BY JIM KEOGHAN
As Everton’s last great halcyon age, the 1980s have understandably been poured over more than most when it comes to retrospectives; books have been written, articles published, players have delivered their after dinner speeches.
So, you would think that there was little left to say on that time. Well, you’d be wrong. In Here We Go, Simon Hart has delivered a fresh take on Everton’s golden age and in doing so, written an exceptionally enjoyable book.
Rather than a chronological tale, one that travels from A to B, Hart has chosen a different approach. The players, some the usual suspects (Ratcliffe, Lineker, Southall) others the less covered (Wilkinson, Richardson, Higgins) provide their recollections, their stories, their tales from that era.
This is a jigsaw from which the reader can piece together the causes of Everton’s spectacular re-awakening, enjoy the memories of the side’s time in the spotlight and understand just what went wrong as the 1980s came to an end.
The foundations for Everton’s success are evident here, the palpable sense of camaraderie (beautifully retold by Adrian Heath), Howard Kendall’s excellent man-management skills (which litter the pages) and a lovely conversation with Colin Harvey in which his bond with Kendall (both personal and professional) is laid bare.
We get to see how the players experienced sudden success, what both it and the club meant to them and how many (even those who enjoyed footballing triumphs elsewhere) look back on this era as something of a golden age in their lives.
But it’s not all cup finals and league titles. Several conversations, specifically those between the author and Pat Nevin and Colin Harvey also reveal the dressing room tensions that did much to un-pick the success the club had achieved during the mid-1980s. Most Blues of a certain age are aware of the cliques that developed under Harvey but it’s somehow more powerful to hear the man himself talk about his frustration at not being able to resolve them.
As good as Hart’s approach to the issue of Everton’s rise and fall is (and it is very good), in some ways what is most enjoyable about the book is the inclusion of lesser heard voices from Everton’s time in the sun. These include the likes of Kevin Richardson, Paul Power and Mark Higgins; Blues who played their part but are often overlooked.
Higgins’ chapter in particular is one that merits special praise, describing as it does a player who gave his all for Everton, playing when he probably shouldn’t. It was this commitment that eventually cut his time with the club short, meaning that one of Everton’s most talented figures, a man who could and should have lifted silverware with the Blues, ended up missing out on it all.
Equally enjoyable are revealing vignettes that keep you turning the pages. I loved Kevin Ratcliffe’s memories of Everton’s incredibly tight fitting Le Coq Sportif shorts (which verged into hot pants territory) and how the players would rush to get a relatively roomy pair and then hide them from the rest. It was also a delight to learn from Pat Nevin that Barry Horne (always one of my favourite Blues) is ‘stunningly knowledgeable’ about indie music. But most memorable of all, and a tale that will haunt anyone that reads this book is a story that involves Adrian Heath taking a dump in John Bailey’s wash-bag. You will truly never look at Inchy in the same way again!
Much is made of Alan Ball’s quote that ‘Once Everton has touched you, nothing will be the same’. The club often presents itself as being different to the rest, of being more than a just another football club. And you get the sense that there is something to this throughout the pages of this book. Not only do many of those interviewed retain a special affection for Everton, there are others such as Mark Higgins and Pat Van Den Hauwe whose lives have been changed for the better through a continued relationship with the club.
When reading Here We Go, there will unquestionably be a few who will bemoan the fact that some of those more readily identifiable with the glory years of the 1980s are absent. As someone who modelled his approach to football as a ten-year-old, both sartorially and positionally, on Peter Reid, his absence is disappointing. And I’m sure that there are other readers who would have liked to hear from the likes of Kevin Sheedy, Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray.
But then, if you want that you can get it in plenty of other books. What Hart has provided here is something different, blending the lesser with the often heard and through that produced something original, interesting and enjoyable.
Here We Go ventures where others have gone before and emerges impressively. In short, it’s a book that every Evertonian should own.
Here We Go: Everton in the 1980s: The Players’ Stories by Simon Hart can be found here: http://www.decoubertin.co.uk
Jim Keoghan is the author of Highs, Lows and Bakayokos; the story of Everton in the 1990s. http://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/highs-lows-and-bakayokos