Evertonians were treated to a special night of blue-chatter at a ‘Legends Evening’ with a World Cup ’66 twist.
The air was turned well and truly blue at Aintree Racecourse on Friday as fan-site since1878.co.uk laid on a superb line up of Everton legends old and new.
Fans were also given the chance to bid on several pieces of Everton history. Signed memorabilia from seasons past were put up for auction, including Dixie Dean’s autograph. Proceeds from the auction went towards kid’s football clubs Bootle Bucks and Litherland Blue.
Joe Royle, Howard Kendall, John Hurst and Derek Temple were at hand to reminisce about the Toffeemen of the 60’s decade, while Graham Stuart and Tony Cottee were joined by 2004 derby hero Lee Carsley who covered Everton’s more recent history including the current day squad.
Everton’s past players are well versed in such events and this was another treat for Blues young and old. But it was the inclusion in the starting line-up of a legend with little association with Everton, although he did play at Goodison Park in a game in which he played for the home team in 1966 without ever playing for Everton.
Gordon Banks was the special guest among an already special starting line-up and the man who kept goal in England’s World Cup winning side of ’66 was a brilliant addition to the mix (if you didn’t get it, he played for England vs Portugal when Goodison hosted the WC semi-final).
As strong and confident handling a crowd as he was handling the ball, Banks captivated the room with fascinating tales of English football’s greatest moment when he lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley.
Perhaps more intriguing were his stories which told of Sir Alf Ramsey’s side’s route to the final, which involved a collision course (quite literally for poor Martin Peters) with the fearless Argentina captain Antonio Rattin.
Banks couldn’t hide his disbelief at the tactics employed by the Argies to unsettle an England side who were destined to lift the trophy. After two incidents involving Peters being on the wrong end of a Rattin ‘challenge’ the referee upon ordering Rattin off the pitch, was met with a stern and cold shake of the head, the Argentina captain refusing to leave.
He also recounted of a chair that came flying through the dressing room after the game, although there are no prizes for guessing which angry Argentinian threw it.
In a one-to-one interview during the evening Banks shared his thoughts on his early days playing football in Sheffield, the current England team, and an admiration for Everton’s own Leighton Baines.
“I was a poor scholar and left school at 15. I played for Sheffield Boys but I didn’t particularly want to be a keeper when I was younger; I could have played outfield. The manager of the team I was playing for asked what my position was, and I simply asked them: “Where are you weakest?” He replied “in goal”. I would have played wherever I was asked.”
As the current England side were busy negotiating Montenegro, Banks said of Roy Hodgson’s men (who must have been listening in from Wembley): “I think we’ll qualify. I’d like us to be a bit more dangerous, as recently we don’t look as though we create and attack as much as we should. I’d like other teams to be more afraid of us.”
Hodgson fielded his most adventurous starting XI on that night and it paid off with a 4-1 victory which sets the team up for automatic qualification to next year’s World Cup Finals. One player who will be vying for a starting place should they get to Brazil will be Everton’s Leighton Baines and Banks had only praise for the marauding left-back.
“I think he’s a terrific player. I really like what he does; he’s a very similar player to the full-backs in my time: always moving, finding space. He’s definitely a throw-back to the full-backs of my era, overlapping and breaching defences.”
“In today’s game, managers are so frightened that if a full back does that and doesn’t get back they’re out of position, but that’s just negative to me. A team can’t be successful like that.”
And the World Cup winner also had a brief word to say about Everton’s rising star, Ross Barkley: “I’ve not seen too much of him, but they (England) need to look at as many players as they can (between now and the 2014 World Cup) to see if they’re going to be good enough to pressure the first team.”
“He (Barkley) could have a chance if he gets games and plays well enough.”