Today we have a guest post from Mike over at FootyHip. Mike was able to attend the Everton-Union match last night, and was kind enough to write his thoughts down about the experience at being able to see Everton play in person for the first time. You can follow him on twitter @FootyHip
Brian has been nice enough to have me on to talk about my experience with Everton’s tour stop in Philadelphia, and I thank him for that. Here goes…
As an Everton supporter living in the States, I’ve grown accustomed to only being able to watch the boys on Fox Soccer Channel or faulty internet streams. Until they announced this summer’s US tour, my idea was that maybe once during the next few years I’d be able to scrounge up the money to fly to England and see the team play in their proper environment. For these reasons, the past couple days have meant a lot to me.
I’ll start with Tuesday’s training, which I talked about a bit in a post over on FH. One of my first impressions was that I loved seeing the fans who came from overseas to the follow Everton on their tour, especially the gentleman behind me who had the club’s motto tattooed down his left arm. Being a die-hard supporter of Philadelphia sports as well as the Blues, I understand what it means to truly love your team, and I could feel that vibe as I was sitting in the stands.
Passion like that is at its best when it is reciprocated, which brings me to my favorite part about the experience of watching Everton train. After the short session, most of the players came over to chat with us and sign various bits of memorabilia, which I suppose is expected of professionals in this situation. It was clear, however, that the players weren’t just going through the motions. There was a look of genuine enjoyment about them, especially when they saw the supporters from back home. Phil Neville got a huge kick out of the “show us your stepover” banner. Being a part of such a close fan-player interaction was a massive thrill. Cahill has been talking a lot recently about team spirit and I’m starting to believe him.
The match itself brought about mixed feelings in me, as I do support the Union as well as Everton. I decided to wear my Rodwell shirt and clap for both sides, just hoping for some decent football. That wish wasn’t exactly fulfilled, but I can’t say I was disappointed as I made my way back across the Delaware River. PPL Park is a fantastic stadium and the Union, who are a very solid, in-form side, really looked up to the task. They controlled much of the match, and in retrospect it was good to see the Blues pushed so much—I didn’t want to see them in person for the first time only for them to play at half-speed. Everton defended well and worked hard, but the result wasn’t the important part. They got themselves one step closer to match fitness, and the Union displayed what many of as already knew: that they are a team to be taken seriously. Both sides were able to hand valuable minutes to some younger players as well. I considered it a win-win.
At a certain point in the match, I was particularly struck by the occasion. The mood around PPL was electric as usual, and as I watched the supporters at the River End go about their customary raucous chanting, I couldn’t help but feel how perfect the moment was for me as a fan of this game. Here I was, a mere thirty minutes from my home, watching my favorite team all the way from Liverpool as they battled my hometown club—all amidst a European-flavored yet decidedly American atmosphere.
While a 3-2 thriller would have been wonderful, I can have no real complaints. Seeing our club up close and personal brought me nearer to them as a supporter, and you simply can’t put a price on that. During a sultry week in July, those two days were more than any Evertonian from New Jersey could ask for.