Tom Walker has been watching Everton since the 1930s
His 11 children and many grandchildren followed his lead in going to Goodison Park
Everton surprised Tom with a day to remember, thanking him for his unwavering dedication
Tom Walker was eight when he first went to see Everton in action, watching in awe from his father’s shoulders a side spearheaded by the great Dixie Dean. That was in the 1930s. Much time has passed, and Goodison Park has witnessed many changes since, but one thing has remained constant: Tom cheering on his beloved Blues.
The 90-year-old’s passion for Everton extended to his 11 children, and with Tom’s extended family having grown to more than 70 over the decades, so too did the number of Evertonians. To recognise the long-time season ticket holder’s unwavering dedication and the generations of his family that follow the club because of him, Everton gave Tom a day to remember ahead of their English Premier League fixture with Chelsea.
After being collected by the team coach to take him to Goodison Park, Tom was accompanied by four of his sons and one of his many grandchildren before being surprised by Everton royalty who joined the journey. Peter Reid and Graeme Sharp, members of the successful Everton team of the 1980s that claimed two league titles, an FA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, joined Tom en route to Goodison Park and were regaled with tales of days gone by.
"Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp, Dixie Dean, Bob Latchford - that's been ingrained in us by dad from when we were kids," Tom's son Simon told EvertonFC.com. "It's part of us and we've now done the same with our kids. They get to understand and learn what this club is all about, and it's much more than football - it's the social life of our family.
"Dad was a shift worker for a lot of years so he'd work mornings, afternoons and nights and there were weeks when we didn't really see a lot of him because he was working so hard to maintain the family. Our parents spent every penny they had on us. We never went hungry, we were always looked after and we always came to the game - and we're lucky because with 11 kids that wasn't easy."
The surprises didn’t stop there. As the coach approached Goodison Park, it was met by Reid and Sharp's 1987 title-winning team-mate Ian Snodin, who presented Tom with a 2019/20 season ticket as another thank you for his dedication to the club.
"Those guys [Reid, Sharp and Snodin] were heroes to him and he loved every minute of it,” said Phil, another of Tom’s sons. "He was just overwhelmed really and stuck for words - unusually for him!
"When he was passed the season ticket, just seeing his face was amazing. He loves Everton and he loves to have his family around him and for us to all come to the game is just his thing. We all love him to bits and to still come here with him for every game is just fantastic."
Sharp, now a club ambassador for Everton, enjoyed hearing the many stories Tom was able to share through decades of watching his beloved Blues – including legends who laced their boots for the club in the 1930s and 1940s.
"It was fantastic to meet Tom and hear all his stories about supporting Everton down the years," said Sharp. "He was there at Wembley with us in the 1980s when Reidy and I were playing and it was great to hear his memories of standing on his dad’s shoulders and watching the likes of Dixie Dean, Cyril Lello and TG Jones – players you’re told about when you join this club.
"The efforts he must have gone to in raising 11 kids and making sure they could all get to Goodison when they wanted to is definitely something that deserves rewarding.”
Tom’s day was made even sweeter with Everton running out 2-0 winners against Chelsea, thanks to goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. And with his season ticket ensuring he'll be watching the Blues in 2020, this faithful fan will be able to lay claim to having watched his club over a period of ten decades. Not many supporters can match that.
Images courtesy of Everton FC