Category Archives: Goodison

Thinking inside and outside The Box (written September 2008)

That'll blue nicely

That’ll blue nicely 

Just three months ago, we could believe that the money was real, but we know now that the money was funny . As the world tips into recession, football is already finding empty spaces in the stands and on the shirts. Like every other industry, football must come to terms with what the credit crunch means for its future.

Even in the days when Tony Benn was the only man who advocated nationalising banks, Liverpool’s plans for a new stadium progressed glacially slowly and Everton’s plans to move to Kirkby were vigorously opposed. So it’s time to find the middle ground, financially and geographically – a shared stadium for Merseyside’s clubs is the solution and Stanley Park is the location.Many fans will never entertain such a thought, but those with open minds should read on and imagine this vision as reality.Capacity

The shared stadium must seat 80,000 fans with hospitality as impressive as that on offer at The Emirates. A variety of season ticket and multi-match packages should be sold to fans, with single match tickets sold over the internet using a sophisticated real-time price modelling programme (as used by airlines such as Ryanair) which varies prices with availability. Fans willing to buy tickets in packages or in advance for less popular matches would receive hard discounts helping to bring back the supporters, especially young ones, priced out of Anfield or Goodison.

Names

The stadium will have two names, one for each club. Though this would be awkward at first, fans would soon settle into hearing, “Over to (say) New Anfield, where Wigan have taken a shock lead” or “Stuart Hall has a fifth goal for Everton at New Goodison”. Stadiums without their club context are just buildings, so it would be The Stanley Park Stadium for conferencing etc.

Match day experience

The stadium must transform visually to create an “Everton” or “Liverpool” identity. Plain white exterior walls offer the opportunity to project giant images of “Dixie” Dean, Howard Kendall, Kevin Sheedy, and other Hall of Famers on to the Stadium (for an Everton match) which identify the seating areas (no more Section B16 Row 23 Seat 144, it’s Alan Ball Row 23 Seat 144). This identity is followed through on the website, in promotional materials and on tickets. Inside the stadium, screens, signage and staff uniforms etc are used to brand (sorry, but it’s the right word) spaces according to which team is at home. The transformation would be thoroughgoing and complete, with only the “away” derby feeling artificial.

This proposal honours the rich histories of the clubs, keeps both in a city that is identified by them and identifies with them, and allows the Boards to build the long-term financial stability success requires. Furthermore, it allows live football to be watched by twice as many fans as at present and at a lower price. My father, dead now, but a regular at Goodison for over fifty years, would like the proposal.

Am I alone? Not quite.

In Praise of Goodison Park 4 August 2013

The view from my father's seat

The view from my father’s seat

I voted for the move. I didn’t mind if it were to Kirkby, which is part of us no matter where the bureaucrats draw their lines on maps. I felt that it was time for something new, something more attuned to the needs of football’s changing fanbase, something better than Anfield. I’d even have been happy with my version of a ground-share. But most of all, I voted to forsake Goodison Park because doing so would improve our chances of staying in the Premier League. I was wrong to vote for the move.

I’ve changed my mind for three reasons.

I never thought I’d say it – not after the Wimbledon game – but there are more important things than staying in the Premier League. Once I decided that I did not want Bill Kenwright to sell out to Gillett and Hicks types or the latest oil baron wanting a new toy, I had to look at what else I’d prefer Kenwright refuse to do, even at the cost of relegation. Leaving Goodison would also be too high a price to pay for Premier League status.

Visiting my second favourite ground side-swiped me – the sense of loss greater than I ever expected. Highbury had so much in common with Goodison – and now it’s all gone, replaced by a superbly appointed stadium that has all the charm and atmosphere of (appropriately given its name) Stansted Airport. Sure it works, sure it’s good for the club’s bottom line, but football isn’t about comfy seats, great views and escalators – it’s about the irrational, the abstract, the dreams. And if the ghosts of Highbury haunted me , then how much more would the ghosts of Goodison?

The last reason is personal but it’s one shared by many (and more every year) – Goodison serves as my father’s grave. It’s where I connect to his memory, where I can see him, hear him, feel him more than anywhere else, including the home in which I grew up. It’s where the sharpness of my own responsibilities to my two sons cuts quickest and where I honour what my father did for me, by trying to do the same for them. Outside and inside Goodison are hundreds triggers each waiting to be set off by an eye straying to a section of the ground or a player acknowledging the crowd coming across to take a corner or even a free-kick to be taken, just… there. I try, without being too obvious, to convey this to my own sons, but I fail because it’s not susceptible to verbal description – it’s, in a literal sense, visceral.

When Dave Hickson died a few weeks ago, I recalled my father’s face when he realised that his boyhood Everton hero would be our guide on a visit to Goodison. The two old men have gone now, but The Old Lady is still there, ready for her 111th season. And good for 111 more.