An Interview with Neil Roberts

Neil Roberts, author of the new book Blues & Beatles

We recently had a chance to chat with Neil Roberts, the author of a new book titled Blues & Beatles which is hitting store shelves later this week. The book talks about Neil's love for Everton and the Beatles, and the connection with his father that helped start it all. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The family folklore of a superstar Victorian footballer. The Dixie Dean connection. And a near miss with John Lennon. Sitting across a desk from Alan Ball. Sitting in a bar with Howard Kendall. And sitting in the passenger seat of Duncan Ferguson’s car. Interviewing Gary Lineker. Reading the papers with David Moyes. And meeting Paul McCartney after years of trying. Blues & Beatles is the story of someone born with Everton in his heart and the Fab Four in his soul. Someone who inherited from his father a love of football and music. Someone who grew up with those addictions and afflictions. Someone who went on to meet his heroes. And someone who passed on his devotions to his son. Blues & Beatles is the story of how football gets under your skin and into your veins. It’s the story of how you can be born with blue blood if that’s the color of your football team. And it’s a story of passion and pride and of fatherhood and fate.
It’s a story of dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled. But more than that, it’s a journey through life through the eyes of a father and a son – bound together by football, by music and by love.

You can get the book on Amazon here, or check your local bookstore later this week. Blues and Beatles is an entertaining book that all Evertonians can relate to in some way, and click the jump for our interview with Neil.

RBM: There has been a lot of disappointment for Everton fans over the past season. In your experience were does the past year rank in terms of highs and lows for the club?


NR: Yes, it's been a very disappointing twelve months. A very disappointing couple of years in fact, since our Cup Final defeat in 2009. We've lost Pienaar and Arteta, our best players. And more worryingly, the financial side of the club has come into sharper focus than ever before.
I took my 7-year-old son George to Manchester City at the end of September. I had steeled him beforehand, fearing the worst, and told him that a nil nil draw would actually be very good indeed. Obviously we lost, despite a resolute defensive display. But of course we offered nothing in attack -- and I found the whole thing a little bit painful if I'm honest. City are not a bigger club than Everton -- far from it. And yet everything about them right now just dwarfs us, and it's very difficult to take. I'm sure all Evertonians feel the same way.

RBM: When was the first time you saw Goodison Park, and how did it feel to walk into such hallowed ground?

NR: Every time I walk into Goodison -- or even just around the outside of it -- I make a proper note to myself just to pause for 30 seconds or so and try to drink it in. I think about my dad's first trip there back in 1958. I think about the times he and my grandad used to go there on the bus in the late 50s and early 60s. I imagine what it would have been like when the crowds swelled down Goodison Road and Gwladys Street, 20 or 30-deep, handing over their pennies to watch Dixie Dean or Tommy Lawton. And I imagine Dixie's bullet headers.
My own first experience of Goodison Park was on April 5th, 1980. I was 8 years old. It was a home match with Bolton -- and Bolton had a certain Peter Reid in their side. We won the match 3-1 and I was intoxicated by everything Everton ever since.

RBM: You got a chance to spend some time with David Moyes during the course of your book. What surprised you the most about him and how he goes about managing Everton?

NR: My meeting with David Moyes was actually in December 2004, the day after "Super" Lee Carsley put the ball in the RedSh*te net. It was the day after that famous 1-0 derby win at Goodison. My dad was actually at the match with his pal but I couldn't go as I had to work. I was at the BBC at the time, but I got an even better reward for that incredible derby victory. I'd arranged in advance for Moyesy to come down to London to do a TV interview for us. I remember meeting him outside Television Centre and being struck by how physically imposing he is. He's actually quite tall -- and has those piercing blue eyes, which really fix at you. He knew I was an Evertonian right from the off and I spent a good hour or two with him before the show. Moyesy had arrived with all the newspapers, so he could read literally every word about Everton's victory. And he told me how much he loved that picture of all the jubilant Everton players piled on top of Carsley to celebrate, Cahill at the top of the bundle with his arm aloft.
I was struck immediately by how much Moyes cared about Everton. It seemed clear to me that Everton was "his" club, not just a job of work. I guess that's what surprised me most. It was clear that he lived and breathed the job and he was still on this incredible high from the day before. I admired that - and I liked him for it. He seemed like a proper Evertonian, just like you or me.....

RBM: What was the best part out of the whole experience of writing a book for the first time?

NR: I absolutely loved writing it and I only hope that comes across to the reader. I really began writing it just as a "project" -- something for me and something to hand on to my sons. It was only when I was about 20,000 words from the end that I actually believed I would finish it. And then I thought: "Blimey, I really am going to finish this book. I'd better find a publisher."
I got lucky with that at the first attempt. But in all honesty, I would have been pleased with myself even if the book HADN'T been published. I just wanted to write it. I love writing. I love Everton. I love The Beatles. I love my two sons. It was for them more than anything. Them, me and anyone like-minded who'd like to read about football, music and families.

RBM: Your dad passed on his love of Everton and the Beatles to you, how did you manage to continue the tradition and pass these things on to your son?

NR: It's called brainwashing. And I'm not ashamed of it! Even when he was a baby, I was singing Grand Old Team and Forever Everton to my first son George. He had an Everton kit when he was about two and I tried my level best to mention Everton to him as often as possible. So he had very little choice in the matter, just as with me when I was a little boy. But I don't regret my dad's efforts for one moment and I pray that George won't regret mine. The last thing I'd have wanted to be was a Red. My next task is to pass the same royal blue spirit on to my second son Liam. But as he's only 7 months I'd probably better wait a few more months, at least. Perhaps I'll get him walking first. And talking. But if his first word is "Everton".... Well now, there's a thought....

RBM: What happens if he turns to the dark side and starts sporting Liverpool shirts around the house?

NR: He gets put on the doorstep! Ooh what an awful question. Obviously I could never put my own son on the doorstep. I could make his life hell though. As for Liverpool shirts around the house. Hmm. I don't think so. I do have a box of matches tucked away safely somewhere....

RBM: If you had to pick between watching a Beatles concert and watching an Everton match at Goodison which would you choose to see?

NR: Well that's hard because of how much I love Everton and I hate passing up any opportunity to see them, no matter how bad they are. But how could I not choose to be at a Beatles concert? Obviously I wouldn't hear anything except dreadful screaming. But if I had the chance to be transported back in time to watch them live, I'd have to take that opportunity -- knowing that millions and millions of people would have given anything for that chance. It really would be a once in a lifetime moment just to be part of that.
The ideal scenario would be to watch The Beatles on the Friday night, then go to Goodison on the Saturday to see Everton beat Liverpool 4-0. Then I could die happy.
One thing I would add though -- if you'd asked me if I'd rather go to a Beatles concert or to see Everton in the European Cup Final, you'd have got a different answer!

RBM: Who is the key player for Everton in this season?

NR: Marouane Fellaini. Losing Arteta was a crushing blow. I was on honeymoon in Italy on transfer deadline day and spent the entire evening texting mates and checking my phone for the latest news. Much to the chagrin of my new wife, I must admit. Especially as we were at dinner and my head must have been sinking lower and lower into my hands. There she was trying to enjoy a romantic evening -- but when she saw tears in my eyes, she knew it was because we'd lost my favourite player, rather than because I was overwhelmed by love!
Someone now has to step up and take Arteta's place in the team -- someone needs to provide the kind of creativity he gave us. I have very high hopes for Ross Barkley in the future, but I think that's too much of a burden to place on his young shoulders this season. I also hope Jack Rodwell can find some consistency and prove that he's capable of stepping up a level. But Fellaini is the senior player in central midfield now. He needs to sign his contract, commit his future to the club, and then show us all why he's Everton's record signing. Let's hope he can do that. Let's hope he can do all of those things.

RBM: What are you looking forward to the most this season?

NR: I would take anything positive. Winning a trophy, obviously, would top the list. But perhaps some good news about a ground move or new ownership of the club? I am a supporter of Bill Kenwright - he actually contributed the foreword to my book - and I believe he's a good man with the club's best interests at heart. I know some others hold a different view.
But what I do agree on is that we clearly need to compete at the top and the only way we can do that is by finding someone with deeper pockets than Bill. Where is that person? Heaven knows -- but let's hope he or she is out there. I believe Bill would love to find that person as his legacy to the club. But we're desperate for a higher level of investment and I pray that it'll come, however long we have to wait.

RBM: What is your prediction for how Everton do in the upcoming season?

NR: I don't want to end the interview on a sour note, but I can't see us qualifying for Europe via our league position. I sincerely hope I'm wrong in that but I'd have thought we would finish between 8th and 12th. A good run could see us challenge for the Europa League, I guess, so I couldn't rule it out completely. But our main hope, as ever it seems, would be in the Cups.
Come On You Blues!

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