Posted 28 Sep 2009 - 11:22
THERE are two words guaranteed to bring an Evertonian out of a cup final trance. Alex and Young. But then the day dreaming is likely to begin almost instantly again, with a burst of golden visions.
Young, a miner's son from Loanhead, can walk through Edinburgh's streets without causing too much commotion, and, despite a stroke three years ago, still does to this day. But in Liverpool it is another story, one which began in 1960 when he left Heart of Midlothian for Goodison Park in a £42,000 transfer, exchanging nick-names in the process. At Tynecastle he was known as the Blond Bombshell, while at Everton, following a typically astute comment from former Tottenham Hostspur player Danny Blanchflower, he was dubbed the Golden Vision.
This nickname, said Blanchflower, conveyed "the view every Saturday that we have of a more perfect world, a world that has got a pattern and is finite. And that's Alex the Golden Vision."
A more contemporary performer who shares such qualities is Lionel Messi, the star of Wednesday night's Champions League final. Mikel Arteta, the former Rangers midfielder who sits out this afternoon's FA Cup final between Everton at Chelsea due to injury, is the nearest the Goodison Park side have to Young these days.
The flaxen-haired Scot was a vital component in the Everton team which won the title in 1962-63. Three years later they lifted the FA Cup final after a 3-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. This might be more memorable to those outside Merseyside had it not occurred just weeks before England lifted the World Cup on the same patch of grass. It remains the only time the FA Cup winners have fought back from two goals down to win inside 90 minutes.
The afternoon was also notable for some uncustomary wobbles from commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, fortunately obscured by his later, more famous observations as England became world champions. When Wednesday went 2-0 up early in the second-half he announced that "it's Wednesday's cup". His decision to re-christen Everton's Mike Trebilcock as Trebilco – even allowing for the sensitivities of the era the name should still be pronounced as it looks – took some of the gloss off the two-goal hero's day. Young, also, had reasons to rue an otherwise thrilling afternoon.
"I scored a good goal but it was ruled out for offside and then I dribbled around the goalie and was just about to roll it in when he took my feet away," recalls Young, at his home in Penicuik. "The ref was 30 yards down the park, and didn't give a penalty."
Such setbacks did not stop Everton winning the FA Cup for the third time in the club's history, nor prevented Young being hailed as one of the club's all-time greats – if not the all-time great.
His contribution is saluted each match day in the "Alex Young lounge" at Goodison, though even those fans who did not see his elegant performances are wise to his impact at the club. "I have been at lots of dinners in Liverpool and these young lads will say: 'sign this Alex'. I say: 'but you have never seen me play'. And they'll tell me: 'no but my father told me what you can do, and I believe my father'.
It's passed down through families so they don't forget, even if it was over 40 years ago."
It is fitting that his name should adorn a lounge, since the business he began following his return to Scotland in the early Seventies. Youngest son Jason lives 50 yards away, while Alex and Jane, whose 21- year-old daughter is a recent recruitment to the Portobello-based family firm, are in nearby Rosewell.
Young believes Jason, now 37, could have been the best footballer in the family had he not suffered a serious injury when playing for the Hearts Under-16 team. He broke his thigh and lost a yard of pace as a result. Jason did, however, play senior football for Meadowbank and Stranraer.
But his father made a firm enough mark in football. Jimmy Greaves, a regular opponent with Spurs and who revives his "Saint & Greavsie" double-act with Ian St John as part of the cup final build-up on Setanta this afternoon, recalled: "He (Young] was a classical player who led the attack with a smoothness and style that made him appear to glide through a match with the grace of a Nureyev on grass." In his 1984 book Taking Sides: The Ten Greatest football Teams Greaves concluded, with reference to the growing thuggery apparent in the game: "The man was a footballing genius, but out of date."
This was one reason why Young won only seven more Scotland caps following his debut against England in April 1960.
"If I had got my finger out I would have had a lot more than that," contends Young now. "I played lots of times for the Under-23 side. Every time I played really well for Scotland it was away from home – Hungary, Austria. I played eight games and scored five goals which isn't a bad average. If I just had more chances, and was encouraged a bit more . . . "
"I responded to encouragement," he continues. "John Harvey (who was trainer at Hearts under manager Tommy Walker] used to push me before a game, saying I could do this and could do that. He used to make me feel great about myself. While (Harry] Catterick at Everton was not like that. The crowd used to boost me there. I could feel the good will come from them."
Catterick was a stern native of County Durham and Young's relationship with the autocratic manager was difficult from the off. 'Gentleman' John Carey, the former Manchester United captain, begun to put together the great Everton title-winning team of 1963, and his most significant signing was Young, unaccountably allowed to leave Hearts. Young suffered for being regarded as one of Carey's men, and also, he suspects, due to him being a Scot. Catterick used to complain about the "clique" of Scotsmen at the club, a group which also included former Dundee player Jimmy Gabriel and Alex Parker, once of Falkirk.
"Hearts told me to go, I never asked for a transfer," points out Young. "I had a wee tiff with the manager (Walker], but it was nothing. Suddenly he took me into his office and told me: 'there are a few teams after you, you can go'. I ended up picking Everton and I am glad. At that time Liverpool were in the Second Division. We used to get crowds of between 50 and 60,000, while they were getting 30,000."
Just months before Young arrived on Merseyside another significant arrival had occurred. Bill Shankly took over at Liverpool on 1 December, 1959.
"I didn't get on very well with the Everton manager, but Bill Shankly was a nice man," says Young. "He was always cracking jokes and talking about football, and Al Capone. He was always reading gangster books.
"He used to call me 'Sanny'. I think he meant Sandy. I would be going to the Everton training ground, and he lived nearby. There was never much traffic in those days and he used to stop the car and say: 'How are you doing Sanny?' I would love to have played under him."
Instead Young played the best football of his career for the aloof Catterick. "We just didn't get on," he shrugs. "He preferred a big, bustling centre-forward-type. The guy who signed me, John Carey, liked the way I played, which was by using skill to play the ball around. Harry and me just did not get on well. I was in the team, but if he could have got away with it he would have left me out."
On one occasion Catterick was physically attacked by a fan for replacing the Scot with the then relatively unknown youngster Joe Royle. When Everton were beaten by West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup final in 1968 Young was a high-profile – and angry – absentee. He accepted the player-manager's post at Glentoran soon after, but had reason to return to Goodison Park from Belfast within weeks.
"I was due to get £1000 from Everton when I went to Glentoran," he says. "After about a month I still had not received the money. So I got on an aeroplane and flew back to Merseyside and went to see Harry. He was in his office as usual – he was not a training ground manager. 'I have come to see you about my £1000,' I told him. That was the deal. And he said: 'I will tell you this, son – when you are doing business deals make sure you get it down in writing.' That was the last contact I had with him."
It was good advice as far as Young's subsequent career was concerned. He lasted only a few more weeks at Glentoran, where, according to wife Nancy, the outbreak of the troubles had made everyone feel understandably uneasy. The family returned to England, and Young played out the last months of his career at Stockport County. He retired aged just 31 and returned home to run a hotel in West Linton. Two years later, after a worrying spell of unemployment, he began the business which, for the first time in a long time, allowed him to operate incognito.
Save for an occasional stumble when seeking to locate the right word, the 72 year-old is in fine fettle. He retains the looks of his youth as well as the desire to see Everton prosper. "Once you play for Everton you never lose that love for the club," he says. "It's the same with Hearts, but I feel the passion more with Everton. When they get beaten I feel sorry for the fans – they made me feel so much at home."
Posted 28 Sep 2009 - 12:11
Bless him, he could have had and been so much more.
If you never ever saw him, let me tell you he was so far above most others on the pitch he was like a magician.
I doubt we will ever see his like again.
Posted 28 Sep 2009 - 14:34
When you think what the players get today, and what we paid the likes of VDM.
£1000 is nothing to Everton, I say pay the man
Posted 28 Sep 2009 - 15:39
Posted 28 Sep 2009 - 17:56
Catterick doesn't come out of it well.....but then he was never going to win nice guy of the year was he .
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