It’s been 23 years since Everton seriously began considering a move away from Goodison Park.
Then-chairman Peter Johnson produced a shiny brochure lamenting Goodison’s crumbling infrastructure, poor sightlines and below-par facilities in a bid to persuade supporters to vote for a move.
Johnson had promised a 60,000 stadium on the site of Kirkby golf course, which would have made it the biggest club ground in the country at the time.
Details were sketchy and supporters were sceptical. A group of fans opposing the move formed ‘Goodison For Ever-ton’, a pressure group calling for the club to remain at Goodison Park. They even commissioned a feasibility study to support the view that Goodison could be redeveloped into a 50,000 capacity stadium.
The fight to stay at Goodison Park had begun.
In the end, Johnson’s plans never got off the ground as he resigned as chairman in 1998. The opportunity to move to Kings Dock also collapsed five years later when Everton failed to raise the required funds.
Then came the disastrous ‘Destination Kirkby’ project, which would have seen Everton move out of the city boundaries to a desolate retail park out of sight and out of mind.
The ‘Keep Everton in Our City’ (KEOIC) group was formed, whose aim was to keep the club within the city of Liverpool and again argued that Goodison could be redeveloped.
The Kirkby project ultimately collapsed in 2009 when it was rejected by central government. In the following years there has been speculation regarding a new stadium, even a ground share with Liverpool, but nothing remotely tangible or deliverable was ever produced.
Everton’s plans to move to Bramley Moore Dock represent the most viable and realistic opportunity for the club to move grounds since they crossed Stanley Park from Anfield to Goodison Park 126 years ago.
But, perhaps crucially, for the first time the project has near universal support from the fans. There are no pressure groups, no protests, only unwavering support and excitement at what architect Dan Meis is planning for the club’s new home.
It means the clock has finally begun to tick on Goodison’s future. Everton may have been looking to move for decades, but it was never as realistic a prospect as it is now.
It’s no surprise therefore that a fresh wave of nostalgia for the old place has washed over the fans. It seems we became complacent about Goodison over the years, choosing to focus on her flaws rather than her strengths.
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, so with the countdown underway it seems Evertonians are determined to appreciate every last second we have left with the Grand Old Lady before she fades into the annals of history.
The sight of young Freddie Ryan viewing Goodison for the first time against Watford last weekend, the joy and wonder on his face, no doubt brought back memories of your first trip to L4 and will make you appreciate every moment you have left within the stadium’s walls.
That is linked to the efforts of fan groups such as The Originals, who have worked diligently to try to improve the matchday atmosphere. Things had grown stale and at times toxic, particularly during the final few months of the Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman eras as well as during Sam Allardyce’s fractious six month spell in charge.
The club are doing their bit too, with the already-iconic siren, introduced before the Merseyside derby in March, helping to rouse the blue hordes ahead of kick-off.
SOUND ON FOR GUARANTEED GOOSEBUMPS— Everton (@Everton) March 5, 2019
Goodison Park at its finest.
Hear Sunday's #DerbyDay atmosphere captured from all over the ground in full on YouTube now! ⤵️
Say what you like about plastic flags, but it engaged the fans, created a visual spectacle, and help produce the kind of ‘bear-pit’ atmosphere Goodison became famous for but sadly has been witnessed all too infrequently in recent years.
And all this isn’t just for show. The players have publicly stated that a raucous atmosphere helps them perform on the pitch. There has been a realisation in recent months that if the team is to succeed then the players and the fans need to be on the same hymn sheet.
Dan Meis has promised to produce steep intimidating stands at Bramley Moore to imitate Goodison and keep the supporters on top of the pitch, avoiding the kind of soulless atmosphere seen at other new stadium across the country.
But stands don’t make noise, fans do, and it seems we have forgotten that in recent years.
But with Goodison’s days looking numbered we have rediscovered what made the place so special in the first place, and are determined to see her bow out in style.