1977, versus Liverpool, Maine Road
I remember getting to Maine Road ridiculously early, which was typical of my dad’s match day habits. We arrived so early, that we were met by bright sunshine and missed the torrential rain which soaked everyone arriving after two o’clock! I was 11, so my dad positioned me on a bar so I could see and, as the ground began to fill up, I got knocked off and couldn’t get back on. My dad asked a copper if I could sit in the gap segregating the two sections in the Kippax and he said yes… so I had the best seat in the house. We all know what happened in the game – but what I also remember is loads of Evertonians and Liverpudlians shaking hands across the divide. I couldn’t see that happening now, especially after such a diabolical refereeing decision…
1980, versus West Ham United, Elland Road (replay)
I didn’t go to the first game at Villa Park, but we were lucky enough to get tickets for the replay at Elland Road. Travelling to Leeds for an evening kick off – and bearing in mind my dad’s liking for getting there ridiculously early – meant getting off school before the end of the day. My mum was one of the governors of Anfield Comp, so she insisted that in the letter to get me out of school, she would tell the truth: no phantom dentist appointments… it was just ‘can you please allow Graham to leave school at 3pm today as he’s going to the match’. I can still hear Mr Roberts grumbling and moaning about it.
The events of the game don’t need further telling, but my memory of after the game is this: as we walked back to our car, it seemed like we’d stumbled onto the set of the film ‘Warriors’. Some bright spark had parked all the fans next to each other with only a railway embankment full of half-bricks between them… what could go wrong? Ignoring my dad’s calls for him to “get back in the car”, our Stuart “went to get a better look”, as both sets of fans threw stuff at each other and practiced many charges and retreats up and down the embankment. Do you know what? It was thrilling… sorry, but it was. After about an hour, the car park began to clear and we finally started our journey home.
Mr Roberts was smug the next day.
2012, versus Liverpool, Wembley Stadium
This was my son’s first semi final. We went into the game on a high, I was confident and I knew one thing for sure: Jelavic would score. However, I didn’t bank on players getting bevvied before the game, a bizarre tactical change at half-time and a ridiculous back pass…
Outside, after the game, we made our way to the tube. Somehow, we got caught up in the crowds and, by the time we reached the station, it seemed we were the only Evertonians in a sea of red. “Dad… ” my son, Louis, said. “I know,” I replied. “We’re Everton.” He gripped my arm and we stayed on in London for the weekend. As we were coming home (we’d just come off the M57), I got a call telling me to go to my mum and dad’s quickly: my dad had been ill for a while and we knew he didn’t have long. They had allowed him home and we had a hospital bed in my mum’s living room waiting for him.
Dad died just before I got there. I had last seen and spoke to him on the Friday before we traveled down to Wembley – in what turned out to be his final words to me, he told me we would win. I like to think that he never knew what actually happened. He is the reason I’m here, you see. He’s the reason me and our Louis are going back to Wembley today, just over three years later. And this time, for him and all the Evertonian dads who are no longer with us, we are going to win and go on to win the FA Cup.
Pic courtesy PA Archive