On Everton's Radar

Pete Jones 14/01/2019 37comments  |  Jump to last

These days, you can keep up with the transfer gossip 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are so many channels and websites that stuff is brazenly made up, with headlines like “Everton should sign wantaway PSG Brazilian superstar: agree?” and “55% of fans think these four World Cup Stars would make Everton top six contenders”. Yet it seems that the amount of real information has not increased and its quality has probably fallen from the days when you heard it from someone in the pub. Maybe I’m getting all nostalgic, but there aren’t as many “my mate’s plumber’s girlfriend goes to the same hairdresser as x player’s wife and she told the girl washing her hair that…….” rumours. It all seems so serious these days, yet we seem to be no nearer to being ITK.

But if the complexity of the deals and the number of ways you can find rumours of them has increased, much of the vocabulary used to describe them is resolutely traditional, going back to the days long before Sky invented football and Jim White bought the loud yellow tie. Take the word “swoop”; it conveys drama with the image of a great blue-and-white bird picking up another club’s “wantaway” player and depositing him at Finch Farm, ready to “ink” a contract. The transfer swoop has been around for at least 50 years, and recently I saw Everton described as “circling” a transfer target, adding to the bird of prey imagery.

More recently, phrases like “war chest” and the inexplicable “marquee signing” have entered the lexicon, along with the awful word “project”. War chest is a mediaeval concept, referring to the box where a man kept his armour and weapons, or to the chest of coins and precious metals which armies carried to pay for supplies. It is now used in finance to describe the readily available cash that businesses hold for mergers and acquisitions; it is probably this that made its way into football parlance.


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As for marquee signings I first became aware of this when Manchester City signed Robinho at the time of the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008. One of the earlier meanings of marquee was the large tent of the king while out campaigning during the Middle Ages. However, it begs the question that if the major signing is a marquee, are the other signings tents, and are free transfers just sleeping bags?

My favourite phrase is “on Everton’s radar”. It conjures up an image of a rotating dish at Finch Farm and a darkened room where the Director of Football is peering at a screen full of little luminous dots. Radar is a metaphor conveying both modern technology and secrecy; however, its origins date from before Everton were one of the founders of the Football League in 1888. As early as 1886, Heinrich Hertz found that the newly discovered radio waves were reflected off solid objects, and a patent for a detection system pre-dates Everton’s first FA Cup in 1906 by two years.

The first large-scale use of radar was in Britain’s Chain Home system, development of which began in 1936. Two years previously, rumours began to circulate that the Germans were developing a death ray weapon and a worried government asked the country’s leading expert in radio detection, Robert Watson-Watt to investigate. Watt’s colleague, Arnold Wilkins, proved that the death ray was impossible but did work out that using radio waves to detect aircraft was feasible. The two archetypal “boffins” and their team were set to work and the system became operational in August and September 1938. This was as the Munich crisis over the German invasion of Czechoslovakia came to a head, and Everton won their first six games on the way to the Championship in the last full season before the war.

The Chain Home system was relatively crude but harnessed proven technology which, allied to a complex telephone control system developed by the head of Fighter Command, Sir Hugh Dowding, gave a crucial advantage to the RAF’s fighters. It was key to the defeat of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain in the late summer of 1940. However, the word “radar” was only coined that same year; it was an American mnemonic, standing for RAdio Detection And Ranging. By the end of the war, radar was being used to try to detect the launches of German V2 ballistic missiles, such was the pace of technological change on both sides during wartime. It was less than 10 years since a biplane bomber much like those used at the end of WW1 had been used to prove the technology.

Without radar, the post war era of mass air travel would not have been possible, and by making a surprise nuclear strike almost impossible through early detection of missile launches it underpinned MAD – mutually assured destruction – maintaining relative peace between the superpowers. Today radar is used from astronomy to archaeology and from rainfall to traffic. It has been used to map the surfaces of our planetary neighbours in the solar system, and to locate the underground traces of Roman villas and Saxon cemeteries. It detects rain clouds and even works out the intensity of the downpours, and has been miniaturised to allow hand-held speed guns to detect speeding vehicles. It can calculate how fast a cricket ball is bowled or the speed of a shot on goal in football, and such is the reach of radar that military aircraft and ships are now designed specifically to counter it.

It is likely that we are all on somebody’s radar somewhere.

Of course, having detected a player on the radar the club still has to swoop. My favourite swoop was in March 1967 when Howard Kendall signed for Liverpool. Yes, you read that correctly, on the day Howard joined Everton the Sun ran a headline “Shankly Swoops For Kendall”. The source was Harry Catterick who, not being a fan of the press, mischievously leaked the porky pie to a Sun journalist. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Bill Watson
1 Posted 14/01/2019 at 22:54:53
Who says ToffeeWeb isn't educational? Thanks, Pete, for a fascinating insight into the background of Radar and I really do hope Brands has had it installed at Finch Farm.

Some fashionable terms like 'The Project' do tend to irritate. The latest one appears to be 'The Group' as opposed to 'The Squad'. I often wonder which coach, or manager, was the first to use it.

Phil Bellis
2 Posted 14/01/2019 at 23:04:49
"Ranger Scott signs for Spurs"... Chico didnae.
David Pearl
3 Posted 14/01/2019 at 23:18:57
That was excellent, Pete.
Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
4 Posted 14/01/2019 at 23:40:21
Of course we always have the famous Cliff Finch giving directions to Nigel Martyn of how to get to Elland Road, Leeds.

Perhaps the polar opposite of Catterick and Kendall.

Brian Wilkinson
5 Posted 15/01/2019 at 01:10:32
Let's not forget: "Spotted at John Lennon airport, Finch Farm, or some hotel in Liverpool..." and the best by a country mile, "Sky Sports understands blah blah blah".

Why not "Sky Sports has been advised" rather than 'understands', followed by a beauty of a yellow banner, Breaking News...

Phil Greenough
6 Posted 15/01/2019 at 05:25:20
Thanks for an interesting article, Peter. As to the denigration of Sky; I totally agree with the sentiments, unfortunately, most football fans endorse it by subscribing to Sky Sports.

I don't subscribe to Sky Sports but do have Sky, so I get Sky Sports News by default. I was listening to some presenter waxing lyrical about one of their luvvie's players. They also had a poll, asking who was the best goalie in the Premier League era, from that team.

Football, according to Sky, did not exist prior to the formation of the Premier League. They can broadcast their agenda because no-one is challenging their actions.

Adam Carey
7 Posted 15/01/2019 at 08:13:37
Great article, and completely not what I was expecting. I feel as though I've learned something useful this morning.

We just need someone to let us know the origins of Ceefax and Teletext. I used to love checking the transfer rumour pages. Clearly all made up and then the premium pay telephone number you could call to hear some bloke waffle about rubbish for 3 minutes. Almost as fun as the bollocking you'd get off your Mum when the phone bill arrived!

Gerard Carey
8 Posted 15/01/2019 at 08:21:04
Very good article, Pete. I wonder where the word "transition" fits into all this!!?? We seem to be hearing a lot about it lately... :).
John Raftery
9 Posted 15/01/2019 at 09:34:16
Phil (2) I remember that headline. It was during the freezing winter of ‘63. Alex Scott replaced Billy Bingham as we marched on to win the league.
James Flynn
10 Posted 15/01/2019 at 13:06:24
"are monitoring..."
Andy Crooks
11 Posted 15/01/2019 at 13:31:59
"Are plotting a move for" — that's the worst one.
Kevin Prytherch
12 Posted 15/01/2019 at 13:53:08
"Closing in on"... Do you think they have Google Maps on and they're only 30 minutes away??

"Competing with"... it really is a race to finish first. I imagine both chairmen having to complete an obstacle course before signing the player – winner takes the prize.

Gerard McKean
13 Posted 15/01/2019 at 18:07:15
Just to add my thanks for an entertaining and informative article, Phil. I, too, am contemptuous of “the group” and clubs “circling” players, and yearn for the swoops of yesteryear that, as others have noted, not only brought Chico and Howard to Goodison but rubbed rivals' noses in the dirt at the same time. Double delight!

Everton always enjoyed a reputation for stealth in its transfer dealings and I began to wonder and hope if this was being rekindled when the likes of Mina, Digne, Gomes and Zouma arrived pre-season under the radar, if you'll pardon the playful allusion to your article, I took to Mr Brands a lot more after that.

Paul Birmingham
14 Posted 15/01/2019 at 21:12:46
Superb written article Pete and dare I say adds gravitas to the reality of today's game in terms of how the mass media try's and in many cases fails to dictate the public perception of football.

It puts in perspective how invaluable ToffeeWeb is for having in most cases healthy passionate debate and discussions about all matters EFC.

It's far more useful and interesting to read TW, than listen to nauseaus and prejudiced main TV companies and Media companies.

Inspiring and a very useful educational piece of work. Thank you.

Len Hawkins
15 Posted 15/01/2019 at 21:32:29
"Starlet" seems to have died a death as has "scouts have been running the rule over" but in fairness "the next" is still going strong at Goodison Park when coupled with the likes of "Rod Belfitt or Geoff Nulty".
Jack Convery
16 Posted 15/01/2019 at 21:52:43
Great read. Regarding Sky, my best memory is of one of their minions being hit on the head with a Blow Up Dildo – oh joy.
Dave Abrahams
17 Posted 15/01/2019 at 21:55:03
The best line at the time of Howard Kendall's transfer was “ Shankly lost in the Lake District looking for Kendall.”

How about me and my mates, as young Everton fans telling George Kirby, the Everton centre forward at the time,

“You won't be playing tomorrow, we've signed a new Number 9," and George asking who it was?

We made him wait a good few minutes before telling him it was Jimmy Glazzard from Huddersfield. He and a few other Everton players didn't have a clue about that deal.

Not that it turned out to be good news: Jimmy was signed years too late and was well past his best, another £5,000 threw down the grid.

Dick Fearon
18 Posted 16/01/2019 at 00:56:04
How about, "I would not sell Wayne even if they offered £50 million"?
Brian Hennessy
19 Posted 16/01/2019 at 11:09:56
Really great article Pete. Reminds me of the fascinating story of Masal Bugduv – which broke 10 years ago this week.
The then 16-year-old Moldovan prodigy was linked with a number of clubs including Arsenal and made it onto The Times' list of Top 50 Rising Stars to watch! – at No 30 above Mesut Ozil and Robert Lewandowski.

The funny thing is, young Bugduv didn't exist. It turned out that the fake 16-year-old was the brainchild of Galway-based Declan Varley. It was all part of a clever hoax to test the waters of the transfer gossip columns.

Sky Sports even mentioned him as a transfer target of several top clubs and the then Manchester City manager Mark Hughes was asked about him in a press conference. Hughes said he wasn't ruling him in or out. Harry Redknapp also got asked about him.

Varley came up with the name based an Irish story by Padraic O'Conaire called M'Asal Beag Dubh ('My little black donkey' in Irish). He set up a fake Wikipedia profile added a few fake Press Association stories and from there the story exploded, showing just how crazy some transfer rumours can be.

Declan Varley did a great interview on Newstalk here in Ireland yesterday looking back at the story. It's well worth a listen: Masal Bugduv: The Irishman behind football's great hoax.

Joe McMahon
20 Posted 16/01/2019 at 12:25:45
I'm hoping at last, after all these years, Lee Trundle will finally sign. Even at 58, he would be no worse than some of the historical shockers we've had.
Stan Schofield
21 Posted 16/01/2019 at 15:59:44
Pete, great article.

Regarding Radar, it's also interesting that aircraft-based radar didn't arrive until a bit later in the war, after the magnetron was developed. Until that point, it was far more difficult to attack targets that were shrouded in mist or cloud.

Oddly enough, this caused us to live in Warrington for over 30 years. My first job, in 1978, was at UKAEA at Risley. The nuclear industry chose that site because it was a munitions factory during the war, and in turn that was influenced by a prevalence of cloud and mist at that location. Without aircraft-based radar, the cloud and mist made it more difficult for German bombers to locate and attack the munitions factory.

Regarding Kendall, I remember his first game for us, against Southampton at Goodison. He missed an open goal at the Park End, but he was rapidly forgiven!

Gerard McKean
22 Posted 16/01/2019 at 16:28:55
Pete, my apologies for giving you the wrong name! Still a cracking good article though!

A lateral thought: I wonder if this lad Dwight McNeil of Burnley is on the radar for/being circled by Everton? He has more than a look of the young Trevor Steven about him and upon whom we swooped at the same age at the same club?

John Pierce
23 Posted 16/01/2019 at 16:44:12
It's telling that the proliferation of these terms are media generated, narrative driven and almost subversive. I ignore rumours with an active distaste, it brings me to a wider point.

It's all drivel of course. As such, I've long left the mainstream TV media in the rear view mirror. I turn on just before the game, I forgo the half-time rambling and have switched off long before any post-game wisdom is dispensed.

Fan media, podcasts and long-form journalism are still worth it for me. Social media scoffs at the hackneyed phrases in the article, a parody which is at least amusing if not actually informative!

Gossip & TV offer no insight for me anymore.

Martin Nicholls
24 Posted 17/01/2019 at 13:11:09
Stan #21 – was that miss definitely at the Park End? I have a vivid recollection of it but seem to remember it being at the Street End where I usually stood. Maybe I'd switched ends for that game for some reason?

On the subject of irritating phrases, I believe it was the then media friend, Ron Atkinson, who was responsible for "down the channels" and "the back stick"!

Chris Hockenhull
25 Posted 17/01/2019 at 13:46:02
Right up my street, this article. Wonderful stuff. That info regards radar... fabulous.

I recall many of those comments in commentaries etc. I was baffled with Garth Crooks describing Trevor Steven as "ran like stink" some years ago.

"Putting your head in your hands" like Kendall did missing that sitter on a radio report conjured odd images to me as an 11-year-old??

Ray Atherton
26 Posted 17/01/2019 at 16:30:03
Remembering a headline on a small billboard on the Liverpool Echo outside a newsagent shop:

"Everton swoop for Lill"

We signed a good winger in Micky Lill from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Brian Harrison
27 Posted 17/01/2019 at 17:03:25

I always remember that Mickey Lill always wore old fashioned boots that came above his ankle. I wonder how Catterick would have coped in this day and age? The first we often knew of a signing in his day was a picture of the player in an Everton kit at Bellfield.

The story I remember during the Catterick years was a story that Chris James told, he was the Liverpool Echo head sports reporter. Now Catterick was famous for not letting even the local journalists in on any possible transfer. But one day, Chris James took a call from Catterick to say come down to Bellfield I have got information for you over a transfer.

Chris James hightailed it to Bellfield as quick as he could; when he gets into Cattericks office he asks who are you signing. Oh this isn't about Everton, I just thought I would let you know that Liverpool have signed Howard Kendall. Now instead of checking the story Chris James contacted the medium programme no local radio stations then, and on the 1:00 o'clock news they reported his story. But Catterick had already signed Kendall before he told his story to Chris James.

Another famous story about Catterick was about his strictness of players turning up minutes late for training. So all players had to sign a book at the entrance to Bellfield training ground stating their time of arrival, and you had to sign in by 10:00 am. So even though some had arrived a minute or so late they still put down the time of arrival before 10:00 to avoid a fine. But what they didn't know was Catterick had instructed his secretary to change the pen that was on the book to a pencil at exactly 10:00. So all those thinking they had avoided a fine were sadly mistaken.

John Pierce
28 Posted 17/01/2019 at 17:33:42
Ron Atkinson responsible for ‘lollipops' aka step-overs and the ‘glass mountain' team who, after Christmas, can't win a game and gets sucked into the relegation battle. Could've been wrong though.
Grant Rorrison
29 Posted 17/01/2019 at 18:04:10
Brian 27. What if they just brought a pen with them and used that instead?
David Midgley
30 Posted 17/01/2019 at 18:28:57
Pete, that Hertz feller sounds mega.
Dermot Byrne
31 Posted 17/01/2019 at 18:32:33
John Pierce...soul brother!
Stan Schofield
32 Posted 17/01/2019 at 19:53:00
Martin @21: I'm not 100% sure, but seemed to recollect the Park end.

My dad and me used to switch between the Paddock and Goodison Rd, but on that day we were in the Park end stand (don't know why, unless we'd been given tickets), and I recall seeing Kendall blast the ball over the bar, but obviously am not sure which bar!

Dave Abrahams
33 Posted 17/01/2019 at 20:05:41
Brian (27), regarding your story of Catterick making the players sign in every morning, Brian Labone told of the time he signed in only five minutes late on a Monday morning, he complained to Harry saying “It's only five minutes, boss.”

Harry replied, “You've had since 5:30 pm last Saturday to get here.”

Brian had to pay the fine.

Brian Wilkinson
34 Posted 20/01/2019 at 00:21:28
Bit off track but a few beauties to lift the mood.

Andy King, get off the pitch.

Joe Royle "Sorry about the dream final now Fuck Off — and that's with a double f.

Graeme Sharps marker against Bayern being off the pitch after Andy Gray busted his nose.

Neil Robinson and Terry Darracott both coming out wearing the number two jersey in the league cup final second replay.

Some fan running on the pitch after the Spurs semi-final and booting Ian Walker up the arse.

Everton player getting whacked and Van den hauwe running the length of the pitch to give the player retribution.

Ferguson knowing fluent German and giving Wigan's Scharner a belly buster, then giving the Wigan fans the up yours signal when sent off.

The Kevin Sheedy v sign in front of the Kop.

Brian Clough after we beat them I think 5 nil and saying to the interviewer we were pansies just like me and you, give us a kiss.

The fan doing his dambusters after Sharp scored at Anfield.

The dog on the pitch at West Brom in the seventies.

Eddie Cavanagh slipping the old bill and putting the first one on his backside, holding his coat.

Nowadays, we have ToffeeWeb and Twitter to vent our anger; back in the Good Old Days, it was cushions thrown from the Main Stand.

I'm sure fellow fans have some pearlers to lighten the mood.

George Stuart
35 Posted 23/01/2019 at 12:51:35
Did you know Alan Ball was going to sign for Leeds Utd In late 196 ? Not in this universe, Mr Revie.

Class moments?

In one game, the ref got twated, there were only three officials in those days, and the tannoy called for a qualified ref from the crowd...

This lad jumps onto the pitch with his arm in the air. Two blue and white silk scarfs tied to his wrists, Doc Martin's and wide Flemmings Jeans.

He looked so earnest. We all cacked ourselves laughing.

Mark Murphy
36 Posted 23/01/2019 at 15:02:38
Duncan McKenzie cadging a drag of a cig off a fan in the enclosure!
Rob Sawyer
37 Posted 24/01/2019 at 19:40:18
Very informative and entertaining, Pete. I chuckle when it is reported that a club is "weighing up a bid" for a player. I can't help but picture a room with the manager, DoF, CEO, Chairman etc. all stroking their chins and pontificating over the pros and cons of slapping an offer in (maybe entering a "bidding war" in the process).

Then, of course, they have to "prepare a bid" which, I guess, involves looking down the back of the sofa for loose change or, maybe, popping to the bank to withdraw some funds or arranging an overdraft extension. Failing that, it is a trip to Cash Converters.

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