Alfie Evans’ heartbroken dad dreamed of taking his son to watch Everton play – and hoped he would follow in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney.
Tom Evans appeared in public for the first time since his son’s death as he accepted an award at Everton’s end of season presentation.
The 21-year-old lost only son Alfie on Saturday after a long-running battle with an undiagnosed brain condition.
Last night, he attended ‘The Dixies’ awards bash at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, where he was presented with the Chairman’s Blueblood award.
The special award was handed out by chairman Bill Kenwright, who Mr Evans described as the "grandad I never had", to pay personal tribute to people he feels ’embody the Evertonian spirit’.
Mr Kenwright handed the Evans family a "massive donation" earlier this year when supporters hit a £10,000 target to challenge a High Court ruling that gave medics permission to switch his life support off.
Accepting the honour, Mr Evans gave an emotional speech in which he revealed he once dreamed Alfie would follow in the footsteps of England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney in becoming a legend at Goodison Park.
He said: “I just want to thank Bill. From the moment I made the phone call I felt as though he was the grandad I never had.
“I never grew up with a grandad, but he said to me ‘if there’s anything you need, anything,’ and I just said I wanted my boy’s name to be echoed round the club.
“My dream as a child was to play for Everton. I remember watching Rooney score that goal in my brother’s bedroom. I was only a little nipper but my dream was to follow in those steps.
“When I couldn’t follow those steps and I had Alfie my dream was then to have him to follow those steps. My number one goal that I wanted to do was to take him to the game and scream, and scream and come home with a sore throat like me.
“The club, I could not be a happier person to be a part of Everton. I wear the badge with pride no matter the situation.”
Tom also revealed the support he’d had from Everton players outside the ground.
“Alfie wore the badge with pride no matter what the situation. He had every kit, I stood outside the game and had it signed by the lads. I can’t thank the lads.
“I feel like a little connection with Tom [Davies] and I used to stand there outside the fence and he’d ask how Alfie was. I’m really grateful for the time he’d stand there and ask [me] what the situation was.
“There’s no club like Everton, I’m glad that Alfie has worn that kit.
“We’ll always class him as our blue warrior and I’d just like to thank Bill for the award.”
It was the first time Mr Evans had made a public appearance since the death of 23-month-old Alfie, who died in the early hours on Saturday, five days after his life support was switched off against his family’s wishes.
Mr Kenwright paid tribute to Mr Evans’ devotion to his son as he revealed how he became close with Mr Evans at Goodison Park last year.
He said: "In November last year, I left the car park and through the railings a lad talked to me.
“And he told me about his situation and he told me about his boy, who was in Alder Hey hospital.
“The one thing I’d noticed about him was how tired he looked, how skinny he was, how undernourished, but he had his Everton shirt on and he didn’t want anything from me, he just wanted everyone to know about his lad and what his lad was going through.
“He couldn’t go to the game, I later found out, he was literally, literally 24/7 with his son in Alder Hey and he used to come at the end of games, with his mates, just to spread the word of his boy.
“The one thing I know about Evertonians is they are loyal, they are steadfast and, by God, they care for Everton to the end of their days.
“And this lad, and his missus, sat by his boy and dreaming of taking him to Everton. He became my mate, I got him to a few games, to a few dos but his only interest was his son and the last few months it’s got a wee bit more dramatic, he’s spoken to me and the fight he’s had with certain legal entities has been extraordinary.
“His dedication and his knowledge and his steadfastness has been gob smacking.
“Last Saturday, when we were on the the way to Huddersfield we found out that Alfie had passed away and Evertonians had broken hearts.
“But Alfie, and his dad, and his mam Kate, were in this together and we’re in this together and it’s what I love about football, and more than anything about Evertonians – he wore that blue shirt, his dad, with such pride in bad times.”
Alfie was at the centre of one of the most tragic legal battles in recent history after his parents became embroiled in a long-running dispute with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital over the toddler’s treatment.
Alfie’s parents, both from Liverpool, had fought to take him to a foreign hospital for treatment, but lost a series of court appeals to take him out of hospital and out of Britain.
Doctors removed the little boy’s life support on Monday last week following a High Court judge’s ruling allowing them permission to withdraw ventilation, however he continued to live.
The toddler left medics "gobsmacked" by breathing for himself, according to his dad, who said he was "comfortable" off the ventilator.
But his brave fight ended at around 2.30am Saturday when his emotional parents revealed he "gained his wings".
In an emotional post on Facebook , his dad Tom Evans and mum Kate James announced: "Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 am.
"We are heart broken. Thank you everyone for all your support."
In a separate post, Tom, 21, wrote: "My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30. Absolutely heartbroken.
"I LOVE YOU MY GUY."
Later on Saturday, more than 1,000 supporters, both young and old, gathered in a park near the hospital to pay tribute to the little boy after hearing he had passed away.
Clutching blue and purple balloons, they chanted Alfie’s name before a young girl began singing Christina Perri’s hit, ‘A Thousand Years’.
Mourners could also be seen sobbing and consoling each other, before the countless balloons were released into the air at about 2.50pm.
Following the beautiful moment, supporters started singing the iconic song, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, synonymous with Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool, as the balloons drifted upwards.
Alfie’s case touched hearts around the world, with Pope Francis among those who voiced support for the seriously ill youngster.
Tom and Kate lost two rounds of battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights in their fight to keep their little boy alive.
Alfie’s case provoked strong feelings over whether judges, doctors or parents have the right to decide on a child’s life.
Last weekend, supporters of the tot’s family attempted to storm Alder Hey.
After blocking the road for around 15 minutes, around 200 demonstrators moved to line both sides, cheering as motorists passing by blared their horns in support.
Last month, supporters of the tot’s family attempted to storm Alder Hey with regular protests staged outside the children’s hospital.
On April 23, around 200 protesters blocked the road outside the hospital for around 15 minutes, before dozens ran towards the main doors as police officers guarded the entrance.
In February, Mr Justice Hayden had ruled that doctors at the hospital could stop treating Alfie against the wishes of his parents following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London and Liverpool.
Alder Hey specialists said life support treatment should stop and Mr Justice Hayden said he accepted medical evidence which showed that further treatment was futile.
But Alfie’s parents desperately wanted to move their son to a hospital in Rome.
The couple said Italian doctors were willing to treat the little boy and air ambulance crews were available.
However, Mr Justice Hayden said flying Alfie to a foreign hospital would be wrong and pointless.
Court of Appeal judges upheld his decisions and Supreme Court justices refused to intervene.
Last week, Alder Hey said its staff had experienced "unprecedented personal abuse" from some quarters after it found itself at the centre of a "social media storm".
Hospital chiefs said workers had suffered "a barrage of highly abusive and threatening language and behaviour" in person, via phone and online.
"Having to carry on our usual day-to-day work in a hospital that has required a significant police presence just to keep our patients, staff and visitors safe is completely unacceptable," the hospital’s chairman, Sir David Henshaw, and chief executive, Louise Shepherd, said in an open letter.
They continued: "Our staff have received in person, via phone calls, email, and through social media channels a barrage of highly abusive and threatening language and behaviour that has shocked us all.
"Worse still, patients and visitors to Alder Hey have also reported abuse. We are truly grateful to Merseyside Police for their unstinting support.
"This has helped us maintain our focus on safeguarding Alfie’s comfort, dignity and privacy, which remains our first priority."
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