It was an aggressive
rain that could have cut and sliced stone, or chiseled the shape and grandeur
into mountains. But, on this day – the sky scattered torrid torrential rain
across a North Liverpool field and more importantly across the field and pitch
I was playing football on.
The pouring rain
hammered the ground. A gallant and gritty driving force of nature zapped energy
from the legs and ensured the heavyweight football zipped around with pinball
pace and venom.
The penalty spot was extremely
distressed by the uncomfortable conditions and decided to slide five yards away
from its home, turning itself inside out, upside down and into the shape of a
The waterlogged six yard box was sodden heavy. For the brave goalkeeper, survival – not ambition, was the dominant aim.
Only the wind and rain watched this waterlogged game of football. No spectators, no referees and no managers.
It was just a game for two
14 year old friends in the 1980s, friends since the early 1970s and still friends
in 2020. Two lads on a pitch, with a ball, enjoying the beautiful game of, “trying
to score a goal past my mate Dave”. A format not recognised by FIFA….yet!
Full sized goalposts
soared and towered in height. On reflection, we should never have attempted to
cover the range and distance between the goal posts, especially covered in mud
and unable to run due to heavily soaked burdensome training clothes and a
pocket full of less burdensome strawberry Bon Bons.
Behind the goal, a
makeshift mound was built with a makeshift plastic roof. It stood several
inches above the river forming on the ground. The mound ended up the home for a
lemonade bottle naturally full of diluted orange juice, sandwiches and a side
order of crisps and biscuits.
The wind and rain
become more intimidating, but the empty field, dark sky and silhouettes
provided a poetic vision, scene and theme – all enhancing our footballing
My imagination turned
the field and pitch into Goodison Park. I am a blue, Dave is a red. And on this
day, Dave was also every rival goalkeeper I could think of, from every rival team
I could think of.
For every goal, I heard
the net ripple, yet there was no net. I also celebrated with thousands of
Evertonians behind the goal and listened to them singing my name – yet it was
just Dave and I.
For every save, I
congratulated Dave, but I also told him he wouldn’t save another – but he did. And
when I did score, Dave, at times questioned the goal, raising his arm,
gesturing towards a nonexistent linesman, demanding offside. But the goal
always stood….of course it would, I just didn’t tell Dave or Dave’s imaginary
On this day, we were
four miles from Goodison. We spent four hours on a field and for those four
hours, I dreamt I was on the Goodison pitch.
Our dedication and
determination was evident. Our imagination avoided the wind and rain. The mind
was never drenched, cold or splattered in mud.
We were the players,
the fans, the ball boys, the linesman, the referee, the kitman, the manager,
the commentators and just two young teenagers loving the beautiful game…..with
seventeen drink breaks and four cheese and onion sandwiches. But sadly, two
sandwiches were ruined by savage rain. Damaged and distressed with tin foil
trapping the ingredients and turning them into a mess of messes, but we still
The trek home was harsh
with clothes so heavy. Shoppers and drivers stared in disbelief that two teenagers
had been out in such weather, covered from head to toe in mud, but still eating
the remainder of the strawberry Bon Bons.
As I waved goodbye to
Dave, I felt like we had played a cup game at Goodison. We didn’t make the
grade – we never ever thought we would. But my dreams were always wrapped
around a football and my imagination always made the grade.
My dream just had that
punishing knack of not coming true.
For you, the dream may
well have been Goodison Park, Anfield or Prenton Park or somewhere else. Dreams
can still be rewarding, mine brought me closer to the football club I adore.
That afternoon, playing
water/mud football in the field, with our own FIFA rules was no different than
many other teenage experiences across the city, nation or the world.
But for some the dream
Ronny Goodlass is a former
Everton footballer and legend. A glowing career of football took him to his
beloved Everton and across the world and Ronny now commentates on Everton games
for Radio Merseyside. He is still passionate and loyal to the game he loves.
I met up with the man himself to discuss the early Ronny Goodlass, team ethics and Goodison Park.
younger Ronny Goodlass, was football a big part of family life at home?
Yes Matt, very much
so, it stemmed from my Grandad and Dad really – they were all big Evertonians.
I was born and raised locally, and in our day it was just football, no dreams
of being a popstar or anything else – it was just football!
You would play
football at school, and then from the moment you arrived home from school, you
were playing football outside in the street, and playing football until it went
dark, or until your Mum or Nan called you in for tea!
You know, those
games in the street, 25 a-side at times, coats down and playing until you would
hear the shout to get yourself home. But around the area, we all felt the same,
it was a football area….just football
games, 25-a-side – even I remember them from growing up!
Yes, most kids in
streets play them. One person turns up and you need to find another! So, it
went from 11 a-side to 25-a-side. And it was kids of all ages, but you didn’t
care, you just wanted to play football.
was it about playing football that excited you, the fact you were enjoying
developing your craft, controlling the ball, scoring goals etc, or was it a
social thing, in terms of you could play out with friends?
I think it was
socially. As a lad, of course you enjoyed it. I was a winger, a dribbler, I
enjoyed beating people and it was lovely to go past someone and maybe score a
goal, or create a goal.
But out of those 25
players on the other team, they may have lads who enjoyed defending and
stopping me. It wasn’t 25 wingers against 25 wingers, it was a mixture of
abilities and positions. Some lads did not like being a winger, but they could
defend, they could head a ball.
I always say to
kids, it’s a team game, not just about you, it is a social thing and it was a
community for me. I enjoyed it and I was getting better at same time.
you realised from an early age it was a team ethic needed?
Yes, definitely, although
you can be a little bit selfish in a game. As a kid, if you own the football,
you lend it to everyone else to play with! And in a game, it is the same, you
can own it, but help the team utilise it. Do the best you can in a team
environment – help them play as a team and you will then have the support of
others. But, also, at the end of the game, it is more satisfying when someone
recognises you played well for the team
school, was there a turning point, or defining moment, when you thought, you
were capable of playing at a higher level?
We moved up to
Cantril Farm when I was 8 and I went to Cantril Farm Primary School. I played
football for the school when I was 8,9,10 and 11. I wasn’t the biggest but,
then again, I am not the biggest now! We had a good team. I captained the team
when I was 10 and I remember playing at Everton’s training ground – Bellefield.
We won 4-0 and I scored 2!
But I didn’t at ten
years of age think that one day I would be training there, I just loved the
game and the crowd was full of family and friends. That feeling of winning a
trophy and being captain at the same time felt fantastic and I wanted that
when did you realise it had potential as a career?
I signed an apprenticeship
contract at 15 and cleaned Alan Balls boots! I was on 6,7,8 pound, which
doesn’t buy much these days. I was sub at 17 and desperate to play at Goodison
for the first team in a league game
But, I did play for Everton first team at 15, in first against reserves. I was asked to go on by Harry Catterick for Johnny Morrissey! And there I was, with the Everton Holy Trinity in front of a Goodison crowd!
The Holy Trinity Statue at Goodison Park – Photograph by Michelle Marshall
getting shivers just thinking about that!
I was the only
change from the team that won the championship in 1969/70. There I was Matt,
with all my footballing idols; Jimmy Husband, Brain Labone, Joe Royle, Gordon
West, Tommy Wright and Harvey, Kendall and Ball. I went from climbing up lampposts
to peak at my heroes playing at Bellfield to playing alongside them at Goodison
Park at 15 years old – it doesn’t get much better ….oh and we won!
believe you waited a few years before your debut?
I was sub a few times beforehand, but my debut finally came against Manchester United. Billy Bingham spoke to me on the morning of the game and commented on how well I was doing. He then said – “you are playing tonight against Manchester United”. I floated home after morning training. I told my Dad, Brother and everyone else, there was no social media then, so it was word of mouth. On the coach, going to the game, I knew I was playing. I was so excited to see crowds of blues heading to the game.
Goodison Park – Photograph by Michelle Marshall
Goodison Park under the floodlights is very special. I started well and the crowd supported me. And then……the floodlights failed!! I had waited all this time for my debut and the floodlights go out!
We stood in the
tunnel and I was hoping an electrician was in the ground, or I was planning on finding
a screwdriver to fix it myself. Fourteen minutes we were off the pitch when we
got the all clear to go out again. I dragged everyone out. In the end we drew 1-1, I played well and I hit the post. It was
a remarkable day and remarkable feeling.
you feel the pressure to perform that day, to stay in the team?
I have always had
the aim of feeling pride in my performance, for me, my team and my family. My
family travelled everywhere to watch me. I always wanted to play well in front
of my Dad. When I was younger, I would say to him, he didn’t have to go the
game. He would sometimes tell me he wasn’t, but then I’d see him hiding
watching me! He would give it away when we got home, I’d say “I scored two
today Dad”, he would say – “well your left foot goal was good“ and then give it
away he had travelled to watch me! But, I always felt I should always have a
real pride in my performance regardless.
Park; the tunnel – when you are lined up in the tunnel and you hear the crowd
singing and Z cars playing, does it intimidate opposition players?
Yes! Very much so!.
Back in the day, it was a concrete floor and studs were virtually aluminum.
Mick Lyons would bang his feet, stamp his studs against the concrete floor and
slam changing room doors, the sound would echo through the tunnel. Goodison
Park is intimidating – it really is. And when the opposition players come out,
they would feel it, the eight or so steps from the tunnel to the pitch would
The noise was
incredible. And at home, that gives you a lift, an extra yard, extra energy. If
you do the best, the volume of the crowd was amazing. If you weren’t built to
survive in those stadium atmospheres, football isn’t for you!
do you have any from your playing days?
Well, my brother,
shall we say – in the nicest possible way, took them when I wasn’t looking! I
gave them to my Dad and he now has them, he has my tracksuits and Wembley shirt,
but it’s fine, he still has them.
commentating for Radio Merseyside – during the game, do you ever think back and
recall taking a free kick, taking a corner or flying down the pitch? When I am
there, I recall being a ball boy for the day, with my heroes on the pitch – and
even recall being hit by a cheese and ham sandwich, thrown by an away fan!
Ha ha – well I
gather you don’t like those sandwiches now?!
I’m now a vegetarian … maybe that’s the reason I am!
I kick and head
every ball Matt, I really do, I still feel like I get involved. I still feel
like I’m experiencing it, I still enjoy it! I am still passionate about the
On the radio, I am
honest. I tell the truth, especially for the people who can’t go, whether it be
financial or health reasons. I just say how I see it and fans from both sides
And finally Ronny, can you name 3 Liverpool Streets that mean the most to you and why?
street played a massive part of my life, I grew up there. It was off Everton
Road so there was only one team I was going to play for or support. Around
100-150 yards from where I lived is St Rupert’s Tower, I would travel past it
and I would glance up and wonder if I would ever wear that crest on my chest.
Thankfully I did!
In that street, there were mainly blues, but also some reds, but all through my career, that community wanted me to do well, which is special. What a lovely community that was. I love the rivalry as long as its banter, but I don’t ever want it to cross the line. A community should stick together and that community really did. A lovely community
Gwladys Street – Photograph by Michelle Marhall
Again, this is massive for me, just the name brings the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Everyone knows about it. When you were a kid, it’s the place you want to watch the game. When you finally make the game as a kid and stand in the Gwladys Street, you feel like you have arrived! The only better place after that is on the pitch!
However, I had my first season ticket in the Bullens Road with my Dad and Grandad. But Gwladys Street is the one, Gwladys Street is Everton Football Club. And you don’t get a better tribute to Howard Kendall, when you see it named the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End – which is lovely for Howard, his family and the club. Joe Royle is a mad blue and when you mention Gwladys Street, he has a smile on his face, it really is Everton.
Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End – Goodison Park – Photography by Michelle Marshall
My Dads ashes are in that end. And when I hear the siren, I always think of my Dad and at the end of the game, I give a little nod to him. On match day, I am there and my Dad is there. The club laid wreaths there for him, for us, but that is Everton, it is a special and wonderful club.
have a second life! .After the game we would go the clubs down there. It was
the place to be! And when the bouncers let you in without queuing and straight
into booths, you felt you had made it! The clubs down there were great, it was
a great life.
Overall, when I think back Matt – it was a special time, it really
Thank you to Ronny Goodlass from Matthew Jacobson and all at Explore-Liverpool….
Please take a look at Ronny’s charity; www.healththroughsport.co.uk/
Using your donations, Health Through Sport provides
sports coach training to disadvantaged children and young adults across
Partnering with local charities (such as the
Whitechapel centre), we use your donations to help homeless people get back on
Health Through Sport helps raise awareness and funding
for other initiatives such as Decembeard (bowel cancer),
Ronny’s book – Blue Nose is available at; www.healththroughsport.co.uk/bluenose/