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Sunday Sermon for Hickson

The Sunday Sermon . Dave Hickson ; The Cannonball Kid .

Dave Hickson sadly passed away yesterday, here at footyscene.com we wanted to remember the man and what better for us to do that than publishing LCAB’s Sunday Sermon focusing on his illustrious career.

May the Good Lord be with you all .
Welcome everyone , to our little corner of the Sabbath .

“ I came here first whilst still at School . It was impressive even then . “

Some Evertonians are born into it . Some marry it . Some get it from family or friends . Some just like the name , or the badge , the colour of the shirt , or even a particular player . Reasons are not so important . What counts is that you “ Get It “ . However , in “ Getting It “ , understanding what it takes to be a long-term blue , one must grasp the quintessentially Everton mix of sublime ecstasy tempered with heart wrenching agony , and with a healthy portion of shooting one’s self in the foot , thrown in for good measure . It is , alas , how we roll , historically .

The subject of today’s Sermon , without question , encapsulates all three of these factors . An Everton Legend in the very essence of the word , he remains to this day , the match-day face , replete with magnificent quiff and broad smile , of Everton Football Club .
His Azzuri qualities run through him like letters in a stick of rock .
His status is such , that he can be legitimately mentioned in the same breath as Dean , Young , Ball , and his great mate , Brian Labone .
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congregation , may I introduce , Mr. Davie Hickson .

Born on 30 October , 1930 – like a predecessor at Goodison , Joe Mercer ; in Ellesmere Port . He grew up in War-Time , though was able nevertheless to give reign to his considerable talent with a football . By the time he was 16 he was playing for his local Amateur side , Ellesemere Port Town . He also turned out for the Cheshire Army Cadets , which was fortunate , as in doing so he was exposed to the tuition of one , William Ralph Dean , whom had been proffering his services thereupon .

Dixie was impressed with the lad , and whether he put in a good word or not – officially , is irrespective , as Hickson was beginning to catch the eye of local Scouts etc , the then Everton Manager , Cliff Britton , among them . Seeing the need for haste , Britton took a chance and approached the youngster with an offer of a Professional contract with his boyhood idols .
Job’s a good’un , you may imagine .

Alas , this being Everton , things rarely go so smoothly .

In view of the club languishing in the Second Division for only the second time in our History , and bereft of the stars that lifted the Championship , the young Davie would have been just what the Doctor ordered . Unfortunately , National Service – 3 years via which the Army , in his case , Navy or Air-Force would claim you as their own , irrespective of who you were ; intervened ,
( I wonder what the current imcumbants of the England Team would make of that ??? ).
As a result , Evertonians were forced to wait three more seasons , whilst Hickson busied himself playing for – by now ; the actual Army Team , where once more , he crossed paths with Dixie .

“ ( I first met him at ,..) the Army Cadets , and Dixie was doing some coaching for the side . Actually being able to talk to him and learn was just invaluable . He was an amazing character , and if you couldn’t pick up hints and ideas from him , then you had no chance .”

With Everton , as I said , finding itself in the second division , having been relegated in the first year of the new decade , while we still had T.G. Jones – his move to Roma having fell through, instead , others were sacrificed , Lawton wanted to go and be near his Mother in London , ( despite her being from Lancashire ) , Mercer left in the first season after resumption , Stevenson was still awesome but ageing , and Sagar , ditto . Thus , an influx of new blood was needed . Farrell and Eglington had joined immediately Post-War , and along with Hickson would be the bedrock on which we would build our revival .

Davie Hickson , – finally , breezed into Goodison Park , in the summer of 1951 ; like a breath of fresh air . With all behind the scenes knowing what we had for some years now , he turned up sporting a quiff of supreme stature – Rock and Roll having crossed the Atlantic , and the Teddy-Boy style having been adopted by many Evertonians – my arl fella among them .
He didn’t just look the part , once they saw him play , they KNEW he rocked , and he was soon taken to the hearts of the Goodison faithful .

It was a good job too , as after being relegated , the side struggled to adapt to Bury , and , poignantly , Brentford , instead of Old Trafford and Highbury . By the Autumn they found themselves in 19th position – the lowest League position of any Everton side in history .

Davie made his debut for Everton , at Elland Road , Leeds , replacing another player you might have heard of , Harry Catterick ; the last time we won a league game there .

Fortunately , the ever more fruitful partnership between young Hickson and – on a personal note ; good friend of both my Grandfather and my Dad ; John Willie Parker , saw us climb the table to at least a respectable position . More than that , he gave an under-funded , once great club a hero . His style was physical – to put it mildly . Where Lawton had replaced Dixie as an opposite , a ball-player , Hickson was a throw back to Billy Dean . Indeed , many who saw both commented upon Billy’s brushwork upon the youngster .

He spilt blood as a matter of course , and ran into confrontation with opponents and officials nearly as often . He was the Target Man of the duo , and while his heading , like his hero and predecessor , Dean , was his forte , he was no slouch on the carpet , neither , with a formidable shot , earning him the sobriquet , “ The Cannonball Kid “ . He played 31 games in his initial year as a Professional , scoring 13 goals . However , it was in his second season that his reputation was truly established .

“ Finally getting a chance of first team football was just fantastic for me , even though we were in the second division back then .it didn’t matter . I was just happy to be following in the footsteps of “ Dixie “ and Tommy Lawton . What a tradition to follow ? “

Still not maintaining anything like consistency in the League , the potential of the embryonic side manifested itself in that year’s F.A. Cup . Having despatched Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest at home in the early rounds , they were drawn against Manchester United , again at Goodison , on Valentine‘s Day , 1953 – with many expecting a massacre . The gate was 77, 920 .
United took the lead , Eglington having equalised late in the first half , whereupon Davie launched himself – head first , into a flurry of boots ., collecting a gash to his forehead in payment . As a result , he was forced to leave the pitch , to an enormous round of applause .

If they thought that was loud , the crescendo which accompanied his return for the second half was positively ear-splitting.
So loud , in the days of 70 odd thousand , as to be remembered .

He scored what proved to be the winner early on , and later collided with the post , thus opening up the ten stitches he’d had applied at half-time . Ignoring pleas from the Referee , our Captain , and Man United’s Captain , he stayed on . His hair now red , his shirt the same colour as the opposition’s . They reckon the ovation he received at the final whistle was as good , if not better than any heard at Goodison , before or since .

Praise indeed.

He also scored the winner in the quarter final against Aston Villa , a typical thunderbolt . Thus , the side were drawn against Bolton Wanderers in the Semi-Final . However , our luck ran out in the first half , conceding 4 goals , and Hickson again suffering a head injury . However , he did score one in a second half comeback of 3 goals , but was forced to retire with 15 minutes remaining – it must have been bad .

The upshot was , the team lost out in being part of the famous Matthews’ Final , and Davie his nearest chance of playing at Wembley for Everton .

Season 1953-54 saw , finally , a marked improvement in the league . Both Parker and Hickson prospered . Davie bagging 25 league goals as the blues were promoted as runners-up , playing some wonderful football .

His form , unfortunately did not immediately transfer to the step up in divisions . The side did not settle , and while he didn’t flop , Hickson’s 13 goals in 25 appearances did not live up to the previous seasons portents . However , in a desperate throw of the dice by Cliff Britton , and , yet another example of Everton shooting itself in the foot , the club , to howls of derision from the terraces , decided to sell Davie to Aston Villa for £17,500 , for no logical reason whatsoever . He was still at the top of his powers , had not adapted as hoped in fairness , but it was , after all in his first attempt at the pinnacle of league football , and he did receive rather particular attention . Nevertheless , he left .

However , he was never really happy away from Merseyside , and despite respecting the club , he departed the second city having played only 12 games for them , and scoring but once , relocating northward to Huddersfield Town , with their side experiencing difficult times having only recently being promoted back to the top tier .

He gave this is better go , scoring 28 goals in 54 games , and linking up with both , Bill Shankly – the then Huddersfield Assistant Manager , and a young Denis Law – Lawman having been told to study the established player as a lesson in how to be a centre forward in the first division . Fortunately , for Evertonians , Britton had been replaced as by Ian Buchan – though never officially as Manager , and he saw our former hero as the man to build his revolution around . Shankly , by now Manager of Huddersfield Town proper , surprisingly accepted an offer of only £7,500 , and Davie Hickson was Homeward-Bound .

He was greeted like the returning hero he was . Unfortunately , as with most things in life , it wasn’t quite as good second time around . Buchan was working his way through Britton’s squad , deciding who to retain and whom not to . The side was in transition and the best that could be said of them was , “ Middle of the Road “ .

Davie , with a number of partners , even including 5ft 4” Bobby Collins , maintained his record of roughly , a goal every other game – which he also achieved over his career in general . From 1957-1959 , he played a further 86 games , netting 32 times , and he remained , “ King of Goodison Park “ .

Yet , Buchan , was himself replaced by Johnny Carey whom was tinkering with the side , seriously under-estimated the feeling amongst Evertonians , and within the man himself , when he did the unthinkable on November 6 , 1959 , and sold Dave Hickson to Liverpool FC , for £12,000 – he had played his last game for Everton in a Floodlight Cup game at Anfield , the previous Wednesday.

The move precipitated the largest outpouring of dissent ever witnessed at Goodison Park . With this being a Holy Place , I am loathe to state – the truth , incidentally , that there were reputedly hundreds of Blues who actually transferred their allegiances to follow their erstwhile idol , and never came back .

Insane on just about every level . I trust you concur .

On a personal note , my Mother likes to tell a story at Xmas and stuff , that on the day Bally was sold – her birthday , as it goes , December 22 , 1971 ; I asked for two pence and went to the local public phone box whereupon I rang Everton Football Club intending to complain to Harry Catterick . I actually spoke to his Secretary . I was 8 years old . The thing was , I was pissed . In fact , pissed didn’t even begin to say it . Devastated , dumbfounded , shattered , bereft of reason to get up in the morning ,.. These perhaps at least approach the gravity of my feeling .

Well , upon the sale of Dave Hickson to Liverpool , another young Evertonian , this time 7 years old , wrote a letter of complaint to the then Chairman . He too , was all the things I described in myself 20 years later , and like me , wished to vent his spleen as a Blue . The kid was Bill Kenwright – finally , we have something in common .
My point , however , was the effect Dave Hickson had among Toffees .

He was worshipped . Honest to God , worshipped .

Granted , it was a time when our great club saw hard times . Some of our hardest ever . Moreover , he never won a trophy , nor played in a final whilst at Everton . He couldn’t even terrorise Liverpool as they were mostly in a different division . Nor did he represent his Country , but many feel his National Service , allied to our general standing at the time , in addition to the abundance of boss centre forwards of the day , Mortensen , Lofthouse , saw him have real hard lines . Nevertheless , his swashbuckling style and his utter and glaringly obvious love for anything Goodison-linked , allied to his formidable scoring record , all topped off with that quiff and the rock and roll thing , meant Dave Hickson was perhaps unique in the affections of Evertonians . Revered simply upon reputation , with no silverware as context .

His feelings for our club were described thus on the move itself ;

“ I didn‘t want to leave Everton again but if you‘re not wanted , what can you do ? However , I made it plain that if I have to leave Everton to carry on playing then I‘d have to do that ,…but I did not want to leave the City of Liverpool . So , I ended up crossing Stanley Park and going to Anfield , It was a bit strange but at least I was in the City I loved . “

The club , seeing the reaction , played up the fact that Liverpool were then a second division side . Indeed , in his two seasons at the RS , Davie never had to face Everton .

So , to re-cap , we were not only were robbed of 3 years of him at , or approaching his peak , we then proceeded to sell him . Twice !
Remember I mentioned the , shooting oneself in the foot , tendency ? …..

Thus , in no surprise to any Azzuri – except perhaps our Manager , Davie Hickson prospered for the Bealzebubs . He was 29 years old and STILL ROCKED , in every sense of the word .

He scored twice on his Anfield debut , in front of a crowd of 15,000 – ahem , higher than average for the season .
Bill Shankly , Liverpool boss days after Hickson‘s arrival , used him well .Alongside Roger Hunt , Davie netted 26 times in 21 games . Kopites loved him , too . However at the end of the following season , Dwight D Eisenhower decided to freshen-up the side , bringing in a young Scot , Ian St. John , as Hickson’s replacement . The Cannonball Kid left Lucifer’s Liverpool having scored 37 goals in 60 games .as , once more , inexplicably , he was transferred .

However , Davie Hickson , being Davie Hickson , and still only 31 , wasn’t finished yet .
In recent Sermon’s I have noted the uniqueness of the White Pele , in filling every role on both Professional and Managerial sides at Everton , and Waggy , in having played both for and against England . Well , in making the move from Liverpool , Hickson ended up , via spells at ( Amateur ) Cambridge City , and Bury , at Tranmere Rovers – in 1962 , and in so doing , became the only person to ever represent all 3 Merseyside clubs in league football . Legend as he was , even then , he maintained a supreme scoring record , nabbing 21 goals in 45 games , for the Rovers . As I said , legend .

He left Tranmere , in 1964 , to take up a ( player ) managerial role in Northern Ireland – at Ballymena
United , but left , in his own words , due to the increasing “ Troubles “ .
“ It suddenly became very dangerous ,..” .

Despite his hopes to the contrary , he was unable to find a career in management / coaching , and he eventually drifted out of football , obtaining a job with the Local Authority , and after a short spell with Northwich Victoria , turning out for his local side at the weekend . Indeed , he played in certain Charity games until in his 60’s .

However , with the Chairmanship of Everton passing to Bill Kenwright , ex-players , such as Dave Hickson , and his great mate , Brian Labone , were welcomed back into the club and given a role as Ambassadors on match days . Both men , as did others , loved it . Lapped it up , in fact . So much so , in Davie’s case , he took over the Goodison Tour Guide role on weekdays . Always an oasis of calm and patience in what can often be a cauldron of screaming kids and cob-on’s .

Unfortunately , Dave Hickson suffered a heart attack , before a home game to Sunderland in 2007 . Fair play to our Chairman , he forgave the match , a 7-1 win as it goes , and travelled in the ambulance with his hero .
Davie was asked by the nurses if he needed to get back in case he was playing ?

“ Only for the last ten minutes , love . “ He replied .

In October 2009 , he had entered Hospital again after two operations on his leg . He signed himself out on the 30th , in order to attend ah birthday dinner given by the club in his honour . Expecting 20/30 of his closest friends , the event was packed with 250 mad blues . He was presented with a commemorative plate bearing the inscription , “ The Cannonball Kid “ , and spent the evening signing autographs and taking pictures .

Dave Hickson is one of only 5 post-war Evertonians to score 100 goals for the club . Himself , Graeme Sharp , Alex Young , Bob Latchford , and Joe Royle . Exalted company indeed , playing in perhaps the worst side of any .

Those lucky enough to have seen him play for Everton , say that the turn around in character to jovial uncle is as great as any seen in the history of mankind . As a player he was nails . Always in some sort of trouble with both authorities and opposition players , there is record of one particular right hook on a Tottenham defender which left said Lilywhite snoozing on the cinder path beside the pitch at Goodison .- they reckon you could have put a feather on his nose and it would have went , up-and-down , like in the cartoons .

Hickson was prepared to spill blood , his own and others’ , in the cause of Everton victory .
He was a Lion .

So , the next time you see this gentle arl man , with a smile as wide as a goal , and the head of hair of a 55 year old , remember the picture of blood pouring down his face , with the stitches he’d had inserted , having burst , representing Everton Football Club .
Oh , and shake his hand .

So , Congregation , this Domingo , thank the Almighty for gracing us with Dave Hickson ; The Cannonball Kid , Evertonian Par Excellence .
Treasure him , as we will not see his like again .

“ I would have died for Everton . I would have broken every bone in my body for my other clubs – that’s how I look at it . If it was that much , I would have died for this club . “

Amen .

Rest in Piece Dave, Everton Legend.

May the Good Lord be with you all .

Look after your peoples .

Peace out .

L.C.A.B.

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