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We've Done This Once Before

By Bob McEvoy :  12/03/2009 :  Comments (0) :

St Georges Day. Saturday, April 23rd 1966. FA Cup Semi-Final.
Everton v Manchester United. Venue: Burnden Park, Bolton. Kick Off 3pm.

It was our first semi-final since 1953. For a 14 year old that’s effectively a lifetime. I’d hardly missed a home game in 2 seasons and I couldn’t get a bloody ticket for the match of my life. I lived on a estate near Halewood village (behind the “Derby Arms “ within a mile of the site of what is now our spanking new training facility). I’d whinged about this dilemma so much everyone I even vaguely knew was aware I was after a ticket. My parents wouldn’t allow the scally option of bunking in or even trying to buy a ticket outside the ground. It was get a ticket or bust.

Then a phone call. Half past ten on the Saturday morning.. A mate’s cousin was sick and couldn’t go. Did I want the ticket at face — value. Is Ronnie Yeats a yard dog. Does Shankly talk indecipherable shit. I was on my bike in a trice, round to my mate’s house, slammed the 6s6d (or whatever it was) on the table and grabbed the ticket.

The local butcher , a bloke named Joe Hadley, was an Everton season –ticket holder and had told me during the week that if I got a ticket he could fit me in his car. I shot round to the butchers, confirmed my place, then sped home like a regular Beryl Burton, bolted down a couple of bacon sarnies and a cup of tea then back down to Joe’s. I was going to the game of my life.

Manchester United were then League Champions (and would be the following season). The Best, Law, Charlton team were the media darlings especially after Georgie boy had strutted his stuff in Lisbon the month before against Benfica in their 5-1 European Cup rout. But now things weren’t so good. Only 3 days previously they’d been knocked out of the European Cup by “Partizan Belgrade” having been heavily fancied to beat them. This competition was Matt Busby’s “Holy Grail” after the Munich disaster and this had been their 1st attempt since then. General consensus was that they would be exhausted and demoralised ; and to add to their trauma Best had got himself injured and wouldn’t be playing. Excellent!

The Blues were in transition (we’d eventually finish the league season in 11th place). The 63 championship team was breaking up but we were still a decent side. West and Labone were as good as anyone in their positions. Wilson (who’d arrived in 64) was simply flawless; still to this date the best left-back I have seen. Tommy Wright was injured but Sandy Brown whilst lacking in the finer arts was uncompromising with a capital “U”. Gabriel was still an effective right-half, Temple at that point was if I remember probably playing his best football ever and Harvey was rapidly developing into the wonderful player he became.

Young, Scott and Harris were past their peak but still extremely useful and then there was Mike Trebilcock. He was in the team because Pickering had crocked himself 5 weeks previously in the derby match. Endearing surname apart his main footballing trait was if he was in possession within 30yds of goal he’d have a shot, regardless of better placed team mates ; but of course 3 weeks later this particular foible would earn him legendary status. Finally Catterick’s master stroke had been to field a reserve team at Leeds the previous week (lost 4-1, fined I think 5 grand. only Brown and Trebilcock played from the semi-final team and they hadn’t been regulars all season) so in theory we were “fresh as daisies”. United were still favourites but we were in with a bloody good shout.

We parked a mile from the ground and I had to memorise the route back. I was on the terracing 45 minutes before kick off. Quite frankly the stadium was a dump and for a short-arse like me getting a decent view required all my ingenuity. Eventually I got a spec at the back of the terrace and could see about 3 ft of the goal we were attacking in the 1st half. It didn’t really matter as we didn’t cross the half way line in the 1st half. Charlton and his mates had all the possession and kept us encamped without really creating a decent chance. The start of the 2nd half was much the same but as the game progressed we inexorably got on top so that with 20 minutes to go we were the better side although like United we weren’t creating much.

With about quarter of an hour left. seemingly out of nothing (at least this is how I remember it) the ball fell to Harvey about 15yds from goal. His snap left-foot shot beat Stepney to his left. The ball went into the goal but the net didn’t bulge; a second’s delay then cue delirium (of course we discovered later that the ball had bounced up and nestled between the stanchion and the net about a foot above the ground and stayed there). 1-0 up. Get in. Young still had time to hit the post after a surging Temple run and cross. Alex should really have scored but a couple of minutes later it didn’t matter. We were in the cup final for the first time since 1933.

I found the way back to the car (now I’d get lost) and it was handshakes all round. Me, Joe and his mates did a little jig around the car. Mama told me there’d be days like this.... well she didn’t but you get my drift.

So come April 19th we need the Mancs to get knocked out of the European Cup 4/5 days before (perhaps a decisive Vidic own goal to maintain the Yugoslav connection) and Ronaldo to get injured and miss the match. A personal favourite would be a little Rooney hamstring tweak 5 minutes into the game but maybe I’m being greedy. It would seem unlikely Moysey could put out a reserve side against Villa (blue Bill right back, Mother Noblett centre forward )so we’ll have to let that pass. Then 15 minutes from the end of game Moyes springs a surprise and brings on Colin Harvey(alright Rodwell). Game over. Job done. Cup Final here we come!

We’ve done this once before. We can do it again.

"Oh we hate Bill Shankly and we hate St John..."


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