Changing of Goodison guard leaves Vinny feeling Blue
Ending of the Moyes era a blow for the proudest of Irish Evertonians
Between Fergie’s fondant fancies glued to one telly and the Soiled and Ancient hackers stuck into the other, urging on Tiger and Sergio, Foley’s public house was throbbing on Sunday night.
Caught in a crossfire of apparent indifference was the burly figure of Vinny Fitzpatrick, who sat quietly in front of a barely touched pint, which looked as solemn as its jowly owner.
The lads sensed something was amiss as it was most uncommon for the sports-daft bus driver to turn his back on Match of the Day as well as one of golf’s biggies, The Players’ Championship.
Macker roused Vinny from the doldrums, blowing his trademark whistle which signalled it was high time for the next round. “Alright Vinny, you’re in the driving seat for five creamies. Throw in a couple of bags of roasted nuts while you’re up there.”
Vinny grunted, shuffled over to the bar where he caught the eye of Dial-A-Smile and gave his order. He then placed €25 on the counter and stomped out to the rear of the pub. Clearly, he wanted to be alone.
“Give him a few minutes Macker, then suss out the story,” suggested Fran.
Tearing themselves away from the Sawgrass trials and the Fergie tributes, the lads contemplated Vinny’s cloudy disposition.
“I bet that new mobile home in Wexford has him rattled,” suggested Brennie. “He’s scared stiff at what yer wan, Jackie, might get up to when Angie’s not there. Vinny’s like all of us; he can resist anything but temptation. And Jackie, let’s be honest, is tempting.”
Fran felt the cause of Vinny’s trouble was a lot closer than Curracloe.
“It’s that bloody drivers’ strike, I tell you,” he noted.
“Vinny is dead set against it and he’s petrified the Dublin Bus lads will be mandated to join with the NBRU rebels.”
The lads nodded, aware of how passionate Vinny felt about the service he provided.
He hated militancy in the workplace. In the winter of the big freeze, he and Shanghai Jimmy had broken ranks and famously commandeered two buses from the garage to ensure the Clontarf Choristers made it to Wynn’s Hotel for their pre-Christmas warbling.
Macker, as usual, said nothing. Instead, he rolled a cigarette, licked the paper with pencil-thin lips and stood up. “I’m going outside; I may be some time.”
It was nippy in the Foley’s courtyard and the heaters were on full blast for the smokers. In a far corner, sat Vinny, a plump mitt resting on a pint. He saw Macker approach and nodded glumly. “Here to cheer me up? Well, you’re wasting your breath.”
Macker slipped in beside his old pal, lit his weed and inhaled deeply. “I’m not going back to those clucking hens without an answer. So unpack your troubles from your old kit bag and spit it out.”
Vinny puffed his cheeks and shrugged. “Okay,” he said. “Only don’t laugh, because what’s got my dander up might not matter a whole pile of beans to most folk.”
Macker quizzically raised a Lee Van Cleef eyebrow. “Go on, try me,” he said.
“It’s Everton,” he said. “We’ve lost David Moyes to United and I’m scared stiff of what’s going to happen next. Moyes was the guardian of Goodison Park, the keeper of the Premier League keys. Now he’s gone, gone for ever.”
Macker twisted his head slightly, to release another plume of tobacco but his razor lips also bore a wry smile.
Turning back, he summoned up as much gravity as he felt the situation deserved.
“Don’t hold anything back Vinny, purge the wound,” he said quietly.
It was just the cue Vinny needed. Instantly, he opened up about his undying love of Everton, of their record 110 seasons in the top flight of English football, of the huge Irish connection with the club, from Eggo, Farrell and Donovan in the ’50s to Gibbo, Coleman and Duffy today.
He lauded Moyes for overseeing eight top 10 finishes in the Premier League, for a memorable day out at Wembley at the 2009 FA Cup final and for finishing above Liverpool for successive seasons.
“Moyes gave us stability, a sense of worth and hardened us into a consistently competitive crew. And he did it all on a yellow pack budget compared to what the moneybags of Manchester, London clubs, even Liverpool, spent.
“Anyone who knows football knows that Everton were always the club of the Irish in the city. Moyes went one step further, callings us ‘The People’s Club’. I loved that term. And now our champion, the people’s champion, has left us for the Rags. I can see us sinking in the Mersey,” he said, voice trailing off.
As Vinny began to blubber, Macker put an arm around his broad shoulder as Fran, Brennie, Kojak, Charlie Vernon and Two-Mile Boris all appeared in the courtyard.
“We just came to see if Vinny’s okay. We were a bit concerned,” said Fran, clearly uncomfortable.
Vinny brushed away his tears, wiped a snot with a sleeve and stood up, unsteadily. “Sorry about that, lads. Youse all know the way sport gets under our skin. Sure, where would we be without its great distraction?”
Soon, the crew were back at their usual perch, lurrying pints. Match of the Day was over and the golf was at boiling point. As Sergio dumped two balls in the water on the 17th, hands were held in heads and someone made a cutting remark about Sergio’s failure to close the deal.
As Vinny watched Sergio bear his Sawgrass splashdown with commendable dignity, he felt a tingle in his fingers and toes. Where there had been darkness, suddenly there was light. The solution to life after Moyes at Everton hit him like a thunderbolt. He knew exactly who the new manager should be, a canny figure in the transfer market, whose team consistently punched above their weight and also played flowing football.
Like Sergio, he was Spanish. Unlike Sergio, he had shown he could close a deal in football’s majors. Heck, Roberto Martinez wouldn’t even have to move house.