DEC
08
2013
Exclusive Interview With Graham Stuart
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Blue Echo Interviews Graham Stuart

Graham and I met at his local golf club. We sat and over a coffee talked about his signing  for Howard Kendall, the turbulent times under Mike Walker and the refreshing times under Joe Royle. Graham is still very fond of Everton and now resides in the North West.

Ladies and Gentleman I bring you "THE DIAMOND GEEZER" as he was affectionately known . Enjoy and COYB!!

Q1/ YOUR STARTED YOUR CAREER AT CHELSEA WHERE YOU SPENT 4 YEARS. HOW DID YOU JOIN THEM?

A1/ I went there as an associate schoolboy,  It was different back in those days. There was no academy's in those days. You could train with any football team that asked you.

I used to train at Wimbledon on a Tuesday night, Crystal Palace and Arsenal. I was on the verge of signing associate schoolboy forms at the age of 14 for Crystal Palace.

Fortunately for me Crystal Palace were very kind to me and released me from them forms and allowed me to join Chelsea.

As soon as I went to Chelsea I loved it. I loved the atmosphere the people I was dealing with and we had a coach at Chelsea called Gwyn Williams who was at Chelsea forever who later went on to join Leeds with Ken Bates but Gwyn was a phenomenal youth coach who taught me a lot.

It's important as a youngster because you need to be grounded and have a good upbringing to be taught properly.

Q2/ EVERTON SIGNED YOU IN 1993. WHEN DID YOU HEAR OF THEIR INTEREST IN YOU?

A2/ I was having a bit of a contractual dispute at Chelsea. I played a hundred and odd games for Chelsea. And let's say they were trying to get me to sign a 3 year contract on the  cheap.

It blew up a little bit and became a little harmonious and what have you and all of a sudden I find out from my agent that Arsenal are interested. Everton were also interested.

I had a phone call from Frank McLintock at Arsenal to say that George Graham was interested but not for the money you want

I said "You don't know what money I want because we've never talked about it".

He said that "He'd read the papers""

I said "That's nonsense. That's Chelsea being a bit naughty to be honest with you"

I actually played a pre season game on a Saturday afternoon at Chelsea. After the game I was in a pub in Wimbledon where I lived and was with my mates. The landlord came down stairs and said

"There's a Mr Kendall on the phone for you"

I couldn't believe it. I was stood in the pub!!

I'm thinking to myself. How does he know where I am?

So I took the call upstairs and exchanged niceties.

He told me that he would like me to come up to Bellefield as he would like to speak to me.

I said that "I would love to come and speak with you and by the way, how did you get my number?"

He said "Your mum gave it to me"

I said: " I hope she's not going to ruin my career before it's started by giving the number out for my local pub!!!"

I went to say goodbye to him and he said

"Oh, by the way, have a few for me"

Q3/ WAS IT DIFFICULT MOVING UP NORTH AND DID YOU SETTLE IN WELL?

A3/ I must admit, it was really, really difficult for 6 months. I lived in a hotel in Paradise Street and was in there for about four months.

I came up alone and wasn't married and relatively young. It's only when I look back now that then all I ever knew was London which is a massive place, a rat race and people come and go.

When you arrive on Merseyside it's a big thing and you either play for the reds or the blues and you are instantly recognisable which made me feel that I was in a bit of a goldfish bowl and found it very difficult to adapt to.

I felt a lot better when I found a house and moved into Formby and once I settled in I got my head around it and found out exactly what football on Merseyside was all about.

Q4/ YOU MADE YOUR LEAGUE DEBUT ON 21ST AUGUST 1993 AGAINST SHEFFIELD UNITED AT HOME WHICH ENDED IN A 4-2 WIN. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THAT DAY?

A4/ I'll tell you what I remember initially, Howard was sensational.

My mum and dad came up for the game and wanted to be there for my debut. Howard, straight away said

"Right, where's your mum and dad, I want to meet them" He went out of his way to meet them and my parents to this day have never forgotten that.

All the years I had been at Chelsea, nobody had taken the slightest bit of interest in my parents.

From a football perspective, 3 or 4 minutes into the game I went into a tackle because I knew I had to get stuck in but I slammed my back.

I was in agony to be honest with you but didn't want to show that I was hurt. I was in absolute agony and I think once you get into the game the adrenalin's pumping.

The next morning when I woke up I was in agony and really should have said something at the time. But I didn't want anyone to think that I was a soft southerner.

I probably didn't do myself any favours because I was in agony with it. So I probably didn't start my Everton career the best way I wanted to.

Q5/ YOUR FIRST SEASON NEARLY ENDED UP WITH RELEGATION. WAS RELEGATION EVER DISCUSSED AMONGST THE PLAYERS DURING THE LATTER STAGES OF THE SEASON?

A5/ Never. You tend not to discuss stuff like that. There's something in the back of your mind that you're never going to be relegated.

I think that when It happens to you, you say things like we should have done this and dealt with this better and things like that. I think we came far too close on a couple of occasions but it's something that was never mentioned and discussed because we knew we were better than that.

Q6/ 7TH MAY 1994 WIMBLEDON AT HOME. HOW DID THE PLAYERS PREPARE THAT WEEK KNOWING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GAME?

 A6/ It was a difficult week. There was a lot of pressure, press wise. The media were looking at Everton from the fact they had been in the top flight for so long. So there was a lot of intensity about the place.

We went about our training in the normal way and our business the way we would normally do but there was no denying that the club could go down.

I think the nearer we got to the game it became more nerve wracking, supporters alike.

Q7/  TRAILING 2-1 AT HALF TIME. WAS THE FEELING LIKE IN THE DRESSING ROOM THAT YOU COULD STILL WIN?

A7/ I think the important thing was getting that goal at half time because let's be honest, the game could not have started any worse.

To be 2-0 down after 20 minutes or so, you're fighting for your lives. It's like a boxer going out to fight in a world title fight and being smashed on the floor in the first minute and that's kind of what it was.

But credit to us, it wasn't a great game of football but the desire was there to make sure we stayed up.

I've never experienced anything like it, the fear around the ground and the silence was deafening because as we were trailing there were people walking out thinking this was it

But as a bunch of players we had the responsibility to turn it all around. The decision we got to get a penalty. Anders never one to dive to go down in the box, we got the penalty and the fact that we were 2-0 down I wasn't as nervous if it had have been 2-2 and we needed a penalty to keep us up.

So as much as it was important it wasn't as pressurised as it should have done. So the fact that the ball went into the bottom corner it gave us a lifeline and something to hold on to.

Q8/ DO YOU THINK WITHOUT THAT GOAL BEFORE HALF TIME IT WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT?

A8/ In all fairness when you look at a game with 45 minutes to go it is very, very rarely that you would turn that around. As I say, that goal was super important.

Q9/ YOU SCORED 2 THAT DAY. HOW MUCH ON A PERSONAL LEVEL DID THAT MEAN THAT YOU KEPT EVERTON UP?

A9/ A lot of people say that I kept Everton up. I mean I never single handily keep Everton up  it was a collective effort.

I mean Barry Horne's goal was from 25 yards in the top corner and nobody hardly ever mentions it because I got 2.

How many times have you seen Barry smash it in the corner from 25 yards? It kind of meant that it was just meant to be and I'm delighted that I  played my part but I'm massively embarrassed that we were in the position in the first place. That's what everybody forgets that we should never have been in that position in the first place.

So when people say you should celebrate and be chuffed to bits the fact that I was there when it happened but not something to be proud about being nearly relegated with a club of Everton's stature.

As much as it was sensational that we stayed up and the euphoria at the end of the game we were all absolutely ecstatic but when you sit back and take a deep breath, we should never have been in that situation.

Q9/ WHEN JOE ROYLE TOOK CHARGE. HOW MUCH DID HE CHANGE THE METHODS OF THOSE UNDER MIKE WALKER?

A9/ I think the difference was when Joe came it  was like chalk and cheese because Mike had done really well at Norwich.

I myself had been at Norwich and without being disrespectful to the football club because it is a great football club, it's not even on the same planet as Everton Football Club.

The intensity of the football on Merseyside is something to behold as I've already said it took me a good few months to get my head around it and I don't think that Mike really ever got his head around it. He might have thought he did but I don't think he ever got his head around what Merseyside football was all about and what Evertonians wanted and expected before it was pretty much too late.

The difference was when Joe came in, he was an Evertonian, he played for the football club and knew what was expected. He knew the requirements and the passion of the football club from the minute Joe arrived at the football club you knew what playing for Everton Football club was all about.

Okay, it wasn't the prettiest in the world to start off with because it was about getting results. He got the best out of the likes of Andy Hinchcliffe, he brought in Duncan and lit a fuse under him and also got the best out of the likes of Paul Rideout etc.

He transformed things along with Willie Donachie who should get a mention as well because he was a phenomenal trainer and a phenomenal coach who was a very quiet unassuming guy but everybody had massive, massive respect for Willie because he knew what he was doing.

Everything on a Monday morning was geared to what was happening at the weekend. Every training session, there was a reason behind it. There was a double training session on a Monday and weight training on a Wednesday then off on Thursday.

We worked really hard on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then had Thursday off with a light session on the Friday ready to go on the Saturday.

It was never the same, that was our schedule and that was the way we did things unless there was a midweek game but nothing changed.

Q10/ DID DUNCAN FERGUSON'S ARRIVAL HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON EVERTON'S REVIVAL?

A10/ I don't think there's any doubt about that. Everton are very famous for their number 9's but they hadn't had one for a while and I think the fans needed it as well. The fans needed Duncan and Duncan needed them which was a match made in heaven really. If you speak to Duncan he will speak glowingly about Everton as much as I do because he actually loves the place.

 He loves it because the fans took to him and he was a dominant figure and was powerful number nine. He got off to a great start against the arch enemy and you couldn't ask for anymore than that it was the ideal start for him and he never looked back.

Q11/ ON THE 29TH JANUARY 1995 EVERTON OVERCOME A VERY TRICKY  TIE AT BRISTOL CITY IN THE FA CUP. DID YOU THINK THAT WE COULD GET TO THE FINAL AT THAT STAGE?

A11/ That's another situation where you are trying to get through the early rounds. We knocked Derby County out in the third round.

The pitch at Bristol was horrendous and we got absolutely hammered but we dug in and any side that wins the FA Cup will always look at one game where they rode their luck which was that one.

I think after that we were pretty comfortable in all those games after that, we smashed Norwich, we beat Newcastle in the quarter final.

The final everybody was rattling on about was the dream final Manchester United and Tottenham and we absolutely smashed Spurs.

I 've always said that was the best team performance that i've ever been involved with in a 90 minute game of football it's as simple as that. The performance was phenomenal that day.

Q12/ FA CUP SEMI FINAL VERSUS SPURS. WERE YOU SURPRISED TO BEAT THEM SO EASY TO SPOIL THE MEDIA PARTY?

A12/ I wasn't surprised at all because at the time we were on such a good run of form and a massive belief in the side and each other that if 1 or 2 weren't quite on the ball the other 8 would carry them.

That's how confident we were as a side, we just didn't have people that would let you down. I remember people talking about the goals but I remember Joe Parkinson absolutely crunching through Nicky Barmby and to be fair to" Barmbs" he did well to get up.

Everybody talks about the "Dogs Of War" but that discredits the capabilities of Barry and Joe and Johnny Ebbrell but they were good players in their own right. They were strong and powerful.

You look at Dave Watson and David Unsworth the two centre halves but right through the spine of our side we were strong.

We had that flair of Anders Limpar and Andrei Kanchelskis etc, etc. We were a top side.

Q13/ HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE FINAL OF 1995?

A13/ Again at the start of the week we were at Bellefield going about our business as normal then  going down to London on the Wednesday or Thursday.

We thought it would be better to travel down a couple of days before and it was really quite relaxed. We didn't need to do any intense training we were confident and as fit as we could possibly be.

Not too many niggling injuries to worry about. The only thing was that Joe (Royle) had to make a couple of important decisions as to who he was going to put on the bench. I think Joe pretty much knew his team.

Duncan was on the bench as I  seem to remember he had been injured so it was a case of does he put Duncan or Johnny Ebbrell on the bench and I know to this day Joe still feels rotten about it that John missed out.

Q14/ WHO WAS YOUR TOUGHEST OPPONENT?

A14/ Stuart Pearce. I went to  the City Ground (Nottingham) with Chelsea and we got smashed 7-0!! I was right midfield and Stuart was left back and he was playing 1-2's around me for England. He was the strongest person I've ever faced. I couldn't do anything to stop him and wasn't strong enough to stop him.

That was one of the finest learning curves I've ever had.

Q15/ WHAT WAS THE BEST STADIUM THAT YOU PLAYED IN?

A15/ It's funny this because I don't mean for this to sound creepy in anyway but when I was a kid at Chelsea, I loved playing at Goodison Park and Villa Park which was a great ground.

Everybody says Manchester United which is a great ground  but I like the feel of Goodison and Villa Park.

When I watched football as a kid, they were like huge grounds for me. I really enjoyed it.

Q16/ WHAT IS YOUR FUNNIEST MEMEORY IN FOOTBALL?

A16/ The only trouble is most of them are unprintable.

The only one I have doesn't relate to Everton. It was a game that was shown live which was Chelsea versus Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sky TV on a Monday night.

One of our players which I won't mention because it's not fair came in at half time and went straight in the lavatory and was struggling with cramps in his stomach.

The lads were laughing about it and the manager was shouting through to him

"Are you going to be alright?"

He shouted back "Yes, yes, I'll be alright"

Anyway we went out for the second half and about 20 minutes into the game Palace made a substitution.

Every time I ran back to defend, there was this horrendous stench around the pitch. Every time I went forward there was no problem. This went on for about 5 or ten minutes and I'm thinking, what is that smell?

Anyway, there was a break in play and one of our lads came running over to me and put his hands on my shoulders to hold himself up from laughing and said

"You won't believe it but so and so has had an accident"

I swore, I looked over and saw the player who shook his head laughing. Fortunately we were in blue.

I swear to God, it's so horrible and disgusting but it was so funny at the time because the bloke it happened to was one of the funniest men in football.

And if ever it was going to happen to somebody it would happen to him and it did. I remember the end of the game as we were all shaking hands, this guy goes sprinting straight off the pitch.

Q17/ WHO WAS THE BEST PLAYER THAT YOU PLAYED WITH?

A17/ A really, really difficult question. If you are talking about individual ability it's Paolo Di Canio. He's as good as it gets in terms of technique and everything about him.

I've played with Kanchelskis and Limpar who sensational but when you are talking about Paulo and don't forget, I played with him when he was coming to the end of his career at Charlton he was still ridiculously good.

I can only imagine how good he was when he was at Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham so for me, I would have to go with Paolo.

Q18/ DID YOU EVER SWAP SHIRTS WITH ANYONE. IF SO WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE?

A18/ I never swapped shirts and I'll tell you why, because it does my head in. I don't like people swapping shirts on the pitch. If you want to do it afterwards out of sight, that's your provocative but I can't stand it.

When you have been beaten in a game of football the first thing they want to do is swap a shirt which drives me insane.

If I was a supporter, I would hate it even more. The last thing on your mind when you've lost a game of football is "Come on, let's get that fella's shirt" so I never did it.

Concentrate on the game not whose shirt you are going to get.

Q19/ WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?

A19/ My FA cup winner's medal.

Q20/ IF YOU COULD RELIVE ONE GAME AGAIN, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?

A20/ Blimey. (After a long pause) I would love to relive the FA Cup final again, keeping the same result but with me scoring the goal.

Q21/ WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET IN FOOTBALL?

A21/ Erm, not playing for England as a full international. I did the youth teams and the under 21's and I remember Joe Royle coming up to me at Highbury before the 1996 Euros. He sat me down and said

"You don't know how close you are to the squad"

So i'm presuming from that he had contact with Terry Venables at the time and that afternoon we won 2-1 and I scored at Highbury and I was in good form and it was probably the best season I ever had (1996). But I never got called up.

Whether I would have played these days with people pulling out left, right and centre during the friendlies, but it wasn't to be and that's my regret because I think I was good enough to play for England.

Q22/ WHAT DOES GRAHAM STUART DO TODAY?

A22/ I do a lot of media work, which  is something that I've always wanted to do.

Some people go into coaching. I can't say I ever had any desires to be a coach to be honest with you. So the next best thing for me to be involved in football was to work in the media.

Funnily enough I have ended up doing a fair bit for Chelsea with it being my first club. I do some hospitality for Everton every so often which is great.

I would love to do a lot more for Everton but we will have to see about that in the future.

Q23/ WHERE DID YOU GET THE NICKNAME "DIAMOND GEEZER"

A23/ Jimmy Martin the kit man.

 

Email Bluekipper at enquiries@bluekipper.com

Comments about Exclusive Interview With Graham Stuart
 
5
I was at Goodison that day like thousands of others, we have alot to thank Graham for, he was a top footballer too. Good luck to him in the future
LES, PHUKET, 5:02 PM 11/12/2013
 
4
What a fantastic read - great memories; every season since 1995, I've had a small bet on us winning the FA Cup. This year I've not, so here's hoping................
Joe Dids, Bury, Lancs, 1:06 AM 11/12/2013
 
3
Top top man, but for him on that fateful day where would be be now. ?
Alan, Hinckley, 3:09 PM 10/12/2013
 
2
I remember diamond geezer had left us and was playing for charlton. We were 4-0 up when Charlton got a penalty. Up stepped diamond geezer to smash the ball into the net. Its the only time Ive seen the gwaldys street cheer an opponents goal! Thats how highly we regard you Graham. Thanks for all you did for us.
terry, widnes, 10:00 AM 9/12/2013
 
1
Loved him as a player...great interview thanks BK.
AJ, NorthLondon, 9:50 PM 8/12/2013
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