Chairman's West Tribute
Mr Kenwright praises 'an Everton great'.
A tribute from Everton Chairman, Bill Kenwright CBE.
Westy was one of my favourite Everton players of all time – both on and off the pitch.
I was there when he made his debut against Wolves in 1962. I remember it well because he replaced another idol of mine, Albert Dunlop.
I marvelled at how he seemed to fill the entire goal as the Blues romped to a 4-0 victory and Goodison Park saluted Harry Catterick’s first signing for the Club. He went on to make over 400 appearances in an Everton career that lasted for 11 years and won him two league titles and an FA Cup winner’s medal along the way.
But his superlative performances on the pitch only half tell the story of this unique Evertonian.
In a Club that has been blessed with some outstanding goalkeepers – Neville Southall, Ted Sagar, Billy Scott, Nigel Martyn and currently Tim Howard to name a few – Gordon stood there among the best for Blues fans, who worshipped him.
And even across the park they seemed to love Westy with their constant (and I remember distinctly good-natured) goading of him as the ‘Mae West’ of goalkeepers, on the occasions he blew the odd kiss to the Kop!
That was Westy – brilliant, massive, flamboyant.
But there was also another side to him as anyone who knows him at Goodison will tell you. He was a complex character who seemed to fear the glare of the spotlight and was always at his best being around those he loved.
Although, as he said to me once, he wasn’t too sure that people appreciated enough just how much he loved Everton and his fellow players.
This was when we chatted on the Blues’ road to Wembley three seasons ago. He told me how much Everton meant to him and, in particular, at that time, how the Everton Former Players’Foundation had helped give him a new and better life.
He was deeply grateful to Harry Ross and all of the people who support this wonderful and unique charity and, probably more than anyone appreciated, the camaraderie revived through spending time with his former teammates once again.
I know this was especially true for him after the death of his blood brother Brian Labone. I am not sure he ever quite recovered from losing his best mate.
What I am sure of, though, is that Westy would be staggered, but secretly pleased, at the reaction his passing has caused. I can hear him now, shouting down all of us, including me, who want to stand up and say kind and loving words about this Everton great. He couldn’t take praise easily - but I hope that now when he is with our other great (red-headed) Blackpool signing up there looking down on us, he can appreciate the legacy and the legend that he has left behind him in Everton history.
And yes, Westy, how much we all really did love you.
Good night, God bless, big fella…