REVIEW BY MARK GODFREY
Jim Keoghan – friend of TFP and regular contributor – has come up with his second book focusing on his chosen specialised subject: Everton.
Following up on the excellent Highs, Lows and Bakayokos, the story of Everton in the 1990s, this time he treads the fairly well-worn path of choosing a selection of the club’s 50 finest matches from its long and illustrious history. There’s a whole generation of supporters who’ve witnessed very little in the way of memorable occasions in the last couple of decades, so they might imagine it to be a difficult task to find enough games to make good on the title’s promise, until you remember that Everton were founder members of both the Football League and Premier League, have been champions of England nine times, have visited Wembley on numerous occasions and also have a European trophy in the cabinet for good measure.
Rather than employing a subjective ranking system, he opts to catalogue these 50 stories in chronological order, starting with the club’s very first FA Cup fixture in 1887 when they were still happily renting at Anfield and the present incumbents were still just a twinkle in their rather shady founder’s eye.
Plenty of trawling through old newspapers and archives has been done to put meat on the bones as the 19th century makes way for the 20th; World Wars come and go as do great names like Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton and Dave Hickson.
As expected, the book relies heavily on Everton’s greatest era – the mid 1980s. This is not simply because of the rapid rise to success under Howard Kendall that saw the club seriously challenge neighbours Liverpool for the first time in 20 years, but also because you have the added experiences of those who were there and are still lucid enough to remember. Keoghan has called upon many such supporters to contribute with their recollections (yours truly included).
While plenty of background is given to supplement the match summary in each chapter, the handy bite size format means you never get the feeling you’re lingering too long if you find yourself having read enough about the state of Everton’s defence in the 1930s or the vitriol towards the neighbours from across Stanley Park.
For the majority of Evertonians – and I can’t envisage this book appealing to anyone of any other persuasion – there are few surprises in Keoghan’s match selection, particularly in the second half of the book which deals with the 1960s to the present day; the Andy King derby in ’78; Bayern Munich in ’85; the FA Cup games in ’95; the ‘Great Escapes’, to name but a few. But the real insights come earlier on as we begin to learn about the club’s steady progression from provincial nobodies to one of the biggest and most successful in the land when professional football was still in its infancy.
As a pleasant jaunt down memory lane this book ticks all the necessary boxes, and with Christmas just around the corner, it would make the ideal stocking filler for the nostalgic Evertonian in your life.