Rob Sawyer with Erin Roberts
On 14 September 1985, I was one of just over 26,000 Evertonians at Goodison Park, watching the Football League champions Everton take on Luton Town. It was a fairly routine 2-0 win for the home side. Howard Kendall had the conundrum of which pair of strikers to select from Gary Lineker, Adrian Heath or Graeme Sharp. On this occasion ‘Inchy’ and the former Leicester man got the nod from the manager. I recall a clearly nonplussed Sharp coming on in the second half and scoring from close range at the Gwladys Street End, making a point to his manager.
I confess to having no memory of the Toffees’ mascot that day, but recently, when leafing through an old programme from that season, I chanced upon a snippet about a ten-year-old girl called Erin Roberts being filmed by BBC Wales, resplendent in a Le Coq Sportif ‘bib’ kit. I managed to make contact with Erin who is now living in South Wales. She remains an avowed Evertonian and was happy to share her cherished memories (plus archive footage and still images) of a day to remember;
‘Growing up, I lived about six miles west of Caernarfon, it is a very Welsh-speaking area. There were an awful lot of Reds around and some Leeds followers. My grandad supported Everton; I don’t know why he chose them, but we never questioned it. My dad, John, did, too; so following the Blues wasn’t a choice for me. We first started going to matches when I was eight or nine – around 1983 or 1984. My dad keeps telling me that I started going when we won stuff! My sister, Nest, is a year older – we were both quite fanatical at that time, but she lost the love for it at some point. Everton winning things just seemed normal for us but the Wales national team balanced things it out – that was the eternal disappointment back then.
On a matchday we’d get a coach with a load of Evertonians, getting picked up from our village at about eight in the morning. Going on the bus with the same bunch of people for every match was part of it, for us. I remember the route was via Bangor to pick people up and then up through the Wirral. There as a little road on the stretch on the Wirral called Heath Lane [Willaston], and when I saw it, I took it as a sign that Adrian Heath was going to score.
We’d get into Liverpool around midday. We would always have something to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken in town, and then get a bus to the ground. After the match it was back to the Holiday Inn in town for some French onion soup and then we’d arrive back home sometime after 8pm. My mum, Glenys, would come along for the ride, sometimes, and do shopping. My dad took her to watch Everton play at White Hart Lane in 1967, while on honeymoon, just two days after they were married. So, maybe that put her off football a bit!
In 1985 there had been a note in the Everton programme with a competition to win a day as a mascot. It was one of those things you don’t see any more, where you had to tell them in no less than 50 words why it should be you. I can’t remember what I wrote – it was something inane about Everton winning whenever I went. Then, in September, I got home from school to find an envelope with the Everton crest on it. There was a lot of excitement in the house that day; my dad was just beside himself – I think he knew what it might be.
A classmate at the primary school (we had only five pupils in my year) must have mentioned to her dad that I was going to be the Everton mascot. He was a producer for the Welsh TV news, so he arranged to send a film crew along with us. I hated this idea of a camera being there; but now, I am glad that the footage exists, as I’m not sure how much I’d remember about the day without it. Ironically, it may have helped the players to see the cameras, they were positive about it as, at the time, there were no cameras at matches [a dispute between the TV companies and Football League resulted in no matches being broadcast until the New Year].
It was such a good day, and everyone was so lovely to us. We were there quite early, before all the players arrived. There was a lovely guy called Derek who was given the job of looking after us. I saw the changing room and the bath. My main recollection was of being in the boot room, changing into the kit they gave me. Then I heard my sister gasp, and it was Kevin Ratcliffe coming in – oh my God, it was amazing. Then there as Gary Lineker and Graeme Sharp. There was a tendency to like the strikers, but my sister loved Trevor Steven. So, I went up to Trevor and said, ‘You’re my sister’s favourite player.’ We had a photograph taken with him and he said to my sister, ‘I’m very proud of you, my fan.’ That phrase has stuck in the family, I still write that in birthday cards to her!
I was filmed ‘arriving’ that the stadium in my kit – but that’s TV, staging everything! I was probably mortified. The trophy room was full – I remember going up to the Chairman’s suite and we had a look at the trophies. Then it was going out to meet the players warming up. Kevin Richardson, Alan Harper, Gary Lineker, Adrian Heath – your heroes that you see on telly – and suddenly you are stood there looking at them. All of those players were just brilliant. Inchy gave me a kiss for the cameras – they wouldn’t do that now! I am so glad that my dad, mum (Glenys) and sister got to go. My mum pointed to Gary Lineker and said, ‘Who is that?’ Howard Kendall was lovely, bless him. I was beside myself when I saw they had made Howard’s Way. My partner is an Evertonian, and we were like little kids watching it – reminding ourselves of that era. Howard sounded like he knew what he was doing but was clearly a lovely bloke.
Before kick-off I walked out with the referee (not the team), carrying the ball and putting it on the spot. As you can see on the footage, when he blew his whistle, I had the fright of my life. I shook hands with the captains, Kevin Ratcliffe and Steve Foster. They told me I had to wave to my crowd as I walked off. I did that – but I the only rule I broke is that I wouldn’t have my socks pulled up, I thought it would look naff.
Afterwards, we went up to watch the game in the directors’ box and it was the first time I’d seen a game from that stand – I was normally in Upper Bullens. My cousin, Dewi, who is a massive Liverpool FC fan came along. He broke a lifetime’s rule to come and stand among Evertonians, just behind the dugout, just to see me – so fair play.
It wasn’t a great game, but they gave me a VHS video copy (with no commentary) of it. I still have my autograph book with all of the players’ signatures. On the way home on the bus they had a whip round for me – it was like they used to do for the driver, but this time it was for the mascot. I think the BBC item may have gone out on TV on Monday evening. As a kid I was shy and just wanted it to be over, all of the attention.
When I went to study geography at university in Liverpool in 1993, I went in Gwaldys Street end as I has never been there – it was ridiculously cheap back then. I would go as often as I could and I listened to the Wimbledon game on the radio with the caretaker, who was a big Evertonian, in my hall of residence. After university I came down to South Wales, just north of Caerphilly, for my first teaching job. Aaron Ramsey was a pupil at the school; I watched his career develop and I do remember saying to him: ‘Promise me that you’ll come to play for Everton one day.’ He laughed at me! After ten years of teaching, I got a part-time job presenting the weather on S4C, eventually going full-time for five years. Then I got a head of department job back at my original school.
As I grew older, I became less fanatical about Everton but would always check their results. That fanaticism has come back a bit, maybe due to living with my partner, Mei, who is a dyed in the wool Evertonian from Mold (my dad loves him!). We watch the games on TV and love the Blues. I drove up from Cardiff for the Fiorentina game in 2008, it was a cracking match. A night like that at Goodison stays with you, it will be impossible to recreate that atmosphere elsewhere. There is something beautiful about Goodison. We went to the West Ham game last season and took my mum and dad with us – she enjoyed it!
Looking back at that day in 1985, I am quite nostalgic. I am really grateful that I got to spend that day there; I was a lucky kid, meeting the players and seeing all of those trophies. Going back to Goodison after that day was that bit more special as I knew I have been inside the stand and walked out of that tunnel. I thank my dad for persuading me to fill in the mascot competition form!’
Sincere thanks to Erin Roberts.
Photos and video content are taken from the Roberts family collection (original news report appeared on BBC Wales) and the Everton FC matchday programme.