Lyndon Lloyd chats with David France ahead of the release of his new book
Lyndon Lloyd chats with David France
I always enjoy my chats with Elizabeth France that have become a periodic feature on ToffeeWeb. On this occasion, I had called for her annual contribution but in her absence – she was visiting folks in the local nursing homes – I caught up with her husband, David, to chat about the life of an Evertonian in lockdown.
LL: The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all our lives and, of course, football hasn’t escaped its effects. Watching our stirring win over Tottenham on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think how much our devoted travelling supporters would have let those players know in no uncertain terms just how important that victory was and how much they appreciated the performance. I long for fans to return to the stands. How have you been dealing with the pandemic?
DF: We had planned to make another final visit to the old country and throw another goodbye bash at the Dixie Dean Hotel – like Bob Dylan, ours is a never-ending farewell tour except that we acknowledge the guests. However, it turned into a messy battle to get refunds of our travel, hotel and entertainment dollars. Sadly, this prevented me from making my favourite proclamation at Heathrow immigration – ‘British by birth, American by choice and blessed by God to be an Evertonian’.
As for lockdown, locally everywhere was closed. With no red rock tourists, we had big fluffy balls of tumbleweed chasing the desert wildlife down the streets. At age 72, I understand that I must make the most of my remaining time and convert the pandemic into something constructive. I have become increasingly reflective. I recall one of my lawyers taking out a retractable ruler and asking, ‘Based on your family history and current health, what age will they put on your death certificate?’ I responded, ‘Say 80 with a bit of luck?’ After he marked the wall at 80 inches, he would ask my age, and mark the wall again. The short gap is frightening. Of course I asked him: ‘Is there still time for Everton to win the League Cup?’ I digress.
Anyway, I thought I would make good use of my time by completing my 19th Everton book. It was started about 20 years ago and had been simmering on the backburner. Having lived in the USA and/or Canada for 43 years, I have always appreciated Everton’s association with the continent. So after chatting with the club’s hierarchy about their ambitious plans for expanding our international fanbase and improving the club’s links with North American fans, I decided to complete the book. I say “book” but it developed into a 500-page monster. I suppose that is what happens when you interact with other passionate Evertonians Like many good things in life, it has been a collaboration.
All ToffeeWebbers are familiar with the expertly researched articles of Rob Sawyer - the great-grandson of old club secretary William Sawyer - who I had worked with on the Roy Vernon biography, Blue Dragon. And surely all Evertonians know Darren Griffiths, the club’s Broadcast & Liaison Manager and the distinguished voice of the club. It has been a more than a pleasure to work with such knowledgeable and enthusiastic Blues – it has been fun.
LL: Your previous books have covered Goodison greats like Alec Young and the Holy Trinity, the story behind your wonderful collection and, most recently, your own homage to the psychological disorder that is being an Evertonian. What is it about this particular subject that moved you to write a book about it?
DF: The book was conceived shortly after I acquired a meticulously kept scrapbook from a fellow collector. Now preserved in The Everton Collection, it contains US and Canadian newspaper cuttings detailing our 1956 tour. While organizing the Hall of Fame celebrations and the Former-Players’ Foundation initiatives, I was fortunate to befriend many members of the touring party and document their North American tales. Similarly. I was enthralled by the player’s memories of the 1961 tour – the one during which Roy Vernon was sent home for breaking curfew — in a far more innocent way than Messrs Foden and Greenwood — and Everton were humbled in both legs of the ISL final by Dukla Prague (9-2 on aggregate).
It did not take much research to discover that there is something very North American about our beloved club. We have played 35 games in the USA and Canada – more than any other English club. Our former players have represented 150 North American teams as players and coaches in the ASL, NASL, MLS and the indoor leagues – more than any other English club. You get the gist. We have 10 ex-Blues inducted into the US and Canadian Soccer Halls of Fame – an unrivalled accomplishment. And of course, we have recruited the absolute best North American stars with over 700 caps between them and given trials to dozens of others, including some who progressed to captain and manage their national teams.
By and large, our international fans can be separated into ex-pats or others with Merseyside roots and younger fans who selected the club for one reason or another – some quite bizarre. Although we sing about knowing our history, most fans know relatively little especially about Everton’s contributions to North American soccer and vice versa. Therefore this book details the 35 games and the 140 players associated with North America. Also it contains the results of insightful interviews with many of the featured players and coaches. Then there are the men who did not make the grade at Goodison and moved to USA to play, coach and spread the royal blue gospel and the trialists, many unsuccessful, who in one case joined the NFL. Their love for our club bounces off the pages. Equally as important, we solicited inputs from leading media experts in the USA and Canada and interacted with our North American fans, both young and old, to determine why and how they support the club. As you would expect, it includes the eloquent words of many fellow ToffeeWebbers and is eye-opening.
LL: I’m intrigued. How do you go about researching and writing a 500-page book in five months?
DF: Dead easy. It just requires focus and discipline. I cannot comment on my co-authors’ routines, who both have important jobs, but I wake early before the Arizona sun – it is not rained here since we started the project despite Elizabeth’s version of a Hopi rain dance. And to the howling of the local coyotes, who are most likely Kopites, and the barking riposte from our remaining English Cocker Spaniel, a lifelong and unwavering Blue, I either hit the phones (there’s an 8-hour difference with the old country) or bang away on my keyboard like Elton John – I would say Jerry Lee Lewis but that would mean a detour into his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin. Unfortunately, my stamina is handicapped by my neurological challenges and the fact that I am tethered to an oxygen supply at times. Before it became fashionable, I had to wear a mask with leather straps which I thought looked erotic. But believe me, all it has done so far is frighten the dog.
LL: So, when will Toffee Soccer be available?
DF: As always, it will be published as a limited edition and launched simultaneously in the USA and the United Kingdom. Given the uncertainties about future retail markets on both sides of the Atlantic, the release date has yet to be finalized. Let us just say – it is coming soon to all good bookshelves. Possibly the publisher will offer a way for fans to have their names included in a Toffee Soccer Roll of Honour.
LL: I have to ask, given how it was met with both delight and horror on these pages when I discussed it with Elizabeth last year: how is the infamous number plate?
DF: It has resulted in much local banter. Car horn honking and many thumbs up after the Reds eventually clinched their 19th title. Klopp is a great manager of a great team, but his current club is not everyone’s glass of iced tea in Arizona. Witness the attempt to vandalize our headquarters and our hero’s statue. I must add that Bonhams auction house is selling number plate LFC 1 in late-September. Their lower estimate is £150,000 — which makes you think how much we would get for H8 LFC. Interestingly the catalogue for that sale includes the English Cup – the one that Everton won in 1906 and failed to win in 1893, 1897 and 1907. It is listed at £700,000 - 900,00. I recall that it was bought at 2005 auction by multi-millionaire David Gold, the West Ham director then at Birmingham City and Ann Summers.
It is a silver beauty – boasting magnificent Victorian craftsmanship. I inspected it at that sale when I tried to acquire Alan Ball’s World Cup winner’s medal, unbeknownst to my better half. The trophy is a national treasure and would be a unique attraction at our new stadium. There again at that price, we could always commission a replica as well as those of our other senior silverware - nine League trophies (plus that Cannon apology), one European Cup-Winners’ Cup and four FA Cups. That would be some display at Bramley-Moore – home of the English Cup.
LL: A new season is already upon us and Messers Brands and Ancelotti have made some significant moves in the transfer market. How are you feeling about 2020-21?
DF: First, I do not have much to say about last season. Finishing 12th is as shameful as losing to Liverpool’s kids in the FA Cup. It was a huge disappointment. Evertonians deserve better. The only bright spots were Speedo Mick’s conquest, Duncan Ferguson’s passion, Mason Holgate’s form and EitC’s compassion during the height of the pandemic. As for Project Restart, words fail me in so many ways.
That said, like all good Blues, I remain optimistic. The recent signings indicate that we are focused on immediate success — hopefully, the League Cup, an Anfield victory and European qualification. Off the pitch, I expect that the stadium will be delayed through no fault of ours before it rises to punctuate the city’s iconic skyline and becomes the envy of all genuine football followers on Merseyside. Most of all, I am impressed by Mr Moshiri and his pal’s continued and unwavering commitment – even though the window of opportunity is closing, they have showed tremendous fortitude when others would have defected.
I couldn’t agree more on those final points. We might be two or three more signings away from being able to genuinely trouble to top four but the very early signs from the weekend are that Everton will at least make progress this season.
My hope is that by my next in-depth chat with the Frances, we might be celebrating some trophy success or qualification for Europe. Until then, the launch of another tome from the Good Doctor Everton is always something to look forward to.
There is a new Twitter account where you can track the book’s progress. Search out @ToffeeSoccer to give it a follow.
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 15/09/2020 at 06:28:51
In your closing you allude that your next, meeting with the Frances, will hopefully be accompanied by celebration of some Silverware. I too hope that, starting with tomorrow night in the Carabao Cup, which I hope is taken seriously.
By that I mean, go out and try to win every game, not just throw any makeshift team out, with the attitude that win or lose, it doesn't make a great deal of difference. Yes, I expect some changes, but not wholesale ones, please!
2 Posted 15/09/2020 at 07:09:17
A similar indication of our respective levels of ambition in life is demonstrated by his casual comment about the time “I tried to acquire Alan Ball's World Cup winners medal, unbeknownst to my better halfâ€ - I'm pretty pleased if I can sneak a new pair of hiking boots past Mrs Mills.
Over the past few years of reading this site I have come to realise that these â€˜Merican people occasionally know a thing or two about our game, so I shall look forward to reading this book.
Very best wishes to Dr and Lady Everton.
3 Posted 15/09/2020 at 10:28:01
Sometimes in life you just have to stand in awe and thank god that their are people who not only passionately love the Blues but are able to become a font of knowledge and can paint the memories with love, passion and affection.. Long may you continue David, Thank you, for everything you love, we love and for every other Evertonian who hasn't even been borne yet...
4 Posted 15/09/2020 at 11:03:27
Like Peter Mills I look forward to reading your book about Everton's visits to America on and off the field.
Wishing you and Elizabeth good health in the coming years, very best wishes.
Oh, David have a rest for a couple of weeks before you start your next book!!
5 Posted 15/09/2020 at 11:08:15
6 Posted 15/09/2020 at 13:50:06
Ah, not much. Wrote a 500 page book.
I think every North American Blue should buy this book. Dr. France is a wealth of knowledge, and focusing on our corner of the globe and it's relationship to Everton is something special.
7 Posted 15/09/2020 at 14:45:43
Reading between the the lines always â€˜politely scathing' when he feels the club fall from the standards he holds them too. Amazingly despite his own travails never worn down by the mediocrity we've been subjected to for too long.
The book is something I'll indulge in, a chance to strengthen a bond between two countries, which like the Doctor, I'm entwined with.
Stay well Dr France.
8 Posted 15/09/2020 at 15:31:28
Please ensure TW gives us the heads up when this book is published.
Keep up the good work Lyndon it is truly appreciated.
9 Posted 15/09/2020 at 16:26:37
10 Posted 15/09/2020 at 16:44:43
I would also humbly request the posting online of the video of Elizabeth's Hopi rain dance. My wife would like to learn it. Up here in Oregon we could use all the help we can get, mystical or otherwise.
Warmest good wishes to the Royal Couple of Everton, and thanks Lyndon for a lovely article.
11 Posted 15/09/2020 at 17:44:24
12 Posted 15/09/2020 at 17:53:08
13 Posted 15/09/2020 at 18:33:12
I see the good doctor is still in fine form despite his sufferings and like Mike G the good Lady Elizabeths rain dance video is something to look forward to and would surely be a best seller.LOL
Lets hope you are all around to witness our return to the top table and hopefully a trophy or two before taking our place on the "Banks of the Royal Blue Mersey".
14 Posted 15/09/2020 at 21:05:32
I can't wait to get the book.
Will there be a statue of Dr Everton at the new ground?
There certainly should be!
15 Posted 15/09/2020 at 21:52:15
Next up Salford and The Baggies.
Let's do it.
16 Posted 15/09/2020 at 23:55:17
I have said 'us all' because George loves Everton and all those who support! He has not been well recently, and I feel a message of support and recognition for all his magnificent contributions over the years, may not only give him a lift but also, send a message of appreciation.
I have had the privilege of meeting George at TW Get Togethers, and also in the Dark House, we are united in supporting our mighty Blues although we are diametrically opposed in backgrounds!
17 Posted 16/09/2020 at 04:27:11
I'm sure he had a great lift by Sunday's performance and, hopefully, it won't be too long before we, once again, have the pleasure of his unique contributions to TW.
Best wishes from all of us on TW, George.
18 Posted 16/09/2020 at 09:03:17
Wish you all the best George and, on behalf of us all on TW, we look forward to a full recovery and plenty more posts from you.
19 Posted 16/09/2020 at 11:44:47
20 Posted 16/09/2020 at 11:53:17
Very best wishes George, hope you are well enough soon to tell us how you are getting on.
21 Posted 16/09/2020 at 12:01:55
22 Posted 16/09/2020 at 12:24:15
23 Posted 16/09/2020 at 12:59:58
24 Posted 16/09/2020 at 14:31:21
Just stop it will you...'thankyou for everything you love, we love and for every other Evertonian that hasn't even been born yet'.
Lovely prose, have to rush, I'm starting to get that grit again in my eyes, even in my early 60's, this damn club has a habit of getting right under your skin.
25 Posted 16/09/2020 at 14:42:37
David France: "Dead easy. It just requires focus and discipline."
I witnessed this. I work at The Printroom in Bootle and we have assisted the good Doctor with some of his projects over the last 15 years or so. When he is on this side of the pond and working on one of his books he turns up at the factory with the early shift. We give him access to an Apple Mac and away he goes. He doesn't stop! It really is a case of "switch off the lights on the way out please David" as the rest of us mere mortals go home for our tea.
He doesn't stop. Total dedication to the EFC cause.
26 Posted 16/09/2020 at 15:10:26
If youre looking in on ToffeeWeb George I'm sure everyone is sending cosmic grooves in your direction and we wish you a full and speedy recovery hopefully boosted by us winning something this year.
27 Posted 16/09/2020 at 21:37:35
The article is full of enlightened wisdom and a different aspect of Everton's history and reach, so apologies for dwelling on an aspect closer to home.
"Is there still time for Everton to win the League Cup"?
A man after my own heart. I made my feelings clear on the pre-Salford debate.
I'm 49 today so cannot claim Dr David's vast knowledge, but one of my earliest memories was the 1977 final defeat against Villa. I was at Wembley in 1984 and remember the hope and anticipation followed by the crushing blow of losing the replay at Maine Road. I remember going out early doors against Grimsby in 1985 (and we were reigning Champions), which seems to have become the prelude to subsequent notoriety in repeating our early exits at the hands of lower league opposition in this competition.
It has almost become personal and I want to see us win it regardless of the contempt some have for it!!
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