It’s a grand old team. . .

On the train from Manchester to Liverpool (delayed half an hour until a driver could be found), I met a Bolton Wanderers fan who, like me, was on his way to see Everton play. He explained that an Everton season ticket holder friend had invited him to the match.

Bolton Wanderers were a founding member of the Football League in 1888 (along with Everton). They have won the FA Cup four times, but not since 1958. No team has spent more time in England’s top flight without winning the title.

Lately this venerable club has fallen on very hard times. Last season, it ran out of money. The players went unpaid for weeks. Eventually, they refused to play and Bolton forfeited several matches.

As a result, the FA issued Bolton a 12 point deduction at the start of this season. In other words, Bolton started its campaign (in the third tier of English football) with -12 points. The club did not reach a positive point total until the middle of November.

Currently, Bolton is in last place, 15 points from safety. Relegation to the fourth tier is a distinct possibility.

According to my traveling companion, only one Premier League club gave Bolton money during its time of crisis to help pay the players. That club was Everton.

This is typical of the club’s generosity. A few years ago, the family of a young Sunderland fan needed money to travel to the U.S. for cancer treatments for their boy (I guess our health care system doesn’t compare unfavorably to the UK’s, after all). Everton donated 200,000 pounds. The club has also raised substantial amounts of money to combat homelessness.

Everton is far from being the wealthiest club in the Premier League. But I don’t think there’s another Premier League team that matches us in financial contributions to good causes.

Everton lost the match we attended, 0-2 to Norwich City. It was Norwich’s first away win of the season. In fact, going into the match, Norwich had scored only one away goal.

The hard core fans sitting near me in the famous Gwladys Street End were livid. They made no secret of their view that the Everton players lack heart (to put it euphemistically). My view is that poor coaching is to blame. However, on the evidence of our performance against Norwich City, it’s easy to understand why fans question the players’ heart.

There’s no doubt, though, that Everton FC, the club, has a big heart. Win or lose, like the song says, “it’s a grand old team to support.”

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