An Everton First and Last
Not often can you confirm a first and a last at the same time but that’s precisely what Everton did yesterday.
A pre-season fixture between the Toffees and their Portuguese opponents would be the first fixture of the season at Goodison Park and the last ever to be played there.
The Blue side of Liverpool will be uprooted from their ancestral home and will be making the two-mile shift to Bramley Moore Dock on the edge of the River Mersey.
I’m sure Evertonians are experiencing mixed feelings about the changes ahead.
Goodison Park is all that Evertonians have ever known and it will be a sad day for them when the gates close for the final time and the bulldozers eventually destroy a place packed with the memories of a lifetime.
Believe me when I say grown men will be shedding tears when this happens and from experience, I have to say, you never quite get over the fact that your second home is no longer there.
To counteract this, there will be excitement for a new and hopefully, improved matchday experience.
An enhanced view for many, after restricted views from some of the seats inside Goodison Park will be much welcomed. As will the expanded capacity of 52,888 (Goodison’s current capacity is 39,572).
This will mean an extra 13,316 Evertonians will get to watch their team each week.
I look forward to being able to compare the old with the new once Bramley Moore Dock is ready, but for now, let’s review the beating heart of the blue half of Liverpool.
As ever, the day started pretty early, although the journey to the train station was shorter than the usual trip to Newcastle.
We caught the 07:48 number 65 bus to Durham and were safely deposited on Milburngate thirty minutes later. This gave us just under an hour to kill. The obvious remedy for that was to grab some Greggs breakfast!
We sat inside and ate our goodies before heading up Mount Durham. Ok, I made that up but I really hate the climb up the hill to Durham train station!
Once we had scaled the east face, we recovered our breath and sat our broken bodies down while we waited for the train. Like a few train stations across the UK, Durham has a strange scenic beauty with its Victorian architecture.
With the ongoing train workers dispute, the trains aren’t overly reliable, so we always approach the day with a healthy amount of trepidation.
However, the 09:18 train turned up on time and set the tone for a smooth day of travelling. Yay!
The couple sharing our table seats were young and in love and they made a cute pair of companions as we made this stage of the trip.
Our train made stops at Darlington, York, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester Victoria and Newton Le Willows, before pulling into Liverpool Lime Street at 11:59.
We walked out of Lime Street station and into the bustling metropolis of Liverpool.
Liverpool is the home of the Beatles, historic docks and two famous football teams that have forged their own successful paths through the years.
Although Liverpool have had more success, Everton remains the ‘peoples club’ and has had their own share of trophies through the years.
With ‘Ticket to Ride’ running through my mind, we headed off on the short walk to Liverpool Central Station for the final leg of our journey.
After finding our way to the correct platform, we had a short wait before climbing on the Mersey Rail Link train to Kirkdale station.
Between Moorsfield and Sandhills station stops, we got a view of the new stadium at Bramley Moore Docks starting to take shape on the River Mersey shoreline.
I also got pretty lucky with my random clicking and got a nice clear photograph of it.
Just ten minutes after getting on the train, we alighted at Kirkdale station and made our way towards Goodison Park.
Of course, we needed a pre-match watering hole and I had two targets to aim for. A Twitter follower had recommended The Albany, which is situated on the corner of Leighton Street and Ruskin Street.
We headed there first.
On arrival, it was disappointing to find it closed, as I’m told it’s a good old-fashioned boozer.
Oh well, onto the next.
Luckily, it wasn’t far to retrace our steps back to Westminster Street and carry on to our original target of The Royal Oak.
At the end of Westminster Road, we took a left turn into Barlow Lane and followed the curve to our destination.
The Royal Oak
The first thing you should know about The Royal Oak is that on matchdays, it is cash only!
Of course, we didn’t have any cash. A quick question to one of the security staff on the door and we were directed to Duncan’s convenience store just down the road. Here, there is a handy cash machine, meaning we could still get a pre-game drink after all.
After getting the cash, we headed back inside and ordered our drinks.
Two pints of Staropramen for £8.20.
This was curious because a second round cost only £7.00 for the same drinks. The only difference being they were served in plastic glasses.
A number of theories abound in my mind:
Slightly less than a pint? (Nope, I put it in my empty glass and it filled it.) The barman took a shine to Mrs Hopper and gave her a discount. (I haven’t ruled this one out!) Or, someone just mischarged for one of the rounds.
Either way, I quickly poured it from the plastic cup into my previous glass, before it got whipped away by the eager glass collector.
This pub is very clearly devoted to the blue half of the city and this is obvious before you even go inside. Everton flags adorn the walls of the building but once inside, there is no shortage of club memorabilia either.
It becomes pretty busy and often the only room left is by the picnic tables outside. If you want to come here on a matchday, I’d advise getting there early for a seat and taking cash!
After supping our second pint, we headed off to check out the stadium.
Everything is Everton related in this area, including the Chinese restaurants, apparently…
Everton – Goodison Park Exterior (Part One)
When I say everything in this area is Everton related, I’m not joking.
This whole area feels like it can’t be taken in with just one visit. There is stuff to see, literally everywhere.
I felt like a Japanese tourist in London with my camera finger being the first injury victim of the season.
One can only imagine the distress leaving all this behind will bring on to many, when the move is made.
Dixie Dean Statue
There is a statue of the legendary Dixie Dean by the club gates where, what looks like floral tributes from funerals are laid and devoted to mums, dads, husbands etc.
Dixie Dean, born in Birkenhead in 1907, is regarded as one of the greatest centre-forwards of all time, scoring 383 goals for Everton Football Club.
Like Dixie, many Everton heroes are commemorated in one form or another at Goodison Park.
The stadium exterior is plastered with pictures of their former greats and it makes a wonderful sight as you wander around.
First, we headed across the road to find the club shop, which lies inside a dedicated building on Walton Lane (A580).
There was a queue and the rain was lashing down, as it had been off and on for much of the day since we stepped out of our front door.
Still, the queue moved pretty quickly and we were soon inside. There was nothing to make this place stand out from any other club shop I’ve been in up and down the country. The usual things were available amongst all the replica shirts.
We got in line and I bought a pin badge, which was pretty expensive at £5.00. Usually, these things sell for between £3 to £3.50 but I guess that’s the price of visiting a Premier League club. (Although I did pay the same when recently visiting Tow Law Town. (Hopper Tales #75)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a programme here as they had sold out. I’m happy to say we managed to get one from a seller by the club gates though. These came at a cost of £3.00 for thirty-six glossy pages of club news, interviews and information.
How this compares to the upcoming Premier League version I’m not sure, but I was happy with this effort at that price, anyway.
Inside the club gates, there were stalls selling food and drink and even live music coming from a stage. There is a real sense of community at this ground and people of all ages were gathering and talking to each other in groups as they gear up for the final season at this famous old venue.
We were behind the Park Stand and time was ticking on. The decision was made to head around to the Bullens Stand where our seats were and complete the external tour after the game.
Walking around through the car park, it was hard not to notice the plethora of expensive cars, including Porsche and Lamborghinis. A reminder that while the ‘cost of greed’ crisis is hitting working families hard, it doesn’t affect everyone equally.
We rounded the corner and got our first glimpse of the Bullens Stand. In keeping with the rest of Goodison Park, it is covered in artwork. A timeline of the club’s history is a part of the decoration, along with pictures from the past.
I bought our tickets for the game from the Everton website at a cost of £20.00 each.
As games at Goodison Park regularly sell out, this was a perfect chance for us to visit.
We entered via turnstile 44 and presented our tickets to the scanner. Green light and in we go…
Everton – Goodison Park Exterior Gallery (Part One)
Everton – Goodison Park Interior
Once inside, you get an immediate sense that this is an old ground. Many times repainted steel girders and bricks are the order of the day in the concourse.
I used the toilet facilities and these were quite up-to-date in this part of the ground.
I took a photograph in both directions on the concourse but unfortunately, one of them auto-focused on a person’s face and blurred out the bit I was interested in. So, just the one photo here.
As you can see, it was quite narrow and congested, particularly where snacks and drinks were being sold.
Now it was time to get inside and take a proper look at ‘The Grand Old Lady’, as Evertonians fondly name Goodison.
Once in our seats, I started taking a few photographs.
The Sir Philip Carter Park Stand
Off to our left, is the most modern stand at Goodison Park, the Sir Philip Carter Park Stand.
This is a single-tiered structure with a capacity of 5,750.
Originally The Park Stand, it was renamed after one of the clubs ex-chairmen in 2016.
Goodison Road Stand
Opposite us is the impressive main stand at Goodison.
It has three separate sections, comprised of the top tier, known simply as the Top Balcony. The middle section, known as the Main Stand and the lower section, the Family Enclosure. For today’s game, the Top Balcony was not in use.
The current stand was built up between 1969 and 1971 to replace the Archibald Leitch masterpiece built in 1909.
It now has a capacity of 12,664.
The players’ tunnel is at the centre of the main stand and although there are no technical dugouts, coaching staff and substitutes have designated seating areas on either side of the tunnel.
A small row of executive boxes runs above the lower area of the stand spanning approximately the length of the centre circle. A large electronic screen is placed on the right-hand side of the stand between it and the famous Gwladys Street End.
Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End
Or, to give it its full title, the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End.
Formerly known by its simpler name, it was renamed in honour of Everton’s most successful manager.
Howard Kendall may be a legend at Everton but he is also a popular name for supporters of my own team, Stoke City. Two good years of playing service were given to the Potters by the great man but it was his stint as manager of the Toffees for which he will be best remembered.
He managed the club on three separate occasions, bringing major trophies to Goodison.
The first of these being a 2-0 win over Watford in 1984’s FA Cup Final. This was followed by the 1984/85 Division One Championship, finishing thirteen points ahead of runners-up Liverpool. They won the European Cup Winners’ Cup that same year, defeating Rapid Vienna 3-1 in the final.
In 1986/87, Kendall masterminded another league title, again beating Liverpool as runners-up nine points behind.
Sadly, Howard Kendall suffered a heart attack and passed away on October 17th 2015.
The Gwladys Street now proudly bears his name after the club honoured him thus in 2016.
The stand itself is a two-tiered structure, divided into the Upper and Lower Gwladys. This is the end of the ground that generates the most atmosphere at Everton games, housing the more vocal element of the Toffees support.
It has a capacity of 10,611.
The Bullens Stand
This brings us back around to the Bullens Stand, where we were sitting. As you can see in the photograph above, the Gwladys Street End joins the Bullens Stand in a curve.
Clearly, in a large stand with multiple tiers, it’s pretty much impossible to get a decent photograph of the one you are located in. That was certainly the case here.
We were in the lower tier, known simply as The Paddock.
Above The Paddock is a smaller tier known as the Lower Bullens. Unsurprisingly, the section above this is known as the Upper Bullens. This was the section I couldn’t get any kind of view of.
Between the Upper and Lower Bullens, is some of that latticed work associated with the footballing stadium architectural genius, Archibald Leitch. There was another example of that at Roker Park, the former home of Sunderland.
I’m sure other examples are out there, too.
The end nearest to the Park Stand is where away fans are housed. Although we couldn’t see them very well, there was a constant noise coming from the section of Sporting fans who had made the trip to Merseyside.
Another large electronic screen sits between the Bullens and the Park Stands.
The Bullens as a whole has a current capacity of 10,546.
Everton – Goodison Park Interior Gallery
Everton – Pre-Game View of Goodison Park
Goodison Park Tidbits
Goodison Park has an abundance of history.
Since its completion in 1892, it has been the permanent home of Everton Football Club.
It hosted five World Cup games in 1966, including the semi-final where West Germany defeated the Soviet Union 2-1.
Goodison also hosted the quarter-final between Eusebio’s Portugal and global pariah, North Korea.
It has been the home venue of the England national team eight times but more surprisingly, also for the Northern Ireland national team. In 1973, Goodison hosted the Northern Ireland ‘home’ games against Wales and England.
The 1894 FA Cup Final between Notts County and Bolton Wanderers was held here. A game which was won 4-1 by the Trotters. Goodison also hosted the 1910 FA Cup Final Replay between Barnsley and Newcastle United. Newcastle won the game 2-0 in front of 60,000 spectators.
The record attendance of 78,929 was (unsurprisingly) set against Liverpool in 1948.
No other stadium in England has hosted more top-flight league games than Goodison Park.
It is located less than one mile from Anfield, home of fierce city-rivals, Liverpool. Only Stanley Park separates the two famous stadiums.
Everton (along with Stoke) are one of the original founding members of the Football League in 1889.
And it’s a Grand Old Team to play for,
And it’s a Grand Old team to support,
And if you know your history,
It’s enough to make your heart go worrrrrrrrr!
Everton v Sporting Clube de Portugal – The Game
Last season, Everton were fortunate to avoid relegation. Without the appointment of Sean Dyche, it’s my belief that they would have fallen under Frank Lampard’s leadership.
This season, the Toffees fans will be hoping for an improvement. Although survival will still be the main goal, they will be hopeful of a mid-table finish under a full season of Dyche in charge.
I could mention that Everton beat Stoke 0-1 at the Bet365 Stadium last weekend, but I choose not to…
For their part, Sporting Clube finished fourth in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. They finished thirteen points behind champions, Benfica. Porto and Braga were the other two teams between them.
Sporting has had no shortage of star players over the years, the most recent of which is probably Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United. United paid an estimated £67.6 million for Fernandes in January 2020.
In the current squad for Sporting, the standout names are Gonçalo Inácio, a centre-back who is making waves among the big European clubs and is worth around £30 million. Ex-Wolves wingers, Pedro Gonçalves and Trincão between them are worth nearly £50 million.
They also have an Englishman who is building himself quite a reputation in Lisbon. Ex-Spurs and Norwich man, Marcus Edwards is worth a reputed £30 million. Sporting has also just bought Viktor Gyökeres from Coventry City.
Back-to-back 3-0 wins over Real Sociedad and Villarreal preceded this game for Sporting.
With Everton’s recent form not being the best and Sporting being well-versed in playing European opposition, my pre-match prediction was 0-1 for Sporting. I didn’t foresee there being many goals in this one.
At least I got the last bit right…
Famous and Familiar Tune
As kick-off time approached and anticipation built, the siren started wailing like a wartime bombing raid was approaching. Fans’ excitement picked up a notch, as this was the cue for the players to enter the pitch.
The siren stopped wailing and the familiar sound of the old TV drama series ‘Z-Cars’ kicked in.
You can read the story of how the theme tune was adopted by Everton here.
All I will add to that is that it does make for a very entertaining and dramatic entrance. Although, it rather annoyingly gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day, too…
Other clubs have used this theme tune less famously over the years, including Watford and Sunderland.
One team I know of that still uses it, is Workington AFC. (Hopper Tales #64)
The game itself, as predicted, was a cagey affair with few attempts on goal. Neither side dominated with both Everton and Sporting creating equal amounts of chances.
The decisive moment came just before the break. Sporting defender Eduardo Quaresma was adjudged to have handled a shot by Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin stepped up for the Toffees and dispatched the spot-kick and there was barely time to restart before the whistle went for halftime.
This would be the only goal of a tightly contested game.
Half Time Entertainment
Before the game started, Everton’s victorious amputee FA Disability Cup winning team were brought onto the pitch. (More on that here.) The goalkeeper from the team went in goal to face a series of spot-kicks from young Everton fans. The prize for scoring was a replica shirt signed by the whole squad.
Even the one fan who missed was told he would get a shirt, so there were no losers here.
There were no goals in the second half but Amadou Onana came very close. His shot was the culmination of nice build-up play and would have been a lovely goal if his effort had been an inch to the left. As it was, he hit the far post.
Sporting almost got a (probably deserved) equaliser with time running out. Gonçalves struck the angle of the crossbar and post and I can’t believe his shot never went in.
One player who caught my eye, was Geny Catamo, the number 21 for Sporting. He looked tricky and is a name I will be keeping an eye out for in future transfer windows.
Full-time – Everton 1 Sporting Clube de Portugal 0
Attendance – 28,322
Entrance Fee – £20.00
Programme – £3.00
Everton v Sporting Clube de Portugal – Match Highlights
Next week, things get more serious for today’s teams.
Everton kick off their Premier League campaign with a return to Goodison Park on August 12th. Their opponents for the League opener will be Fulham.
They follow that up with a trip to Villa Park on Sunday 20th August.
Even at this early stage, three points will be vital in their quest to remain in the Premier League.
I’m sure they won’t want to be opening the new stadium at Bramley Moore Docks in the Championship.
For Sporting, they will also kick off their Primeira Liga campaign with a home fixture against Vizela next Saturday.
This will be followed by an away fixture against Casa Pia on August 20th.
Everton – After the Game
Following the game we remained behind as the ground started to empty. We did this so that I could get a few extra photographs from the corner of the ground where the Gwladys Street meets the Bullens Stand.
That was where I got my cover photo, so it was worth waiting for. It also opened my eyes to the need for a new stadium.
Not only is Goodison old but incredibly, there are still wooden parts of the stand in use in the Lower Bullens. I’m not sure how this has passed the stringent safety regulations, to be honest, but I have to assume it has.
After getting my photographs, it was time to leave.
First though was a trip to the toilets that were in this corner. As there was nobody else using them, I took the opportunity to show you just how old these were too.
Imagine the generations of people that have passed through here.
Yes, I said passed!
Everton – Goodison Park Exterior (Part Two)
After leaving the ground, we continued the tour around it that we had started prior to the game.
From the Bullens Stand, we turned left and headed into Gwladys Street.
Needless to say, most of the artwork on this stand is dedicated to Howard Kendall but he isn’t the only figure to feature.
This is something I loved about Goodison and I really hope they remember and commemorate all this history at the new ground, too.
At the far end of the Gwladys Street Stand is another well-known feature of Goodison Park – the Church Of St Luke The Evangelist.
Goodison Park has grown around this church and I found an article in the Liverpool Echo that describes the association between club and church far better than I could.
You can read that article here.
The Holy Trinity
Another feature on the corner of Gwladys Street and Goodison Road is the statue of the Holy Trinity.
Nope, this isn’t another part of the church, this is purely football-related. In this case, the Holy Trinity refers to Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and England’s World Cup winner, Alan Ball.
The three of them formed one of the best midfield trios of the 1960s and have been immortalised in bronze.
The statue was sculpted by Tom Murphy, who also created the Dixie Dean statue further down Goodison Road.
Again, I can only hope that these two statues will follow the club to their new home.
We walked down Goodison Road and along the Main Stand, where more art adorns the exterior.
The Winslow Hotel, also known as ‘The Peoples Pub’ stands on the corner of Eton Street.
It’s hard to imagine a pub being closer to a football ground than this.
This brought us back to where we had come in at the bottom of Spellow Lane.
Everton – Goodison Park Exterior Gallery (Part Two)
Bramley Moore Docks Stadium
For those interested, the below video is the latest one from the official Everton YouTube channel. These videos show the progress being made as the new stadium starts to take shape.
Everton is a club that is right in the heart of the community and it embraces it and its history superbly.
It’s easy to see why they have adopted the moniker of ‘the peoples club’.
If I lived in Liverpool, I could easily see myself getting behind this fabulous old institution and embracing it.
Goodison Park herself may be getting old but she is doing so gracefully and is full of character and charm that newly built stadiums just don’t have.
Maybe, in a hundred years’ time, someone will be writing the exact same thing about Bramley Moore Docks Stadium.
Although, I’m sure it will probably be called something like the Amazon and Walmart Stadium by then.
In a unique city, Everton is a unique football club with a unique stadium. I could weep for the looming loss of The Grand Old Lady and I truly hope that Evertonians can embrace the new stadium and make it as characterful as this place.
With a fond last look back, we headed up Spellow Lane, listening to the Sporting fans as they marched up a parallel street banging drums and singing.
We crossed the intersection into Bellow Lane, before turning right into Westminster Road.
This took us all the way back to Kirkdale Station.
With a train back into the city every fifteen minutes, we didn’t have long to wait.
At 17:44 we hopped on the link back to Liverpool Central and were there in ten minutes.
After a short walk, we were back into Liverpool Lime Street with time to spare before our train was due at 18:25.
Hello, Goodbye, Liverpool
See what I did there Beatles fans…
On train journeys, you never know what your travelling companions are going to be like. For the most part, they are fine (although, I reserve a special dislike for crisp eaters).
Others are… different.
Following the stop at Manchester Victoria, we were joined by a group of young lads who were regaling each other with the stories of how they had performed in a fight they had been involved in that day. The follow-up to this was a narrative about a friend who was ‘going down the wrong path’, addicted to drugs and blanking out every weekend.
As I said, you can’t choose your fellow passengers. At least it kept us entertained.
After stopping at York, further down the carriage, we were joined by some very loud women. Harmless, laughing, singing, chattering but mostly… LOUD!
At 21:05 I was glad to see Durham Station and we happily got off the train.
After abseiling back down Mount Durham, we waited on Milburngate for around twenty minutes for the bus.
With a long wait expected before our bus back into town from Houghton, we decided to walk the last mile and a half home. It was quite chilly and still drizzling. The prospect of standing around appealed less than the walk.
We were home a few minutes later and got some hot food down us to warm us up.
Good old British summertime, eh?
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next weekend, we will be back to a relatively local ground – Dunston UTS.
They recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons after having a hearse spinning doughnuts on their pitch and dumped there at halftime.
Hopefully, there won’t be any repeat of that kind of nonsense on our visit.
The home side will be playing host to Bridlington Town in a Northern Premier League Division One East fixture.