Everton chose me, and we all know what happens when touched by this storied club. My Toffee love affair was stoked by Tim Howard, lit on fire by Tom Davies, and fully consummated on ToffeeWeb. I was not born with Everton in my blood, but I’m now as Blue as they come, proud to pass down to my son the passion and bond we’ve shared since he was born in 2015. 

Only in England could I find my true lifelong football family. America does do some serious football in the 21st Century, but not like the rest of the world. We Yanks with religious zeal for the beautiful game (we call soccer) thus accept what it means to have adopted, rather than birthed, the sport.

We are home to a perfectly decent professional league, without promotion and relegation to up the stakes, full of sleazy billionaire owners like England, but all without the raw passion and community rootedness that have defined clubs from Europe to South America for more than a century. Our clubs Stateside and their fans are mostly fickle and uninspiring, unworthy of maniacal support on and off match days. I have long yearned for something more. 

The last seven years have been one helluva ride. Whereas once I awoke at 6 am to bring my little Lukaku, as I affectionately called my infant son, to the Irish pub in Minneapolis for the early match, alternating between breakfast sandwich, Bloody Mary, and bottle feeding; today, he wakes before me, throws on his jersey, and gets the match ready while I brew coffee and calm my nerves.

For my birthday last year, he made sure to get me a full kit to match his – and yes, the picture of the two of us is as cute as they come. By age four, when he cried inconsolably after we lost a nail-biter, I didn’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed; but I assured him that he'd better get used to losing, and he has not cried since. He is now old enough to celebrate the ups, console me when we’re down, and embrace me when I tackle him and scream like a madman after a big goal. He accepts what it means to be a true Blue. 

The top three American soccer legends of my formative years are Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey, so as far as I’m concerned, for two of them to have played for and loved Everton means every Yank should feel some kinship with our club. (Fulham deserves recognition, too, for signing not just Dempsey, but our own Brian McBride and Antonee Robinson, plus Carlos Bocanegra, Kasey Keller, and Tim Ream.)

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But bandwagons being what they are, the Sky Six garner much of the attention and allegiance here in the States, and I’ve always liked it like that. Those other gobshites will never know how special it is to rarely win trophies, endlessly fire managers, receive unprecedented points penalties, and endure conversations about whether relegation may be a saving grace. I pity those fools. 

Amidst the misery of the past 7 years, the highs sprinkled in made it all worthwhile. As noted above, it was a baby-faced Tom Davies scoring that magical first goal under the lights at Goodison that first rocked my world. It was Romalu Lukaku banging in 25 goals that season, a star in the making, who brought us routine joy even as we knew he’d soon be gone, leaving us hopeful that the fee he’d command would at least leave us in good stead.

It felt special to see the second coming of Rooney, and the accompanying few moments of magic, even as it affirmed our second-rate quality. Richarlison, for all his sulking and diving and poor first touches, gave us the blood, sweat, and end product we so desperately needed to weather the storms. And watching the tail end of the careers of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, I’ve been proud to witness top-class professionals who bleed for the badge.

Through it all, mired in a muddy pit of mediocrity, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the rise of Jordan Pickford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the budding star of Jarrad Branthwaite, and the hint of stability that Sean Dyche has brought to our club. There is hope after all.

We all have the moments along the way that lifted us out of our seats, the jolt of thundering goals, remarkable saves, and fan unity that shake stadiums and remind us why sport is truly special. While so many others have been lucky enough to capture those moments at Goodison or among the best away section in all of the land, what’s remarkable is how that stadium energy can be felt across oceans.

My spine still tingles rewatching Spirit of the Blues being sung at the King Power stadium two seasons ago. I know which dining room chair I nearly knocked over when Michael Keane scored the last-minute stunner against Tottenham and when Alex Iwobi buried Newcastle in the 98th minute. I did not care that I injured my shoulder alone in my office when Demarai Gray netted the stoppage-time winner against Arsenal.

And of course we all screamed in primal relief when Calvert-Lewin headed home against Crystal Palace and Doucouré saved us versus Bournemouth — then collectively tightened our bums as we held on for the wins. The mood of Evertonians in recent years has surely bordered on insanity, and yet we survived, in no small part due to the best fans in the world.

Everton captured my imagination from afar, and in some pre-internet world, maybe there exists a few wild foreigners who came to love our club from newspaper stories about our heyday in the 20th Century and Dr David France books. My full initiation, though, was only possible when I found my way to ToffeeWeb.

I stumbled upon the site a few years back, read every last article and just lurked for a good while, then one day dipped my toe into the comments, which I still do from time to time. I’ve made a few missteps, been a tad obnoxious or overly reactive to this or that, and my comments are probably a bit too wordy.

But what matters most is that I’ve found a home with fellow Blues, a place for excellent articles and match write-ups; deep insight into the game and the club; witty puns and dirty jokes; political banter and fascinating history lessons; heart-warming compassion for comrades who are suffering; and an appreciation for one another and our shared passion. I will never meet most of my fellow ToffeeWebbers, but I know I am part of the family.

As I have the good fortune of living mere steps from Allianz Field in Minnesota, home to Minnesota United, I was over the moon when I learned that Everton would come to play a friendly against our club, then managed by one Adrian Heath. The match on that beautiful evening two summers ago is mostly forgettable, but the night was one to remember in the lovely company of ToffeeWeb’s own Kieran Kinsella and Neil Copeland, who came from afar to watch our beloved club lose embarrassingly 4-0.

The night prior to the match, I had the pleasure of bringing my family to hear stories from Leon Osman, then buying him a pint afterwards. In the end, like so much about being an Evertonian these days, I have such fond memories of that match despite the product on the field: Just Neil, Kieran, my wife, my kids and I joyfully coming together around a common (not completely lost) cause. 

My story, though, would not be complete without a pilgrimage to Goodison Park before it’s no longer. In early April, I will hop on a flight across the Atlantic for the Burnley match, six days in England on my own with only one clear objective: to soak in the atmosphere of a home matchday.

In a perfect world, we are no longer fighting off Luton Town at the bottom of the table and we play Burnley off the pitch. I imagine a long-range strike from McNeil, a Calvert-Lewin header, and a Doucouré counter-attacking master class putting us up comfortably at halftime.

But win, lose, or draw, I’ll be living the dream. I hope to make it extra special by meeting a few of you along the way, maybe for a pint or three at a local watering hole. You’ll spot me by looking for the lone American — black Everton baseball cap, black Hummel jacket — exuberantly dancing and singing Spirit of the Blues, feeling right at home.

Reader Comments (31)

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Paul Ferry
1 Posted 23/01/2024 at 06:53:28
I love personal narratives like this. A wonderful read Jonathan and it gets teary when you weave in your son. Your Everton feel and expression shows that you get it.

I hope that you have a wonderful and blessed time in April. Danny O'Neill and others will give you the directions and places to meet up before the match.

I trust that you do not discuss Tom Davies with Kieran.

Derek Thomas
2 Posted 23/01/2024 at 07:26:05
1st guy (maybe at The Alamo – who knows?): "You're not from Texas are you?"

2nd guy: "No, but I got here as soon as I could."

That'll do for me – welcome, Brother.


Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 23/01/2024 at 08:58:25
Beautiful story, Jonathan.

I've often commented that I would like to see us expand into the US scene from a scouting perspective.

I spent a lot of time in San Antonio, Texas and there were some really talented players. The Bundesliga seems to have a tradition of tapping into the US market. I watched Weston McKennie play live for Schalke and said to my son, "I'd love us to sign him." We'd have loved him. Now at Juventus last time I looked.

I have the utmost respect for those following the Blues from thousands of miles away. It's easier for the likes of me sleeping on trains to get to the spiritual home.

Drop me a message or save my number for when you're over.

0796 600 7546

Paul drop me a message so we can negotiate our political spat!!

Peter Mills
4 Posted 23/01/2024 at 09:05:35
Keep us informed of your visit, Jonathan, I’m sure one or two of us would be willing to buy you a pint.
John Keating
5 Posted 23/01/2024 at 09:47:25
Brilliant post, Jonathan, well done!

Do you know it's easy for so many of us over here who were born a few minutes from Goodison, or at least in Liverpool, to be part of the Blues.

Family is usually the light that guides us to where we belong so it's very easy to understand why we are Evertonians.

I have to say the people I admire greatly are folk such as yourself. Born, brought up, and living so far away yet somehow, God only knows, you become as fervent as those of us actually born into it.

Win, lose or draw, I know you will have a fantastic time and a great memory that will live with you forever.

Once again, great post.

Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 23/01/2024 at 10:17:51
Lovely story Jonathon, I hope you have a great time when you come to watch your team.

I know you will take some fantastic memories home with and plenty of photos to show your family.

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 23/01/2024 at 11:40:18
I'm sure a few ToffeeWebbers will be around to see you, Jonathan, especially after reading such a heartwarming story, mate.
Jonathan Oppenheimer
8 Posted 23/01/2024 at 13:52:31
Thanks for all the kind words, Paul, Derek, Danny, Peter, John, Dave and Tony. It shows why TW has been a special place for me, even if keeps me up a little late or distracted from family business from time to time.

Paul (1), funny you mention Kieran and Tom Davies. I always appreciated him for what he brought to the team, and like all of us it was too bad he never got over the hump. Even though he deserved some criticism for his play, I could never bring myself to do it, due to some combination of his history with the club, the changing managers, our shit teams, etc. But I’ll never forget that match against Man City, and that’s good enough for me. Too bad we haven’t heard much about him since he left.

I look forward to connecting with many of you in April and I’ll be sure to let folks know closer to the trip so we can meet up. Danny, thanks for sharing your number as well. In the meantime, any recommendations on things to do while in town, places to see, neighborhood to stay in, where to sit in the stadium, all that is greatly appreciated.

But just so everyone knows, even though I’m a mental health therapist, I’ll not be brokering any Middle East or TW peace deals while on vacation.

Rob Halligan
9 Posted 23/01/2024 at 14:22:21
Hi Jonathan. What date are you coming over to Liverpool?

You say you will be spending 6 days over here, taking in the Burnley game which is on 6 April, so you will more than likely have left Liverpool before the following weekend.

But just to let you know, the Grand National festival starts on Thursday 11 April, and a lot of hotels in and around the city centre will more than likely be fully booked up, even before 11 April. Sounds like you haven't yet booked a hotel, so if I were you, I'd start looking straight away.

Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 23/01/2024 at 14:37:00
I don't know if prices come into your reckoning but May Duncan's is a pub, restaurant and has rooms upstairs.

It is five minutes from the City Centre with plenty of busses going that way and not that much longer going the other way to Goodison Park where the No 19 bus will drop you right outside The Old Lady.

Google it and see what you think, you will find plenty of Everton fans, locals, drinking in there along with Red fans who are also okay and will provide plenty of banter but also plenty of help along with the crowd.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 23/01/2024 at 14:41:59
What Rob says. Otherwise you'll end up in the Adelphi, which is fine for one night to fall onto the early train back, but is like walking back into what I imagine the 1920s to have been like.

I'd recommend the Marriot on Queen's Square and visit Doctor Duncan's pub. Or if you want to go a bit more upper class, the Radisson Blu is nice although a bit out of the city centre.

If you are going that far out, you may as well stay at the Titanic Hotel and marvel at the new stadium in Bramley-Moore Dock.

Stephen Vincent
12 Posted 23/01/2024 at 14:48:19
Great post,Jonathan, a great time awaits you. If you have trouble with accommodation as highlighted by Rob, let me know — I'm sure I can sort something out in Liverpool's leafy suburbs. stephenvincent389@gmail.com.
Jonathan Oppenheimer
13 Posted 23/01/2024 at 15:15:58
Rob, I fly in to London on April 4 and back out on April 11, so everything in between is open. But good to know I should get on it sooner rather than later.

Thanks, Dave, Danny and Stephen, for the added recommendations and help!

Jon Harding
14 Posted 23/01/2024 at 16:38:28
A lot of Oppenheimer in the news today!

Jonathan – enjoy your trip but keep an eye on the fixtures as the paymasters at the TV companies may have it switched to a different time or even day.

If so, go and watch Tranmere on the Saturday at 3 pm.
I'm from a family of mad keen Evertonians but have never myself lived in the city so here's some thoughts from a tourist / fan:

Go on the club's tickets site and book a Goodison tour. They don't take place on match days generally.

Do the Royal Liver Building tour if only for the views from the top.

Go and check out the new ground (from behind the construction fencing).

Take a day trip to Chester for some ancient history that should blow most American minds.

Take the ferry ('cross the Mersey) and the train on the Wirral and enjoy the sea air in New Brighton or Hoylake.

Visit both cathedrals and say a prayer for EFC as we need all the help we can get.

Or just spend the entire week drinking yourself senseless in the unbelievably vibrant pubs and clubs in the city centre, most playing live music (with the occasional song not written by the Beatles).

Peter Mills
15 Posted 23/01/2024 at 18:51:32
Should the Burnley game be switched, an alternative to Tranmere would be to catch a game at Marine. You can even have a beer while you are watching the match!

Drop me a line if you wish, Jonathan.

My email is peter@twomillsland.co.uk

Jeff Spiers
16 Posted 23/01/2024 at 18:52:53
Is there anyone at Goodison to welcome this guy onto the pitch at half time?
Neil Copeland
17 Posted 23/01/2024 at 21:18:29
Hi Jonathan, good article that, really enjoyed reading your story, thanks.

The performance against Minnesota was disappointing and I felt sorry for you guys over there having to wait so long to see the Blues in the flesh, Everton that! It was great to meet up with you, your lovely family and Kieran and the company more than made up for the game.

I am looking forward to meeting up again in April when, hopefully we can share a few beers. I drive to most home games and can always pick you up from wherever you end up staying or, if we plan to make the day of it I can get the train and meet you.

It looks like the other posts have suggestions for things to do and see nailed. Chester is a very pretty city with Roman history and well worth a visit as already mentioned.

Anyway, once the day gets a bit closer let me know what you would like to do. Hopefully the Blues will do you proud.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
18 Posted 23/01/2024 at 00:05:50
Jon (14) and Peter (15), thanks so much for those ideas and I’ll be in touch, Peter. Jon, the goal is to do many of the touristy things and also drink a few too many along the way. As for a lower tier match, sounds like a great idea. I intentionally gave myself Friday-Monday in town in case the Everton match gets switched around, so I should have time for some or all of the above.

Jeff (16), I’ll take whatever I can get while I’m there. Hopefully a tour will at least get me close to the pitch

Neil, I’ll of course be in touch as the trip nears. I looked into May Duncan’s, per Dave’s recommendation, and it looks like it might be a great option, so may be staying there. Just have to decide whether I prefer be in the city center. In any case, I look forward to some good times wherever we end up!

Kieran Kinsella
19 Posted 24/01/2024 at 02:12:40
Jonathan,

Just saw this. Tom Davies apart I love it. I know Jonathan will be visiting as opposed to hosting but for what it’s worth to any ToffeeWebers he opened his home to myself and Neil Copeland as complete strangers and gave us the kind of warm welcome you’d only expect from close family. He’s as mad as the rest of us (much nicer than me) in his obsession with this club even if he was born 3,000 miles away.

I’m not surprised to see some of the good hearted locals like Ron Halligan and Danny O’Neill and the Abraham’s offering advice as they did for Mike Gaynes. I’m sure you’ll have a good time there mate and make connections with some top quality people from ToffeeWeb. I’d love to be there myself to reconnect with you and Neil Copeland but maybe next time.

Kieran Kinsella
20 Posted 24/01/2024 at 02:37:01
Ps Jonathan has a lovely young family and his little kids have already been indoctrinated. Poor souls. But lovely, kind hearted children.
Danny O’Neill
21 Posted 24/01/2024 at 06:23:29
Jeff,

I'll write to the club.

They tend to come back with vague answers, but I can also try my sister. She works at Anfield but they have connections with Goodison.

I'll give it a shot.

Jeff Spiers
22 Posted 24/01/2024 at 12:19:52
Danny nice one. Hope you get sorted! Let me know if get any joy. Cheers
Mike Gaynes
23 Posted 24/01/2024 at 19:07:00
Lovely article, Jonathan. I too made my first Goodison pilgrimage in April (2017), and one of the two victories I watched was over Burnley. Saw Lukaku destroy some Burnley center back. Can't remember his name now. And I met Tom Davies... what a shy young lad he was back then... as well as my idol Leighton Baines. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

I cannot recommend highly enough the experience of watching a Marine game with Pete Mills, so if the schedule dictates, definitely go for it. I wear my Marine shirt with the same pride as my Everton jersey. Got a scarf, too. (You might need one in April in Crosby. Bit chilly.)

And definitely follow Rob's suggestion to book not only your hotel room but your train tickets well in advance. Trying to find a room or a seat during the Grand National ain't easy. I really enjoyed the Holiday Inn on Albert Dock because it's such a great neighborhood to walk around in. And any Premier Inn will do you well at a good price.

You might run into Inchy at the pub -- he's been a regular at Goodison since his sacking in Minnesota.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
24 Posted 25/01/2024 at 00:46:08
Appreciate all of that, Mike, and your journeys over to Merseyside certainly inspired me. I think I may just spend all my time in the area to really get a feel for the city, so I look forward to doing lots of walking and talking and relaxing.

As it stands, the Marine and Tranmere matches are the same time as the Burnley match, but maybe some good luck will get it moved to Sunday so I can make it to two of them.

That would be a good chat with Inchy about his time in Minnesota. I get everything second- or third-hand about behind the scenes at Minnesota United. While it was his time to go, the shit show that has ensued since his sacking – where we still don't have a full-time manager – shows how poorly run the club is. He did a great job, bringing us from nothing to something; time will tell if we can take the next step with Reynoso, Pukki, Hlongwane and Co.

Dave Abrahams
25 Posted 25/01/2024 at 10:55:42
Jonathon (24),

Before you make any final decision on where you are staying, I'd advise you to have a chat with Stephen Vincent.

You'd be dealing with a gentleman who knows his way about – and when he talks of 'leafy Liverpool', he is talking about the best part of Liverpool, in my opinion.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
26 Posted 25/01/2024 at 13:42:13
Dave (25) I'll do that today, as I was about to lock something down.

Kieran (19, 20), the kind words mean a lot, as did the opportunity to host and meet you guys. Indeed I hope one day my poor, indoctrinated children and I can join you and a crew of folks from the States and England at BMD. That would be pretty special.

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 25/01/2024 at 13:54:04
Woolton and Allerton or Mossley Hill Jonathan.

When I travel up, and if I have to stay over, I tend to stay in town close to Lime Street for the first train back. But there are always a few dodgy characters knocking about, but I can look after myself. My sister always offers to pick me up, but I like to stay close to Lime Street.

Stephen will give you some good tips and recommendations. The south of the city is beautiful. If you get the chance, take in a walk on Camp Hill, Woollton or Calderstones. And depending on how much time you have if you are in that part of the city, visit Speke Hall. It may be L24 and close to a council estate, but you would be surprised. Very historical place.

Jonathan Oppenheimer
28 Posted 25/01/2024 at 13:59:48
Thanks, Danny, for those recommendations, and also for your kind offer to write to the club on my behalf.

Wherever I end up, I plan to explore the different parts of the city, and fortunately I’ve encountered a few dodgy characters in my day, live by quite a few too, so nothing really scares me off.

Jim Lloyd
29 Posted 27/01/2024 at 13:04:50
There's some good hotels in Town, Johnathan, and some nice restaurants and good pubs, from real old 19th cetury pubs to state of the art. Great museum, Art Gallery Library (all world class!) Depending how long your staying a lot of great places to see, as well as taking a walk to both our grounds!!
Whayever you do, I wish you a great time.
Bill Gall
30 Posted 27/01/2024 at 14:43:15
Nice one, Jonathan.

I will be back in Liverpool on 16 April and hoping that the clowns that run the Premier League don't swap any fixtures around as I am hoping to see 2 games. I have been back since 2009 twice, second time for a funeral and unfortunately ended up in the Royal and had to sign myself out to attend it.

Liverpool is full of History that a lot of people are not aware of, so if you want to know about it, best to plan ahead. The trip to Goodison will be the highlight,

Tom Fazal
31 Posted 27/01/2024 at 16:44:15
Not sure what your budget for the trip but on my last two visits home to the city from Canada, I stayed once in the Holiday Inn Express in the Albert Dock, which was good and last year treated myself to a stay in the Crowne Plaza next to the Liver Building which was very good.

Both great locations for walking to do the tourist things. Recommend the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour of the city lots to see and good info plus did the ferry cruise along the Mersey. Great view of the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock from the river.

Wherever you stay, I am sure you will have a great time.


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