I’d Rather Walk Alone by Carly Gibbons

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“Once Everton has touched you nothing will be the same” – Alan Ball

So growing up I was the only girl with two brothers, and from a young age I quickly realised that if I wanted to be included by them I pretty much had to be a boy.  There was no way they were ever going to sit down and play Barbie with me (well who knows, maybe I should have tried??), so instead I became a football fanatic, WWF obsessive, Mario Kart lover and champion conker player.  I became, and probably still am, the girliest tomboy I know – obsessed with hair, make-up and shoes (it’s my dream to own a pair of Christian Louboutins), but my ideal Saturday would be going the match, going the pub and going home in time for Match of the Day!

Although I pretty much did as I was told in order to be included by the brothers, there was one thing I would not budge on and couldn’t care less growing up that I was different to literally near enough every member of my family. . . I support the mighty blues!  I come from a massive family of reds, which includes my dad and brothers, but from a very early age I knew I was a blue.  Don’t know how I knew, given that near enough everyone around me was a Liverpool fanatic, but I just did.  And aren’t I glad!  I remember the disgust when I got my first season ticket, and not just from the family.  There were literally neighbours in the street stopping my dad and asking him how he could allow this to happen!!
Probably the one person who I can credit for me being the sensible one in the family is my grandad.  Billy Breden – without a shadow of a doubt the single biggest Evertonian I have ever met in my entire life.  He loved Everton and one of my favourite memories of him is going to his house after we had won the FA Cup in ’95. I’d been to watch the parade, which happened to go past my grandad’s window, and as I walked in his house there he was, a man of 83, sobbing his heart out at the sight of his team with that cup! Unfortunately my granddad died that year, but memories like that will stick in my mind forever. . .
So here I sit now, a grown woman of 30 (saying those words disgust me), and I’m faced with a new, albeit same old, battle. . .
6th March 2010 was the day my life changed forever – my son was born.  Things didn’t work out with me and his dad and I found myself as a single mum, pretty much struggling through and raising my child alone.  He sees his dad, but 90% of the time he’s with me.  I’m not after a medal, or sympathy, as far as I’m concerned I’m just doing my job.  Just the same as the countless other single parents out there, both men and women, who are forced to do it alone.  Of course I would’ve liked my son to have a ‘proper’ family – a mum and a dad in the same house, doing things together and both always being there, but sometimes life doesn’t quite work out how you’d planned it and I truly believe that the situation as it stands is the best situation for him at the moment.
Being a single parent though means I have to be 50% mum and 50% dad (aren’t I glad now that I was forced all those years ago to have so much boy in me) and as well as being the comforter and lenient one, I also find myself teaching him how to head a ball and dribble around cones.  I’m still the lenient one though, I haven’t quite mastered the art of being stern and the term ‘wrapped around his finger’ often springs to mind!  However, as I said a bit earlier on, I do find myself faced with a daily battle – my family want my son to support that lot across the park!!
Nearly twenty years of my life have been spent arguing about football and defending my team.  Hard going when you’re on your own and even harder when you’re a girl and people think your opinion doesn’t count!  Just last week I received a group text from both of my brothers, trying to wind me up about THAT game against Wigan.  I try not to bite, and just for the record I never, ever wind them up about their team.  I don’t like it done to me so I don’t do it to others.   But now, a new generation has been born into our family and I find myself faced with another thirty years of the same thing.  I’ve fought the battle all my life, and now I’m having to find the strength to fight it for the two of us!  I’m a blue, so surely any child of mine has to be too??  And surely, as he is my child, nobody else should have a say anyway??  Well according to them they do!  My brothers have six daughters between them and my son is the only boy in our family.  Only nephew, only grandson.  I can kind of understand where they’re coming from, they want a boy to follow in their footsteps, but handing me a bag with a Liverpool kit inside with Suarez on the back, in my son’s size. . . You’re having a laugh aren’t you??!
I truly fear that this is an argument that is not going to go away, and I fear even more that my son will choose to totally ignore his mum and be ‘one of the lads’ instead.  My eldest brother’s argument for him supporting that lot is “you can’t take him the match, he won’t want to go to the boozer with his mum”.  What if he’s right??  What if instead of being this cool mum that I think I am, the mum who will play football, help him climb trees and teach him a lesson on Mario Kart, because that’s the person I have to be, what if I’m just totally embarrassing the poor lad and as soon as he’s old enough he say’s “bye mum I’m off the match with my grandad and uncles”?  Please God, no!!
But I’ve struggled for thirty years.  I’ve defended us at our worst and been quietly smug at our best, and one thing is for certain, I won’t give up without a fight!!  As I’m sat here typing this, I can see, out of the corner of my eye, a picture of my grandad on the wall smiling down at me.  I smile back and I can literally hear him speaking as if he was next to me. . . “Do it for us Wack, and just remember, nothing but the best is good enough”.  I will grandad, I’ll try.  Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

Who’s the greatest of them all?
Little red head Alan Ball
But who’s the prince, the king unsung?
The one and only Alex Young

(As taught to me by my grandad, his two favourite players).


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Alan Ball