Saturday, 17 October 2009


Today was my first visit of the season to the School of Science, aka Goodison Park. I love going to Goodison. OK, the press facilities are horribly cramped but this is a stadium where I spent much of my working life in the 1970s and 1980s when I was the Everton reporter for the Liverpool Echo. When I go there now there is a familiar face around every corner - fans I've known for years, press colleagues, and men who I knew as players who are now involved with the media or working for the club.
Today I dropped in at St Luke's Church Hall where many Evertonians gather pre-match. I wanted to say hi to the Rev Harry Ross, almost as staunch in his support for EFC as he is in his faith for an even higher power. Harry has been great in his encouragement and advice while I and my Chester colleagues have been setting up the Chester City Former Players Association.
He told me that an international conference of European FPA's is to be held in Liverpool next summer, which will be a memorable event given the number of great names from clubs across the continent who are likely to show up. There'll be football matches between teams of ex-stars which suggests they plan to have some fun amid the talking.
Ex-Blues I bumped into today were John Bailey, Jim Pearson, Ronny Goodlass, Derek Mountfield, Duncan McKenzie and Graeme Sharp. They all looked fit and well and it's so good the way sport generates a cameraderie that lasts decades - I first knew Jim when he played in Gordon Lee's Everton team some 30 years ago, and my first encounter with Duncan was the day Billy Bingham signed him from Anderlecht in 1977. I remember one reporter, eager for some insider quotes about Continental football, asking what Dunc had learned from his time in Belgium. "Oh, French and a bit of Flemish," said Dunc.
The game against Wolves ended 1-1. Everton were off key. Playing Rodwell and Heitiger as the central midfield duo was never going to produce the kind of creativity needed. Everton looked a bit better when David Moyes moved Cahill back into midfield at half-time but by this time Wolves had built up a fair amount of confidence and they could well have won it. Doyle showed a beautiful touch to divert a long ball from the keeper past Howard, and after Bilyaletdinov equalised Doyle almost nicked another.
I like the look of Bilyaletdinov. He's got a lot of skill and a lovely touch on the ball. I'm not so keen on the sound! His name is a challenge and I had to mention it twice in my report for Setanta Ireland on the final whistle - a report which was hastily re-written thanks to Billy's goal and the sending off of Wolves' Austrian giant Maierhofer in added time.
The guys next to me in the press box, from commercial radio in Wolverhampton, had a horror show when their ISDN connection went down 15 minutes from half-time. It's the commentator's worst nightmare and trouble-shooting is so hard at Goodison. They were able to solve the problem at half-time and at least they were not off-air when Wolves scored.

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