit or the Barcelona kit!
He does get a bit of stick for supporting Everton sometimes, but he gives as good as he gets. And I always tell him, if anyone gives you stick, tell them at least you've been to lots of games with your dad. 99% of the glory hunting fans down here have barely been to a game in their lives.
Keep the faith – but just have a standby ‘other' kit at the ready for his kids football training when results aren't going our way!
4 Posted 10/12/2018 at 07:17:20
I've supported the club for 40 years and so I enjoyed the success of the mid-80s but, to most of our younger supporters today, success is beating one of the top 6 at home. Other than a couple of semis and a final, there's been little else to shout about since 1995.
I decided to allow them to make their own decisions on whom to support. Everton is my pleasure but often my pain and it's got to be a personal choice as to who they support (once it's not our loveable neighbours).
5 Posted 10/12/2018 at 07:27:48
6 Posted 10/12/2018 at 08:16:10
After that, as a 9-year-old, I never forgave my dad beating in the FA Cup semi-final by the Shiesters in 71. I cried my eyes out after being in heaven when Ball made it one-nil.
If I had my time again, I doubt I would've put me and now my kids through all this crap. I suppose we are what we are... 😂
7 Posted 10/12/2018 at 12:20:58
However, I am patient. I told him he has been chosen by Everton, and in time he will return to the fold.
Stan's suggestion @ 2 is a good one (I wish I lived nearby to implement it myself). If your lad enjoys going to matches, then I am sure, eventually, he will once again believe in the Blue creed.
8 Posted 10/12/2018 at 12:36:12
My daughters were brought up in South Manchester. I too have lovely memories of driving down the M62, scarves out the window, and sucking on Everton mints.
Her first match was Boxing Day 1999 when we won 5-0 (https://www.skysports.com/football/everton-vs-sland/278292). Never looked back but then again I never pressured her, she was chosen.
9 Posted 10/12/2018 at 12:40:16
It was not easy when they were very young for the reasons you've given but I absolutely sealed the deal when I took the eldest two to Goodison for the first time, aged 8 and 6. They were blown away by the sights, sounds and feel of the place.
The first time you climb the steps and emerge into the stadium with all its power, light and glory and that magnificent pitch has a deep effect and my boys certainly felt it.
Ever since then I've not really had any problem and they're all three confirmed blues (the youngest followed his elders). I hope your boy's first visit has the same impact on him.
10 Posted 10/12/2018 at 12:58:06
"I love Liverpool", is all I get know, because they play in red, which along with pink is her favourite colour.
Father-in-law is a Red... heartbreaking, I tells yer!!!!
11 Posted 10/12/2018 at 13:15:51
I thought surely with Tim Howard's presence, albeit in the past, we would have a bigger presence but I just do not understand why we are not even an after-thought, especially with the younger generation. Surely we are bigger than the likes of Crystal Palace and West Ham?
12 Posted 10/12/2018 at 13:35:38
13 Posted 10/12/2018 at 13:47:59
I had a very similar experience myself when my lads were younger. I recall spending a lot of energy getting my first son to run around the house chanting 'Rooney, Rooney!' everytime any footballer came on to the TV. Very smug with myself – until the inevitable happened – and I had to retrain him to stop doing it!!
Fortunately, I live close enough to have been able to take them to the game quite a bit – which really made the difference. They then had the high ground and could always use the 'do you go the game though?' refrain with their 'top 4/5/6' following schoolmates. Not easy if you live further away though.
Some things that might help though. That wonderful BBC video on the History of Everton. Everything you need to know to inspire a young fan from Dixie's 60, to the Golden Vision, to the under-soil heating! Because of that video I couldn't speak when I got the chance to meet Dave Hickson once – despite only having ever seen him play on old clips.
And as for the threat of perennial under-achievers, Spurs – your son has the upper hand already. He needs to say "You do know that we have won a lot more trophies than you – ever – don't you?"
14 Posted 10/12/2018 at 15:22:21
I'm with James. Get him to a game.
Ajay, it was just the circumstances of Everton not playing. Yanks are quite practical. We're not going to attend a Fan Fest when our club isn't participating.
15 Posted 10/12/2018 at 18:24:49
16 Posted 10/12/2018 at 18:27:01
My mother watched Kendall and Co from the Gwladys Street whilst my Dad living in Southport was a season ticket holder in the Upper Bullens for 15 years until a few years ago.
My answer has been to watch the games with him and throw him in the air when we score (which at least is more often than last season!). He loves that :-). Six years old is about the minimum for games. I once took my stepdaughter at that age and she was more interested in the food... lol.
In the end, he will be chosen or he won't. Que sera, sera!
17 Posted 10/12/2018 at 18:28:07
Take him to a match or two which will hopefully set him on the path of righteousness.
If that fails, 6 years old is still a good age to bin him. If they still do those 10 quid assisted passages to Aussie or Kiwi, then get him one.
18 Posted 10/12/2018 at 19:34:47
19 Posted 11/12/2018 at 07:35:18
20 Posted 11/12/2018 at 07:53:19
My dad and I took him to Goodison to see the Arsenal game for the next few years, saw the Rooney goal, til when he was 11/12 he said he didn't want to go to that game as he wouldn't know who to support. He's now 27 a mad Evertonian – along with his two younger sisters – a season ticket holder, living in London and travelling to games at great expense. I love going to the game with him.
Best bit my Liverpool-supporting son looked up to mine, so also decided to follow Arsenal but he's never changed, so thanks to my boy one less of that lot in the world.
And when you watch rubbish like last night at least he can't blame me too much! My dad and I were so pleased he made the right choice in the end and I'm sure your boy will too.
21 Posted 11/12/2018 at 12:25:05
22 Posted 11/12/2018 at 16:04:25
Last seaso,n when Liverpool were going for the Champions League, there was loads of pressure from them to get my son to support Liverpool. I explained to him that, yes, they are good but they're like pigeons, they're everywhere.
The more interesting animals are the rare ones you see. The less common ones.
23 Posted 11/12/2018 at 16:33:47
Well, Tom – one thing is certain: You're not raising a liar!
24 Posted 12/12/2018 at 12:49:41
Glory hunting little bastard – he isn't so happy now.
25 Posted 13/12/2018 at 12:54:57
Fast forward to 1995 and I'm at Wembley, watching Everton win against Man Utd with four United lads from my school; the journey home was the sweetest I can ever remember. The locals from my pub embraced me like I'd won the Cup myself.
Best supporters in the land and extremely knowledgeable about the game. Unfortunately, I've been unable to convince any of the family to follow Everton – they're Spurs and Scum supporters.
26 Posted 15/12/2018 at 06:50:49
When I was 6 years old, long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, (1959), I had no real understanding or allegiance as far as football was concerned.
One day, my Dad and I were at the home of my Dad's cousin, always known to me as Uncle George. At that time, George was the success story of the family, being the owner of a brand new Ford car, a minor executive with Shell Oil (he went on to much bigger things), and once a year he would pay to take a large section of the Thompson clan to Spain for a holiday, long before the days of package holidays.
So, this day, I was loaded into the back of the car with George and my Dad in front and off we went, to destinations unknown. A short drive later, we pulled up outside the ground of 2nd Division Liverpool FC (I later learned that George seemed to know everyone in Liverpool) and George led the way to the gates. A while later he spoke to someone inside the gates and we were led in and we were allowed to stand on the corner of the terrace and look at the ground. We left soon after. George drove across Stanley Park (not literally) and we arrived at Goodison Park.
I seem to remember George going and knocking on a door somewhere and within minutes a very nice man led us into the ground. Before I knew it, we were walking along beside the pitch and then we were given a tour of the dressing rooms, the trophy room, what I think was the boardroom and basically saw everything there was to see.
This was long before the days of replica kits of course but I was made up, as we were about to leave, to be given a team photo and a football, my first real leather ball.
When we got back to George's house and talked about our trip out, Uncle George asked me which of those two teams I liked the best. It was no contest! That day began my lifelong love affair with Everton FC who even then managed to give a little boy a real treat with no pre-planning involved whereas the other lot only let me stand and look at the pitch.
If you were 6, who would you have chosen to support that day? I've never forgotten George and I like to think I've kept his memory alive by making him a regular character using his real name, in my Mersey Mystery series of mystery novels as the police team's Press Liason Officer, because he always seemed to be a good communicator.
Thanks again, Uncle George, for helping me to find the true path.
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