Confessions of . . . the Everton FC strip manager
With long-serving True Blue Jimmy Martin, 66.
How did the job come about?
“I started as kit man around 1989/90 but – working for the Eavesway travel company – I was Everton’s coach driver for 10 years from 1979. The kit in those days was done by the apprentices but I started to help out with it for Colin Harvey when he was manager, and he was working with Terry Darracott and Mike Lyons. And I’m a decorator by trade and used to decorate their houses in the summer! Then Howard Kendall came back from Bilbao – Manchester United was then the only club with an official kit man and Howard asked me to do it for Everton. Football was getting more serious.”
What does your job entail?
“I work with Tony Sage and Shaun Doran and we look after all the kit for the Everton first team and the Under-21s, plus all their clothes when they are travelling – the leisure gear they will wear when we’re travelling and staying in hotels. And when the players go on a pre-season tour they won’t have any of their own clothes – it will all be club issue. We will provide everything they need, from ankle socks to hats and gloves.”
What are the best things about your job?
“I’d never been abroad before I started working for Everton and now I’ve been nearly around the world. I always watched Everton, from being a kid, so it was great to get a job here.”
What are the worst things about it?
“Things like the other week when we got back from Ukraine at 3am on Friday and then had to be back in at 10am to get all the kit ready for 8am on the Saturday when it had to be put on a bus to London. There are a lot of things to sort out – as a small example, we take 90 towels to away games as well as all the kit. Kit men hate winter because there is so much extra gear – hats, gloves and so on – but summer is easy!”
Boots and balls…Jimmy Martin at Finch Farm
What characteristics/personality traits do you need to do the job?
“You’ve got to be mentally strong to cope with all the banter! And you’ve got to be able to give it back as well as take it, or the players will just kill you! And the banter starts in here. Players come in here every morning, even if they don’t need anything. We’re the first target and you have to be ready for it. But because I’ve seen so many players come and go over the years I’ve become as quick as they are – if not quicker! It’s like a stand up comedian dealing with hecklers. I call Ossie (Leon Osman), Jags (Phil Jagielka) and Hibbo (Tony Hibbert) the Three Amigos. Then there’s Bainsesy (Leighton Baines) – he’ll chip in with a bit of banter, too!”
Can you tell us any funny stories from your time at Everton?
“I remember a trip to Cyprus when Howard Kendall was manager. Howard was brilliant. He liked the players to work hard but also play hard. On this day, we were on the beach after training and you had to either tell a joke or sing a song. Craig Short got up to sing a song and everyone had these lighters to put in the air when he was singing. He sang Sailing by Rod Stewart – and he was giving it all that with his lighter as well as he sang. But in the morning he discovered he had the biggest bubble ever on the end of his thumb, where he had burnt himself!
“Then there was the then goalkeeper Paul Gerrard. We all went to the races one day. We were sponsored by a mobile phone company who gave out all these free phones. We had to fill in these forms about it, and under ‘occupation’ Paul put ‘goalkeeper’. Speedo (Gary Speed), God bless him, who was also a great lad, told him ‘You can’t say that, you should put professional footballer’. But Paul said ‘I’m not that good a footballer am I?’ And he meant that! Another time, in Marbella, we went down to Puerto Banus and after Speedo asked him what he wanted to drink Paul said ‘Jack Daniels on the rocks – no ice’. He was funny, and a great lad, like they’ve all been in my time here.”
How has the job changed over the years?
“It’s become much more professional. It’s a massive operation here (at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground in Halewood) – so much bigger than it was at Bellefield (which Everton left in 2007) and we have thousands and thousands of items of kit – as well as 110 footballs, at £90 each.”
What has been your favourite Everton kit over the years – and what was your favourite game?
“It was controversial but I liked the salmon and navy striped shirt (from 1992). I think it grew on people and became more and more popular. My favourite game was the 4-4 with Liverpool, when we equalised four times (February 20, 1991 – Kenny Dalglish resigned as Liverpool manager two days later). We could hear their players arguing in their dressing room afterwards.”
Do some players have special requests, regarding items of kit?
“A few players like brand new socks for every game. And sometimes they will say to you ‘Hang on, these aren’t new!’ Times have changed – some players cut their socks so they can put ankle socks underneath them.”
Reflecting on a True Blue life…Jimmy Martin at Finch Farm
What about the players in their own clothes – who have been the sharpest-dressed, and the scruffiest?
“(Marouane) Fellaini used to look like a tramp – it didn’t matter what he was wearing. You could give him a nice suit and he’d have his shirt hanging out and his tie down here! Slav (Slaven Bilic) was similar – and he liked to smoke a fag, too. They are both great lads. The smartest? Gareth Barry – he’s another great lad, and a good person to pick on, too! He’s just like Ossie, Hibbo, Jags and Bainsey – we call them low maintenance, because they never come in for the likes of hats or gloves.”
Which Everton managers, coaches and players have you most enjoyed working with?
“All the managers and coaches have been great fellas. I still speak to Walter (Smith) and Archie (Knox), and Moyesie – I went to see Moyesie at Manchester United when he was having a bit of a bad time. They are all friends to me. And Howard and Colin – I owe so much to those two. Mike Walker was odd, though. When it was pre-season training he would be sitting on a fence with his T-shirt sleeves pulled up trying to get a bit of sun. He’d never take you for a beer, he’d always take you for an ice cream! But he was a lovely fella. As for the players, I’ve not had a bad word with any of them. Gary Speed was great and Duncan Ferguson used to look after us when he was a player. Dave Watson, too, and Unsie (David Unsworth) – I could go on forever.”
Are you always pestered for match tickets/given items to get autographed etc. How much can you actually help people in this way?
“I don’t live in the area now but when I lived in Liverpool people would knock on the door all the time. You try and help people when you can. If a mate says ‘Our Billy hasn’t got a ticket’ you do your best to try and get one. A lot of the foreign players won’t want all the tickets (Click to find tickets) they get and so the players do their best to look after us. And I give a lot of stuff to charities at the end of the season. We have sent a lot of kit abroad. I remember, for example, (Nikica) Jelavic being given a lot of kits to take to his village in Croatia when he was here – then we saw all these nice pictures of all the kids there wearing Everton tops.”