I was always a little bit too trusting as a lad, I took things at face value. I never looked between any lines. Everything was judged by its cover. My first memory of Everton is typically naive. I overheard my dad talking about Gary Lineker in reverential, passion filled tones. “I love him like a son.” I rushed downstairs, grabbed an Everton annual and gazed at the man on the cover; my brother Gary Lineker.
I first heard the word “shithouse” at Selhurst Park. Some Evertonians had spotted Andy Gray sitting in the gantry above us and were lobbing abuse at him. He was a “shithouse”. He could have been our manager but he turned us down. The bastard. Later we found out that he had many reasons not to become our manager. “Shithouse” rescinded. Later still he was exposed as a slimy sexist oozing his repellant views over many a female. “Shithouse” seemed apt again.
The next time I heard “shithouse” it was about Gary Speed. He was an Everton fan and Everton captain and yet he pushed for a move to Newcastle. He was a Judas and a “shithouse”. When he returned to Goodison with his new team, we strafed him with vitriol. Money was waved at him, coins were thrown, we were screaming for his head – and when he started dishing up some rough tackles Goodison echoed with bloodcurdling howls. We were high on the fumes of hate. It turns out we may well have been wrong. Over 37,000 of us. Part of Speed’s transfer to Newcastle was a clause which guaranteed secrecy over the real reasons for his departure. He upheld that clause despite the abuse he received.
Our opinions are forever shinning up a greasy pole until the facts have us sliding down to the bottom. I’m not Lineker’s brother. Gary Speed’s middle name isn’t “Shithouse”.
After Speed’s shock death I watched Warren Barton touchingly share how Speed, his roommate and friend, used to infuriate him with his incessant guitar playing. You could tell from the Londoner’s face that he would give anything to hear that guitar again. Later I heard Robbie Savage, an oft abused player himself, pay tribute to his friend. Savage, normally an effervescent Tigger of a man, was bowed by grief. His hushed tones and the fact that he wasn’t his normal self, a Welsh bullet ricocheting around the 606 studio, unfurled his pain for us listeners.
The Gary Speed I knew was a wonderful player. Then he was an Everton player. Then an Everton captain. Then he was a shithouse. Then he wasn’t.