Saturday, November 9 – 1963
Yeah, yeah, yeah … the new Liverpool Sound may be a baby-faced Beatle telling you that she loves you.
But according to Mr. Danny Blanchflower, captain of Spurs, it is: “A dart whizzing through the air and hitting a goalkeeper’s head.”
The dart which has set the feathers flying among Soccer fans all over Brttain was the one that ended up in the hardpressed Spurs goalmouth when Tottenham visited Everton the other week.
Once again the Merseyside “terrors” – supporters of Everton and Liverpool – are branded as the roughest, rowdiest rabble who watch British Soccer.
Yeah, yeah, YEAH? How justified is this charge against the football fans of Britain’s Beat City?
Mr. E. Holland Hughes, an Everton director, told me in a memorable understatement: “When you get a crowd of 50,000 you are bound to get a little conduct that is not quite parliamentary.
“It doesn’t only happened at Everton, of course. At a London match I’ve seen them throwing toilet rolls.”
“They do that at Everton,” I said.
“Ah, yes, but not so many,” parried Mr. Hughes in a deft move worthy of any Everton defence.
Over at Anfield last Saturday, where Liverpool were entertaining Leicester, apple cores, orange peel and a chewed pork chop were disgorged from the 15,000 on Spion Kop.
The “piece of wood” reported to have been thrown at Leicester goalkeeper Gordon Banks was, in fact, a thin slice of plywood the size of an exercise book. It was lobbed about four yards from the goal when play was in midfield.
It may well have had the numbers one to twenty written round it. For one Scouse wit shouted as Banks walked on to the field: “Don’t worry about the arrears, Gordon – we’ve got a dartboard!”
But let’s put throwing into perspective. Plenty of other soccer fans chuck things in the tense heat of a Saturday afternoon. At Preston, bus ticket rolls are preferred to toilet paper.
George Bailey, president of the Everton Supporters’ Club, told me: “The trouble is that this city make news. One dart and we become a mob of dart throwing hooligans. A chip of wood tossed on to the pitch eventually becomes a block.
“No one is condoning the throwing of missiles. It gives the team and the city a bad name. But in our experience practically all the trouble is caused by youngsters.”
From my investigations on Merseyside this week I think he is right. Much of the rowdiness is sheer kid’s stuff.
Bill Brown, Spurs goalkeeper, complained of being pelted with marbles and rice blown from peashooters. I find it hard to picture a tough Liverpool docker with a mounthfull of rice operating a peashooter.
Everton Football Club appreciate this problem. This week they banned unaccompanied children from using their parents’ stand season tickets for Central League games because of the trouble some of them have caused.
British Railways at Liverpool told me: “There has only been damage on one Everton football excursion train this season.
“We investigated and found that the damage had been caused almost entirely by youngsters. As a result, we have stopped issuing half fare tickets on football trains from Liverpool – lots of lads over fourteen were getting these tickets.
“The first excursion since the ban – to Blackpool last week – was trouble free. We feel we have stopped the main cause of the damage.”
Everton directors, who are investigating the dart-throwing incident for the Football Association, have eye-witness reports which claim that the Spurs goalkeeper picked up the dart when he arrived at the goalmouth at the start of the second half.
George Bailey says: “No one can tell when it was thrown. Who knows, one youngster who had a dart in his pocket might have said during the interval, ‘I bet I can hit the goal post.’”
Police precautions taken at Everton’s ground at Goodison Park are among the best in the country. For a normal game, Everton pay £198 11s. for an inspector, six sergeants and 56 constables on a four-hour shift – £4 5s. for an inspector, £3 9s. each for sergeants and £3 2s. for constables.
For the Spurs match, the police bill was £318 7s. 6d. for 81 police doing a five-hour stint.
Chief-Superintendent E. Jones, head of the Liverpool division which includes Goodison Park and Anfield, told me: “The crowds are well-behaved. In the nine years I have been here there have been no charges arising out of hooliganism. There’s been no necessity.”
No one is calling the Merseyside football fans angels. They may be more fervent in their support than most. They certainly take their football seriously.
One Everton supporter said: “We are tremendously possessive people. If anyone lifts a boot to our Alex Young that sets us off.”
For a last word let us go away from Merseyside.
Liverpool are playing at Bolton today. Are the barricades going up in Bolton?
Bolton police say: “We are not anticipating any trouble. There has been none in the past.”
Bill Ridding, secretary-manager of Bolton, says: “We had Everton here early in the season and everything was fine.
“We don’t see any reason to think it will be different when Liverpool come.”
(Daily Mirror, Anthony Miles, 09-11-1963)
The Spion Kop crowd, picture from 1971, from http://www.lfchistory.net