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Toffee Soccer – Everton and North America


Lyndon Lloyd chats with David France ahead of the release of his new book

Lyndon Lloyd chats with David France

I always enjoy my chats with Elizabeth France that have become a periodic feature on ToffeeWeb. On this occasion, I had called for her annual contribution but in her absence – she was visiting folks in the local nursing homes – I caught up with her husband, David, to chat about the life of an Evertonian in lockdown.

LL: The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all our lives and, of course, football hasn’t escaped its effects. Watching our stirring win over Tottenham on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think how much our devoted travelling supporters would have let those players know in no uncertain terms just how important that victory was and how much they appreciated the performance. I long for fans to return to the stands. How have you been dealing with the pandemic?

DF: We had planned to make another final visit to the old country and throw another goodbye bash at the Dixie Dean Hotel – like Bob Dylan, ours is a never-ending farewell tour except that we acknowledge the guests. However, it turned into a messy battle to get refunds of our travel, hotel and entertainment dollars. Sadly, this prevented me from making my favourite proclamation at Heathrow immigration – ‘British by birth, American by choice and blessed by God to be an Evertonian’.

As for lockdown, locally everywhere was closed. With no red rock tourists, we had big fluffy balls of tumbleweed chasing the desert wildlife down the streets. At age 72, I understand that I must make the most of my remaining time and convert the pandemic into something constructive. I have become increasingly reflective. I recall one of my lawyers taking out a retractable ruler and asking, ‘Based on your family history and current health, what age will they put on your death certificate?’ I responded, ‘Say 80 with a bit of luck?’ After he marked the wall at 80 inches, he would ask my age, and mark the wall again. The short gap is frightening. Of course I asked him: ‘Is there still time for Everton to win the League Cup?’ I digress.

Anyway, I thought I would make good use of my time by completing my 19th Everton book. It was started about 20 years ago and had been simmering on the backburner. Having lived in the USA and/or Canada for 43 years, I have always appreciated Everton’s association with the continent. So after chatting with the club’s hierarchy about their ambitious plans for expanding our international fanbase and improving the club’s links with North American fans, I decided to complete the book. I say “book” but it developed into a 500-page monster. I suppose that is what happens when you interact with other passionate Evertonians Like many good things in life, it has been a collaboration.

All ToffeeWebbers are familiar with the expertly researched articles of Rob Sawyer – the great-grandson of old club secretary William Sawyer – who I had worked with on the Roy Vernon biography. And surely all Evertonians know Darren Griffiths, the club’s Broadcast & Liaison Manager and the distinguished voice of the club. It has been a more than a pleasure to work with such knowledgeable and enthusiastic Blues – it has been fun.

LL: Your previous books have covered Goodison greats like Alec Young and the Holy Trinity, the story behind your wonderful collection and, most recently, your own homage to the psychological disorder that is being an Evertonian. What is it about this particular subject that moved you to write a book about it?

DF: The book was conceived shortly after I acquired a meticulously kept scrapbook from a fellow collector. Now preserved in The Everton Collection, it contains US and Canadian newspaper cuttings detailing our 1956 tour. While organizing the Hall of Fame celebrations and the Former-Players’ Foundation initiatives, I was fortunate to befriend many members of the touring party and document their North American tales. Similarly. I was enthralled by the player’s memories of the 1961 tour – the one during which Roy Vernon was sent home for breaking curfew — in a far more innocent way than Messrs. Foden and Greenwood — and Everton were humbled in both legs of the ISL final by Dukla Prague (9-2 on aggregate).

It did not take much research to discover that there is something very North American about our beloved club. We have played 35 games in the USA and Canada – more than any other English club. Our former players have represented 150 North American teams as players and coaches in the ASL, NASL, MLS and the indoor leagues – more than any other English club. You get the gist. We have 10 ex-Blues inducted into the US and Canadian Soccer Halls of Fame – an unrivalled accomplishment. And of course, we have recruited the absolute best North American stars with over 700 caps between them and given trials to dozens of others, including some who progressed to captain and manage their national teams.

By and large, our international fans can be separated into ex-pats or others with Merseyside roots and younger fans who selected the club for one reason or another – some quite bizarre. Although we sing about knowing our history, most fans know relatively little especially about Everton’s contributions to North American soccer and vice versa. Therefore this book details the 35 games and the 140 players associated with North America. Also it contains the results of insightful interviews with many of the featured players and coaches. Then there are the men who did not make the grade at Goodison and moved to USA to play, coach and spread the royal blue gospel and the trialists, many unsuccessful, who in one case joined the NFL. Their love for our club bounces off the pages. Equally as important, we solicited inputs from leading media experts in the USA and Canada and interacted with our North American fans, both young and old, to determine why and how they support the club. As you would expect, it includes the eloquent words of many fellow ToffeeWebbers and is eye-opening.

LL: I’m intrigued. How do you go about researching and writing a 500-page book in five months?

DF: Dead easy. It just requires focus and discipline. I cannot comment on my co-authors’ routines, who both have important jobs, but I wake early before the Arizona sun – it is not rained here since we started the project despite Elizabeth’s version of a Hopi rain dance. And to the howling of the local coyotes, who are most likely Kopites, and the barking riposte from our remaining English Cocker Spaniel, a lifelong and unwavering Blue, I either hit the phones (there’s an 8-hour difference with the old country) or bang away on my keyboard like Elton John – I would say Jerry Lee Lewis but that would mean a detour into his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin. Unfortunately, my stamina is handicapped by my neurological challenges and the fact that I am tethered to an oxygen supply at times. Before it became fashionable, I had to wear a mask with leather straps which I thought looked erotic. But believe me, all it has done so far is frighten the dog.

LL: So, when will Toffee Soccer be available?

DF: As always, it will be published as a limited edition and launched simultaneously in the USA and the United Kingdom. Given the uncertainties about future retail markets on both sides of the Atlantic, the release date has yet to be finalized. Let us just say – it is coming soon to all good book shelves. Possibly the publisher will offer a way for fans to have their names included in a Toffee Soccer Roll of Honour.

LL: I have to ask, given how it was met with both delight and horror on these pages when I discussed it with Elizabeth last year: how is the infamous number plate?

1906 English Cup

DF: It has resulted in much local banter. Car horn honking and many thumbs up after the Reds eventually clinched their 19th title. Klopp is a great manager of a great team, but his current club is not everyone’s glass of iced tea in Arizona. Witness the attempt to vandalize our headquarters and our hero’s statue. I must add that Bonhams auction house is selling number plate LFC 1 in late-September. Their lower estimate is £150,000 — which makes you think how much we would get for H8 LFC. Interestingly the catalogue for that sale includes the English Cup – the one that Everton won in 1906 and failed to win in 1893, 1897 and 1907. It is listed at £700,000 – 900,00. I recall that it was bought at 2005 auction by multi-millionaire David Gold, the West Ham director then at Birmingham City and Ann Summers.

It is a silver beauty – boasting magnificent Victorian craftsmanship. I inspected it at that sale when I tried to acquire Alan Ball’s World Cup winner’s medal, unbeknownst to my better half. The trophy is a national treasure and would be a unique attraction at our new stadium. There again at that price, we could always commission a replica as well as those of our other senior silverware – nine League trophies (plus that Cannon apology), one European Cup-Winners’ Cup and four FA Cups. That would be some display at Bramley-Moore – home of the English Cup.

LL: A new season is already upon us and Messers Brands and Ancelotti have made some significant moves in the transfer market. How are you feeling about 2020-21?

DF: First, I do not have much to say about last season. Finishing twelfth is as shameful as losing to Liverpool’s kids in the FA Cup. It was a huge disappointment. Evertonians deserve better. The only bright spots were Speedo Mick’s conquest, Duncan Ferguson’s passion, Mason Holgate’s form and EitC’s compassion during the height of the pandemic. As for Project Restart, words fail me in so many ways.

That said, like all good Blues, I remain optimistic. The recent signings indicate that we are focused on immediate success — hopefully, the League Cup, an Anfield victory and European qualification. Off the pitch, I expect that the stadium will be delayed through no fault of our ours before it rises to punctuate the city’s iconic skyline and become the envy of all genuine football followers on Merseyside. Most of all, I am impressed by Mr Moshiri and his pal’s continued and unwavering commitment – even though the window of opportunity is closing, they have showed tremendous fortitude when others would have defected.

I couldn’t agree more on those final points. We might be two or three more signings away from being able to genuinely trouble to top four but the very early signs from the weekend are that Everton will at least make progress this season.

My hope is that by my next in-depth chat with the Frances, we might be celebrating some trophy success or qualification for Europe. Until then, the launch of another tome from the Good Doctor Everton is always something to look forward to.

There is a new Twitter account where you can track the book’s progress. Search out @ToffeeSoccer to give it a follow.

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15/09/2020 at

Great piece again Lyndon, there is undoubtedly a euphoric feeling amongst Evertonians albeit after only one game, though most of us seasoned hitherto disappointees, can recognise that something magic is eventually occurring.

In your closing you allude that your next, meeting with the Frances, will hopefully be accompanied by celebration of some Silverware. I too hope that, starting with tomorrow night in the Carabao Cup, which I hope is taken seriously.

By that I mean, go out and try to win every game, not just throw any makeshift team out, with the attitude that win or lose, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. Yes, I expect some changes, but not wholesale ones, please!

15/09/2020 at

It’s always a great pleasure to hear David’s thoughts on matters Everton. I made the most of lockdown by decorating 3 rooms, David has just about equalled this by researching and writing a 500 page book, although he admits his efforts have been oxygen-assisted.

A similar indication of our respective levels of ambition in life is demonstrated by his casual comment about the time “I tried to acquire Alan Ball’s World Cup winners medal, unbeknownst to my better half” – I’m pretty pleased if I can sneak a new pair of hiking boots past Mrs Mills.

Over the past few years of reading this site I have come to realise that these ‘Merican people occasionally know a thing or two about our game, so I shall look forward to reading this book.

Very best wishes to Dr and Lady Everton.

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