‘As Much a Fan as Any One of Us’ by Paul Grech
In an era where anyone (should be read as any idiot) can post his opinions on the Internet, it is hard to identify what is truly worth reading. How many times have you clicked on a promising title only to find either rehashed ‘news’ items or else some piece of complete drivel?
Fortunately, there are still some writers you can rely on. Derek Dohren is one of them. Author of a series of excellent articles on his various Boot Room related websites (www.lfcbootroom.net), he has just written his first book that, appropriately, is the autobiography of the last boot-room boy Roy Evans. ‘Ghosts On The Wall’ does offer some revelations (Evans wanted to sign Teddy Sheringham, for instance) but over all it sheds light on the life of a man who was a loyal Liverpool servant for over thirty years.
How did you first meet Roy Evans?
I wrote to Roy via the club to see if he would let me interview him for the Boot Room web site. He contacted me and agreed to do it and invited me down to meet him.
What made you decide of doing his autobiography? How did it come about?
After I did the interview with Roy I just chanced my arm and asked him if he had ever thought about doing a biog. I had always been keen to write something more substantial than what I’d been doing with the web sites and writing Roy’s story gave me the opportunity to pull together strands from all the other bits of Boot Room history I’d learnt over the years. Roy wasn’t keen at first but he left the door open and I pestered him for a few months before he finally agreed to give it a go.
Who came up with the title ‘Ghosts on the Wall’? And what does it refer to?
I’d entitled the interview I did with Roy (now viewable at www.royevans.net) ‘Born And Red’ and thought that would make a good title but I didn’t want to use that again. Ghost On The Wall came out of a comment Roy himself made when he left the club in 1998, referring to the option he’d been given by the board to stay on at the club in some sort of boardroom capacity. He decided to break totally with the club saying he didn’t wish to remain as a ‘ghost on the wall’ haunting Gerard Houllier who would now be in sole charge.
I thought the title also worked well as a reference to all the ghosts of past Boot Room managers Roy was constantly being compared to.
What were your views of Evans before you met him? Be honest now!
I always thought he was a down to earth Scouser who loved LFC and was as much a fan as any one of us. That view was reinforced during the writing of the book. He is a very easygoing bloke and is seen as a pushover because of it though I think this is unfair. Nothing really changed after I met him.
In what way did your opinion of him change, if it did change, when you were doing the autobiography?
I think the reputation Roy gained as a lax disciplinarian was revealed to me as being a bit of a lazy cliché. I met plenty of ex-players who dismissed this idea saying that Roy’s trouble with controlling players was part of a bigger problem that was endemic within the game during the early-mid 1990s. New money was pouring in and the players were in the first flush of the player-power that has since taken control of the game.
Attitudes changed as players became more powerful and Roy was largely powerless to deal with this. The old school methods that had worked in earlier times whereby the older pros would help police the younger players went by the board simply because players didn’t see their future careers were tied in to any particular club. They had the money and the freedom to do as they wanted. It was never in Roy’s armoury to be a ranter and raver but Liverpool managers had never had to be in the past.
What was the most astounding thing that you learnt from Evans whilst writing the book?
The way the club treated him when he left was shocking to me. No pay off for seven months and no formal acknowledgement of the 35 years he had spent there. Staggering, particularly in the wake of how badly the club is perceived to have treated Shanks when he left.
Despite being such a likeable figure, most people think that he was a failure at Liverpool. Considering his league placings and the style of football he played, do you think that with time people will look back and judge his time as Liverpool manager differently?
The ‘revelations’ in the Collymore book have done Roy’s image a lot of harm. He is now seen as a kind of buffoon who gave the players free license to behave as they wished, yet ask anyone in the game who they have more time and respect for, Collymore or Roy, and you will get your answer. This false image fits in with the pre-conceptions fans already had about Roy and I fear he will always be remembered as a guy who was too nice to be a manager. The whole point of the book though was to say to people – look this man was here for 35 years and was an integral part of the club’s golden era. He was manager for a mere 4 years yet his whole stay at the club is judged on those 4 years, a period when player power first began to get out of control. That seems a little harsh and short sighted to me. As far as the future goes I really don’t know how perception will change but I would like to think that if people read Ghost On The Wall they would come away with a different perspective.
Although you were the editor of the hugely popular shankly.com and paisley.com, this was your first effort at writing a book. How did it feel? Was it more or less difficult than what you anticipated?
It felt natural to do a book. I was obviously already familiar with the subject matter and although at times I got a little bogged down it came together ok. I was a little disappointed that Roy didn’t open up more. He told me plenty of off the record stuff but he was adamant about the type of book he wanted it to be – purely football with no kiss and tell stuff and very little personal revelation. That frustrated me at times but the longer it went on the more I appreciated that this was what Roy wanted. It was important to write the book he wanted not necessarily the book I wanted. In that respect I think the book is quite refreshing for a modern day football biog – it just sticks to football.
What do you have in stock next? Any further books planned?
I have one or two ideas but to be honest I’d like to get back into the swing of writing for my web sites as they have been neglected for a year or so. I like the feeling of autonomy the web gives you and as an editor you can publish pretty much whatever you like. Nevertheless, I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in!
Who would be your dream subject?
About ‘Ghosts on the Wall’
An England schoolboy starlet Roy signed apprentice forms for Liverpool in 1964, plucked from under the noses of Everton, Bolton, Wolves and Chelsea. Under the tutelage of Joe Fagan Roy began to learn what the game was really all about. Although he failed to grab a regular first team slot the Boot Room spotted his latent talents and when Shanks retired in 1974 Roy was offered a coaching position on the staff.
The rest, as they say, is history.
'Ghost' tells the untold story with revealing insights into :
Roy - the schoolboy starlet.
The Boot Room personnel.
America and the NASL in 1973.
The reserve team years, 7 titles in 9 seasons and of course Howie Gayle.
Kenny, Souness and behind the scenes at the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters.
Robbie Fowler, Stan Collymore and The Spice Boys.
Those transfers. Sean Dundee anyone?
Houllier - why it was doomed from the beginning.
The bitterness of departure.
ISBN - 1840188324
Published by Mainstream (25.10.04).
Available at all good book shops
(and some rubbish ones too) - £15.99
Copyright - Paul Grech