Inside Everton's heritage: Johnny Phillips delves into the Toffees' history
By Johnny Phillips, Soccer Saturday
Last Updated: 10/08/17 9:52pm
Soccer Saturday's Johnny Phillips takes a trip down memory lane at Goodison Park ahead of the start of the season.
The Church of St Luke The Evangelist - simply known as St Luke's to the locals - is famously nestled between the Glwadys Street and Main Stand at Goodison Park. It has always been part of the fabric of this famous old ground, but most of the thousands of Evertonians who wander past it on a match day have never considered what lies behind the doors of the church.
Gradually that is changing. On Saturday, in the hours leading up to this season's opener at home to Stoke City, if supporters open those doors and head up the creaking staircase to the first floor they will certainly be impressed by the sight that greets them. Thousands of programmes from decades past. Photos, posters and other memorabilia of the club going back to its very earliest days adorn the walls. It is a gold mine for any Blues with a sense of history and a love of nostalgia.
The EFC Heritage Society was founded in 2008 by David France, publisher of many books about the club. Other supporters, interested in the history of Everton, got involved. They worked with Ellen London, the vicar of St Luke's at the time, who supported the society and opened his doors to provide a venue. "Fans with passion and blue-tac," is the endearing description of the club's members. In recent seasons a steady footfall has passed through the doors and most come back for a second look.
"You've got the older ones like ourselves interested in collecting the programmes and different types of memorabilia," says EFCHS chairman Brendan Connolly. "But there are lots of different fans, including away supporters, who come in here just to have a look around and see what we've got. We're part of the Everton Super-Community, which includes Everton Ladies, Everton in The Community and the Former Players Foundation. We do book signings with former players and authors. It all helps keep the history alive."
This weekend, Blues author Rob Sawyer will be signing copies of his book Prince of Centre Halves, a biography of Tommy 'TG' Jones, who played for the club either side of the Second World War. Alongside the books will be the work of Tom Regan, better known as Toffee Art. A graphic designer, Tom married his love of the Blues with his job and the results have been well received locally.
"At the outset it started with me painting canvases of players past and present. I then moved on to designing prints, tee shirts and various other unique pieces of Everton memorabilia," says Tom, who provided paintings for Duncan Ferguson's testimonial dinner as well as portraits for legendary club figures like Pat Van Den Hauwe and Tony Kay. "I have a stall where people can come along and have a look at some unique Everton-inspired merchandise. It's very much a solo project and people don't realise there's only me doing all the work."
The EFCHS are also spreading the word beyond these shores, with a number of overseas initiatives helping out in developing world countries. "Our secretary Richie Gilham pulled together a tie up with Kit Aid, where we send over used kit to developing countries, mainly in Africa, for the kids to use. Some of the photos we get back from Africa with kids smiling in the Everton kit are fantastic," Connolly explains.
Closer to home, Connolly is proud of the work the society has done to honour those who helped create the club's rich history. "We work on a number of grave projects. We've got one at the moment with Billie Scott, the goalkeeper of the 1906 FA Cup side at Anfield Cemetery. Unfortunately, his grave was unmarked so we are paying for a stone. We get involved in a lot of fairly unique projects like this and it's something Evertonians are proud of.
"We've been working on a couple of medal projects too. Derek Temple played in the Championship-winning side of 1962/63 but due to injury he didn't qualify for a medal. He played the entire seasons before and after but was injured for a lot of the Championship-winning season. We approached the Football League and made our case and they decided to award him a medal, which was fantastic for the family."
Mention of medals inevitably leads to talk of what the current Everton side can achieve. Supporters must be getting weary of hearing the club's name thrown about as challengers to the established Champions' League contenders every year only to fall well short. And the last trophy, over 22 years ago, is a distant memory. But now there is genuine hope that the tide is turning after a summer of spending under the ownership of Farhad Moshiri.
"I'm excited by what the current season has in store, it feels like a long time since we have spent so much money ahead of a new season on quality footballers," adds Regan. "I think the long standing goalkeeping issue has been addressed but, whilst we have bought known quality, it would be a massive shame if young emerging talents such as Tom Davies, JonJoe Kenny and Kieron Dowell are forced out of the reckoning for regular first-team places. I'm looking forward to the European campaign and would love us to finally end our trophy drought."
"It would nice to see a trophy, it's that long since we've had one we've forgotten what they're called," continues Connolly. "But we are fairly confident under the new ownership that we can move forward. We'd like to break into the top four. We've got a living history of the past here but it's important to make some new history in the modern day so that people can have something to look back on from this current era."
Don't miss our interview with one of Everton's summer signings, Michael Keane, on Soccer Saturday this weekend.