Goodison Park has been Everton’s home since 1892. Although days of going to Goodison could well be drawing to an end with the club confirming at January’s AGM, that progress is being made to our new spiritual home.
Although now showing her age, the Grand Old Lady has done us proud down the years, setting the benchmark many have tried to follow. An innovator; she was the first purpose built football stadium, the first to have four sides, the first to have dugouts, the first to have under-soil heating and the first and only British club ground to hold a World Cup semi-final.
For so many Evertonians she will hold a special place in our hearts and everyone will remember their first visit to Goodison…
For me it was the 18th December 1993 and with Newcastle United visitors, my Dad and my Uncle Phil took me up as part of my birthday treat. I can remember the day like it was yesterday. As an excited 9 year old and hardly sleeping much the night before we made the arduous two hour journey up the motorway, the joys of supporting Everton but living in the Cotswolds.
I remember the moment we pulled into Liverpool, everything looked so different than anything I had ever seen before. Everything seemed so enormous and there were people everywhere. We slowly drove through the city along the Dock Road up through Everton Vale. I can recall the stadium slowly appearing on the horizon. My Dad turned and said, ‘there she is Jay.’ I didn’t know what to make of it, I’d seen pictures but nothing could compare to its size and splendor. I was totally in awe!
After parking the car in the car park, we began our walk past all the supporters’ club coaches, there seemed hundreds of them, from all parts of the country. I can always remember seeing the West Country Blues coach and my Dad and Uncle Phil trying to work out what time they’d probably have had to had left in order to get up in Liverpool for lunchtime! It made and makes our journey seem a bit insignificant.
Eventually we made it to the stadium, firstly we walked around to the old club shop on the corner of the Bullens Road. The shop seemed so small but was crammed full of supporters. My Uncle Phil treated me to my first Everton scarf and hat. To this day my scarf still hangs proudly in my Everton Man Cave!
After exiting the shop we walked down Goodison Road to the Main Stand, it was huge, I looked straight up and nearly fell backwards, it went up so high. The tallest thing I’d come across prior to this had been the village church or one of the many visits to the Isle of Man and the Laxey Wheel! We then made our way around to St Lukes Church; I couldn’t believe there was church attached to the ground. By this point nature was calling so my Dad asked if I could use a toilet, a lovely lady ran off and got this massive key, one you use to get on ‘Through The Keyhole’. I thought either David Frost is a Blue or this was the key to some pretty old toilets!
After the quick pit stop at St Lukes, we made our way into the ground. We went up so many flights of stairs; they seem to go on forever, until finally we reached the top. We exited onto the concourse and my Dad and Uncle Phil took me out through one of corridors and there she was in all her glory, Goodison Park!
The stands were starting to fill up with supporters and I can remember the grass, the grass looked like the cloth from a snooker table. It was so green and so flat!
We took to our seats and hearing Z-Cars for the first time sent shivers down my spine. When that second cymbal crashed and the players began to walk out I got butterflies in my stomach! I can also remember hearing all these different accents, to a 9 year old from ‘the sticks’ seemed pretty crazy!
The game started and was pretty woeful in all fairness, Newcastle were too hot to handle and were ahead after 15 minutes through Andy Cole. We pushed for an equaliser but they caught us on the break late on with former Blue Peter Beardsley with the decisive goal. The referee blew the final whistle and with it the deafening boos of frustrated supporters. Although they didn’t know it at the time, things would only get worse that season. Thank the lord for Hans Segers hey?!
The defeat aside I knew I couldn’t wait to come back to the Grand Old Lady again. Although it did take me a few years before I saw the Blues win at Goodison. Since then I have seen my fair share of momentous days, from the day Duncan was let out, to Rooney making history to Arteta taking the roof off against Fiorentina.
Whether you sit in the Street End, Main Stand or Bullens Road you can sense the nostalgia and can smell the tradition seeping from the concourses. It’s such a special place that creates special memories every time we step foot in her. When the final whistle eventually blows on our time at Goodison, there won’t be a dry eye in the place.
Next time you are on the way to the match, pause for thought and think about your first journey and game at the Grand Old Lady, it will bring back some great memories. Goodison Park a bastion of English football, what a place!
Come on You Blues