Everton Ruined My Life
By Michael Hammond, Mon 30 January 2012 15:44
I really dislike Everton. There I’ve said it. But it wasn’t always the case. My very first memory of football involves the royal blues, and it’s a happy one. On the 11th March 1981 an eight year old is getting ready for bed. Unusually tonight, as well as PJ’s, I’ll be sporting my City bobble hat and scarf. The radio is next to the bed, with the little white plastic one eared earphone connected up – and we’re ready to go. For those not as old as me, imagine a sort of steam powered I Pod with an earpiece marginally less fashionable than a hearing aid.
It’s an FA Cup Quarter final replay, and I begin to slip away to the soporific sound of commentator Peter Jones’ mellifluous Welsh tones. Later in the evening my mum untangles the cable from my head and removes the hat and scarf from an incredibly sweaty but happy young boy. By this time the blues are heading towards a Villa Park rendezvous with Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town.
March the following year was the first time I saw Everton play in the flesh. I was one of 33,000 who saw the 1-1 draw and witnessed Trevor Francis's sending off for head-butting Everton's Billy Wright. It was to be a short lived time at Maine Road for the European Cup winner. Francis stayed only 1 season, pulling on the sky blue shirt a mere 26 times before City’s perilous financial state forced the club to move him on to Sampdoria. I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t see the best of Trevor. It’s also fair to say that it would be a very, very long time before the club would be in a position to buy another European Cup winner.
From this point in time, our clubs were to take a very different path. City would become a yo-yo club, associated with underachievement, financial miss-management and an uncanny knack of shooting itself in the foot. Everton on the other hand, we about to embark on a golden decade. The 80’s saw the toffee’s win the league championship twice and finish runner up once, reach 4 FA Cup finals and most memorably win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985. Many believe, and some are still bitter, that were it not for their neighbour’s “antics” from across Stanley Park, which resulted in English teams being banned from European competition that Everton’s excellent team would have been in prime position to win a first European Cup.
From the 90’s onwards both clubs went through a period of underachievement, and it was at the beginning of this fallow time that Everton thrust a jagged edge through my heart. For the first time in my lifetime, things were on the up for us. Football was undergoing a renaissance on and off the pitch, helped in no small part by a wonderful Italia 1990 World Cup. Football was reintroduced to a lost generation who had been put off by crowd violence and piss poor facilities. Gazza and Co reminded us why we used to call it the “beautiful game”. Suddenly, there were women on the Kippax, and children were returning to the sport as safety and policing improved post Hillsborough.
For City, we were on the up again. Howard Kendall was turning the club around. Some astute signings, and clear direction meant that for once we were looking towards the top of the table rather than down. I really, REALLY, felt like we were on the verge of success. It was a feeling I was unaccustomed too. Then Everton came and ruined it all. Celebrity City baiter Colin Schindler once wrote how Manchester United ruined his life. Well that’s how I feel about Everton. When they poached Kendall back from us, it felt like all that brief hope had been snuffed out. Their size 9 hobnail boots trampled all over the kindling of our fire before it ever got a chance to set alight. He returned to Everton for a second spell as manager in November 1990. He famously justified the move by saying that Manchester City was just an affair, but Everton was his marriage.
When I heard this news, I felt numb. I felt cheated – how dare this club steal my future away from me? I was at university at the time, and my limited budget took one hell of a beating as I came to terms with it. Judas! From this point on, Everton were dead to me. Whenever they played – I would wish them to lose. Please don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t a passing fad. I’ve felt this way for EVERY SINGLE game they have played from that point onwards.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, its holding a grudge. Have you ever bought a Sharp electrical appliance? Taken out a Vodafone contract? Would you use DHL or buy clothing from Nike or Admiral? You might, but I wouldn’t. Ever. I’d rather take the train than fly Turkish airways – even if it took me 3 days it’d be worth it to me.
It’s a shame it’s turned out this way, because in so many ways we have an awful lot in common. Or had anyway. Both in the shadow of a global superpower, with decrepit yet atmospheric grounds packed with a vociferous local fan base. We should have been mates, brother is arms. It’s not to be though. We came in to money, lots of it and have left Everton behind. They have been relegated to relying on hand outs from theatre impresario Bill Kenwright and the amazing parsimonious management skills of David Moyes. In the meantime, plans for a new stadium recede ever further into the distance.
So, to Tuesday night. Undoubtedly Everton will do what Everton do. Only better, faster and more physically than normal. They are fired by indignation when they play us. They must surely see “what could have been” when we come to town. Jolean will run the gauntlet for having the temerity to want to further his career away from Goodison, and the fans on the Gladwys Street will remind us of their history. Well you can keep it lads because win, lose or draw tomorrow, I’ll head out of that stadium with a little spring in my step –the future is ours.