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How good were the 1980s?

By Kevin Sparke  : 22/1/07
To coin a phrase – they were the best of times: they were the worst of times, a madman sat upon the throne of the USA a mad woman declared war on foreign invaders and a substantial majority of her own people – the ‘enemy within’. Many, including myself would argue that the early 1980’s were characterised by conflict, the death of consensus politics, the destruction of the manufacturing base of the British economy, riots in many major cities of the UK… and ‘Boy George’.

Punk, the most innovative trend in British Music since Mersey-beat was being replaced with a bunch of tossers; the sterile boorish posers known as the ‘New Romantics’ (what they had to be newly romantic about fuck only knows because most people I knew were either signing on or shitting themselves about impending redundancy). Merseyside felt the brunt of the ‘New Right’s’ love affair with monetarism and the hidden hand of the market took away jobs and we as a city were well and truly fucked over by the powers that be — a reaction in the form of Deggsy Hatton and his Trotskyites helped bankrupt the city of Liverpool and all of a sudden ‘this town was indeed looking like a ghost town’.

Sunday night all over the city blokes said goodbye to their wives, girlfriends (or both!) and headed for their jobs in the South East, South Coast, Germany even Holland. To give you a personal example, in 1980 the metal factory I worked in had 9,000 weekly paid workers on its books and about 2,000 monthly paid staff; by 1989 there were less than 800 people in total (Now it’s a shopping centre with a McDonalds, McJobs, within a McEconomy)

But what of the football?

Gentlemen, the football was at times sublime and in the great tradition of Everton Football Club it could also be ridiculous. The truth is, the best thing about the Everton revival of the 1980s it was all so unexpected, nobody I know who went the match at that time could have predicted our five-season purple patch before it began and certainly nobody could have predicted how and why it eventually would come to an end.

We’ve all got our pet theory about that team — here’s mine for what it is worth. We had the best goalkeeper I’ve ever seen playing for any team at any time, in any place — and my memory goes back to Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. If ‘Big Nev’ had have been born on the English side of the River Dee he’d have been made a knight (or a dame) by now. He was quite simply phenomenal as a shot stopper and made the hard look easy and unless it was a certain Ian Rush, you always knew that the odds were in Nev’s favour in any one-on-one. That confidence emanating from the man between the sticks washed over the entire team.

Team — the key word. You’ll often hear from know-it-all football ‘historians’ and journalists that the successful Everton team of the early 1980s were the ‘team without stars’ — Well, gentlemen, as it is with most platitudes that come from the mouths of ignorant 'experts' who have column inches to fill and who can’t be bothered to think beyond sound-bites; the ‘Team without Stars’ is profoundly wrong thinking. Everton were the team with the team as the star — the reason why nobody stood out is because they all played so damned well together — the team became the star.

What is more, in the 1980s when yuppie individualism became part of the zeitgeist at the expense of collectivism, Everton were an anathema. We had no Glen Hoddle, No Ian Rush, No Chris Waddle, no Brian Robson, no ‘Butch’ Wilkins — because what we had was so much better — a manager and trainer who by using their shrewd tactical nous and training methods turned very good players, who were all stars in my view, into a great team which became an even bigger star.

Sometimes I look back at the mid-1980s and think it was all a dream; I can remember the interchanges in midfield being so fast and accurate I couldn’t keep up with the play simply watching from the Bullens Road — the deftness of the passing, the almost supernatural awareness within the team of where each player would be running into space. To me, all of this came to a climax when because of injury Sheedy played a few games in central midfield — I can’t tell you how good we were in those few games, you’d have had to have been there as we demolished the best the First Division had to offer, we did it with style and it was all so simple — but so fast, so clinical, so accurate.

Team without stars my big hairy fat arse.

The Eighties were the best of times to be a blue — but they could have been so much better. Too often we froze when we played Liverpool during big matches and we were robbed of our real glory years by things beyond our control and a piss poor boardroom of hollow men who have led us by the nose to where we are now.

So lads, next time you’re at the game and we’re playing shit, and the boo boys are howling for the manager’s head and the central defender’s looking like a statue, the centre forward’s first touch is like a mallet on golf ball, the midfield have forgotten how to pass a ball forward and the new rising star is playing like an aged diva who’s knocked back half a bottle of gin — remember, all it takes is one misplaced back pass for a revolution to start — I'll see you at the barricades if it does!


I agree with what you said, about us being a team of no stars. The team was the star, but as for bad management being the main downfall of our success, I'm afraid i'll always blame that Euro ban. How the hell could any rising team cope with that? When you have hungry players wanting the best of success, of course they are going to leave and join a club that plays in the European competitions, that goes for the manager too. Oh, by the way Liverpool survived it because they had created their name to be a selling product. Bet if the ban had happened in '76 before they won their first Euro cup we would be watching them play Preston this coming weekend now in the Championship.
Davey the Blue

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