By Rob Sawyer
In April 2022, EFCHS members Rob Sawyer and Sarah from Mint Collective, caught up with 93-year-old Tom Walker in a café near his home in Upton. This venerable Toffee, accompanied by his son, Graham, discussed all things Evertonia, dating back to the 1930s. Below is an edited version of Tom’s vivid recollections, which originally appeared in The Black Watch fanzine (sold outside St Luke’s on selected matchdays by Tom, the editor)
My dad used to go to Goodison with my Uncle Colin, they were staunch Evertonians. Dad taught me to be an Evertonian. He’d seen all the big players – he’d talk to me about the likes of Torry Gillick. When I was eight, he took me to see Dixie Dean play for the reserves after being out injured – he said that he couldn’t take me to a first team match as there were too many people there. So, I saw him in that one game – but I don’t remember it!
Before I started at school, we lived in Tuebrook, and grandmother lived in City Road – just along from the football ground. Mum would go and clean for her on a Thursday and Grandad would say: ‘Come on son, let’s go and see.’ So, I saw them extending the Gwladys Street stand [1937-38]. Grandpa used to go to matches – the two of us were waiting for him afterwards, so I saw part of the building work.
War broke out when I was ten and things changed rapidly. The Football League stopped, and we had the North and South war leagues, playing against local teams. My dad let me start going to matches on my own when I was eleven – he stopped going as he was an air raid warden and on fire watch with his company, so he was always tired. We lived in Page Moss, Huyton. My bedroom window faced Liverpool, so I’d watch the bombs falling and exploding on the docks. For matches, I’d catch the bus or tram from our house to the bottom of Green Lane and ran from there to Goodison. There were no programmes at the ground, just a piece of paper with the teams on. They never knew until very late who they’d have playing as they were stationed with the forces. I saw some wonderful players – Scottish, Welsh and Irish internationals who were stationed locally and came in to play for Everton. So, you could get mixed teams with Scottish international players and all sorts guesting. Once I saw ‘AN Other’ on the team sheet and asked Dad who he played for – he burst out laughing and explained what it meant.
TG Jones will always be my favourite footballer – the greatest I saw. He was even better than Joe Mercer – and he was great. Joe could dribble through a defence as easy as that. Cyril Done of Liverpool and TG had the greatest of battles. If you let Done have a shot, he’d take the net off. Jack Humphreys was another centre-back, and he was great, too. Tommy Lawton was brilliant – in one match he scored five goals. In another, against Liverpool, he headed the ball against the crossbar, and it was still shaking minutes later. I saw a few of the older players like Billy Cook (‘nobody shall pass’) and Norman Greenhalgh on the other side of the defence. Alex Stevenson was a little forward, he was funny. If he was knocked down, he’d lie on the ground, pull a face and drum his fingers on the ground! It was so nice to see. I saw Cliff Britton playing, and Matt Busby for Liverpool. They were great players. Now they are too anxious to get rid of the ball – that’s not football.
They got a lot of players in after the war like Peter Farrell and Tommy Eglington. Peter never stopped, he was one of those players that kept going, whilst Eglington flew along the wing. I saw Harry Catterick play. Jock Dodds was so slow with his weight, but he could push them away and then suddenly spin and, ‘bang’, it went into the net. He scored many brilliant goals. I saw Dave Hickson play with blood running down his face. Did he go off? No. He stayed on and played. He wasn’t an outstanding player, but he was a 90-minute man, he never stopped and scored goals. The wingers could flash right down the wing and cross the ball onto the head of the striker – it was amazing how they did it. I used to see Jackie Grant on the tram on the way to matches, he had his football boots round his neck. He was about 5’4” in height and was the toughest fella I ever saw – he knocked Billy Liddell flying over the wall at Anfield. I admired Liddle, a brilliant player; he lived near me, and I used to see him pushing the pram with his twins in. A nice fella and a good footballer.
When the clocks went back, the kick-off was moved to two o’clock because of the [fading] light. It was different when floodlights were introduced, but they were very poor at first. I used to stand in the Gwladys Street end, near the church (which is where I am now in the wheelchair accessible section). I wouldn’t get in the Boys’ Pen as it was terrible, and you’d be lucky to get out of it. It was probably nine pence to get in. The Everton Bugler used to sit in the top of the Bullens Road stand and sound the charge if we were attacking. You could walk round three parts of the ground, then – depending on which way they were kicking. Only the Paddock was separated. But there was never any trouble at all – especially when playing Liverpool, there was just banter.
My dad used to tell me, ‘If you go to a match, he said, you watch two teams, not one. If Everton are beaten by a better team, that’s fair enough. If you see better players in the other team, you accept them – you don’t jeer or curse them. You learn football from them.’ I’ve seen a lot of good players over the years like Stan Matthews and Tom Finney – that’s the way to watch football, none of this screaming and throwing things on the pitch. Back then, some teams had people who were a bit lippy, but most supporters were happy to mix. It riles me to see the anger in people’s faces now. I don’t think that it’s good for the sport at all.
We did go to Anfield, too I remember watching Liverpool playing and seeing Jack Balmer playing for Liverpool. All week he was pushing a handcart around doing repairs to properties. Those players were just fit, not super fit like now. If they went down, they got up again, there was no acting.
There was a green refreshment hut in the corner, between the Bullens Road stand and the Park End. My Aunty used to serve Eccles cakes and cups of tea, there. So, I’d go up to it and, not letting on, she’d say ‘What do you want son?’ Then she’d give me my money and a bit more back, saying, ‘Don’t you dare tell your mother!’ But I worried how I’d explain how I got the money. Walking back to Green Lane I’d stop and have a milkshake and chips to spend it before I got home. Then Mum would shout that tea was ready, but I wasn’t hungry. She’d wonder why! Later my friend used to do programme selling outside Anfield, and then they used to give me a handful of copies, so I’d pretend to be a programme seller and get in for free!
There were many great players in the 1960s – how Alex Young got that high in the air I don’t know. And Ball Harvey and Kendall. When we won the league in 1963 my dad I were in the old main stand – and there were tears in his eyes.
Win, who became my wife, was evacuated to the Isle of Man when they announced the war but returned to Liverpool to finish her education in Liverpool. When I first saw her, I thought, ‘She’s the one.’ On VJ night I went along to a street party on Southdean Road, where she lived, hoping she’d be there. She was, and I asked her for a date. When she said ‘yes’, I did a lap of honour round the tables. And that was it – we knew from then that we were suited
When we were courting, I said to Win: ‘If you are going out with me, you’re an Evertonian.’ So, she became an Evertonian! If the football was on telly, she’d say ‘Oh, not again’ but she’d then be watching and doing knitting at the same time and she’d suddenly call out ‘foul!’ or ‘offside’. She was great – a character – so calm but with a sense of humour that you wouldn’t believe. I was an electrician and did shift work at Tate and Lyle for twenty-three years. She was a Girls Guide leader and made the clothes for them and our children. I would get home from work at half past ten and she’d be on the sewing machine, making stuff for a concert. At 1am the machine would still be going – she wouldn’t give up. We had eleven children – four girls and seven boys – and the clothes were clean on the kids for school every day.
All of the children are mad Evertonians. I said to them when they were younger: ‘If you don’t support Everton, you don’t eat!” Now I have fifty-one grandchildren and great-grandchildren – most support Everton! Win and I were married for sixty-nine years. She died three years ago, but I can’t let her go, she is always there with me.
I had some good fun following Everton with the kids in the 1980s. One thing I remember when we won the cup against Watford in 1984, we came out of the ground and a supporter said: ‘Photograph please’ and these two big fellas grabbed hold of me. One was Gordon West and the other was Brian Labone. Someone still has that photograph and is wondering who the fella in the middle is! When we came back on the train from Wembley, the team were in the next carriage. Derek Mountfield, Peter Reid and Alan Harper came down with the trophy, as Peter’s aunt was in the same carriage as us and he came through with the trophy. The train had to stop on the way for more ale. The team got off at Broad Green, where they had the welcome home coaches ready for them, but we had to go into Lime Street and back out.
We have been fortunate in going to a lot of European games. When we played Nottingham Forest in the Simod Cup Final (1989) we went into London we were stood with our scarves on by traffic lights on Oxford Street, having a drink when this open top sports car came along and two fellas in it were trying to take the mickey. The next moment their car was full of empty cans and half-empty glasses! In the 1990s Duncan Ferguson was brilliant.
We used to drive into Liverpool via the tunnel and park up near Anfield Road. We’d call in the Abbey for a pint – now we have one at the Winslow. The fans are so nice to you in there – they move and let you sit down. When I turned 90, my son Graham and the other kids arranged for the players’ coach to be at the end of my road to pick me up. Ian Snodin was on it. Then they drove to Lime Street to pick Peter Reid up and then on to Sandhills to pick Graeme Sharp up. Then we drove to the Winslow where everyone was waiting for the team coach – and I got off! When they told everyone who I was they were all cheering. They had a table for us, and this young lady sat by me, had a chat, took a photo and put it on Twitter. From that, I had a letter from Bill Kenwright to say that it’s amazing how long I have supported EFC. He promised me a free season ticket for as long as we’re at Goodison Park.
What does Everton mean to me? It’s part of my life. If Everton are relegated, I’ll still support them, I’ll still go. I do remember it happening last time, in 1951. Goodison is my second home, there’s no doubt about it. And when we leave it will be a big wrench. But I am looking forward to the new ground – I just hope I live long enough to see it!
An ode to Everton – by Tom
I’ve been a Blue for 83 years
Had my smiles, and also tears
Watched through the war with players away
When T.G. Jones was the star of the day
He led the team with resolute ease
Encouraging players with charm and appease
Oh, for the days when the winger crossed
Precision passes to talented tops
Goals to remember, they came a lot
To be a Blue is a privilege earned
I’m hoping to see our new stadium, so yearned
Thanks to Tom and Graham Walker for their time and for the use of family photos.