By John Roberts
4 March 2010
Michael Foot, the former leader of the Labour Party who died yesterday at the age of 96, was famously a lifelong fan of Plymouth Argyle, but perhaps less well known is the affection he developed for Everton when he was a resident of Liverpool in the early 1930s.
Foot worked in the city as a shipping clerk, and his first-hand experience of Liverpool’s poverty, unemployment and deprivation – not something he had seen before – helped to inform his politics in later life.
One period in Everton’s history made a particular impact on Foot; the club’s ultimately unsuccessful FA Cup run in 1935. In the third round they beat Grimsby 6-3. Then they drew 1-1 at Sunderland, and in the fourth-round replay at Goodison Park, they won 6-4 in a match considered among the greatest ever seen, certainly to that point.
Derby County were the next opponents, and Everton won 3-1 before losing in the sixth round at home to Bolton, 2-1. After that match, Foot wrote a poem, entitled ‘Ode to Everton FC’, which was published in the Liverpool Daily Post.
Ode to Everton FC
When at Thy call my weary feet I turn
The gates of paradise are opened wide
At Goodison I know a man can learn
Rapture more rich than Anfield can provide.
In Coulter’s skill and Geldard’s subtle speed
I see displayed in all its matchless bounty
The power of which the heavens decreed
The fall of Sunderland and Derby County.
The hands of Sagar, Dixie’s priceless head
Made smooth the path to Wembley till that day
When Bolton came. Now hopes are fled
And all is sunk in bottomless dismay.
And so I watch with heart and temper cool
God’s lesser breed of men at Liverpool.
– – – – – – – – –
Albert Geldard was a right winger, described at the time as “so fast he could catch pigeons.” A Bradford lad, he’d first played football for his home-town club aged 15 years, 156 days, then a record young age in the Football League.
Jackie Coulter was a Dubliner, an outside left.
Dixie Dean the most prolific goal scorer of his era, famously netting 60 league goals in one season, 1927-28, still a record.
John Roberts wrote Everton’s Official Centenary History, published in 1978. In a forthcoming column for sportingintelligence, he will recall the day he spent with Dixie Dean, as Dean talked him goal-by-goal through that 1927-28 season