‘I played with great players… I just wish it had lasted longer’
By Rob Sawyer
Skegness-born Ray Veall, now 71, was a slightly-built outside-left who made an impact at Doncaster Rovers and placed himself on the radar of the two Harrys – Everton’s chief scout Cooke and boss Catterick.
A £10,145 outlay was sufficient to persuade the Division Two outfit to part with their left-wing prodigy in the autumn of 1961.
Veall recalled: “The coach called me in and said, ‘Harry Catterick wants to see you at the Earl of Doncaster Hotel.’ I caught the bus there by myself – I didn’t even know what he looked like. We had dinner and he told me that he’d like to sign me. And I said, ‘That’s fine Mr Catterick.’ ”
Looking back, Veall reflects that perhaps he was too hasty in leaving the security of Doncaster: “In retrospect maybe I was wrong. It came around too quick and I wasn’t mature enough. I should have stayed another year or two at Rovers before I made the big jump – a hell of a big jump for a naive boy.
“Another two years at Doncaster might have strengthened me and broadened my horizons. But at Everton we had a very good side. I played with great players and made friends like Mick Meagan, Brian Labone and Dennis Stevens. I just wish it had lasted longer.”
Veall made his debut on August 18 1962 at Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium in the number 11 shirt.
Ray Atherton recalls the immediate impression he made: “He was up against Alex Elder who was one of the best full-backs in the league. He turned Elder inside out and I remember him hitting the bar from about 25 yards, he was outstanding that day and all the Burnley fans were asking us about him.”
The arrival of Johnny Morrissey from across Stanley Park in September 1962 would limit Veall’s appearances but injury to Morrissey in the autumn resulted in an unbroken run of nine appearances.
Atherton recalled: “In that title-winning year, I went to Nottingham Forest, a night game; we were 2-0 down early on but went on to win 4-3. Ray Veall had a smashing game.”
But with Morrissey recovered from injury, Veall returned to the reserves in mid-December and never added to his 11 senior appearances.
Frozen out of the first team scene, Veall’s Everton career stagnated over the following two years – he would later confess it was a case of too much too soon.
“I got disheartened and disillusioned and I had no family there,” he said. “I didn’t come from a big city but a small town – looking back I was a little bit naive and didn’t make the best of it. I also had an injury that held me back – a niggling thing that you couldn’t cure – you had to try and run it off. So I faded out of the scene.
“In the end I fell out with Harry and got frustrated – I couldn’t see me getting back in. I requested a meeting with him saying, ‘What’s my chances?’ But as far as he was concerned I was through with the club.
“So I went on summer break and got a call to say that Preston would like to talk to me.
“Preston were in the Second Division at the time. Howard Kendall and I were big buddies before Everton took him.”
North End spent £8,000 for Veall in May 1965 but he only made 10 league appearances.
After the move to Deepdale failed to re-ignite his career a transfer to Huddersfield Town followed.
His 12 games for the Terriers would be his last in English football.
The family, including a baby son, upped sticks as Veall embarked on a footballing odyssey which took in three continents.
The Everton connection would always come in useful: “It put me in good stead wherever I went – people would say, ‘Oh, you played for Everton’ as they were one of the top sides – Everton were the glory side in Liverpool.”
The first stop was California: “We went to Los Angeles Wolves but that collapsed after one year, it was a shame as we enjoyed it there and were doing well.
“Then I had a few months back in England but I didn’t fancy the cold winters anymore.
“A mate said that they were looking for players in South Africa so I had four years in Durban.
“We were looking to leave there when I had a phone call from somebody that I knew who was in charge of Gisborne in New Zealand – he asked if I would like to come out and try it there. I’m still here in the same place!
“We had a very good national league then – I was offered the chance to play for Auckland and Christchurch but we stayed in Gisborne. I even turned down an international cap with New Zealand.
“I keep my eye on Everton; English football does not get a lot of attention here as you have to get up at midnight to watch. But some people do still remember me over here.
“A couple in Auckland are mad Evertonians as they are originally from Liverpool. They are always calling me and say that they saw all my games – I like that as my wife says that I’m very vain!”