Football: Labour-Tory coalition toppled by the power of the press: MPs were attacked from right and left wing last week. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent, reports

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The Independent Online
WHEN I was 14, I watched Everton every other Saturday, and dreamed of being called on to the pitch to join the Greats: Alex Young, Roy Vernon, Brian Labone.

I used to stand at the Gwladys Street end behind the goal and watched the Toffees win the League. The next year I graduated to a season ticket in the main stand. It was never the same, somehow, sitting up there, next to an old man with a weak bladder who had to go out soon after kick-off. But Everton were still special, a cut above Liverpool, and more generous to ballplayers with skills to delight an intelligent crowd.

Last Saturday, I thought about those great players as I stepped out on to the Goodison Park pitch to play for the Parliamentary Lobby Journalists against a team of MPs for the charity, Shelter.

The main stand and the wooden seats, where I used to squat above the crush in the paddock, had long gone. The ground seemed to have shrunk. It was probably just growing old - everything seems bigger when you are young.

After watching Everton lose 3-0 to QPR, it was our turn. The Parliamentary Lobby team has a combined age of at least 400, but the 'lads' were inspired.

A street kid with no home to go to shouted from the stands at our tubby, bearded full-back: 'Ay la' - are yuse George Best?' It was easy to see why. Passes which would normally have ballooned into touch went like Exocets to feet; midfield players made searching runs a la Jimmy Gabriel. The first goal went in with an impossible flick from the wing, pure Alex Young. By half-time, the Parliamentary hacks were 6-0 up.

The MPs' captain, Alan Simpson (Lab, Notts South), who had once been on Everton's books, was gutted. His team, mainly Labour MPs, included Terry Rooney (Bradford North) and Dave Hickson, who scored 182 League goals for six League clubs, Everton and Liverpool included, between 1951 and 1963. There were two Tories - Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest) and Alistair Burt (Bury North), a junior minister for social security, who, perhaps fortunately, went unrecognised by the crowd.

The MPs' goalkeeper, Graham Allen (Lab, Nottingham North), spent the night slithering in trainers, more suited to the all-weather pitches the MPs normally play on. He had changed places when the hacks finished the scoring with a seventh goal.

For the average pub team, the pitch would have been a revelation: no bobbling of the ball on rutted mud, turf as flat as a billiard table. One of our lads said Neville Southall told him we should have played in the first match. It was probably just one of Neville's jokes.

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