TRIBUTES continue to pour in for Gordon West, the much loved Everton goalkeeper who passed away on Sunday.
David France, who was inspired to form the Everton Former Players’ Foundation by West, contacted the ECHO from his home in Vancouver to supply own personal tribute
“I had known Gordon in one way or another for 50 years,” he explained.
“As the most expensive keeper in the world, he was an agile giant who made the kind of full-length saves that you rarely see today. As my friend, he was one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve ever met. He also possessed rare charm and even rarer humility. I suppose my favourite memories of Gordon are as a great Evertonian rather than a great Everton keeper.
“I remember visiting his home in Waterloo some 15 years ago. It was obvious that life hadn’t always been kind to him after he had hung up his boots. As a result, Brian Labone and I vowed to get him on his feet.
“We ushered him into a shop in the city centre.
“Reluctantly, he selected a suit plus a few white shirts and a few pairs of socks. I took care of the transaction: ‘How much do I owe you?’ The salesman smiled: ‘Would you believe it? You’re in luck. It’s our ‘Football Legends’ Sale’ this afternoon. There’s an 80% discount on every item. I’m a Red but my father would be so proud that I’ve taken care of such a big Evertonian!”
“Gordon was a regular at the Hall of Fame celebrations at the Adelphi Hotel. Anyone privileged to hear him speak there will testify to his love of Everton Football Club and his fellow Evertonians. I asked him to say grace at the 2001 event. Instead he opened his heart and spoke with rare emotion about the work of the Everton Former-Players’ Foundation.
“The 600 attendees fell silent as he detailed how it had helped him regain his pride and his dignity. Gordon was close to tears when he declared: ‘No fans look after their heroes like Evertonians do.’ He wasn’t alone.
“Of course, anyone privileged to know Gordon recognised that he was a charmer.
“I recall that my wife and I invited him to our silver wedding anniversary get together. Throughout the evening he complemented the restaurant staff about the quality of the crockery. Later that evening we helped him enter a taxi followed by Adelphi staff carrying a full dinner set!
“Most of all, Gordon was a true patriot. I kept my promise to take him to Buckingham Palace by including his bubble-gum card along with those of Brian Labone and Alan Ball – two other proud Englishmen – in my coat pocket.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet a dozen or so men who have won the FA Cup and also played for England. In response to my question: ‘Which was the biggest accomplishment – winning the FA Cup with Everton or representing England?’ Gordon is the only one to pick England.
“He told me that there is no feeling in the world like wearing the colours of your country.
“That said, he was proud and protective of his contributions to the club’s history. In one of my books I hinted that Neville Southall was a better keeper. Gordon responded: ‘I was better than Neville in the Sixties but I’ll accept that he was better than me in the Eighties. Today, we are about the same – both of us are fat so and so’s!’
“His illness, cancer which spread from his liver to his bones, and his passing highlight the dedication of Harry Ross and the trustees of the Everton Former Players’ Foundation.
“He was looked after during his final years, weeks and days by fellow Evertonians – after all he was a pillar of the Everton family who will never be forgotten.”