Given our club?s recent tribulations, I have been moved to place my concerns in writing. I am hoping that my words will inspire ordinary supporters, such as myself, and those with influence to play their part in returning Everton Football Club to its rightful position of prominence, initially in the Premier League. My reflections are divided into four articles, as listed below, and I will submit them at regular intervals:
- If You Know Your History...
- The Club?s Organisation
- David Moyes and the Team
- The Future
1. If You Know Your History...
As Everton supporters, we have much to be proud of in our past. I first became a regular through the turnstiles in the winter of the big freeze, 1962-63. It was a great experience as a 13-year-old to be standing on the Goodison Road terraces among a crowd of over 60,000, witnessing our victory over Fulham to become First Division Champions on 11 May 1963: Everton 4 (Roy Vernon 3, Alex Scott 1), Fulham1.
We never did ourselves justice in the European Cup on any occasion, and in 1963 we drew 0-0 at home to Inter-Milan, losing 1-0 to the eventual cup-winners in the return leg. Nevertheless, I was proud several years ago, when visiting the museum at the San Siro Stadium, to see the Everton programme for the home leg (a copy of which I still have) on display. Incidentally, one of the rooms had a flip chart on which someone (not me!) had written Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
I became a season-ticket holder from 1963 and still am, for the last very many years with my wife, in Row B of the Upper Bullens Stand, just behind the old TV gantry. In the sixties, as Evertonians, we considered ourselves to be associated with the best team there was ? Nil Satis...
We had the best players. I won?t list them, but my particular favourite was Alex Young. We had the best ground in the country (as younger readers might find difficult to believe). I watched the World Cup games at Goodison in 1966. The semi-finals were held at Goodison (evidently considered to be the nation?s best club ground) and at Wembley.
My first visit to Wembley was for the Cup Final in 1966, where we beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 (Mike Trebilcock 2, Derek Temple 1). I have visited Wembley several times since, most recently when we were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in 2009 (Chelsea coming back after Louis Saha?s wonder goal). We still of course have great players who can play together exceptionally well ? as witnessed by our draw at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this season, and knocking them out of the cup at their own ground after being the better side at home. Reaching the final was a most creditable performance two years ago, given our recent dire straits, and perhaps we can do it again? More of that in later sections. I was pleased to have a short conversation before the 2009 Final with Derek Temple outside the ground. He was in good form, and seeing him reminded me of how I felt when he scored the winning goal in 1966. We need to feel that way more often!
As children, our families kept us informed of earlier glories ? tales of Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton, Dave Hickson and others. That tradition of greatness was maintained through the sixties until the late eighties, with success for managers Harry Catterick and Howard Kendall. While developing great players, we were also able to spend money to bring others to the club. It is hard for example to imagine a more accomplished midfield than the renowned ?Holy Trinity? of Alan Ball, Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall. In my lifetime, while I have not seen all of the potential candidates in action (!), I am happy to accept arguments that Neville Southall and Ray Wilson were the world?s greatest goalkeeper and left-back respectively. Personal heroes have included Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Sheedy.
Perhaps our greatest season was 1984-85, when we were First Division Champions and winners of the European Cup-Winners? Cup (denied the FA Cup in the Final by Man Utd). When in France on holiday that summer, I bought the football magazine Sposter?s review of the season (which I still have), which described us on the cover (with a photo of Andy Gray) as EVERTON, LE VRAI ROI DE L?EUROPE (Everton, the True King of Europe).
In the text, Michel Hidalgo commented: ?Hélas pour eux, l?an prochain, ils seront absent des compétitions européennes. Les footballeurs payent pour les hooligans meurtriers qui, eux, sont en liberté sans aucune pénalité.? (Alas for them, next year, they will be absent from European competitions. Footballers are paying for hooligan murderers who remain at liberty, without penalty.) This followed the disaster at the Heysel Stadium that year, when Liverpool played in the European Cup Final against Juventus. English clubs were banned from Europe until the 1990-91 season, with a further year?s ban for Liverpool. This meant that not only could we not compete for the European Cup in 1985-86, but nor could we compete in 1987-88, after again being First Division Champions in 1986-87.
While Hidalgo?s language (?meurtriers?) was inappropriate, it was magnanimous of Kenny Dalglish to echo his sentiments recently.
Sposter also featured photos of Peter Reid, Kevin Sheedy and Derek Mountfield, but the best was one of Graeme Sharp after a goal with the caption ?Comme Sharp, Everton a le sourire: quelle saison!? (Like Sharp, Everton have a smile: what a season!). Their ten matches of the season included one of my greatest memories, the defeat of Bayern Munich (after drawing 0-0 in the First Leg away) at home in the European Cup-Winners' Cup Semi-Final Second Leg (3-1, Graeme Sharp, Andy Gray and Trevor Steven). This game has been voted as the best in Everton?s history, and I wouldn?t disagree. The Final against Rapid Vienna (3-1, Andy Gray, Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy) was a formality. Incidentally Sposter?s ten players of the season included Andy Gray. Even younger readers will know of him ? though perhaps not for the best of reasons!
Unfortunately, some of our best players left, including Trevor Steven and Gary Stevens, following the European ban. While our achievement of First Division Champions nine times is some way off the record, we were also unfortunate (another sob story!) in that we were champions in 1914-15 and 1938-39, in both cases our teams being broken up as a result of the World Wars causing the Football League to be suspended. Incidentally, we do hold the record of longest serving members of the top division (108 years).
Although in recent years we have generally finished in creditable positions in the Premier League, our overall experience has been far from ?the best?. I still have the card I took to the last game of the 1993-94 season (7 May 1994), at home to Wimbledon, on which I had listed the points and goal differences of the bottom seven clubs. Everton were third from bottom on 41 points (Southampton, Sheffield United and Ipswich all had 42). After going 2-0 down, we recovered to 3-2 (Graham Stuart 2, Barry Horne 1), maintaining our very long tenure in the top division. Such a relief, but I hope we will never again be in such a position.
Returning to the subject of great players, Wayne Rooney could have been one of our best. I well remember when he came on as substitute at home to Arsenal as a 16-year-old; expectations had been high for some time. He scored a wonder goal from the edge of the area, the decider as we won 2-1 breaking Arsenal?s 30 game unbeaten run. That goal (then breaking the record for youngest ever Premier League scorer) was, I believe, even better than the ?bicycle kick? goal he recently scored for United. That we could not keep Rooney is possibly the greatest indicator of our decline over the last two decades.
Since 1987, our only glory has been winning the FA Cup in 1995, beating Man Utd 1-0 (Paul Rideout). As in 2009, this was a great day out at Wembley, the great difference being victory. Over 15 years since then; we have waited long enough.
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1 Posted 21/02/2011 at 18:44:39
2 Posted 21/02/2011 at 19:11:39
Our history is important, it's what defines us and gives us so much pride in our Club. However it's not going to pay our way in future, so I'm looking forward, like Andy, to your next three articles.
3 Posted 21/02/2011 at 20:38:39
4 Posted 22/02/2011 at 03:43:23
"Remember when United came in for Rodwell and we managed to fend them off and keep him for another season? Yeah I know he went there in the end but..."
5 Posted 22/02/2011 at 09:24:57
6 Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:21:07
7 Posted 22/02/2011 at 16:24:35
On the day of our 95 Cup Final win, I was in hospital in France with concussion ? apparently I opened my eyes early evening, looked at my beloved & whispered the most important words..."Who won?". 'You did' he replied. (Sorry ? Spurs man) 'Great...' lost consciousness again as I heard him saying to the doctor 'shows she's not brain damaged ? or maybe...'. He still doesn't understand why I wept after Pip's penalty last weekend! Perhaps we're all brain-damaged!
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