Home of the Blues
A Words & Pictures Celebration of Everton’s Goodison Park
The brother of a friend tells a good story about Everton’s football ground. In the days when he worked for a Spanish bank, he decided to take one of the bank’s visiting bigwigs to a European night match against a Spanish side.
The fact that it was November 5th and bonfires were raging across the city didn’t raise alarm bells, until they drove through one of the rougher parts of the city that now resembled a war zone.
If a little concern showed in the Spaniard’s ruddy cheeks at the sight of all these fires, they went positively white when it was explained to him that this was the night Britain celebrated burning Catholics!
This brought a barely concealed smirk to the face of the Evertonian, who apparently didn’t like working for the bank anyway.
There’s a buzz around any footie ground, but the atmosphere at older grounds like Goodison Park is incomparable, because the place was lived in before Everton moved to Goodison in 1892: as such, it hasn’t been constructed so much as evolved brick-by-brick.
And what it lacks in plentiful car parking, breeze block and leg-room, it makes up for a hundredfold with heart and soul.
I mean, where else on the planet will you find a church pretty much built into the corner of a sports stadium?
Hundreds pack into St Luke’s church hall before every home match, especially in Winter, for a cheap cuppa and a warm.
The son of the previous Vicar showed me the garden out back, which is tucked beneath the Goodison Park floodlights and in the 60’s you’d often see supporters sitting on the church roof watching the match through the gap between the two stands.
These days, the view has been blocked by a huge screen, though not being one to overlook any potential vantage point for a good picture, I enquired about the chances of getting up there now?
He looked at me with some concern, before a wry grin broke free.
‘Well its possible in theory. And in the event of an accident, we do a very good funeral here, you know…..!’
A few years ago, in a deep blue twilight, I’d set up my tripod in front of the ground. It was a night match in the Europa Cup, against a team from the Ukraine (I think) and a drunken Evertonian had been eyeing me whilst eating his kebab and chips. For some reason, he’d arrived at the conclusion that if I was taking pictures, I must be a foreign a tourist.
And if I was from some far away place…I must be hungry?
Anyhow, he wobbled over to and shoved his kebab tray at me.
‘There y’are. I’ve saved y’half. Geddit down ya. I’ve been eat’n all day… here….’ave it’, all the while speaking slowly and gesticulating, as if to someone who didn’t speak the native tongue (which I suppose is partially true).
The episode was bizarre and also rather sweet. He took some convincing that I was neither hungry nor foreign, before shrugging, polishing off the other half of his kebab and wobbling into the ground.
Ten minutes after the start of the game, I was approached by a tall, thick set lad with a skinhead and my usual guard went up – my lenses are worth a few quid.
But he just poked a match ticket at me.
‘Want a ticket mate? Here. You can have it.’
I don’t suppose he was going to sell it ten minutes after kick off (and I wouldn’t have got in with a tripod anyway). Even so, no tout has ever offered me a free seat before: which goes to show that you should never judge a ticket-tout by its cover.
Bricks and double glazing don’t make a community, but within the honeycomb of terraced streets around Goodison Park, many of the houses are still infused with real pride and you won’t find many dirty windows.
Sure, there will be tenanted neighbours who make too much noise and there’ll be a pungent whiff around those houses where the pigeons sit on the slates for a warm.
And there’s an ever-growing number with rotting teeth and lost grey eyes, who daily seek out their next unsavoury bag with that frenzied, tell-tale shuffle (and who somehow get the daily coin to fund it).
But these are not the symptoms of badly designed streets, but rather those of a rudderless society, which has been mesmerised by glittering pointlessness and is clueless how to cure the heart’s malaise.
Like many others, the greater problem for Everton Football Club’s housing situation is the often unrealistic expectations of football fans, who place winning above pretty much any other consideration (and usually on the two shoulders of one Chairman).
Hence the club will be damned if they don’t leave for greater commercial heights (and achieve nothing for the trophy cabinet) and doubly damned if they do, (similarly achieving nothing, and in the process wiping out a sizeable historic and communal footprint in the great leap forward).
As an Eveerton fan’s for-instance – presuming that you are one – what would you choose if only one of the following options were possible (this could and perhaps should be asked of all football supporters):
You could have a winning team and move to new, comparitively soulless pastures, or
You could have a thriving community and stay put?
The latter option would only be of immediate benefit to those who still live there – so really the question is: how many long-since departed Evertonians would take a dive for the sake of their own heritage?
The irrational power of winning colours is strong!
If you want a glimpse of Days of Future Past, go look at the desperate area that was once Burnden Park – its a shit tip – and view the differently desperate Reebok Stadium (or whatever the **** it’s called now), and know that the likeliest chances of keeping the Everton streets from falling into disprepair – and/or ever flourishing again – are if EFC stay at Goodison Park.
The plans for Bramley-Moore Dock do look impressive, and all that light, water and teeming humanity is something of a photographer’s dream gig.
And Arsenal got it right, after all.
But the Emirates Stadium is still at the very heart of community Goonerland and, to be frank, few will want to live in a Goodison Apartment block at the heart of a dying community.
For impartial folk like me, the whole Everton, Stanley Park and Anfield area – like the game itself – should have been taken off the Monopoly board decades ago, and afforded some kind of protected World Heritage status that its uniqueness deserves.
But football’s lust for reflected glory – a specific shade and colour of reflected glory – is arguably the prime obstacle to that ever having happened, for glory needs paying for: – home-grown, Billionaire Gandhi’s have always been thin on the ground for one good reason.
In this money-mad world and an increasingly selfish, corporate game, Goodison Park reluctantly gains in Alamo-like significance as it moves ever-closer to its upgrade to community extinction.
– The People’s Game is all but Dead
– Long Live the Old Blue Relic!