AN emotional Mick Lyons has spoken of his shock at the death of former Everton keeper Gordon West – and laughed as he recalled some of his close friend’s off-the-wall pranks.
“He was a real character, a top, top lad,” said former Blues skipper Lyons. “There will be a lot of people really upset today. He was a fabulous fella.”
Speaking in Perth, Australia, where he has lived for the past decade, Lyons added: “I got five texts and calls at four this morning, including from Andy King and Gary Jones. Everyone is devastated. He’d do anything for anyone.”
Lyons was just 16 when he signed on at Goodison, joining some of English football’s biggest names such as Brian Labone, Colin Harvey and World Cup winner Alan Ball. But few left as big an impression as West.
“He was one of a number of players there – Labby, Westy, Bally, Colin – that all the young lads like me, Gary and Terry Darracott, would look up to. But he was a one-off.
“He just had a great sense of humour. He used to take the mickey all the time. Non-stop. You used to laugh when you saw him because he had this way of taking the p**s.
“Look at the time a Liverpool fan went on the pitch and gave him a hand bag. He paraded up and down the penalty box. You wouldn’t get that now.
“It’s funny looking back now, some of the things that went on. But we thought it was great.
“Every Friday after training, we’d wait back to find out the team but Harry Catterick, the manager, would always be gone because he didn’t want to deal with the players who’d been left out.
“Anyway, a few of the older players would hold a ‘court’ and Westy would always be the judge – he used to put a mop head on his head.
“Then someone would be accused of something, usually something daft like ‘you were seen holding some girl’s hand on Scotland Road’, and every- one would go ‘Woooo’. Of course, no one was ever found innocent.
“So you had to take your punishment, which was lying on the floor, being picked up by your arms and legs and ... one-two-three, you’d be lobbed against the far tiled wall and drop into a cold bath! It was absolutely mad, we had a game the next day, but that was Westy.
“Same when we did pre-season running at Ainsdale beach. Him and Labby would always be at the front and whenever anyone went near them, he’d put his big arm across and say ‘you don’t go past us!’ Needless to say we didn’t.
“But he wasn’t just a joker, he’d attend any presentation to help anyone out, he used to arrange annual cricket matches against Maghull Homes to help handicapped people. He really was a top man.”
Lyons saw West for the final time last Christmas at an old boys get together.
“Westy was there, Gordon Lee, Billy Bingham, Gary Jones, Pat Labone. It was a great time and even more special because it was on my birthday.
“Labby was his big mate, they always shared a room – I suppose at least he’s back with Brian now.
“It’s strange when something knocks you like this. I’ll go and have a couple of pints for Westy tonight, it’s really, really sad.”