I was in The Paddock with my father standing in our usual spot, half way back and level with the Park End’s penalty area. As the ball was nodded back to Andy King lurking 20 yards from goal, I recall the wait for the ball to drop far enough for his right foot to meet it flush on the instep – he must have felt it too, but King had a finisher’s instincts and knew what a difference that tenth of a heartbeat makes. The ball flew into the top right corner of the net and what felt like an earthquake exploded around me.
Seven years is a long time when you’re 15, but, in the ecstatic faces of the dads and granddads around me, in their bearhugs and their lifting of someone, anyone off their feet, I learned that it was a long time for anyone. Everton had the goal that would give us our first win over Liverpool since 1971, and I had been physically closer to another human being than I would be until the sweet sting of alcohol, lipstick and tobacco was my gateway to the mysterious world of girls some twelve months later.
King’s non-interview in the chaos that greeted the final whistle has entered Goodison folklore and now, at the age of just 58, he has left the pitch for good, a sudden and terrible blow for Evertonians who lived through the grim 70s, the better to appreciate the glorious 80s.
Andy King was a shining light in the often pragmatic teams that suggested that The School of Science had found places for rather more dunces than its reputation demanded. He was not a Scouser, but he immediately found a home at Goodison, his blond head always driving forward, his keen eye for a goal getting him on the end of chances and his smile lighting up a club that had moved, just a little, into the shadows. He had the air of a Sunday morning footballer at times, but heart and passion counted a lot more in the late 70s than a silky first touch and a Beckhamesque physique. He was good enough for us.
“Oh, Andy Is Our King / Oh, Andy Is Our King / Oh, Andy Is Our King” the faithful sang, ironically really, because he was one of us, not a man from another planet as today’s footballers seem so often to be. He left to go to QPR and came back, but it never quite worked out. He did some managing, coaching and scouting round the lower leagues too, but he never hit the headlines like he did when he played in Royal Blue.
Everton, and Evertonians, were enriched by Andy King’s short but memorable time at Goodison, all the more so now we know that it was part of so short a life. Goodison will stand to its departed hero in August and men will hug each other again when that goal is shown on the big screen, as it is before every home game, but this time it’ll be slightly out of focus – just a speck got into my eye son, just a speck…