After more than 50 years of following his team, ERIC BROWN has found a book that is a goldmine of Goodison trivia
Santa Claus will carry an even greater burden than usual on his festive rounds this year. Every Everton fan and anyone with a sense of soccer history will want James Corbett’s comprehensive Everton Encyclopaedia under their Christmas tree branches.
It may be back-breaking for Santa and energy-sapping for Rudolph, Prancer, Dancer and the rest but it is also a treasure trove of trivia, a cornucopia of quotes and a gorgeous goldmine of Goodison information.
There are nuggets on every one of the 650 A4 pages. And no wonder, as Everton is a club with a rich tradition stretching back further than many modern heavyweights such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The author, who has also established the sports publishing firm deCoubertin Books in the past year or so as well as publishing the excellent biography of Neville Southall (reviewed here), is an Everton fan first and foremost, and nurtured the idea for a history of the club while still at school in Liverpool.
Corbett’s original plan for a book about the greatest 100 Everton players metamorphosed during his career with the BBC, The Guardian, The Observer and The Sunday Times into something far grander. He admits he is heavily indebted to the Everton Collection, opened in Liverpool Central Library in 2009, for much information contained in the book.
He has delivered a book with entries on each of the 800-plus men to play for Everton, including 400 in-depth profiles, some 330,000 words and around 400 photographs.
Everton’s managers are not neglected and there are entries on every aspect of the club from home grounds to their sometimes uneasy relationship with that other lot across Stanley Park, relationships with British international teams, shirt sponsorship and just about everything else.
There’s an interesting section on fanzines, too, but it is surely the potted biographies which dedicated Bluenoses will enjoy most, from Walter Abbott and Gary Ablett to the divine Alex Young and lesser-known Robert Young.
The cast includes the great (Dixie Dean, Joe Mercer, Tommy Lawton, Alex Young, Alan Ball, Neville Southall) to the good (Roy Vernon, Kevin Ratcliffe, Howard Kendall, Andy Gray) and the rest, with detailed records on every player, even the one-match less-than-wonders.
Often there are interviews with the subjects to explain why they never made it in the blue shirt. And there are truly shocking accounts given by Dean and Mercer of being unceremoniously bundled out of the club after long and distinguished service.
My own love affair with Everton commenced in 1959 during an FA Cup fourth round replay at Charlton. Everton trailed 2-0 but hit back to equalise with such a forceful comeback that my schoolboy mind was won over. The replay attendance at Goodison of 74,482 was a competition record for a midweek tie other than a final. This book brings all those memories to the surface – as it will for every long-standing and often long-suffering Everton supporter.
My copy of the Everton Encyclopedia has been considerably enhanced as it is signed by Howard Kendall, probably the club’s most influential figure both on and off the pitch. I recall once attending a Kendall press conference at Everton’s Bellefield Training Ground where the hospitality flowed freely and I staggered out some hours later leaving my scarf behind. Howard kindly saw to it that the scarf and I were reuinted. That’s the kind of club Everton is. The people’s club.
So hard luck Santa. Better get in training now.
- The Everton Encyclopedia by James Corbett (deCoubertin Books), price: £35
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