Andy Robinson attends an Everton sportsman’s dinner…with his City top hidden from view.
With a stroke of good fortune last Friday night I found myself in attendance at an Everton “Legendary number 9’s” night at the Royal Navy Club in Liverpool. The star guests were to be Bob Latchford, Graeme Sharp and Joe Royle. It had always rankled with me that for all my love of football I had never previously had the opportunity to attend an evening such as this and so following the very late withdrawal of my brother’s boss’s Everton loving mate, me and our kid (both City fans) along with his boss Paul and John, – Paul’s dad who are both lifelong die–hard Blue nosed Toffees – we set off on a short trip down the M62.
The event for the night was hosted by John Stiles a former professional with Leeds United amongst others and the son of World Cup winner Nobby who these days makes his living on the after-dinner circuit as a speaker and as a host on nights such as these. After the second airing of the night to the theme from Z Cars we had a quick five minutes of stand–up from the host and then we had the comedy act for the night, comedian and football impressionist and local boy Mark Langley. Now with regard the gags; when you are on a night out with the lads it’s safe to say that the old ones are the best. Teacher says to pupil – “are you asleep over there Langley”; “You told me to get my head down sir!” was one of his latest ones but his timing was good. As for the football impressions they were just out of this world. All the Match of The Day team were included and followed by Harry Redknapp ( I will let the reader work out the before and after tax gag for themselves), Sir Alex Ferguson, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Michael Owen and then bringing the house down with his David Moyes. This began with an enormous pause followed by the line – “well I thought we did ok”. Mr Langley is well worth twenty minutes of any football fans time with a quick Google of You Tube. We now returned to John Stiles with another listen to the theme from Z Cars and the legends were brought to the stage – and it was at this point the audience were invited up to say hello and have their photograph’s taken with their heroes.
As one of the two Manchester City fans in the room I ventured forward for a very brief chat with Joe Royle. I shook his hand and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for getting my club back to back promotions and into the promised land of the Premiership. Next, the theme from Z Cars again and the buffet with the assorted sales of raffle tickets and what was on offer for the auction later.
The buffet was the only disappointment of the evening. Now it wasn’t a sit down, black tie affair “Sportsman Dinner” I knew that but for £25 I would have expected a bit more than cheese butties, pork pies and a curry and it went on and on and on and when all the audience are out with their mates on a most likely, “unlikely” summer football chat catch up, they probably didn’t want to have “Sweet Child of Mine” being blasted round the room probably preferring to discuss the appointment of Roberto Martinez in a bit of peace and quiet. This is what I did with Tommy and his mates who were sat next to our party. The verdict apparently appears to be quite happy but not exactly overjoyed. The buffet seemed to last an hour and it just seemed to go on and on. Anyway, back to the theme from “Z Cars” and time for the “stand up” routine from the compere Mr Stiles. Again, the old ones were the best and with decent timing and nice and warm anecdotes about the game and having a World Cup winner for a dad it was very enjoyable. Finally, it was time for the guests.
Graeme Sharp, Everton’s second greatest goalscorer after Dixie Dean with 159 Goals in 426 games, was first up to face the set questions from the compere and handled himself well although the questions were hardly challenging. What was it like making your debut at Goodison Park and who was your favourite strike partner. When he answered that one the whole audience got to their feet and gave Adrian Heath’s name being mentioned a standing ovation! – this is the same Adrian Heath who stole a living at my team and who always features very high up on any list entitled worst player ever for Manchester City.
Bob Latchford followed. Now living in Germany with a very young family even though he must be pushing 60 if he hasn’t already been there and not looking a day over 45 he told the story of the “Daily Express” and his £10,000 prize for notching 30 League Goals in a Season. The story was that the taxman wanted a slice but Bob had to give half of it to the PFA and he put another £4,000 in the player’s pot at Goodison. After 8 years of legal wrangling he finally won the case but was well out of pocket. Another point was he never managed a goal against Liverpool – even though he scored against them for Birmingham and Swansea. He added in to this that Keegan never bagged against Everton.
Finally it was time for Joe Royle. Again we got the “debut” story. Joe who through his media work certainly knew how to handle and play to his audience described how Harry Catterick fetched him to the office at the age of 16, fearing he was in trouble for some apprentice prank he then told Joe he was in the team for tomorrow replacing Alex Young. Joe Then tells the audience that he thought Catterick had lost his f ***ing marbles and he should have picked Young! Joe did though blatantly lie when he said that the greatest player he ever played with was Alan Ball. This has to be a lie because Joe Royle was a teammate of Colin Bell.
As well as the three legends we had also been promised a special guest. The FA Cup was on display and after originally thinking that Martinez had nicked it from under Dave Whelan’s bed it soon became apparent that the one here was a replica as they were letting ordinary fans touch it. I do know for a fact that you can’t touch the real one. The “Special Guest” turned out to be the bloke who does the transfer deadline day stories on Merseyside for Sky who has been appointed as Everton’s new Media Manager or some such role. On this same topic the best joke of the night came from my brother who earlier in the evening had said the special guest might be Howard Kendall – especially if the bar had been open since lunchtime.
The evening finished with a small auction where the flashy ones could pay £150 for a picture of one of the guests wearing dark blue and scoring for the club they love. I told the lads next to us who I had discussed the Martinez appointment with earlier that if one of the prizes had been three points for City at Goodison again in my lifetime I would have certainly made a winning bid. Then it was time for my trip back East on the M62 with the tune of “Z Cars” – and as my group started a count we know it was played six times in the night. I loved being with the Everton fans and they took to me as well – especially when I went on a massive rant about the footballer I despise most; Stevie Overrated.
All in all I had a great night, I just hope I don’t start humming the Z Cars theme the next time I go to the Etihad.