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Ruining the Party
Four years ago, Everton were the insignificant guests at Arsenal's title-winning party in a defeat that looked to have condemned the Blues to the Nationwide League.  Irrespective of the result at Old Trafford on Wednesday, it's time to regain some respect at Highbury.

7 May 2002

 

I'll never forget how I felt four years ago, walking through the streets around Highbury after the humiliating 4-0 defeat that left us odds-on for relegation with just that one home game against Coventry City to come the following week.  Inside the ground, the Arsenal fans were kicking off a Championship celebration it was 15 years ago this month that Everton last won the league title and we were left to contemplate the fact that if we didn't get a better result than Bolton Wanderers, we would be consigned to First Division football.

Had Everton's circumstances been different, it would have been a lot easier to congratulate Arsenal on their achievement (it made a nice change, as it would this season, for someone other than Manchester United to finish top of the pile).  But the two clubs' respective predicaments couldn't have been more different and, to make matters worse, Tony Adams of all players had stormed through to score the type of goal one-on-one with the 'keeper that Duncan Ferguson has always been unable to finish.  It was embarrassing, to say the least.

Of course, 8 days later, I, in the company of thousands of others, was dancing in the pouring rain in the centre-circle of the Goodison Park pitch celebrating another unlikely escape from relegation, secured thanks more to Chelsea's victory over Bolton than our 1-1 draw with Coventry.  However, the memories of that ecstatic day haven't erased those of that miserable day in North London when we sat on the steps of the appropriately-named World's End pub fearing that our long and proud association with the Top Flight was about to come to an end.  I won't be able to attend the game at Arsenal this coming weekend, but I still harbour the desire to atone for that day and spoil Arsenal's 2002 title party.

Ideally, Arsne Wenger's impressive outfit will have already sewn up the championship on Wednesday night with a draw or victory in their showdown with United at Old Trafford.  That way, David Moyes can send his team out against a one already assured of the Premiership and ripe for an upset that would ruin their party but not jeopardise another League and Cup double.

Irrespective of what happens in Manchester this week, we know that Moyes will send his team out with orders to win.  After all, the new manager hates losing anything but, with the prospect of a back door into the UEFA Cup via the much-maligned InterToto Cup still a possibility, he will impress on his players the need to win for both pride and the possibility of European competition this summer.

For me, although the hope that the Blues can slay the ghost of May 1998 is incentive enough, the desire to finish another dreadful season on a high is also strong.  How better to finish 2001/02 than with an unlikely victory over the Champions-elect on their own turf... during their Championship party?

Everton's Premiership record at Highbury

  • Everton have lost on their last 5 visits to Arsenal
  • They haven't won at Highbury since Andrei Kanchelskis' spectacular winner in 1995/96
  • Since the inception of the Premier League, the Blues have taken just four points from Highbury, scoring just 6 goals.

    Link: Arsenal v Everton, 1998   

Lyndon Lloyd


©2002 ToffeeWeb, 7 May 2002

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