You’d take free tickets to Goodison Park to see Sunderland, right? Especially right now. What if you had to set off earlier than everyone else and miss out on pub time? Yeah, I can handle that. What if you had to play a football match before the match? Hold on. What if you were planning a night in Ku club the night before? Hmm. Here’s the clincher, what if the only reason you had free tickets and travel because you were travelling down with the stewards?
Many will have bailed at that point, but I was sat on a coach to Liverpool still a bit drunk from copious amounts of red stripe the night before. With me were three friends. I had the foresight to accidentally forget my boots. No chance I was playing against Everton stewards with a Ku sized hangover.
On arrival at some place in Liverpool we watched the Everton stewards in full training kits doing drills on the pitch. Me and my friend John set off in search of an off licence. We discovered one eventually where all the cans were behind the counter. A counter protected by a Perspex shield with a little slot at the bottom to slide things through. One by one the cans were passed through the slot until our order was fulfilled and we wandered back to the playing field to discover our stewards were two down already.
We stood on the touch line smoking tabs and drinking cans as the meticulously drilled Everton stewards hammered in goal after goal. I lost count after seven, wished them well and headed off to Goodison. It’s a magnificent approach to that ground. You go through back streets past terraced houses in a mob chanting songs. It’s a lot like the approach to Roker was and it’s actually very friendly. It’s like they appreciate the history and respect that, whilst we aren’t that great, we have a past.
After a good sing song en route, we arrived at the turnstiles, expecting little but that is never the point of an away day really. A win is a pleasant add on. It was my first visit to Goodison and it’s a famous old ground that any football fan will recognise. In the ground of course all niceties are forgotten. The Sunderland fans were in great voice that day and we went in at half time happy with 0-0 at half time. I mean if you look at the Everton line up with Kanchelskis and Speed and Barmby and Unsworth you would expect the worst. The second half started and all hell broke loose.
Craig Russell gave us the lead about ten minutes in. Limbs everywhere. Ten minutes later Duncan Ferguson equalised. We were quelled. This is obviously where things would turn. Six minutes later Peter Reid brought on a sub. Craig Russell was taken off and Michael Bridges was brought on. Now Bridges was one of those players, at the time, who was raw but full of promise. A local lad who had broken through and, for once, showed a huge amount of prospect. Four minutes later we were 2-1 up as Bridges showed everyone what he could do in and around the box. Limbs again.
The crowd roared and sang and taunted. We felt absolutely dominant. The Everton faithful were subdued but as time ticked into the last 10 that traditional nervousness set in. We had Gareth Hall playing for us after all. Seven minutes later in came Bridges again. 3-1. We were leaving Goodison with everything. Nobody cared what the result was in the steward’s game. We came, we saw, we conquered. If you were there you were there and you know what a great game it was, if you weren’t then you’ll have to believe me.
We travelled back up the road with the stewards, none of whom I learned the names of. Me and my mates were floating on a great away day where for once we came away happy. My great away day.
Stay Safe, Haway the Lads