Gordon West Remembered
Anyone wishing to send messages of condolence to Gordon’s family can do so using this website. Please use the comment section and we will pass on the messages to Gordon’s family.
Gordon West 1943-2012
Tribute from Laurence Lee Chairman of the Everton Former Players’ Foundation
As Chairman of the Everton Former Players Foundation i have to say Gordon was a pleasure to look after. He was so appreciative of whatever help we could offer him. He was a true legend and one of my childhood heroes.
His recent illness was a source of great sadness to every Trustee and indeed every Evertonian. The help we offered to Gordon was mere repayment of the many years of pleasure he gave to us all. He was a unique character who will be sadly missed . Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time
A tribute from David France O.B.E.
Like you, I was saddened to learn of the death of Gordon West – a pillar of the Everton family. I had known him in one way or another for 50 years. As the most expensive keeper in the world, he was an agile giant who made the kind of full-length saves that you rarely see today. As a hero, he won two League titles and an FA Cup during the Catterick era. The only other player to do so was his old friend Brian Labone. As my friend, he was one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve ever met. Also he possessed rare charm and even rarer humility. I suppose my favourite memories of Gordon are as a great Evertonian rather than a great Everton keeper.
I remember visiting his home in Waterloo some 15 years ago. It was obvious that life hadn’t always been kind to him after he had hung up his boots. As a result, Brian Labone and I vowed to get him on his feet. There was one obvious problem; the keeper had ballooned to 20 odd stones and was reluctant to leave his sanctuary. Nevertheless, we ushered him into a big man’s shop in the city centre. Once there the salesman measured him. Brian asked: ‘What size are you Gordon?’ The salesman responded ‘58 Regular.’ As quick as a flash Brian retorted: ‘There is nothing regular about being 58 Regular.’ Gordon wasn’t shocked by hisstatistics but was astonished at the price tags. Reluctantly, he selected a suit plus a few white shirts and a few pairs of socks. I took care of the transaction: ‘How much do I owe you?’ The salesman smiled: ‘Would you believe it? You’re in luck. It’s our ‘Football Legends’ Sale’ this afternoon. There’s an 80% discount on every item. I’m a Red but my father would be so proud that I’ve taken care of such a big Evertonian!’
Kitted out in his new togs, Gordon was a regular at the Hall of Fame celebrations during the next decade. Anyone privileged to hear him speak at a Hall of Fame dinner will testify to his love of Everton Football Club and his fellow Evertonians. I asked him to say grace at the 2001 event. Instead he opened his heart and spoke with rare emotion about the work of the Everton Former-Players’ Foundation. The 600 attendees fell silent as he detailed how it had helped him regain his pride and his dignity. Gordon was close to tears when he declared: ‘No fans look after their heroes like Evertonians do.’ He wasn’t alone.
Of course, anyone privileged to know Gordon recognized that he was a charmer. He could entice the plates off a table-cloth. I recall that my wife and I invited him to our silver wedding anniversary get-together. Throughout the evening he complemented the restaurant staff about the quality of the crockery. Later that evening we helped him enter a taxi followed by Adelphi staff carrying boxes containing 6 soup bowls, 6 dinner plates, 6 bread plates, 6 desert dishes, 6 tea cups, 6 saucers plus matching salt and pepper cruets.
Most of all, Gordon was a true patriot with an impressive collection of memorabilia from various royal weddings. He predicted that I would visit Buckingham Palace one day and I’m pleased to say that I kept my promise to take him with me last month by including his bubble-gum card along with those of Brian Labone and Alan Ball – two other proud Englishmen – in my coat pocket. I’ve been fortunate to meet a dozen or so men who have won the FA Cup and also played for England. In response to my question: ‘Which was the biggest accomplishment – winning the FA Cup with Everton or representing England?’ Gordon is the only one to pick England. He told me that there is no feeling in the world like wearing the colours of your country. That said, he was proud and protective of his contributions to the club’s history. In one of my books I hinted that Neville Southall was a better keeper. Gordon responded: ‘I was better than Neville in the Sixties but I’ll accept that he was better than me in the Eighties. Today, we are about the same – both of us are fat bastards.’
His passing highlight the dedication of Harry Ross and the trustees of the Everton Former-Players’ Foundation. He was looked after during his final years, weeks and days by his fellow Evertonians – after all he was a pillar of the Everton family who will never be forgotten.
A tribute from former E.F.P.F. Trustee Martin O’Boyle
I can remember where I was and what I was doing when I first saw Gordon West.
Walking home from school one night at the age of 6 or 7, my dad pointed to what looked to be a giant across the road and said: “That’s Gordon West, he used to play for us.”
He explained to me just how good he was and how it took over ten years to properly replace him in the Everton goal until a certain Neville Southall made that position his own. As the man himself said: “I was the best Everton keeper in black and white, Neville was the best in colour.”
I then saw him frequently entering or leaving his home, before meeting him one day in a local shop, this time with my mum in tow. Now, my dad had big hands, but his were absolutely huge! Mine were swallowed up in his warm greeting.
I recalled the event with great pride to my dad, who recounted the story of an occasion when he attended a schoolboy match in which West was the guest of honour.
One by one, the youngsters came up to him to receive their medals and receive the patented West handshake. One young wag refused to shake his hand. ‘Westy’ asked why and when the scamp explained that he supported Liverpool and therefore wouldn’t shake the hand of an ex-Everton keeper, he grabbed him by the jersey and sat him on the crossbar.
Within ten seconds the young Kopite was begging for mercy and readily shook his hand after he’d been placed back on terra firma.
My dad also explained that our three legendary goalkeepers have shared a special bond with a particular central defender, someone with whom the understanding was almost telepathic. With Ted Sagar it was T.G. Jones, with Southall it was Ratcliffe and with West it was Labone.
No Evertonian’s story of Gordon West can be complete without a mention of his relationship with Labby.
The odd couple, a kind of Statler and Waldorf meets Darby and Joan, had a remarkable bond. The banter between them could be cutting, but it was always delivered with a smile and a wink – and no offence could ever be taken. They’d seen each other at their brightest moments and in their darkest hours and no amount of ‘Twiggy’ references from Labby could cause West to get riled.
I went round to visit him a few days after Labby died on 24 April 2006, the day of Gordon’s 63rd birthday. He told me that he’d heard the news – and then his cards popped through the letterbox. The first one he opened, naturally, was from the man he called ‘his best mate.’
Yet, where many people would have gone back into their shell to avoid painful memories, he continued to help push the cause of the Everton Former Players‘ Foundation which he credited as the organisation which gave him a new lease of life.
“Once I left Everton, I was finished,” he told me in an interview. “I didn’t have the money, and I had to finish work due to ill health because of my knees. Then the Foundation came in. They came to my house, I hadn’t been working for a few years and to be honest, I was at rock bottom and quite a bitter person. I didn’t have heat in the house – they sorted it, they sorted my knee, teeth, everything. I’m a changed man and really enjoying life now. The get-togethers with the players are absolutely great. I hadn’t seen some of them for 30 years.”
Those who watched the infamous Golden Vision documentary know that he admitted to feeling sick before matches. He also felt hugely uncomfortable about public speaking, but wouldn’t dare dream of letting the Foundation down – and took every opportunity of lauding their important work.
No-one who saw West play or speak would have guessed his state of inner anguish. He could command the attention a room full of well-oiled Evertonians, just as well as he could command his penalty box.
But it wasn’t as a raconteur that I will remember him most fondly for. It was for his care, his humility. He was a gentle giant of a man who I will genuinely miss. It is to my deep regret and shame that I didn’t know he was suffering so badly. The last time we spoke he was concerned about his diabetes, but I knew nothing of the cancers which affected his final days.
I heard the sad news yesterday while watching EURO 2012. Eight years ago, Labby and Westy together with Derek Mountfield were the panel of experts for the big screenings of England games in the Legends Bar of the Park End. Those evenings watching Wayne Rooney in explosive form were some of my best memories of my time working for Everton.
One those evenings, I gained a sense of Westy the patriot. He loved his country and gained genuine pride as being introduced as ‘a former Everton and England No1.’ If you were fortunate to visit his house you would have seen further evidence with his memorabilia of the Royal Family on prominent display.
As England prepare to face France tonight in another European Championship, spare a thought for Westy, now reunited with his very best friend. May they both rest in peace.
Martin now works for F.I.F.A. as the Webmaster for the English version of the website
Tribute from the fans
RIP. My thoughts go out to all of the West family members and friends that Gordon has left behind. The Everton family are with you every step of the way as you enter this unfortunate period of your lives.
Deepest sympathies to Gordon’s family on your loss. A true gentleman and Everton legend. May he rest in eternal peace.
My sincerest condolences to all the West Family. I was lucky enough to see Gordon play, albeit in his final years at Goodison, and later for Tranmere. He never gave less than 100% & as a former player was as generous as they come with his time – always talking to us fans in the Church tea room. We were proud of you & your contribution to the history of the club. RIP Gordon & thanks, again.
Being born in 1989 Gordon’s time at Everton was obviously over well before I was even born.
I am here to offer my condolences to a man who played such vital part in one of the most successful Everton teams of all time.
Hopefully Goodison can give you the send off you deserve, rest in peace.
I am a West Bromwich Albion supporter nad don’t recall ever seeing Gordon West play in the flesh although I do remember watching the 1968 FA Cup Final Like our scorer that day another of the household names of my childhood has passed on and I was saddened by the news. My condolences to his family, friends and teanm mates. RIP Gordon and enjoy the banter with the King.
Gordon many thanks for all the work you did for the former players foundation. You were a true gentleman our thoughts are with your linda and sons steve and mark rest in peace
Steve and Karan Hamill
So sorry to hear that Gordon West has died.
In 1966 I was a 16 year old lad who had recently moved to Maghull from Wiltshire. Gordon lived in the Maghull area, can’t quite remember where, and one day a cheeky friend suggested that we go and visit the great man at his house!
Amazingly, Gordon and his then partner let us into their home, invited us to sit down and chatted to us. My West Country friends never believed that I had been invited into the home of an England goalkeeper! I recall Gordon was injured at the time, a broken collar bone, I think.
Gordon was so approachable and friendly -imagine a modern day footballer letting you into their home, even if you managed to get anywhere near the front door.
I left Merseyside for good in 1968, but meeting Gordon inspired me to become a lifelong Evertonian; I’m 62 now and still follow the Toffees from down here in Bucks. That mid 1960s team was a hard act to follow -Brian (Labone) was another of my heroes. He was a great friend of Gordon’s, wasn’t he?
I don’t know if it would be possible for you to pass on this little personal tribute to Gordon’s family.
In 1966 I was an awkward teenager with a funny accent, struggling to adjust to a whole new life in the North. Gordon made a young lad very happy and inspired in me a lifelong love of football and all things Evertonian!
What a wonderful player – and a fantastic man!
Sad morning with the news of Gordon’s death. I met him once at a “Hall of Fame” do at the Adelphi. Larger than life in many ways. My first ever Everton game was in March 1962. It was his debut so his Everton career started mine off We beat Wolves 4-0 so I have no memories of him in that game but so many after that. Some random memories: -
• We made a magnificent save against a Brian Labone back header in the 1966 Cup replay against Man City to keep us in the game. We drew 0-0 and won the second replay the following week
• Him taunting the Kop when we won there 2-0 in 1970. Clinched the championship a couple of weeks later
• Saw him throwing one of those old footballs into the Bullens Road upper deck in protest against a bad decision.
• The 1967 Cup game against Liverpool when he thumped St. John. That was the game with 65,000 at Goodison and 40,000 at Anfield watching on big screen
• A cup game in 1972? against Crystal Palace at Selhurst park when he made a string of saves to keep us in the game.
• He had a meltdown on the pitch against Keflavik in the European Cup is 1970 when we won 6-2 but he had a shocker. Ran off the pitch at the end and didn’t play again that season.
That’s why he was so loved – he was so vulnerably human