Travels to the soul and heartbeat of English football...alright primarily Leicestershire!!!!
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Today sees me make a second visit to the city of Liverpool in the space of three weeks, and this time a visit to Everton Football Club. I had arranged to meet up with a good friend of mine (Colin Buchanan) who lives down in Cheltenham with the original plan of taking in a non-league game in Leicestershire, but he suggested a few weeks ago if I fancied a trip up north. The only requisite was that I picked him up from either Burton or Stafford train station and drive us up to Liverpool. He would pay for the ticket. It didn’t take me long, well a few seconds actually to think about the answer and it was agreed. Like I stated in the report on my previous visit to Liverpool I seldom visit any of the big clubs, but to visit two in a season is a rarity let alone two in the same city and within three weeks of each other!
Dixie Dean statue
One thing that you will notice is the lack of photographs in the report and this is that the club are very funny about pictures being taken inside the ground on match days. I had been warned about this so e-mailed the club and was told that if I had a “professional” looking camera with me I would not be allowed inside the ground, yet their neighbours across Stanley Park could not care less as I even had my digital slr camera in my hand and lenses in my rucksack as I went through the turnstile. People were taking pictures and video footage throughout the game and the stewards did not bat an eyelid. I am sure both football clubs have the same regulations but their interpretation and enforcing of them could not be more different.
The drive up to Liverpool was easy and uneventful with a first port of call being Burton-upon-Trent railway station to pick up Colin. One thing to mention about the station is that there is no short term parking bays on the small forecourt so if the train is delayed or (like me in this instance) you are early then finding somewhere to stop can be tricky. Lucky I found a side street a stone’s throw from the station itself to park up. The M6 behaved itself today and we arrived in the city in plenty of time and parked in Walton Hall Park which cost £4.50. This is located on the A580 and is only around a 10-15 minute walk to Goodison. With having plenty of time on our side before the game this allowed us to have a bite to eat (£1.80 for a tray of chips and large sausage roll) and a couple of drinks in the Royal Oak. Due to driving I settled on lager shandy which cost £2.60 a pint.
The football club have been around since 1898 when the St. Domingo’s cricket club formed a football section in order to keep fit during the winter months, though it was not until the following November that they changed their name to their current title. They played at various grounds in the city including Anfield before turning some wasteland (known as Mere Green Field) into Goodison Park in 1892. This was because the owner of Anfield, John Houlding doubled the rent after the championship win in 1891. The first league game at Goodison Park was on September 3rd 1892 against Nottingham Forest with the final score being 2-2. The current capacity of Goodison Park is 40,157 but the clubs record attendance was achieved a few years after the end of the Second World War when 78,299 people saw them play Liverpool in a Football League match on the 18th September 1948.
It is obvious when visiting Goodison Park to see why the club have been looking to move to a new ground now for a number of years. When walking down Walton Lane you can easily miss the turning (Gwladys Street) to the ground, with it not obvious for the uninitiated that there is a premier league football ground in the vicinity. It is hemmed in on all four sides by narrow streets and terraced housing. If I was in their shoes I would be looking at building a new ground in conjunction with their near neighbours and sharing the facility. It works abroad well enough and there are plenty of examples I could quote but it is something that we seem to be against as a football nation.
Everton Football Club were founder members of the football league in 1888 and finished in 8th place in the 12 team division. The club did not have to wait long for a first league title as they were crowned champions in 1891. A year later and they reached the FA Cup final for the 1st time but lost 1-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Fallowfield in Manchester. Before the turn of the century they again reached the FA Cup final but lost by the odd goal in five to Aston Villa at the old Crystal Palace in London. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War the FA Cup was won for the 1st time (1-0 v Newcastle United in 1906) and a second league title in the 1914/15 season. One of the most successful periods in the clubs history came in the years between the two world wars when the league championship was won three times (1927/28, 1931/32 and 1938/39), the second division title (1930/31), FA Cup winners (1932/33) and the Charity Shield twice in 1928 and 1932. The end of hostilities saw the club go through a lean period and it was not until the 1960’s that their fortunes picked up again. Between 1962 and 1970 they won two further league titles in 1962/63 and 1969/70 (making it seven in total), the FA Cup once in the 1965/66 season when Sheffield Wednesday were beaten 3-2 in the final and two more victories in the Charity Shield (1963 and 1970). They then had to wait until 1984 for their next bout of success when they beat Watford in the FA Cup final. A fifth Charity Shield followed at the start of the 84/85 season and it ended with them being crowned league champions and their only success in European competition when Rapid Vienna were beaten 3-2 in the Cup-Winners Cup final. Further success again in the charity shield but they finished the 1985/86 as runners-up to Liverpool in both the league championship and FA Cup. A final league title was won in 1987 while the last success in the FA Cup came in 1995 when a Paul Rideout goal was enough to beat Manchester United.
More detailed information on the club can be found on their official website: EvertonFC
The game was hard going to watch from a football point of view and at times was a stop start turgid affair. Wigan set their stall out from the off and didn’t deviate from it at all. The plan was to let Everton come on to them and hit them on the counter attack. They also resulted in “delay” tactics with them taking as long as possible to take goal kicks, throw inns and free kicks. Goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was particularly guilty of this. Everton did have their chances but a combination of creativity, poor finishing and bad luck prevented them. The first chance came in the opening minute when Antolin Alcaraz prevented Tim Cahill from getting on the end of a Phil Jagielka pass. Three headed chances came and went from Marouane Fellaini, Louis Saha (who was largely ineffective before being substituted early in the second half) and Jack Rodwell. The second period saw (at times) more urgency from the home side with Seamus Coleman in particular trying to get at the Wigan defence. Al Habsi produced the best save of the game when he punched away a Steven Pienaar thirty yard pile driver. Cahill then came close when the woodwork was struck with a header. As the game wore on you could sense the frustration from the home crowd and this did not improve when Victor Anichebe, who came on for Pienaar midway through the half was roundly booed and abused by the Everton fans. Wigan were so close in taking all three points as Ronnie Stam’s low shot was well saved by Tim Howard right at the death. As the final whistle went the only noise you could hear were boos coming from all parts of the ground. This pretty much summed up the feeling inside Goodison Park. On this evidence it is difficult to see anything but a season of struggle for both these teams.
One final note to add is that I have now seen three 0-0’s in the last five games I have attended with Colin. The other two have produced eleven and five goals respectively.