I did work experience with Everton… and it literally scarred me for life
Cast your mind back to July 2009. The sun is beaming down, the musical genius that is ‘Boom Boom Pow’ is blasting from the radio and the lads have plans to go and see Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s long-awaited follow up to Borat, at the pictures at the weekend. Life was good.
Well, it was good for everybody but me. I was sprawled flat on my front, a mouth full of gravel, blood pissing out my knee, still half straddling my dad’s slightly-too-big bike, plastered arm aloft to avoid further damage. The only friendly face around had collapsed onto all fours hyperventilating with laughter.
Oh, and the whole of the Everton first-team squad had their faces pressed against the coach window in absolute hysterics.
I mean, to be fair to them, seeing someone go arse over tit is always great. But I imagine it’s especially hilarious when it’s the awkward 15-year-old work experience kid that has been tottering around the place for the last week toppling off his dad’s bike because he forgot that you have to pedal whilst turning to stare, open-mouthed and awestruck, trying to get a glimpse of who was on the coach to play Bury in a meaningless pre-season friendly that night.
However, even lying there in the dirt, bloody and bruised, wishing the ground would swallow me up, would I have swapped with my mate stacking shelves in Comet and getting paid the grand total of zero pounds and zero pence for the privilege? Would I fuck.
See, a couple of weeks earlier when talk of work experience started, there were plenty of rumours floating around about what happened to those who didn’t sort out their placement quick enough.
A fortnight riding around in a bin lorry, picking recycling out of a skip, or helping out the cleaners at school really didn’t tickle my fancy, so I had arranged to go into my mum’s school with her, an exotic 100 yards down the road from my school. How exhilarating.
Thank God my PE teacher had taken a shine to me (because I was the only one who’d do the dirty work at the base of his school team’s midfield without moaning, I think) and recommended me to go down to Everton’s Finch Farm training ground instead.
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It would, to be fair, probably have been more beneficial going to the school. I’m now an English teacher rather than a Premier League footballer, and I might have been able to leave with my dignity still intact.
It turned out alright for the lad I was there with, though. He was my centre-mid partner back then and is currently captain of an SPL side – but I beat him at footy tennis so who’s the real winner?
While at Finch Farm, we had a number of different jobs, ranging from setting up the cones for training and cleaning players’ boots to watching in amazement at how bad Jo’s first touch was and printing the numbers onto the as-yet-unreleased kits for the upcoming pre-season tour of America.
Of course, seeing my opportunity, I snapped a quick photo of the snazzy new black-and-pink Le Coq Sportif number that would divide opinion across Goodison and inspire the controversial ‘Haka’ kit launch campaign.
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I sent it over to a mate of mine who, unbeknownst to me, immediately uploaded it onto a popular Everton forum where it spread like wildfire across the internet.
As well as risking legal action, our chief task was to help out long-serving (and suffering) kit man Jimmy Martin around the place.
On one occasion we were asked to venture into the changies to grab any dirty kit left in there that needed washing. As I stepped inside, I bent down to pick up a club-issue jock strap still damp with sweat.
As I rose back up, I found myself eye to eye with a penis. Not just any penis either. There was a high-profile Premier League player attached to the end of it. Oh, and it was bigger than my arm.
I watched it swing from knee to knee like a pendulum and just about avoided falling into a trance. I’d not name its owner, but if I had that python down my kecks I wouldn’t be hiding it from anybody.
As well as that beautiful image scarred on my retina, I managed to take home a couple of souvenirs with me, the first of which is now sadly long gone, or hidden at the back of a cupboard in my mum’s.
Destined for the bottom of a bin due to Everton’s decision not to renew his contract, I managed to wangle myself a lovely pair of navy gloves with the number 19 embroidered into them that had been worn by Everton’s Portuguese Champions League winner Nuno Valente.
The second is one that will stay with me forever, though. One that I will take to my grave. Literally. You see, I also took home the painfully tangible souvenir of a small jagged scar on the palm of my right hand.
On our last day, we had clambered into a large shipping container jam-packed with box after box of new training gear that needed moving inside. As we were unloading it, England’s very own two-cap wonder Leon Osman decided to hop in in order to give us a ‘helping hand.’
This was during the pomp of the ‘think fast’ trend, which involved somebody lashing something at your head when you were least expecting it under the pretence of testing your reflexes, which is exactly how Leon kindly decided to assist us.
As I flung my hands up a millisecond too late, the corner of the box cut into my palm and blood began to trickle down my hand and arm. I did, however, manage to grasp the box at the second attempt, catching it just before it hit the floor, earning myself a cheer from Osman.
I took the blood-stained box inside, before going and sorting the mess in the toilets.
Luckily, it wasn’t one of those cuts that just won’t stop bleeding, so I didn’t leave a little trail around Finch Farm like a sort of hemophilic Hansel and Gretel, but managed to keep it under wraps until it was time for me to walk home – I’d sacked the bike off after the traumatic events of the week before.
On my way home, I remember thinking how glad I was that I’d done that instead of some other boring shite where they only get you in for the free labour. And then Tim Cahill drove past in whatever supercar he was in for that week and gave me a little beep and thumbs up.
I bounced home with a swagger feeling cool as fuck. Not a bad fortnight for a Red.
By Danny Harvey