At almost the exact same second that a Phil Jagielka thunderbolt hit the back of the Anfield net in the 90th minute back in 2014, my son was entering this world in a hospital here in New Zealand.  It still winds my wife up when I explain how incredible it is that two of the greatest moments of my life happened at almost exactly the same moment in time, on opposite sides of the planet! 

Suffice to say that my suggestion that we completely disregard all of our previous baby name conversations, and for our son to be named Philip Nikodem Sweet, was met with a luke warm response at best.  

So there he was in my arms.  My own Little Toffeeman, Zac.  

He got all the stuff.  Everton kit, Everton PJs, Everton bib, “My First Everton Book” which has a mirror on the last page under the words “the greatest Everton fan in the world is…..”.  I had it all planned out; bedtime stories about games I had been to, victories I had seen and heroes of my childhood.  I got (and still get) chills thinking about taking him to his first game at Goodison Park (an ambition as yet unfulfilled due to Covid-affected travel plans). 

Fast forward almost 8 years since the Jagielka derby and I had started to get the feeling that things weren’t quite panning out as I had planned.  I’m not going to lie, being an Evertonian in recent years has been a tough sell to a competitive young lad who likes to win.  I have tried my best to mask my own frustrations with the club, whilst maintaining his enthusiasm (often by cherry-picking the games that we sat down and watched the highlights for).  I also did my best to hide the league table from him last season. 

If anyone asked him who his favourite team was, he would undoubtedly say Everton.  He knew that Liverpool were the enemy.  I felt I had done my best, but recently he started showing signs of weakness.  

Two of his best mates at school are Liverpool fans and he started hearing stuff from them about winning cups and playing in Champions League Finals.  I then recently found out he knew who Mo Salah was when he told me he was the third-best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo.  I countered that by letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that the third-best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo is in actual fact our very own Alex Iwobi.  I wasn’t sure whether he bought it or not but, either way, small cracks were starting to show. 

This is the first year I’ve felt that Zac now has the attention span to concentrate on 90 minutes of football.  So our Sunday morning routine this season has been to wake up and, depending on how busy our schedule is for the day, either put the Everton game on demand and watch the full game, or watch the extended highlights.  We’ll then complete our morning viewing with the 3-minute highlights of all the other Premier League games. 

Despite obvious signs of improvement prior to this weekend, there had been little in the way of real excitement as far as watching Everton was concerned.  Very few goals, and very few points to celebrate.  So you can imagine the horror when, after watching us labour to a 1-1 draw with the mighty Brentford, I found us sat watching the reds blast 9 past a hapless Bournemouth.  Zac didn’t say anything, but I could see in his eyes that he was quite impressed with this concept of scoring goals and winning games. 

Which brings me to the events of this weekend.  I considered that this could quite possibly be the make-or-break moment regarding my boy’s affinity with Everton.  There are too many derbies in recent memory which I felt that any repeat of, could have turned his young head in a direction in which it should not be turned.  I might be doing him a great disservice, but I genuinely thought that I could be one Mo Salah masterclass away from losing my Little Toffeeman to the dark side.  But despite the risk, I was determined to sit down and watch our first full Merseyside derby together from start to finish.  

Boy, am I glad that I did!  

We saw our Everton.  We saw a team with real heart and a desire to win.  We saw something we really could believe in.  We saw heroics from our goalkeeper.  We saw a young fullback playing in his first Merseyside derby, looking like he was playing in his 20th.  We saw a young Ukrainian make us wonder if Mo Salah was even on the pitch in the first half.  We saw the third-best player in the world, Alex Iwobi, make us wonder if I should probably have ranked him higher.  We saw shots, we saw woodwork hit, we heard the Old Lady coming alive! 

We even got to celebrate a goal, and I am not overstating this when I say it was one of the most joyous moments I have ever experienced.  Me and my boy dancing around our living room, hugging and screaming with delight.  If only I could have bottled that moment. 

Then of course, sadly, we got to despise the VAR. 

Towards the end of the game, the commentator spoke about famous last-minute goals in Merseyside derbies, and mentioned that strike by Jagielka.  I told Zac the story about how his own start to life is linked to that goal (and how – if I’d have had my way – he would’ve been called Phil).  He asked me if he could see the goal, so after the game, we jumped onto YouTube and watched it again (and again).  Of course, YouTube suggested other Everton videos we could watch, which we duly lapped up. 

I noticed a re-ignited spark in Zac's mind.  I think he realised that being an Evertonian can be exciting.  He was interested in the club again and hungry to learn more.  And I realised that the 90 minutes we just watched really might have saved him. 

Later on in the day, we had a kick about outside.  Up until now, when playing football in the garden, my budding superstar has only ever wanted to be Lionel Messi, on account of him being the best player in the world.  Well, this time it was different.  When he was in goal, he was Jordan Pickford, and when he was shooting, he was more than happy to be the second-best player in the world, Alex Iwobi.  He was even still talking about the Blues when he went to bed. 

My boy may have been born unto this world on the day of the Jagielka derby.  But I’m starting to believe that he was truly born a Blue on this derby day, 3 September 2022.  And for that, to Frank Lampard and the boys, I will be forever grateful.

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David Gee
1 Posted 05/09/2022 at 08:14:15
Great stuff, Jamie,

Reminds me of a call I had from my grandfather (Edward "Ted" Mitchell for those who knew him) before my first daughter was born... and he said to my wife "Congrats my love, I hear you are having an Evertonian", and she replied "We don't know if its a boy or a girl, Ted", and he replied "Who cares, they will be an Evertonian, and its an honour to be born one!".

He passed some years ago, and my daughter's favourite photo is of her, him and me all in our kits and she was 6 months old.

We popped back from Australia to the UK a couple of months ago, and she was delighted to visit Goodison and buy the new pink kit. Her passion for football comes from Ted and the Skype calls he made to her before passing. She loves playing (plays for Chatswood U16 Girls) and always trains in an Everton shirt.

I hope your son continues to discover and learn more about this famous club, and that we can deliver him and my daughter joy in the coming years.

Peter Mills
2 Posted 05/09/2022 at 09:10:33
That’s a nice article, Jamie.

My two grandsons, aged 8 and 6, made their derby debuts on Saturday. I was thinking after the match what I would have given for Coady’s goal to have been allowed, and for the lads to have had the rare but magnificent experience of Goodison bouncing to a victory over the rs.

However, having reflected since, that is not our lot. Our triumphs do not come so readily, and frustration and sometimes injustice are part and parcel of supporting our team. We may have had too much of such emotion over the years, but it is character-forming, and ensures there is no sense of entitlement amongst the youngsters. It breeds true loyalty.

It sounds like you are training young Zac well, the poor little fella! Get him over here while The Old Lady is still standing.

Martin Reppion
3 Posted 05/09/2022 at 11:11:12
Fantastic story, Jamie.

Can I jump on your thread to mention another young blue whose Everton-themed funeral is tomorrow. Connor Oman leaves a fiancée and a 9-week-old son.

I know times are hard but any blue who can donate, however small an amount to help his family would be appreciated. His story and funding page can be found here.

In memory of Connor Oman

Anyone with more IT skills than me who can get this page into the general Everton cybersphere would also be appreciated.

Alan Corbett
4 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:37:42
Thanks Jamie, I really enjoyed your article.

It looks like you have succeeded where I have failed. I have two boys and neither one is a football fan which makes me a little sad. I would love it if my boys were watching the games with me, so make sure you soak up every minute of it. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get to Goodison with your son before it is gone.

Robert Williams
5 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:36
Robert Williams
6 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:36
Robert Williams
7 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:37
Robert Williams
8 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:39
Robert Williams
9 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:39
Robert Williams
10 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:46:40
Robert Williams
11 Posted 05/09/2022 at 14:53:33
I have a daughter and a son. My daughter married a Red Shite and they now have a son – I tried my best but there are now three of the buggers.

My Son is a Red Man - he has two sons 14 & 9 proud to say that they are both ardent Evertonians. In fact the little one claims that he is the only Toffee in his school (not class) but he proudly wears his Everton strip when allowed in class.

The wife, well she says she's a Chelsea fan, but I never really gave her much credence anyway!!

Colin Glassar
12 Posted 05/09/2022 at 18:48:47
Glad you got that off your chest, Robert. Both my kids support the dark side. Is it karma or are they just insane? Sometimes I’m glad they haven’t had to suffer like me.
Nick Page
13 Posted 05/09/2022 at 18:58:15
I’ve been brainwashing my kids since day dot, so they both despise the red shite and think they’re horrible dirty cheating bastards. Good.
Neil Copeland
14 Posted 05/09/2022 at 19:22:20
Great story Jamie, thanks.

My daughter is a blue, her first game was also my dads last (strange how life does things like that). It was the 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup quarters when Rom scored that fantastic solo goal.

Coming out of the ground I asked my dad if he enjoyed it, yes son he said thanks for the birthday present. About 10 mins later he asked me what was the score!

I have a dog, Max (Springer) and he supports us too but not so keen on me jumping about if we are on the telly. Perhaps he has been having me on?

Jamie Crowley
15 Posted 05/09/2022 at 19:29:52
Jamie great article.

Best to you and your boy. You've done well. He will forever understand the concept of loyalty, fealty to purpose, and when the trophies finally come they will be hard earned and cherished.

There's something important about all of that, and it'll translate in life for him in my opinion.

Great article. His next Christmas present has to be an Everton jersey with Jagielka on the back, surely?

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 05/09/2022 at 19:47:06
Nice story Jamie.

My son spent his first 6 years in Liverpool. His first match at Goodsion was in August 1998 against Aston Villa. Very apt as my wife attended with us. He was a couple of months short of his 4th Birthday. It was a 0 - 0 draw and we were sat in the first row of the Enclosure right in the corner with the Park End.

My abiding memory of that match was taking my eye him for 10 seconds only to see he had made his way up the steps in the corner and about to encroach on the field of play during the warm up. A kind steward ushered him back to us. I think he fancied his chances of starting!

I can relate to the challenges of bringing a son up to follow his birthright amidst the grass is greener influences in different places.

We moved around, spending time in Italy and Northern Ireland before eventually settling the family in west London. Here it's always been a smattering of Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal alongside the inevitable presence of "life long" United and Liverpool fans. The latter who I often can tell them more about their club than they can. I take no pride in that. I just grew up with friends and cousins who took to the dark side. It would have been easy for him to have been swayed, but he's always been loyal to his roots.

My sister married a Red. They have 3 boys. 2 red, one Blue. He more than holds his own. My immediate family are all blue, aside from the West Midland influence on the in-laws side, but even some of the are Liverpool supporters.

There's no going back for your lad. There never was. And when we win something soon, it will be worth the wait and mean that much more to him than to those who have no connection with their club.



Peter Moore
17 Posted 05/09/2022 at 19:59:52
What a fantastic read that is Jamie. Congratulations to you and Zac.

I have a 6-year-old lad. I am 100 miles from Goodison Park so no great challenge to get him to a game. I have been worried I would be handing him the fabled poisoned chalice rather than doing him a favour as personally.

I have found being an Evertonian a very miserable and saddening experience for more years than I care to admit. False dawn after false dawn.

May the improved performance and character shown in the derby performance be a real turning point this time. 100 percent effort and application in each game is not too much to ask, is it? Every game, every time, irrespective of the score.

Bernie Quinn
18 Posted 05/09/2022 at 20:46:34
Jamie, that was a great read.

How on earth did you stop Zac from following the All-Blacks? My two boys were born in the '60s, and though my No 1 son had the good sense to support the Toffees, my Dark Side wife sneakily had No 2 son follow her poor tastes.

In the '90s, we ended up with 3 grandsons and I guess it became a Merseyside derby draw with the 3rd grandson, following the oval ball game and representing Australia Universities in International Rugby (I've never understood that weird game).

But no matter who our off-spring support – it is good that they show an interest. My daughter for instance follows the fortunes of Wigan Athletic, purely because in the "olden days" her grandfather played for Wigan Borough before he transferred to Everton! Go Figure!!!

Hope you keep Zac on the true path, Jamie, and the club repays him (and us) with many honours.

Paul Kernot
19 Posted 05/09/2022 at 20:46:50
Brilliant story mate. You've never told me Zac was born on that amazing day. Don't ever question your part in his 'education'.

My dad took me to my first game when I was 6 and of course I was hooked, despite the shit I got pretty much every Monday morning at school from fans of that other team in our beloved city.

Jamie Sweet
20 Posted 05/09/2022 at 00:12:03
Thank you for all the kind comments and for sharing stories of your own.

It sounds like there could be a need for some sort of support group or counselling service to be made available to those with reds in their family!

Bernie, if the reds at Zac's school have done one good thing, it has been to keep him engaged in football, including playing every break time. Rugby hasn't even had a look in thankfully, and I intend to keep it that way!

Dupont Koo
21 Posted 06/09/2022 at 00:47:24
Well done, Jamie.

My little girl never became a football fan or die-hard Evertonian like all of us, but one thing I have preached (or brainwashed) to her since she can talk is that she can date and marry anyone as long as her eventual better half is not a Red Shite!

David West
22 Posted 08/09/2022 at 19:04:28
Jamie, brilliant mate. Captures the turmoil these young blues have to go through. I cant remember a league trophy or European trophy in my time supporting the blues, I was just too young. The 95 FA was my pinnacle. But back then Everton were still a power in the game. Brother with the league winners, Cup winners team posters on the wall. I was hooked !

That's why I have so much respect for the younger generation of blues.

Its easy to just support the dark side and enjoy the spoils, these young blues have the dedication and loyalty without much reward, yet goodison is full of young blues singing there hearts out week in week out.

It reminds me of my nephews struggle with the temptation of the other side.

He come in to my brother and I, near in tears as he knew the magnitude of what he was saying. " I might support Liverpool, they always win stuff " we were both shocked, but rather than pack his bags and change his birth certificate. We reasoned with him, talked about the past teams, the years when we were the superior team in this city, the history and stories of us going the game.

We watched clips of goodison before all seater stadiums, the great escapes of the 90s, the title winning teams of the 80s and the scenes on the streets when we brought that FA cup back in 95.

But wil still let him decide.

He chose the righteous path. I'm proud to say he was a regular at the match visiting Wembley with the blues.

Last couple of years my own son went through his own battle with the demons. I'm happy to say they were blown away when we watched the Palace game last year and the scenes at the end.

His face beamed as he watched the scenes and I nearly cried as he said " thats when we beat relagation! Imagine if we won the league "

Hes hooked now too .

I just hope the younger generation can get the rewards for their commitment to our club .

Dale Self
23 Posted 14/09/2022 at 19:45:25
Yeah, Jamie, I'm late to this but that's a lift! Let's not worry about the young-uns attaching to the shite. They'll fade toward virtual reality or some other 21st Century intronaut innovation in much greater numbers than the ones that go Blue. It'll all work out.
Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 14/09/2022 at 20:31:52
When we win our 10th title, David, this country won't know what has hit it.

Sky will be in shock.

Spit the phone stealing dog will faint.

The blue boys are on the rise. The tide is coming into Bramley-Moore Dock.

Brian Murray
25 Posted 14/09/2022 at 22:05:45
Never understood a dad taking his eye off the ball and letting his kid become a kopite but maybe it's a generation thing as, from a big one-sided '60s family, I had no choice and didn't and still don't know any better. Named after Labone and brothers and sons named for ex-blues, you get the picture.

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