Rob McIlwain - Everton Fan
FATC: What made you first fall in love with football?
RM: I'd have to say it's down to my Dad - he surrounded me with football from such an early age. Not necessarily for my sake, Everton is just something which always has and always will be in his blood. It's a huge portion of his life and I'm grateful that he's shown me what it means to be an Evertonian, and a football fan in general.
FATC: How did you come to support Everton?
RM: Since the day I was born a framed photo of Goodison Park and various Everton memorabilia has been the focus point of my bedroom at my parent's home. I guess you could say I was an Evertonian even before I was born. It's a long running tradition on my Dad's side of the family, originally migrating from Ireland in the late 1700's to the fantastic city of Liverpool. When I was around 10 or 11, my uncle sadly passed away, and my Dad gave me his scarf from the golden era of the 80s at Everton, one of a pair (my Dad still has the other.) It's something I take to every game I watch at Goodison or away from home, and i'm sure I'll pass it on to my children in the future. Things like that are what makes me love Everton. The passion for the club is buried deep within me.
FATC: What are your earliest football memories?
RM: My very first game was 2003 - Wolves at Goodison. Although the memories are faint, nothing has ever quite measured up to a night game at the old lady. The Floodlit stand, the cold air, the friendly chat and family feel. It's something really special, and I've never found that community atmosphere anywhere else. My first idol was Thomas Gravesen, a great player with loads of passion and aggression in his game.
FATC: What is the hardest thing about being an Everton fan?
RM: The waiting. The constant hope which never seems to pay off. Throughout my life I have never seen my team lift a piece of silverware. But you don't give up. You can't, and somehow success would be even more special for me, because of that. Often we (Evertonians) find ourselves being mocked by supporters of other teams. But that doesn't matter, because if you've never had to support your team through a struggle, you wouldn't understand. Nothing could make me doubt my love for Everton.
FATC: What is the best thing about being an Everton fan?
RM: The community, the family, the way the club pulls together in difficult times. Being named "The People's Club" doesn't come from nothing, I'm immensely proud about some of the things my club has done and continues to do. For example, we just announced that we are building a new mental health facility, and also will maintain Goodison when we move to Bramley Moore, for use by the local community. When you meet another Evertonian, it's almost as if you've known them for years. Conversation is in free flow, every blue seems to have passion for Everton running through their veins. It's a great feeling.
FATC: What is your favourite football memory?
RM: My absolute greatest memory was watching the 2009 FA Cup quarter final between Everton and Liverpool. I'd rarely seen my team win a derby match. It was 0-0 in extra time with seconds to play, and a young Dan Gosling swivels in the area and loops a shot round the Liverpool centre half, off the post and in. The scenes were like nothing I've ever witnessed. The noise and the joy I felt in that moment will stay with me for ever.
FATC: What is your worst football memory?
RM: Again, vs Liverpool, in the league a few seasons ago. Suarez and Sturridge in their prime tearing apart a dreadful Everton defence with ease, leading to a 4-0 loss. The next day wasn't enjoyable at college, surrounded by reds. I'll say no more.
FATC: Who is your favourite Everton player of all time?
RM: I honestly couldn't pick one. The 3 stand out candidates are Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Tim Cahill. They fought/fight for the shirt. They understand Everton and when you understand the club, you'll grow to be absolutely mad for it. As Dave Hickson once said "I'd break any bone in my body for any club I played for, but I'd die for Everton".
FATC: Who is your favourite non-Everton player of all time?
RM: I'd have to say Ibrahimovic. Besides the ego, which I genuinely think is all an act for the cameras. In terms of his football I don't think I've seen such composure paired with magnificent talent and enormous power anywhere else. He had it all in his prime. The ambition, the fight, the talent, the skill, the power. I've seen some fantastic compilations of his goals on the internet. They range from far out rockets to skilful runs and a finessed finish.
FATC: Dixie Dean or Alan Ball?
RM: I hate to choose, but I'd go Dixie. 60 goals in a season is a near unmatchable milestone. Incredibly iconic and a legend without doubt.