Football: FAN'S EYE VIEW: No 198 Everton

Mick Berry
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:21
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Goodison Park is perhaps one of the quaintest grounds around. True, Craven Cottage has its own "des-res", but Goodison has a church nestling quietly in a nook between the main stand and the Gwladys Street End.

Which is probably why we have seen the Everton chairman, Peter Johnson, nearly use the words "could", "might", and "perhaps" about the unthinkable occurrence of Everton relocating away from Goodison Park during the past month.

Most grounds have some aspect of football history to relate, even if it is something local and trivial. But Goodison genuinely has a claim to a place in football history.

Its hall of fame ranges from an FA Cup final, countless semi-finals, and the match in which Bill "Dixie" Dean scored his 60th League goal in a season, to Portugal coming back from a three-goal deficit to beat the North Koreans in a World Cup match, the European nights on our way to the Cup-Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam in 1985, and Sandy Brown's magnificent own goal against Liverpool - perhaps the most spectacular own goal in football history. Shame about the opposition.

This is not to mention the elation and the gut-retching lows of supporting Everton. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the only time I can remember a female streaker being totally ignored by a crowd was during a derby match at Goodison!

Thirty years ago the ground was regarded as good enough to host World Cup matches. But this year even Anfield was deemed a better venue to show Euro 96 games. So why the deterioration in the last three decades?

True, there has been some development. The main stand has been demolished, the triple decker stand with its restricted views came our way, and the Park End has been redeveloped. However, the Bullens Road stand and the Gwladys Street End have been left largely unchanged, except for the nod to the Taylor report that saw seats installed.

Overall there has been an absence of planning. Indeed, until recently there has been an equal absence of money and, dare I say it, the will to make changes.

Everton have only ever had two grounds, Anfield (whisper it not) and Goodison Park. But now the Toffee Lady's knickers have quite a few holes to mend. And if the club genuinely want to become part of the continental experience, they have to update.

But do we have to move? There appears to be room behind the Bullens Road stand, but that would entail a school and houses being demolished. Similarly, the houses behind the Gwladys Street end would have to go. Whether Liverpool council would pass any such plans is debatable.

There is also the problem of parking, which is non-existent and mostly relies on bribing some kid to `mind yer car, mister'. Any demolition of existing stands would also involve a loss of capacity and revenue, and that presumably would not be tolerable for the board.

Personally, I can't make up my mind. I want Everton to compete with Manchester United and take on the Milans (oops, sorry, Rosenborg Trondheims) of this world. But losing Goodison would be like telling your granny: "Sorry, we can't mend your knickers, so we're adopting the young lady from down the road, who won't need new clothes and is considerably younger."

Probably more pleasant in the long run. But I'd miss the old dear!

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