Continuing my 70th Birthday celebrations my daughter and son and I made our way to see Everton play Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
None of us had been to Goodison before, it being my daughter’s 89th current League venue and my son’s 81st.
The day was sunny but with the start of Storm Ciara threatened. As you get near it is Anfield that dominates the skyline and we drove round its perimeter. The ground has become an enormous arena with more to follow. Some of the old terraced house streets have been demolished to enlarge the footprint of the ground and increase the concourse and the football related shops and kiosks. There are some new houses that have been built as more are planned, the whole area is in regeneration mode.
I was last here on December 13th 1995 for an evening game between the Netherlands and Eire which was a qualifier for Euro 96. The Netherlands won the game 2 nil but the most significant action of the night was when a large Mercedes pulled up in the terraced street opposite to where we were parked. 4 very well dressed men came out of the car on their way to the boot where they discarded their expensive clothes for orange boiler suits, orange hard hats and boots. They marched of towards the ground and when I was inside I saw why, a sea of orange, such dedication and support.
Near Anfield in Stanley park is a very large tarmaced car park where we parked, which is used by Everton and Liverpool for their home games and the general public at other times. The walk across Stanley park was friendly and the green space and lake were well kept.
Through the trees you come upon Goodison Park and a vibrant atmosphere, club shop, fans area with music, food stands, local pubs, fish and chip shop, cafes, a Lambretta in Everton Colours, a modern street marching brand (representing Everton in the community), football statues of Alan Ball, Dixie Dean, Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and a definite buzz in the air.
Walking round the perimeter of the ground you notice it is all clothed in signage for the club so you are unable to see the architecture. Queing up next to the Crystal Palace fans who were being scanned by two sniffer dogs you eventually enter the ground. Immediately you notice that the sairway has seen better days and that there are no chips because they cannot be cooked in a stand that has wooden floors. The scouse pie we bought instead was dry, hard and not good, we eat it in the cramped seating because there are few areas to balance it and your drink on in the understand concourse.
Goodison soon fills to a 38987 attendance which is surprisingly quiet, in fact the small band of Palace supporters who have journeyed to this 12.30 kick off from South London out sing the home crowd all game.
Perhaps the fans are waiting for the plans of the new ground next to the Mersey to come to fruition and have been totally worn down by the domination of their near neighbours or have become depressed by their mid table achievement each season. This may also explain the great atmosphere outside that is stifled once they enter the stadium.
The club started as St Domingo FC a local chapel in Everton and assumed the local area name in 1878/. They were one of the small band of clubs who formed the Football League being winners 9 times as well as FA Cup winners on 5 occasions and 1 European Cup Winners Cup. An amazing pedigree that you hope Carlo Ancelloti can build on in the future.
Palace too have a long history with a Crystal Palace named team known to be in existence since 1861 with the current club started in 1905. They have never one any of the major Trophies but have in recent years established themselves in the Premier League. Roy Hodgson the very respected football manager has been in charge for two and a half seasons and they look likely to secure their status in the Premier League again this season.
Everton 3 Crystal Palace 1
Everton started the game the more dominant with slow build ups from the back to bring Theo Wallcott into the game. it was from one of these moves that Walcott beat thedefenders to deliver a cross into the centre of the goal that was met by Bernard who steered it over the goalkeepers left hand into the net.
Just 6 minutes later on 22 minutes Walcott lay injured on what looked like a heavily strapped leg and after trying to continue was subbed two minutes later.
Everton played out the half with both sides looking nervy and unwilling to really have a go at the opposition. Roy Hodgson must have roused the troops with his half time talk as the Eagles pressed forward and within 6 minutes of the restart were level when Zaha put Benteke through to slot the ball under Pickford who should have done better.
The game fell back into some srappy play until on the hour Richarlison, by far the best player on the pitch, ran on to a long ball, twisted and skipped past the Palace defence to send a curling shot past a defenceless keeper.
The game was put beyond Palace’s return with a few minutes left when that man Richarlason rose to head a ball delivered from a corner against the crossbar which fell to Calvert-Lewin to tap in.
Everton have slowly crept up to 7th in the League only losing one top flight game in their last 11 while Palace’s losing run leaves them only 6 points above West Ham in 17th place.
A great day out but an expensive one with the cost of my ticket being just over the price of two tickets to see Hellas Verona in Serie A only two weeks before.