Losing My Favourite Game: ‘Sorry For Your Loss’ with Ed Bottomley

For many, football can be more than a passion. It’s an all-consuming obsession, linking our past to our present and our present to our future. Calendars are planned around the football season, and memories of major life events can be linked to the fixtures that took place around the same time. Few reflect this kind of obsession as fervently as today’s guest. Ed Bottomley is a husband, dad of five, occasional blogger and long-suffering Evertonian. For the past fifteen years, Ed has been living in Michigan in the United States, but despite his distance from Goodison Park remains as rabid a supporter as ever.

Earlier this season, Ed and his family were struck by tragedy. In his edition of Losing My Favourite Game, our man in the States looks back on one of the most difficult days of his life, and how even in our darkest moments, our passions and obsessions can provide moments of light.

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Everton 0-2 Sheffield United
Premier League
21st September 2019

Everton Football Club. 

Everton, through my kids’ eyes, must be a very odd thing indeed. They watch me get home from work, open my mouth and excitedly belch “Guess what happened today!?!”

They also watch my wife, gently suppressing a sigh, ask “Is this about work?… Or Everton?”

It’s always about Everton. Always. 

I live in Michigan, 3,594 miles from Goodison Park with my American wife and four (sorry, five) kids.

Fifteen years ago, when I first moved here, no one seemed to care about my football. I remember my brother-in-law tying his shoelaces in front of the TVwhile Wayne Rooney was busy getting sent off against Portugal, and I still see his annoyed face when I asked him to move. 

I started blogging about Everton just to talk to someone else about my team. And I shared that writing on social media, which was in its infancy. Now social media is my career. 

It’s always about Everton. Always.

These days, I can wear my Everton equivalent of the Wenger-gown, a long warm hug of a coat, out and about in Michigan and people talk to me about Everton. 

At the check out in the local grocery store: “How are Everton doing this season, sir?”

At a restaurant: “Cool jacket, I hear Moise Kean isn’t doing that well so far this year.”

At work: “The second half of that game was great, Goodison was roaring!”

Last year, after Everton lost a horror show of a match to Newcastle United, and I was howling at my phlegm flecked television, Gracie (kid #3, the Three Graces – Kendall, Harvey, Ball – it’s always about Everton) asked me, “Dad, why do you like these people?… They don’t know you and you don’t know them. They can’t hear you shouting.”

I still haven’t given her an adequate answer. How does this glum chain gang of eleven men not doing their job properly consistently make me come back for more?

Everton, it goes without saying, are pretty woeful. Since I was first ushered into Goodison Park in 1990, we’ve only won one trophy. Often far too good (or lucky) to go down, we’re also too bad to compete at the Premier League’s top table. 

Over on Twitter, people dedicate whole threads to the Everton “banter era”. Champagne dashed from our lips, ridiculously misguided transfers, goalkeepers getting injured on signs that say “don’t play in this goal”… Others have said we are the most miserable team there is, because whilst most teams have a rollercoaster existence of promotion, relegation, championships and cups – Everton plod along, stuck in a footballing limbo. Never getting relegated. Never winning trophies. 

Every time I watch them though, I get outraged anew. It’s like I’m watching Everton get trounced for the first time. I think I can blame optimism. Remarkably, despite a quarter of a century of footballing limbo, hope grows like weeds. 

When kid #4 came into our life, we gave him Pele’s real name as his middle name: Charles Edson Bottomley. 

It’s always about Everton. Always.

I love that Pele played at Goodison in the 1966 World Cup, and I love the picture of Pele that I have. The greatest player in the world, looking tired and disappointed. In that one shot, even Pele is an Evertonian. Shirtless, at Goodison, looking slightly fed up. 

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I’m a double outsider really, an Everton fan in Michigan, and an Everton fan who’s from South London, not Liverpool. One of the hardest questions I used to get asked as a kid was “who do you support?” The correct answer was Millwall or Crystal Palace. Arsenal, Spurs, or Chelsea would be vaguely acceptable. Everton? Not acceptable. 

One of the hardest questions I’m asked now is “how many children do you have?” The correct answer is five. But too often I say four. It makes me feel horrible if I sputter out the wrong answer.

William Rhys Bottomley, my baby boy, died the day before he was born, September 17th 2019. 

He has the same first name and middle initial as our greatest goalscorer, William Ralph Dean. I think we all know he’d have played up front for Everton.

It’s always about Everton. Always. 

I already have two boys who are off the charts in terms of height. William was even longer than them when he was born.

I miss him so much already. His skyscraping Merseyside derby headers, rising above an inferno of Kopite defenders, will be missed in a couple of decades too.

All those emotions that we have wrapped up in that beautifully shite football club I support can never be passed on to William. He’ll never look at me weirdly when I come home from work and say “Guess what happened today” – knowing with absolute certainty that I’m about to begin a rambling Everton monologue. 

My earliest memories of Everton were names rather than games. I was naively logical about everything football. I heard my dad say he loved Gary Lineker like a son, and ran off to find a picture of him. I stared at it, thinking, “Brother?”

I remember being baffled by Ian Ormondroyd – confused as to how anyone could have such a weird name. Was he an alien? One of my earliest Goodison games was against Aston Villa. I heard Villa fans singing, “You’ll Never Beat Paul McGrath!” – and treated his omnipotence as fact. 

After the names, I began to notice Goodison. The noise it made when riled up.  With the right manager and players, a full-throated Goodison crowd is unplayable. Once, when we played Blackburn, I was so excited my teeth chattered all game.

After Goodison I began to notice the results. Watching Heitinga’s cracker from the Bullens with a volcanic cup of Bovril. Viewing Rooney’s goal from the Park End and hearing the Krakatoan yell of the crowd. Daniel Amokachi – overflowing with confidence like he forgot to say when – scoring a brace against Newcastle as I watched from the Main stand. 

Or the best of the lot; taking my eldest son to his first game. Naismith, Mirallas and Lukaku running roughshod over Arsenal, battering them 3-0, and me and my little blonde American boy watching from the Gwladys. And my last Goodison game? I don’t get over to England much. Can it be that I’ve already seen the last of the Old Lady?

Nope, there won’t be any odd looks from William. He won’t have a first game, or a first shirt. I won’t be able to wax lyrical about Everton to him. But he’s an Evertonian too. Wherever he is, the poor bugger doesn’t have a choice. 

During William’s funeral my phone kept on buzzing. Not now, I thought, It’s not always about Everton. 

As I lined up outside the church people told me “sorry for your loss.”

Afterwards I took a quick peek. 

Everton had managed to lose 2-0 to Sheffield United whilst only letting them have one shot on target. My little boy got to sample classic Everton from his wicker casket. 

Made me smile.

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Thanks to Ed for sharing such a heartbreaking story. To follow Ed’s musings on Everton find him on Twitter, or read more of his work at Grand Old Team.

2 thoughts on “Losing My Favourite Game: ‘Sorry For Your Loss’ with Ed Bottomley

  1. Ed, I am so sorry about your son. What a great tribute you wrote. 9/17/19 was a life changer for you and me. The key, as you expressed, is that we have to persevere in what we believe in, no matter what the universe throws at us.
    Steve Hendrick

    Like

  2. Ed, don’t do this social media thing and I don’t even know if this will get to you but just in case it does,I’ve just read your post via the Tw .I can only hope you and your family can get some comfort from all the thoughts and wishes that the extended EFC family have for you all.I personally will have a little bit of time out while watching the game on tv this aft and hope little William has a grandstand seat.

    Like

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