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Club News


28 December 2018

Paul Hazlewood

Imagine marrying into the family of an Albion legend; having the Zamoras or the Wards or the Nelsons as your in-laws or listening to tales of Tommy Cook or Bobby Smith over the dinner table.

One man who would understand that feeling is Dave Prentice, Everton fan and Head of Sport at the Liverpool Echo.

He married into Goodison Park royalty when he tied the knot with the granddaughter of Dixie Dean, the club’s first and most famous number nine. Dean, for the few who may not know, scored 383 goals for the Toffees in only 433 appearances between 1925 and 1937, hitting 60 in the 1927-28 title-winning season alone.

Dave insists that there was more to his wedding to Melanie than taking fandom to an extreme. “I can assure you that wasn’t the entire reason!” he says.

“I’d known her for quite a long time beforehand. You go to Everton supporters’ dinners and Echo Sports Personality dinners and she was always invited along because we presented a Dixie Dean memorial trophy every year. That was how I got to know her, partly to do with the job.”

Everton, who visit the Amex on Saturday, is a club that has always valued such occasions, keeping in close touch with former players but also working hard in the local community. Dave Moyes’ description of it as “The People’s Club” was accurate.

“Bill Kenwright [the chairman] always refers to it as ‘The Everton family’ and some people think that’s just him being a little bit of a luvvie but it is genuine,” Dave says. “The club tries very hard to involve supporters in so many things.

“I wrote last week about Everton in the Community, which was launched 30-odd years ago as just a couple of guys in a Portakabin at the back of the Park End stand. Now it’s a multi-million-pound charity that helps thousands of people every year, with all manner of projects on the go. They are very proud of that.

“Liverpool are a phenomenon, an international football club, but Everton are proud of their local roots and try to accentuate that almost as a part of the rivalry with Liverpool.”

That rivalry is well-known to divide families, but Dave’s father was one of a minority on Merseyside with little interest in football and so he found his own way to membership of the blue half. An uncle gave him some Everton programmes and he was hooked. “Easter Monday 1975 was my first game and from that moment I was a home and away fan,” he says.

His all-time favourite player is “big, bad, bustling striker Bob Latchford. They say never meet your heroes, but I have, many, many times and I still love the guy!” And his best memory is of the 1984 FA Cup final victory over Watford – “my third Wembley visit and the first goal I saw scored there. A physical shiver went down my spine. A wonderful day.”

He began his writing career covering local non-league games, working his way up via the Daily Post before a spell on the Echo’s Tranmere Rovers beat. “Later the Everton man stepped up to be sports editor and the role was available,” he says.

“Becoming the Everton correspondent at the Echo was a labour of love. I did my dream job for the best part of ten years and never missed a single game, home, away or abroad, between 1993 and 2002. Eventually I was made chief sports writer and had to write about Liverpool then. But it had its advantages – I think I was the most laid-back man at the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005 when everyone else was going mental!”

Everton will be hoping to continue the promising form they have shown for most of this season under former Hull City and Watford manager Marco Silva when they visit the Albion. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” Dave says.

“The Sam Allardyce period was horrific. Most fans didn’t want him at the time because they knew what the football would be like. Farhad [Moshiri, the owner] saw a possible relegation on the horizon but by the time Allardyce took over I think they were eleventh and when he won his first two games any threat was gone.

“He was employed as a firefighter but there was no fire to put out. And the football was dull. We did a graphic that showed us last in efforts at goal, shots on target, chances created.

“Everton fans wanted someone closer to the club’s values, and Silva has produced that already. The team plays an attacking, high-pressing game, creative and good to watch. And we’re now going to grounds and being positive.

“Dave Moyes was always taking a knife to a gunfight, going to Arsenal, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge trying to grind out a draw. Now they go with an ambitious mentality, got a draw at Chelsea, were very positive and only lost to a freak goal at Anfield in the 96th minute and Jurgen Klopp was immensely complimentary.

“And people are enjoying the signings he has brought in, proper Everton signings. Andre Gomes is an absolute vision. I’ve likened him to Martin Dobson, so good on the ball.

“There’s Bernard, a Brazilian international winger, and while a lot of eyebrows were raised at the fee spent on Richarlison, he has rammed those words down the likes of Paul Merson’s throat by the number of goals he has scored and the way he has played.”

So the bad news for Albion fans, then, is that we can’t bank on Everton settling for a point at The Amex? “The problem this season has been that away performances have been decent but not so much the results,” Dave says.

“They led at Bournemouth, gave sloppy goals away and drew where they should have won. They missed great chances at Arsenal and Man United and ended up narrowly losing as a result, likewise Anfield.

“So, Everton fans would say they are due a game where they get a really good result and fingers crossed it could be at Brighton!

“Everton’s best performance of the season by a country mile was at home to Brighton, which was just one of those games where everything that Silva had been preaching and trying to get into the team worked. Maybe that is because the way Brighton play suits Everton’s style or they caught Brighton on a bad day, I don’t know.”

Albion have yet to make much of a footballing impression on Merseyside since our return to the top flight, but the club’s reputation still goes before it.

“I can only echo what everyone else says about Brighton, that they are a good club with a manager who has a great amount of dignity and carries himself in the right way,” Dave says.

“And he didn’t do himself any harm with Evertonians by being very positive about the team after that game at Goodison.

“‘Decent’ is probably the word that describes the club and the manager, well-run and with qualities that you want to see in football. Hopefully not too decent when they play Everton this weekend!”

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