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Where should everton move to? thats easy ....anfield


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Where should Everton move? That's easy - to Anfield


Everton should forget about moving to Kirkby when there's a perfectly good stadium on their doorstep - they'll just have to paint it blue.

Paul WilsonDecember 16, 2006 11:45 PM


Everton fans are up in arms at the moment because the club have just announced their favoured site for a new stadium is in Kirkby, four miles away from Goodison and outside the city of Liverpool. Coming in a week when Liverpool revealed that a £450million takeover would mean work could soon start on a £200m stadium in Stanley Park - the bit of greenery that presently separates the two ancient rivals - this news did not go down well at all.


Among the many reasons for Evertonian indignation is the indisputable fact that they predate Liverpool and were in the city first, and that they applied for planning permission to move into Stanley Park some years ago, only to be turned down because of greenbelt rules.


More subjective grounds for resentment include the feeling that Liverpool are getting preferential treatment from the council, a worry that a move to the outskirts will eventually erode both the local fanbase and the sizeable following the club have on the Wirral and in north Wales, and an instinctive fear that surrendering the city to Liverpool may prove a costly and far-reaching mistake. If it is hard to imagine the city of Liverpool without Everton, it is impossible to think of Everton outside Liverpool.


Of course, the move may never happen. Everton could just be putting pressure on the city council in the same way Lancashire County Cricket Club negotiated more favourable terms with Trafford council earlier this year by repeatedly insisting they were about to relocate to Wigan. The Wigan council were up for it, and all the talk for a while was of state-of-the-art facilities, grant assistance and greenfield sites. Then, suddenly, Trafford came back to the table and an exclusivity deal was signed remarkably quickly.


That is simply the way things work, although in this case, with the King's Dock fiasco in the recent past and Bill Kenwright insisting that Everton have no option but to leave Goodison, the club appear to be running out of viable alternatives. Residents and councillors in Aintree and Melling joined forces to object to the idea of a Premiership football club disturbing their semi-rural tranquillity, a Speke site was rejected as unsuitable, and the city council are adamant there is no room for Everton anywhere within the centre.


There is one place that would be ideal, however - and if Everton look out of the window they can see it. It is a purpose-built football ground and a very good one, too. It staged games during Euro 96 and an England international as recently as this year, has excellent corporate facilities, a capacity of 45,000 that can be nudged up to 50,000 without much difficulty and will be vacant in three or four years. The only problem, of course, is that it is called Anfield, and for Evertonians that is a very big problem indeed.


To be strictly accurate, that is not the only problem. There are also a few minor issues surrounding the future of Anfield. One of the conditions by which Liverpool gained planning permission in Stanley Park involved a promise to restore the lost community space by turning the Anfield site into a public area. The plan at present is for an Anfield plaza, a pleasant walkway from the direction of the city up to the new ground, featuring a hotel, restaurants and bars, shops and landscaped open space amounting to a regeneration of one of the poorer parts of the city.


This sounds totally worthwhile, until you remember that even Sheikh Maktoum might not have enough money to turn Walton Breck Road into a tourist attraction. With all due respect to the 2008 City of Culture's good intentions, Anfield and its surrounding streets are not the most obvious shopping and leisure destination, no matter how much play is made of the stadium's fame as a sporting arena. Much better, if you want to remember the place, to keep the bulldozers out and the footballers in.


Any council objections could be swiftly overturned if there was a will to keep Anfield going. Goodison could be flattened to provide community space adjacent to Stanley Park, for example, and match-day inconvenience to residents would be minimised by having two stadiums even closer to each other than they are at present - although, entirely predictably, the most entrenched opposition to Everton playing at Anfield comes from the football clubs themselves.


Liverpool have not considered selling their ground to their neighbours because some of their supporters are unconvinced about the need to move out of Anfield in the first place. Letting Everton move in would a recipe for civil unrest, but the question is an academic one because Everton would never dream of playing at Anfield. This turns out to be true. 'We would much rather play in Kirkby than play at Anfield,' Everton spokesman Ian Ross said. 'In fact we would rather play in Beirut than play at Anfield.'


Yet Everton did play at Anfield once. If you have studied your history, you will know that not only did Liverpool fans nick that song from Celtic, but that they were formed suddenly in the year 1892, when Everton left Anfield, their home of eight years, in protest at a rent increase. The landlord, a Mr John Houlding, was left needing a team in a hurry, so he recruited 10 professionals from Scotland and registered them as Liverpool when he was barred from retaining the name Everton. The original Everton went off to play at Goodison Park, the new Liverpool stayed at Anfield and kept up their Scottish contacts to good effect.


All of which means it is silly for either party to let pride stand in the way now, although that is exactly what both parties intend to do. Everton, or 'the people's supermarket' as Liverpool fans have taken to calling them since the tie-in with Tesco at the Kirkby site, will continue hunting high and low for a suitable new home while ignoring the great big red one half a mile down the road.


Liverpool are planning to be in their new home for the 2009-10 season, by which time they will have no further use for a superbly appointed and genuinely historic stadium. Anyone with any sense can see that all that is required is a change of name and a few tins of blue paint, but sense has no place in this argument. This is football. Anfield must die. And for the next few seasons, as the Fast Show might have put it, we will mostly be playing in soulless out-of-town stadiums with enormous car parks.


Boycotting Kelvin on Christmas day won't be a problem


Kelvin MacKenzie continues to be the only man who would come second to Boris Johnson in a popularity contest in Liverpool.


When the Sun's former editor reignited the Hillsborough controversy last month by standing by all his old front pages, he possibly annoyed his old employers who have been patiently trying to rebuild bridges. He did not do any harm to his own reputation on Merseyside though, because that has been running at rock bottom for the past 16 years.


Dave Pearson, of Formby, has been in touch to point out that Radio Five Live have invited MacKenzie to host a broadcast on Christmas Day. 'Many football fans, including me, are outraged that a public-funded body such as the BBC should use its resources in this way,' Pearson says. 'I find it difficult to understand the reasoning given the controversy surrounding this person, and would request the BBC to reconsider.'


Radio Five Live is a sports station in most people's eyes, although MacKenzie will not be discussing football on Christmas Day but presenting News Review of the Year between 5pm and 7pm. That's two hours of news at tea-time on Christmas Day. On the radio. Relax, Mr Pearson. This sounds like a boycott the whole country can join in. Five Live might not even notice the difference.




Have the guardian lost the plot?

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