This guy, on the left, is the first one – but not the last I could write about.
Alex Young, aka ‘The Golden Vision’, was my introduction to hero-worship and the escapist joy (and misery) of being an Evertonian.
The first word I could write was ‘Dunlop’. Even before my own name (which to be fair is a tough one) I could spell and write the surname of the Everton goalkeeper from the 1963 title-winning side. My adorable Bootle parents had bought a souvenir magazine and left it around the house for a four-year-old to look at the pictures. There was something about the falling ‘p’ that made the word appealing to a snakes and ladders-playing toddler…
The word ‘Everton’ literally leapt from the page. So in our first day at school, as a test, the teacher asked us to write what we could. The boy sitting next to me write ‘Peter Cloney aged 5’ (I later learned). I wrote ‘Everton Dunlop…’
I was soon smitten, like tens of thousands of others, by the generation of players who, as Chairman, John Moores encouraged to Everton or had been promoted from within. The wonderful Colin Harvey, the dependable John Hurst, the admirable Brian Labone and, of course, the genius that was Alan Ball.
The ownership of the club had changed our fortunes so that we could, as an Everton community, live up to the Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum latin motto.
We know what came next, down years, up years and changes of ownership…when a True Blue group removed a Liverpudlian’s hands from the steering wheel, we rejoiced.
But Oligarchs, Americans, and Middle Eastern Royals rather changed the playing field so True Blues Bill Kenwright and Jon Woods have had to lead with a large slice of pragmatism.
However, where there was a basket-case of a business model, an annual battle with relegation and a steady stream of talent exiting the club, Everton have steadied, kept its best players, competed.
The True Blue years should be written up as a chapter entitled ‘Back to Reality’ as shrewd leadership has made this generation of players worthy of our wonderful history.
Bill and Jon may be about to depart as owners and if they do, they should be afforded both respect and affection – theirs has been a pragmatic leadership but without it and without them, our lovely, wonderful, dotty club may have gone the way of Sheffield Wednesday or Leeds United – or worse.
We will see what happens, but whatever the case and mindful some may disagree, two other Blues will soon be added to my list of Everton heroes – Bill Kenwright and Jon Woods.