Kicker Sportsmagazin visits Goodison Park

Jorg Jakob, correspondent for Kicker Sportsmagazin in Germany, visited Goodison Park and St Luke’s, where he met members of the society. Below is the original magazine article followed by an English translation.

This is the article he produced on 23 March 2017.

KLOPP’S NEIGHBOUR

By Jorg Jacob, Kicker Magazine, Germany

Before the duel at Anfield on Saturday, Jorg Jacob, Sports correspondent for the German football magazine ‘Kicker’, visited Everton Football Club and the Everton Heritage Society, to experience the life of Everton supporters in Liverpool.

At the age of ten, Richard Gillham experienced his first derby win in 1978, at Goodison Park, ‘when Andy King, God bless him, scored into the corner of the Park End net, it was the greatest feeling seeing us win alongside my Dad’.

Now Richard stands in the parish hall of St Luke’s, the church on the corner of Goodison Road between the Main Stand and the Gwladys Street End, whose vicar is a season ticket holder. Here, the Everton Heritage Society display its treasures before every home game. Jerseys, programmes, books, badges, collector’s cards and newspaper cuttings. DVD’s of Everton’s past matches are also played in the background. What more do you want?

Brendan Connolly, the chairman of this supporters’ group, proudly displays two England Caps. The England national team players and World Cup winners Alan Ball and Ray Wilson received them for 1970 and 1965 internationals against Germany.

On Saturday, the Reds welcome the Blues in the next Merseyside derby. Is it as exciting today as it used to be? ‘It is’, Richard says, ‘Yes, because of my children. I brought them up as Evertonians, as I was brought up by my parents. My wife, however, is a Liverpudlian, and so are my stepchildren. We all joke about it. But the worst thing is when you have to go to work on Monday and you’ve lost’.

That is how it is in the city of 480,000 inhabitants, where the rubbish bins are purple because they cannot be red or blue, and where a little Jamie Carragher first learned to kick a ball in an Everton shirt before he played 737 games for the Reds. After a disappointing 1-1 draw in early October 2015, Brendan Rodgers was sacked.

His successor Jürgen Klopp won his first two derbies. This has never happened before. No manager of the Reds before him had managed to do so. The German coaches club delivers more stories. Yet Everton FC, a founder member of the Football League in 1888, had played ten years earlier, initially as St Domingo’s FC. Goodison Park was the first ever purpose built football-only stadium.   Everton’s legacy – no other club on the island has played as many top flight league games – is omnipresent in and around Goodison Park, it still radiates the purist, intense density of the typical old English Grounds. “If you stand close to the pitch you can smell the grass.

And at no other club fans talk so much about their history and their legends,” says Mo Maghazachi, a spokesman for Everton FC. “It is the stuff our club is made of.”

That was also evident ahead of the home game against West Bromwich Albion, when they paid tribute to the late Alex “The Golden Vision” Young, with whom Everton were champions in 1963 and FA Cup winners (3-2 after 2-0 down against Sheffield Wednesday). The revered centre-forward of a bygone era, who was laid to rest in his native home country of Scotland, while the team of the present won convincingly 3-0 and nurtures hopes for a better future.

Before the duel on Saturday, Kicker visited the Blues. Seventh place should be enough to qualify for Europe and The Blues are well on the way there, thanks to Romelu Lukaku, the leading scorer in the Premier League with 21 goals. “99.999 percent” the 23-year-old will sign a new sign a new contract, his adviser Mino Raiola announced. 

For them other stats count, such as the unattainable 60 goals scored by Dixie Dean in the 1927/28 season in the First Division. Everton FC still distinguishes the “Giants” from the “Heroes”, William Ralph Dean not only appears as a statue in front of Goodison, but also there as a Giant, like Joe Royle or Bob Latchford. Also, other illustrious names such as Graeme Sharp, Andy Gray or Gary Lineker in the line-up of internationally outstanding strikers signal: On the pitch, the Blues have always been defined by their attacking spirit.

The gold rush of the Premier League, however, has passed them by, even though Everton were in the same league as Arsenal with Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, the “Big Five”. In the Deloitte Money League of the richest clubs 2017, the Toffeemen are ranked 23rd place. 15 ranks behind Liverpool, two behind second division Newcastle, five ahead of Bundesliga side Monchengladbach

Simon Hart and ‘87 Championship winner Paul Power

Simon Hart, author of the book “Here we go”, about the great players of the glorious 80s, thinks the

Blues could be more confident. Present themselves more confidently. “Instead of marketing Goodison Park as an old lady, the stadium and the club should be more aptly called the “Grand Gentleman of the English game”.

With plaques in the stand walls and huge pictures on the façade honouring all the heroes of the club’s history. Deep down Goodison is dripping with history; the carpeted, wooden staircases leading to the Director’s Box. Past small, framed photos of the teams since 1929 and a quote from Brian Labone, captain from 1965 to 1970: “Remember, boys, one Evertonian is worth 20 Liverpudlians.”

Only three German professionals have played for the Blues: Thomas Hitzlsperger seven times in the Premier League, Shkodran Mustafi for 16 minutes in the Europa League and Stefan Wessels kept goal in two league matches.

                                                

The idea of building a joint arena for the Reds and Blues was talked about in Liverpool a decade ago, since then the Reds enlarged their main stand and continue the modernisation of Anfield. The site on the other side of Stanley Park, a few hundred metres as the crow flies from Goodison, attracts more visitors from Scandinavia, Germany, Asia. Coming from the city centre, their stream of red and white scarves flow across Everton- country.

The plan for the Blues’ move is becoming concrete these days: a new stadium during the further development of the Bramley Moore Dock, close to the waterfront. Since 2016, the British-Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri has held the largest shareholding in Everton FC.

Moshiri’s statement: ‘We are a big club, and we don’t want to be a museum’.

‘Everton’s owners will invest in bricks and in legs for the team’ of the esteemed Dutch coach Ronald Koeman, hopes Ronny Goodlass. ‘To get the Blues back to where they belong, consistently in the top four. True to their club motto. “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” (Only the Only the best is good enough)’. The 63-year-old became an Everton winger, making 47 appearances between 1975 and 1977. He sees it this way: ‘José Mourinho and Arsene Wenger say Goodison is the most intimidating stadium they have ever played in, but we need more boxes, and a 60,000 capacity’ says Ronny.

Ex Wingers Ronny Goodlass and Pat Nevin

‘The 39,571 seats at home games and the ticket allocation for away games are regularly sold out. We could raise prices, but we don’t’, says club spokesman Mo Maghazachi who points out. ‘11 to 17 year-olds pay £120 for a season ticket, which is a good £6 per game. A visit to the Funpark costs more’. Prices ranging from £420 to £565 for a regular season ticket means converted, you can experience Everton from 35 euros per game. Some season ticket holders from the continent or from the Middle and Far East come only for a few top games. Their unused tickets can be purchased on an official secondary market. This, too, Maghazachi believes, ensures Everton will live up to its reputation as ‘The People’s Club’, a controversial phrase coined by former Manager David Moyes when he said he met more Blue fans on Liverpool’s streets.

Ex-pro Goodlass remembers the year particularly well: ‘When I was 17, I was one of the boys who went to the game, standing in the upper tier of Gwladys Street and watched the first ever penalty shoot-out in the European Cup against a strong opponent with world class players like Günter Netzer and Berti Vogts. The atmosphere was always good here, and on that evening it was breath-taking. The Monchengladbach game still stands out’. Everton won 4-3 against Borussia on penalties.

Fifteen years later there was another magical night with a 3:1 triumph over Bayern in the 1985 Cup Winners’ Cup, which paved the paved the way for the Cup win (3:1 in the final against Rapid Vienna) and by far the best for most of the fans.

Ray Parr said ‘Not a single time before or afterwards have I experienced anything like it.  The entire board of directors and their families danced. The Director’s Box completely jumped up and sang. Unbelievable’. This is how Ray Parr recounts the evening that left Goodison quivering.

Ray was and is close to his favourite club. The ’85 squad, which won the European Cup Winners Cup and became champions, was featured on ‘Wogan’, the BBC’s most popular TV show at the time, singing their song for the FA Cup final. Ray sang along happily with the team in tracksuits. Ray, a friend of the late Howard Kendall, who played a major role in the in the 1970 championship team and took Everton to the four major title wins of the 1980s, bought 9 Goodison Road 20 years ago.

He turned the narrow-terraced house directly opposite the Main Stand into a VIP room for fans. ‘I had an executive box, but when they raised the season price for it to £45,000, I bought this house for £23,000. I paid another 25,000 to refurbish it and brought the boys here with me.”  At the beginning there were twelve of them, now there are 22 who come regularly. ‘We are our own little club, where all the members come together to pool for the food, the beer and the wine”, reports Parr, who is in the real estate business.     

Ray Parr at No. 9 Goodison Road

In his ‘Striker’s Suite’ at 9 Goodison Road, he often welcomes prominent guests. At the home game against West Brom, Tony Bellew, the newly crowned boxing world champion was present in his Everton jersey. Others such as Phil Taylor, the darts idol, has also been there. Chris de Burgh, who is a big fan of the Reds, ‘and made me promise to sing ‘Lady in Blue’. Parr grins, even when he talks about ‘the nice Guy’, Klopp who, like him, lives in the seaside town of Formby, where he sometimes visits the local pub. ‘You know, we hate Liverpool coaches, but he would be a nice guy to go out with in the evening. He’s a good guy. Just not the best, because he’s a Red’.

JÖRG JAKOB

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