DEC
21
2013
Exclusive Interview With Tom Gardner
3 comments
Bookmark and Share

Blue Echo Interviews Tom Gardner.

Thomas Gardner is the oldest surviving Everton player who will celebrate his 91st birthday in March 2014.

I visited him at his home and was made most welcome by himself and his wife Eileen. Tom wore the blue shirt of Everton only once but like us all he has done something we can only dream about.

Please enjoy this very interesting interview as much as I had the pleasure of writing it for you.

Q1/ YOU WERE AN EVERTON BOYHOOD FAN. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THEM AT AN EARLY AGE?

A1/ When I was a boy, I used to watch Everton one week and Liverpool the following week because I had an Uncle who was a Liverpudlian but he used to take me to Goodison. He used to leave me and I would go in the boys pen. I used to love it with the other kids in the boys pen.

I started going to Goodison when I was 7 or 8 and obviously saw Dixie playing and Albert Geldard. They were amazing they were.

Q2/ HOW DID YOU END UP ON THE PLAYING STAFF AT EVERTON?

A2/ I was in the Royal Navy during the war. I served on the North Atlantic convoys and played for the combined services.

I joined Liverpool but was only there for one season. I was always an Evertonian. I was happy at Liverpool BUT, there was something lacking so I asked to be transferred over to Everton.

Q3/ WHAT WERE YOUR DUTIES AND WHAT DID THE TRAINING ENTAIL AT EVERTON?

A3/ Harry Cooke was the trainer and we didn't even call him a coach in those days. Harry was one of these chaps that looked old but wasn't.  His son took over later on but Harry was a stickler for time. We were told "10 o'clock is your time" but it was difficult because we didn't have cars in those days.

We had to get the tram up to Spellow Lane and walk from there. One difference was there was a lad at Everton called Tommy Jones in fact there were two but we called one big Tommy Jones (TG) the other being (TE).

Big Tommy was a Welsh International but would travel up every day and was the only one that was allowed to be late and Harry would never shout at him.

If ever any of the young lads were late he would say "10 o'clock is your time" but in a nice way. The feeling at Everton then was like it is now. They made you completely welcome.

When I first went there I was taken into the dressing room and introduced to every player. I was a little bit in awe of them. There were some stars there then for example, Wally Fielding, Peter Farrell, Ted Sagar who turned out to be my idol. He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant and of course George Burnett who was the reserve goalkeeper and they were all good players.

When we trained, we trained on the pitch as there was no Bellefield in those days. The training then consisted of 10 yards back, 15 yards back, 20 yards back and four times around the pitch and that was it. There was no machinery or anything like that, we just trained on the pitch but we were fit and we trained hard.

Q4/ WHO WERE THE BIG NAME PLAYERS AT THE CLUB WHEN YOU JOINED? 

A4/ Ted Sagar, Peter Farrell, Tommy Eglington, Wally Fielding or Nobby as we used to call him who was brilliant. Alex Stevenson. Alex was so small but was a wonderful inside forward. Nobby Fielding was a star, he really was brilliant.  

 Q5/ WHEN WERE YOU FIRST AWARE OF YOUR EVERTON DEBUT?

 A5/ They always used to put a sheet up and Harry Cooke said to me on the Wednesday, I think it was, "You will be playing in the first team on Saturday".

Of course on the Friday the team sheet went up and my name was on it and you can imagine how I felt. I was absolutely elated, I was going out to play for the first team. I was absolutely over the moon.

Q6/ YOU CAME UP AGAINST BILLY WRIGHT (WOLVES), WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN A GREAT EXPERIENCE?

A6/ I had been playing very well in the reserve side and I think I replaced Wally Boyes that day. The reserve team trainer recommended me to Harry Cooke. We had been playing 5 a side and 7 a side amongst us all. I suppose they realised that I had potential.

The week before my debut, I took a little knock and then a heavy knock but on the Wednesday I played in the Liverpool Senior Cup and wasn't really fit and I told Harry Cooke that I wasn't really fit.

His words to me were as true as I am here "If you don't play on Saturday, somebody else might come in" so of course I played.

Well again, Billy of course played for England. After the game, Billy Wright came up to me and said "Well played son". Now Billy wasn't much older than me. He gave me a good game. I remember it vividly.

After that game I went back into the reserve side.

Q7/ HOW DIFFERENT WERE THE GAMES IN THEM DAYS? 

A7/ I think to be to be perfectly honest, the games then were more of an attacking game. Today's game is a passing game.

We were always taught to pass the ball forward, only pass it back if it's necessary, really necessary. We were told to attack, attack. I was originally an inside forward and when I went to Liverpool I replaced somebody that was a winger and they told me that I should be a winger as I was fast and had everything a winger needs which made me end up in that position.

The football then was more attacking and I feel now watching it, I get bored with all this passing backwards and forwards. Our day the ball always went forward and the winger took a man on. The wingers would dribble through and take a man on then pass it over.

We also played with a big leather ball and when you took a corner in those days you had to get your foot right on it. The boots we wore also had a big toe cap on it and very heavy, none of these coloured boots either.

One thing that annoys me with today's game is the carry on with the referee's. When we played, the referee made the decision and that was the end of it.

As a kid I was always taught something by my school teacher and they were 3 things. 1: you never argue with your own player, 2: Never argue with the opposing player and 3: You never argue with the referee which always stuck with me which is why I get annoyed now when I see all these players running around the referee.

Q8/ IF YOU HAD A NICKNAME IN YOUR EVERTON DAYS, WHAT WAS IT?

A8/ No, it was just Tom or Tommy to the lads.

Q9/ WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE LIKE IN THOSE DAYS COMPARED TO TODAY?

A9/ There was 60,000 people watching the game regularly in those days and the atmosphere was terrific.

There was singing going on as it is now but I think the crowds were better because you didn't have the bad language. There seemed to be more respect for each other then.

Q10/ HOW DID GOODISON COMPARE TO OTHER STADIUMS AT THAT TTIME?

A10/ Goodison was a great stadium then and still is. There's something about it isn't there, it's a homely stadium?

Grounds like Aston Villa, Newcastle, and Manchester United etc... were all of a decent standard. So they were all similar.

Q11/ HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR GAMES IN THOSE DAYS?

A11/ You got up in the morning knowing you were going out at 3pm you. For instance you had to be at Goodison for a certain time if we had a home game.

If we had an away game we had to get the coach and we would stop off at the Adelphi Hotel for lunch, only a light meal, fish or something like that.

If the games away from home were not too far away, we got the coach and went to play our game.

Some of the lads were smokers but the club officials were not too keen.

Q12/ YOU HAVE SEEN THEM BOTH PLAY. WHO WAS THE BEST, TED SAGAR OR NEVILLE SOUTHALL?

A12/   I would say without any doubt at all Ted Sagar was the best goalkeeper. Neville was a very good goalkeeper, the nice type as well.

Ted was a very quiet man who used to walk to the ground by the way, he lived in Walton. He used to come in, get undressed and have a little chat amongst his team mates.

He played his game, jump in the bath and off he would pop where as quite a few of us used to stay in the ground after the match as we had a snooker table on the premises.

Q13/ YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH HARRY CATTERICK AS A PLAYER. DID YOU EVERT THINK HE WOULD EVER END UP MANAGING AFTER HIS PLAYING DAYS?

A13/I didn't really. I never would have thought it all.

Again, he came out of his shell afterwards as he was quiet. He wasn't quiet on the field who was a hard centre forward. He wasn't over exuberant in the dressing room. A nice bloke but a little bit aloof. Maybe that's why he went into management, I don't know.

Q14/ WHEN YOU RETIRED FROM FOOTBALL WHAT DID YOU DO?

A14/ What actually happened was I used to keep in touch with them and go back BUT after about 3 or 4 months later I met somebody from South Liverpool,  a gentleman called Ted Savage who was an ex Liverpool player. I met him and the manager who said to me "Are you not playing much these days?"

It was sad really because I loved my football that much and went along to South Liverpool to do a bit of training. I went up and felt fit enough to play and had to get permission from Goodison as I was still on their books even though I had finished.

I had about 4 games for South Liverpool and because the standard wasn't good I stood out a bit and everybody seemed pleased.

I was playing one game, on the wing and somebody out the ball through the middle and I dashed through with nobody in sight thinking I'm on with a goal here. As I was going through (Bang) my leg went.

I then had to go to hospital and was told that I would never play football again.

From there, there was a director at South Liverpool who was friendly with a builder named Lloyd Jones. He said to me "Now you have finished your football I'll introduce you to this builder where I worked as a builder's clerk working my way up to building manager.

After 15 years I went to work for Allied Breweries as clerk in the ordering office working my way up to a manager.

I worked there for 20 years then retired when I was 62 and thoroughly enjoying retirement.

I did have a spell coaching with Liverpool boys club. I decided I was going into youth club work with Hartshill in Wavertree. I went there and took the football team then decided that I wanted to do a bit of coaching.

So I took a coaching course in Mather Avenue accompanied by Ian St John. I got my badge, started coaching then took the youth Merseyside representative team for 20 years.

I took a team down to Wembley in 1976 and the kids were absolutely over the moon because they stayed  in the Hilton Hotel where the England team stay and of course playing at Wembley was a great experience.

Dunlop were very good, they provided the kit and the kit bags and we got beat 4-2. It was an under 21 competition and our kids were under 18 which made that bit of difference.

Q15/ DID YOU EVER GO PLAYING ABROAD IN YOUR DAY WITH EVERTON?

A15/ The furthest we ever went then was the Isle of Man.

Q16/ DID YOU EVER COLLECT AUTOGRAPHS AS A YOUNGSTER. IF SO, WHICH WAS YOUR FIRST ONE?

A16/ The first autograph I ever got was Tommy Lawton. I used to get autographs with various ones from different teams but what happened to it, who knows.

Q17/ YOUR BIGGEST REGRET IN FOOTBAL?

A17/ Having to pack up. From a very young boy, I captained my school team at cricket and football then went into a boys club called Hire Park boys club in the Dingle area of Liverpool. I played with them until I went into the Navy actually.

We used to play against a coloured team who used to play in their bare feet as we played in our boots on a shale surface.

Q18/ WHO WAS YOUR BOYHOOD IDOL?

A18/ I'm going to shock you now but it wasn't an Evertonian. It was Billy Liddell. To me, he was one of the finest left wingers you would ever see.

He was a lay preacher actually, a very nice man. When I was coaching the Merseyside youth team, Billy was our chairman who came to watch every game.

Before each game he would come in and have a chat with the boys and again at half time. He was a GENTLEMAN an absolute gentleman.

 

Email Bluekipper at enquiries@bluekipper.com

Comments about Exclusive Interview With Tom Gardner
 
3
A fascinating insight as to how things used to be. A very interesting piece.
LES, PHUKET, 12:02 PM 22/12/2013
 
2
Another fine read, keep 'em coming.
Andy, Warrington, 11:53 AM 22/12/2013
 
1
Tom Gardner is a true gent, not many like him about.
Adam Farley, Liverpool, 6:48 PM 21/12/2013
New comment about Exclusive Interview With Tom Gardner
Name:
Location:
Comment:
Verify:

Reload Image
 Please type the string above in the input box below.