Book Review: Money Can’t Buy Us Love: Everton in the 1960s by Gavin Buckland

Gavin Buckland is Everton’s official statistician, so the book is almost certain to be factually accurate and it is clearly a labour of love for the author. So far so good. And, although it is possibly too detailed at times, it is an enjoyable read. Evertonians of a certain vintage will surely lap it up; a chronicle of a time when the club won two Championships and the FA Cup, an era when stars like Alan Ball and Alex Young were in their pomp. Plus a nostalgic look back to when Toffee fans led the country in smashing up football train specials…

But the ‘so far so good’ point is that there is way too much detail for the less devoted fan and the book’s title is simply not accurate. When we reach the end of the 1960s, Buckland decides, since he’s enjoying himself so much, to simply keep going and we get not just the bonus of 1970 (which makes some sense as it is the completion of Everton’s second title winning season) but then 1971 sneaks in. Ok, room for one more, but what’s this? 1971 says, ‘Can my pal come, too?’ so we get 1972. And guess what? 1972 wants his pal so we get 1973 before finally calling a halt to the ‘sixties’.

There is some reason for all this. The central pivot of the book is the contribution made to the club’s success by chairman John Moores, founder of Littlewoods Pools, in combination with manager Harry Catterick. Each of them still wielded strong influence in the early years of the 1970s making a neat cut off point extra difficult. But this also brings another problem. The central premise is that Everton bought their success and it made them very unpopular, hence the title and word play on the Beatles’ hit ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. The author clearly proves his case going into bagfuls of detail and quoting extensively from the press, especially the quality press. The second championship, centred on the famous ‘holy trinity’ of Ball, Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey. However, they were noted for the fine football they played and that central premise no longer holds true.

Trying to pour too much into a pint pot? For sure and I fear it therefore narrows the likely audience which is a shame because there are tons of really interesting stories and facts within, for instance the Football Bribes Scandal of the early sixties is dealt with expertly. Everton were the innocent victims of it as they lost a real star in Tony Kay who had accepted a bribe whilst still at Sheffield Wednesday and was banned from football for life.

There is plenty of gossip such as how the unhappy former goalkeeper Albert Dunlop alleged that Everton players tried to bribe the opposition. His case was not proven but they say some mud always sticks…

And first team coach Stewart Imlach earned himself a punch in the face for his dismissive treatment of misfit striker Bernie Wright. Not a good idea to treat a moody reject so badly then run past him in training, it seems.

Too many times, Buckland slips into straightforward reportage of game after game but his details of the battles fought out between Everton and Leeds United are fascinating and he tells with relish of the confrontations between two very hard men Jack Charlton and Johnny Morrissey. Among the excellent photographs is the famous one where the referee had to take both teams off the pitch to let things cool down. Former Everton hero (and another hard man) Bobbie Collins, by then at Leeds, and Everton’s Brian Labone are walking off side by side and Labone is literally head and shoulders above Collins. A great picture about a time in football that the author recounts pretty well. It deserves a wider audience because there is so much in the book to enjoy.


Graeme Garvey

(deCoubertin Books, August 2019 363pp)


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Book Review: Here We Go: Everton in the 1980s – The Players’ Stories by Simon Hart

(NOTE: This is the [revised and updated] paperback version, published in 2019, of the hardback edition which was published in 2016. 270pp)

To get the major (and perhaps only) criticism out of the way from the start, the book is written in the miniscule font 8! That is way too small for a comfortable read and it is great pity because the content is excellent. One can only conjecture that some financial constraint dictated the small font but, for whatever reason, it’s a shame!

Simon Hart’s book is a really enjoyable read and has an obvious audience of mature Evertonians who look back dewy-eyed at the successful years in the mid-80s. Its appeal is much wider, though, and ought to provide good reading for any (mature) football lover. It would be a waste of time trying for a younger audience, anyway, as few under 25 can probably be motivated to reading anything where you are required to actually turn pages.

The subtitle tells the necessary information about the book. It deals with Everton in the 1980s, told in a series of interviews with many but not all of the major players. Andy Gray, Graeme Sharp, Trevor Steven, Gary Stevens, John Bailey, Alan Harper and Kevin Sheedy are all absent. Their input would surely have added much. Part of the appeal of it covering the whole decade is that some very drossy years sandwiched some exceptional ones where Everton were the best team in the land – and the club was the major sufferer from the European football ban imposed on English teams following the Heysel tragedy.

There are many hidden gems which Simon Hart patiently and skilfully reveals that would almost certainly be missing in a book about a decade of remorseless success. For example, having played football in North Wales in the same era as Neville Southall, I tend to believe his claim that, amongst all the football pitches covered in sheep, cow, dog shit, there was one with a telegraph pole in the middle, which they, presumably, treated like a roundabout.

A recurring feature of the story is how many footballers missed many games and/or shortened their careers by playing despite being injured; Mark Higgins and Paul Bracewell being among the number. The sharp contrast is made between those days and the modern era where players are simply not risked in the same way. The sheer variety of different characters and backgrounds allows Hart to build up a layered picture where everyone featured has an observation or anecdote of their own to add.

Under Howard Kendall’s inspired management, Everton won the FA Cup (in 1984), the League Championship twice (in 1985 & 1987), plus the European Cup Winners’ Cup (in 1985) beating Bayern Munich in the Semi-Final on the way to victory. Their win at Goodison Park was, by common consent, THE performance of the decade, after Kendall told the team who were losing 1-0 at half time to get the ball forward and the Gwladys Street would ‘suck the ball into the net.’ They did, three times.

The various contributions build up an affectionate picture of the inspired management team of Kendall and Colin Harvey that brought out the best in such a diverse group of players and, having actually seen Pat Van den Hauwe play many times, after reading his contribution, I am drawn to the conclusion that his nickname ‘Psycho Pat’ is probably a little on the understated side.

There is so much to like about the book and the ones who might have been deemed bit-part players often make the most telling contributions. The key factor is the feeling they all had or found for the club, none more so than the much-loved Harvey. Yet players did not need to have been Evertonians born and bred. That was encapsulated by Adrian Heath’s words. The bond was so strong, he felt, that they became ‘blood brothers’ and there was a love of club and a love of each other.

The only one who does not show that affectionate feeling, and never felt it, is Gary Lineker. Everything he says is fine and at least he was good enough to contribute at length, but it comes across unmistakably that, uniquely in this book, the pull of Everton which made a special mark on so many, for once did not work.

Graeme Garvey


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