IT MUST be more than the mere lyrics of the song ‘If you know your history’ but there seems to be something in the DNA of Evertonians when it comes to being a ‘completionist’ regarding the club’s heritage.
First there was David France’s ‘magnificent obsession’, the finest collection of programmes, documents and memorabilia for any football club on earth.
This vast footballing treasure trove of over 18,000 items was rightly deemed to be of such great importance that the club acquired it at Dr France’s wishes.
Then there is Everton fan Billy Smith’s website http://www.bluecorrespondent.co.nr/in which the devoted supporter attempts to chronicle every match report ever written on the Blues.
The latest labour of love is a new book out in time for Christmas, Everton: The Official Complete Record.
This statistical masterpiece contains season-by-season accounts of all Everton’s competitive results, including scorers, attendances, team line-ups, attendances and game-by-game league placings plus season reviews for every campaign since the club were founder members of the Football League in 1888.
As an outsider coming to Goodison Park, current midfielder Mikel Arteta, who writes the foreword, reveals he is impressed by Evertonians’ thirst for knowledge regarding their club.
He says: “Evertonians never forget their heroes and I am sure they’ll love reading about them in this book...I’ve never seen a history book in so much detail.”
The super statistician behind this opus is Steve Johnson, Birkenhead-born but now residing in Buckinghamshire.
The book is based on the statistics compiled by Johnson on his website www.evertonresults.com.
He said: “Getting the website up and running had taken a lifetime but I still had to change the format for converting it into the book.
“I’d got the idea of doing the book from James Corbett, who wrote Everton: The School of Science, as he now runs deCoubertin Books.
“Compiling the statistical information is easier these days than it was say 10 years ago with the advent of the internet although you have to be careful with information you get online and you still have to triple check all your facts.
“Getting information from the turn of the 20th Century can be difficult as there are often question marks when it comes to names in line-ups.”
With his comprehensive project now complete, friends and colleagues have asked Johnson if he’s going to do the same for another club but he admits he would not be able to repeat the process.
He said: “You wonder whether you’re just caught up in your own club or if there’s something about Evertonians that inspires a desire for the past – perhaps it’s because we’re hoping the current side will emulate our rich history?
“You see what David France did and what Billy Smith is doing with his website and somehow it completely becomes an obsession.
“But it’s a labour of love – I don’t think my wife and kids would allow me to do it again – and I could never devote that amount of time to another team who I didn’t have the passion for.”
Spending so much time looking up facts and figures can be a laborious process but Johnson reveals his searches have unearthed some intriguing gems of trivia.
Most people think that promotion play-offs are a relatively new invention but they were taking place in the Football League as early as the 1890s.
How about golden goals? One of Sepp Blatter’s many crazy notions? Well no, Everton fell victim to one in 1945/46 when double-legged FA Cup ties took place for the only time. After finishing level after extra time with Preston North End, it was a case of playground-style ‘next goal wins’ at Goodison Park and the Blues went down to a penalty from a certain William Shankly.
Considering Everton’s wastefulness in front of goal so far this season, Johnson looks back with a smile to the club’s title-winning campaign of 1931/32.
He said: “In a sequence of seven consecutive home games we won 9-3, 8-1, 7-2, 9-2, 5-1, 5-0 and 4-2.”
Just what would David Moyes give for goalscoring like that today?