WRITTEN BY JEFF MARTIN, EDITED BY PETE MARTIN
The end of my playing and managing career did not mean my losing interest in football. I am still very passionate about my team, Everton. All four of my children, now grown up, support Everton and it is always a pleasure to attend games with them whenever they are home.
My eldest daughter, Paula, became a teacher and, at one of the schools she taught at in Cornwall, a new head teacher was appointed. After six months he announced at a staff meeting he was to introduce a school uniform and was to ask the children to design a badge. This was received with full approval. He also announced that he wished the staff to come up with a motto to reflect the ethos of the school. Paula asked him if he wanted something in Latin. Intrigued, he asked her for a suggestion. She responded, â€œNil Satis, Nisi Optimum. It means â€˜Nothing but the best is good enoughâ€™â€.
The head liked it but just before there was agreement another teacher, who normally slept through every staff meeting, woke up and said, â€œBoss, ask Paula the reason why she suggested that mottoâ€. The game was up, and the chance had gone for a school in Cornwall to have the same motto as my beloved Everton.
Andrea, my second daughter, teaches at the British School in Barcelona. She went there fourteen years ago on a one year contract. During one of the first times visiting her, she got tickets for the Barcelona match against Real Betis. At half time as the players were coming off the pitch, Andrea said, â€œDad, do you see the number 21, his son is in my classâ€. The player in question was Luis Enrique, then captain of Barcelona and now the manager of the national team. I was very impressed and since then she has taught the children of Van Bommel, Riquelme, Larsson, Suarez and Messi. Andrea now is married and has a lovely half-Catalan son, Emil, who is in the same class as Tiago Messi. I did ask her to let me know when parentsâ€™ night was! Andreaâ€™s husband, Carles, is a Barca fan but has formed the â€œBarcelona Toffeesâ€ who support Everton from afar.
A few years ago, my wife, Jan, asked me what I wanted for my birthday and so I asked her the replica shirt from the 1995 FA Cup win. She ordered it online and it duly arrived. However, a couple of days later the phone rang and the caller asked if he could speak with Jan. I asked who was calling and surprisingly he replied, â€œEverton FCâ€. I replied that I had been expecting the call as I had never heard back from the club after my trial in 1958 (see Part 1) and I was still waiting in hope!
The guy on the other end laughed and then informed me that Janâ€™s name had been drawn in a lottery. She had won a three-course meal with champagne for four people at one of the hospitality suites for the upcoming home game against Swansea City. She was also to be presented with a signed shirt at the meal. So Jan, myself, Julia who is my youngest daughter, and her then fiancÃ© duly attended. It just so happened that it was Janâ€™s birthday a few days earlier. During the meal, the MC said that not only had Jan won the prize, but she had just celebrated her 50th birthday. Jan was delighted at that as it had in fact been her 60th! All the years I have supported Everton, they have put years on me, and here they were taking 10 years off Jan â€“ no justice at all!
Jan and I gave the signed shirt to my son Phil, who is a chef at a Michelin-starred hotel near Lake Windermere. The shirt has been framed and it takes pride of place at the hotel.
One great example of Scouse humour, especially of you are a Blue, is that Everton have two club shops. Everton One is close to Goodison Park whilst Everton Two is in the grand city-centre shopping area which is called Liverpool One (after its postcode). Therefore, the official address for the city shop is â€˜Everton Two, Liverpool Oneâ€™.
I still also have a soft spot for Hearts, up in Scotland. Jan and I still go up to Edinburgh to watch Hearts occasionally. One time, we arrived at Tynecastle just a couple of minutes before kick-off and joined the nearest queue. Just as we got to the turnstiles they started playing â€˜The Hearts Songâ€™. I started singing along and the guy in front turned around and glared at me. I said, â€œI bet you didnâ€™t think there were many Englishmen who would know â€˜The Hearts Song.â€™â€
He responded, â€œThere arenâ€™t many ****ing Aberdeen supporters who know it either!â€ We had joined the queue for the away end! I apologised to him and stopped singing.
On another occasion, it was a bitterly cold day so at half time I bought some Bovril and scotch pies to warm us up. Back in our seats, Jan and I started on the pies but they were like lead. Jan, trying to make some headway with the pastry, broke the top and tried to prise the meat out. As she did, a chunk of extremely hot pie filled flipped into the air and, in an arc, headed towards the guy leaning forward in the seats in front of us, who was displaying what is called a â€˜builders bumâ€™. Jan could see what was going to happen, so reached out to catch it before it landed but was fractionally too late. The meat landed and was immediately scooped away by Jan, but the searing hot meat and her fingernails left their mark on the poor guy. The fella never knew what happened and we feigned total ignorance. To this day, we still donâ€™t know if he got into trouble for going home with a blistered bum and fingernail scratches on his back when he was supposed to be at the match.
That wasnâ€™t quite the end of it. Itâ€™s been a standing joke for years that Jan seems to attract the attention of the security staff and is almost always searched going into both Goodison Park and Tynecastle. Amused by the whole thing, I wrote to Hearts, tongue in cheek, and acknowledge that while my wife is searched each time we visit, we are sold pies that could kill. A couple of days later we received a reply from the club, apologising for the condition of the pies and enclosing a voucher â€“ for pies!
Although I am now 75 years old, I still love all football and Everton in particular. I look back on my involvement in the game as a player, referee, manager and spectator with pride and enjoyment. I would not have changed anything despite having to have both hips replaced. I have enjoyed every minute. If anyone, anywhere, has had as much enjoyment out of football as I have had, then he or she is very fortunate indeed.
I am very proud that my two grandsons, Seth, who lives in Cornwall, and Emil, in Barcelona, have been carefully nurtured to be true Blues.
My wonderful football life can be summed up by the following anecdotes.
My last competitive game for Old Caths was in the Friendship Cup at Rawtenstall. Behind one of the goals was a great slope and towards the end of the game the ball rolled down the hill. I set off to retrieve it. My nephew, Pete, was also playing for us and he shouted, â€œIâ€™ll get it Uncle Jeff, you save your legs.â€
I replied, â€œWhat do I want to save my legs for, Pete, itâ€™s my last game!â€ We sat on the grass, roaring with laughter.
My nephew, Pete, is my brother Brianâ€™s eldest son and he was a very good player. We were all at the club after one of his first games for Old Caths and one of the lads said to Brian, â€œHey Brian, your lad is pretty good.â€
Brian replied, â€œYou know what they say, football skills are hereditary.â€
Quick as a flash, the wise crack response came, â€œBrian, your missus must have been quite a player then.â€
As I mentioned, Brian was staunch Liverpool supporter and, from the 1970s onwards, we had a standing Â£5 bet between us every season that Everton would finish above Liverpool. For years, I lost the bet. It became so recurrent that Brian actually included his Â£5 as regular income on his tax return! It was only due the great Everton team of the mid-1980s that I was redeemed for a couple of seasons.
Plenty of humour and enjoyment â€“ a lifetime of being football crazy.