It was my privilege to be witness to what I believe was the best Everton team ever in the mid-80s.
Howard Kendall had built a team with the perfect blend. The sublime skills of Kevin Sheedy and Trevor Steven, the bite of Peter Reid, the guile of “Brace”, the leadership of “Rats” and the best goalkeeper in the world with “Big Nev”.
Howard then worked on the “boot room” principal that served Liverpool so well. Close season, identify and bring in one or two quality players who he hoped would take the team to the next level. Remember, this was not the time of foreign imports, the “gems” were to be found in lower division or at that time mainly in Scotland (Sharp).
But a certain striker had consistently been knocking in the goals for his boyhood team, a young Leicester lad named Gary Lineker. Lineker was fresh-faced, boyish looks, devastating pace and a clinical finisher. Howard splashed £800,000 and then let Goodison hero Andy Gray depart to Villa.
As we have found since over the coming years, strikers who are “big fish in the small pond” have a tendency to sink when they have to step up to the next level. Not Lineker.
That 85-86 season Lineker went on to score 30 league goals (I had been again lucky enough to watch our last great striker, Bob Latchford, score 30 league goals) and 40 in all competitions in only 57 appearances and bagging himself the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards.
The problem was Everton won nothing.
Lineker went to the World Cup, won the Golden Boot, Everton were offered a £2 million profit by Barcelona and, after one season, arguably our best striker since Dixie Dean had left.
The fact that the following season we won the title in some way mitigates Lineker’s sale but I still remember the football we played that one season with Lineker and the huge disappointment I felt when we sold the world’s best striker.
The reason for this post is Lineker’s comments on that Everton team in the feature “What I Wore” and his belief it was “the best team he ever played in”.
Reader Comments (59)
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1 Posted 17/02/2019 at 15:46:46
Whether that was the case within the club and more particularly on the training ground, I don't know but Everton did seem to be run by Chairmen who thought balancing the books was of the most importance. The only comment I've ever heard from Lineker was that Everton were quite happy to take the money.
2 Posted 17/02/2019 at 17:20:27
Fan, "Howard, why did you sell Gary Lineker?
Howard "Because I wanted to win the fucking league".
Makes sense, as we had to change the way the team played from winning the league in 1985, just to accommodate Lineker. Ok we come dam close to winning the domestic double the year he spent with us, and who knows we may still have won the league with him in the side in 1987.
3 Posted 17/02/2019 at 17:57:40
We may have won the League in 87 with Lineker, we'll never know, but we didn't give the title up, the RS won it with, I think, a great run of 12 or 13 games when they were unbeatable.
Which ever way you look at it, we sold our top scorer. I don't go with the quote attributed to Kendall.
4 Posted 17/02/2019 at 17:59:28
5 Posted 17/02/2019 at 18:28:07
The replay was at Goodison and it was a tense ugly game, a ball was played over the top of the Luton defence and Lineker was on it like a flash took the ball on, outstripped the centre-half and slammed it into the net.
Ironic, as he had a slow start to his Everton career, but then couldn't stop scoring the rest of the season.
I think he was vastly underrated at Everton and has faded from the memory somewhat, simply because he was here for such a short period of time.
6 Posted 17/02/2019 at 20:31:29
I'll go to my grave saying we were better than the Liverpool team that won the double but, even if Mimms did well, we lost the greatest goalkeeper in the world at such a crucial stage of the season.
I think Kendall thought he was getting the Barca job but Everton made an absolutely fatal decision in agreeing a fee for Lineker before the World Cup had even started, especially because he ended up winning the Golden Boot!
7 Posted 17/02/2019 at 20:39:46
8 Posted 17/02/2019 at 20:50:14
Ronaldo to Real Madrid; Bale the same; Coutinho to Barca; even Barca with Neymar – if the clubs offer the money, they all sell. Why should our club be different? Admittedly, the investment hasn't always been great.
9 Posted 17/02/2019 at 21:58:42
For me, we let Lineker go, whether for money or sake of the team, we certainly dropped a clanger letting him go so soon.
Those who go on about Lineker costing us the league at Oxford, think on to the week before, when Sharp hit the post from 3 yards out with a virtual open goal at Forest, ending up with Everton drawing that game.
What cost us the league was Southall's injury and an unbelievable run from our neighbours.
Lineker May have cost us 3 points, but for me 11 points clear at the time and regardless how well Mimms played, I doubt we would have let an 11-point lead slip, had big Nev been in goal.
10 Posted 17/02/2019 at 22:01:53
It's a shame we couldn't have kept him. I'm sure we would have gone on to bigger and better things. You just can't refuse Barcelona when they come calling – Liverpool have found that out with Suarez and Coutinho.
11 Posted 17/02/2019 at 22:33:03
We may have won the league both times without Lineker, however without the European ban, we would have kept both Lineker and Kendall.
That team we had, would have dominated the English league for a good few seasons. The ban cost us big time.
12 Posted 17/02/2019 at 22:59:22
I actually think the season before was the best football I've ever witnessed EFC play. Sharp and Heath up top were brilliant and Heath was about to get an England call up when he got injured by Marwood – who, if memory serves me right, was out injured every time we played Wednesday thereafter as rumour had it Reid was out to get him.
That team played great football – just ask Ron the Mac Atkinson. As for Lineker, a great striker but a smug human being.
13 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:03:53
That's how a remember Lineker, running onto the ball. Andy Gray was far better, a great team player, and a match-winner when needed. The Everton style of play had to change to suit Lineker. Before that, there was more threat from various sources.
Lineker could take his chances and Everton were an excellent team. But with Lineker, they were just short of the league championship edge they had before he arrived.
Yes, this is how I definitely remember Lineker. With the rest of that team behind him, he was going to score goals, but he was a striker running onto the ball, not a member of a team that would win the League Championship.
15 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:05:52
Lineker did his bit no question... He took dogs abuse for most of the first part of the season because he'd replaced Gray. (Nothing new there but I'm convinced he took that to heart and never forgot it.).
The Shite went on that run when they were dead and buried. Just a series of incidents... we go win it the following year with a less potent team.
And Don @7... don't bring lack of bookings into questioning his commitment... Am I right that Brian Labone only got 2 in his career and he was half-decent at dishing it out!!
16 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:07:30
We were unlucky to not win the league that year. The difference was the quality of opposition was better than the year after, when we won it again. We were not better without Lineker, and I'd kill for a finisher half as good now.
17 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:22:08
18 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:56:24
I still stand by Southall's injury having a big impact on the team.
Nothing will convince me, stats whatever, that had Southall been between the sticks, I very much doubt we would have blown 11 dropped points in those few months.
As for the FA Cup Final, we had them on the ropes when Grobbelaar made an unbelievable save before berating his defender, a slack pass allowed them back in the game, the rest is history.
19 Posted 17/02/2019 at 23:59:41
For those of you, wondering why people like me hate Liverpool Football Club, this is part of it. We had the best team around. They got us out of Europe, the players, understandably wanted to prove themselves and earn loads, so left. Yes, the club made errors.
But let us not forget, we were what we were, we had what we had and since then it has been downhill in varying measures. For those who struggled with the idea of wanting a defeat against City, we all had the same dilemma, so difficult. But for those of us of a certain age and maybe through blue tinted glasses, our chance was at this time, and judging by the way things are now, won't be for a long time to come.
So, if I sound like what they call a bitter blue, then yes I am, and am proud to be so.
From the Top balcony the lumping it up to Lineker looked good to me: goals, goals and more goals, and as for Bobby Mimms, I have never said a bad word against a much vilified man, yes, he was not Southall, but who was, or in context, who is, rather him that's the current liability.
Let us not forget how Kendall built a team and the success it enjoyed during that short period. I was at Rotterdam, and the Bayern game. Let us not forget how our club was destroyed by our “neighbours” and for me, I hope and trust that City do the right thing.
Lastly, sorry to rant, and where I live may have an impact on this. I hate Man Utd and I hate LFC. My fave game to watch in a season is next Sunday. It's great because it is the only game (aside from the reverse fixture) when I do not know who I want to win. Every other game, I know who I want to win, which is the team that helps our team most. I will be in a pub, really having no idea who I want to win. This year, albeit an exception, only because I really cannot contemplate them winning the league, the holly grail for them.
Again, sorry to rant!
21 Posted 18/02/2019 at 00:30:23
Their 12 or 13 game run is reduced to a gallant, but ultimately futile chase for second place. And I too think Kendall was off to Barcelona, hence the sale.
22 Posted 18/02/2019 at 00:32:23
Some crucially bad decisions were made by our club, after all the hard work of getting to the top, decisions we are still suffering from. You don't sell England's centre forward, after a 40-goal season, then end up getting ripped off buying Tony Cottee to try, and fail dismally, to replace him 2 seasons later.
Incidentally, we totalled the same number of 86 points in 86, with Lineker, when we fell short by 2 points in the title race, and 87, when we won by a clear 9. You don't let the main winner in the team leave the season before, Andy Gray. Keep him as a brilliant sub.
And you make sure our greatest manager stays, not let Atletico Bilbao (really?) make him a better offer, Mr Carter. Then we brought Howard back, after we had spent all the money we had accumulated in the good years on players not as good as the ones we had.
23 Posted 18/02/2019 at 00:37:03
24 Posted 18/02/2019 at 01:57:25
25 Posted 18/02/2019 at 08:41:55
It's been like a process of continual managed descent from the heights since then. These days especially, we cannot seem to hold on to the best players, and this will continue unless we have a massive injection of wealth much greater than Moshiri's.
26 Posted 18/02/2019 at 09:24:47
Ray, I wasn't blaming Mimms but Southall was the fastest goalkeeper coming out off his line and I just think he might have stopped Rush from scoring that equaliser at Wembley. Remember the 2-0 game we won at Anfield and he got there just in time, twice, to stop the same player taking it round him and putting it an empty net?
I thought Big Nev was the best keeper in the world at the time, and Lineker was definitely one of the best goalscorers in the world when he left Everton way too soon.
27 Posted 18/02/2019 at 09:34:17
I seem to remember in the mid 70s we had a really good team Latch, Dobson, Thomas, etc and we had a couple of chances to win the old 1st division (but we blew it).
I seem to recall getting beat twice by Carlisle Utd who were bottom of the league and only won 6 games all season (we were 2-0 up at home and lost 3-2 I think) if we had won those games we win the league!!!
Another game I recall was a loss at Luton in a night game (I think Latch scored and we lost 2-1) not sure if we had won this one we may have also won the league.
Oh the joys of being as Blue!!!!!!
28 Posted 18/02/2019 at 11:05:41
Have you forgotten the great Tommy Lawton whose goal record for Everton is quite similar to that of your golden boy? Tommy was an idol at Everton. Lineker was never that.
29 Posted 18/02/2019 at 11:19:13
30 Posted 18/02/2019 at 11:44:30
31 Posted 18/02/2019 at 12:04:44
Gary was a great goalscorer but a puddin of a footballer.
32 Posted 18/02/2019 at 12:30:06
In addition, the RS were on their run of victories. They are the bald facts, not massaging facts to fit an argument. Nothing to do with a lack of confidence in a keeper.
One defeat in ten doesn't point to a crap keeper in my book. Especially when the team didn't score against Oxford, FFS!
33 Posted 18/02/2019 at 13:11:13
34 Posted 18/02/2019 at 16:15:37
Losing Neville was a massive blow and his presence on the pitch and dressing room was massive. But poor finishing cost us and Sharpies sitter at Forest, just increased the pressure. Bobby Mimms wasn't to blame for what happened.
As many have said the events of the year before changed history. The history is now where we are, and it ain't good. Seems like 5 mins ago, and those were the days.
35 Posted 18/02/2019 at 17:20:54
Another fact is that the ball was in Everton's court, and if we would have won our last 3 games then Liverpool couldn't have caught us, which is definitely throwing it away in my book!
It seems like a lifetime away for me Paul, and definitely the worst 10 days I've ever had watching Everton.
36 Posted 18/02/2019 at 18:19:33
I don't think there is an Evertonian alive who doesn't look back at the shite equaliser at Wembley and think "If only we had the big fella".
There's no shame in not being Neville Southall.
37 Posted 18/02/2019 at 18:56:30
The only other time I've really seen Everton cruising at Wembley, was against Watford, but that's what we were doing until Stevens underhit a pass on that treacherous right-hand side, with the rest being the stuff of genuine nightmares, which came back to revisit us (have we ever got over it?) when Distin turned and played right into Liverpool's hands once again.
Let's get the bastards back in a fortnight. I know it's not a cup final, but it's about time we started treating derby matches this way once again, and especially if we can put a major fucking spanner into their aspirations.
38 Posted 18/02/2019 at 19:20:43
I thought we played much better football the season before and the season after so, despite Lineker's goals, we still won the double.
Goes to prove a good team is more important than a good striker.
39 Posted 18/02/2019 at 20:32:55
Gray, Sharp and Heath were all better footballers but Lineker certainly knew where the back of the net was.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, if only we could have kept that team together.
30 years ago, I thought we would win the league every season. 20 years ago, I was hoping it was a cyclical thing and our time would come again. 10 years ago, the "knife to a gun fight" mentality destroyed any hopes I had of ever winning the league again.
Moshiri gave me brief hope until Neymar's transfer blew that hope to bits. I can't see us breaking into the top 6 anytime soon... nevermind top 4 or even Champions. Oh to be an Evertonian.
40 Posted 18/02/2019 at 20:37:46
Its well overdue.
41 Posted 18/02/2019 at 22:19:01
When I wrote about “massaging facts”, I was referring to my statement, that I wasn't massaging facts to make Mimms appear better than he was.
“Crap keeper” was how I viewed other people's opinion of Mimms.
42 Posted 18/02/2019 at 22:50:00
43 Posted 18/02/2019 at 23:31:54
Your analysis of Lineker being in the team in ‘86 is absolutely spot on. It should have been three league titles in a row and a double in ‘86.
44 Posted 19/02/2019 at 01:01:16
Antonio Valencia – 35.1 km/h. .
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 34.6 km/h. .
Aaron Lennon – 33.8 km/h. .
Cristiano Ronaldo – 33.6 km/h.
Theo Walcott – 32.7 km/h.
Lionel Messi – 32.5 km/h.
Wayne Rooney – 31.2 km/h
Thierry Henry, Tony Daly, Gareth Bale...hell even Bellamy and Heskey were rapid. Lineker was NEVER pacey nor fast, a good finisher yes.
45 Posted 19/02/2019 at 01:21:08
Anyway, them were the days. I doubt l will ever see us that great again. We need to find a manager to make the tweaks we need, a few top quality additions, and our kids to come good. Not too much to ask... is it?
46 Posted 19/02/2019 at 03:11:57
"Lineker was NEVER pacey nor fast"...???
I must have supped a few ales back in the day before the game which blurred my vision and memory, 'cos I remember Lineker being like shit off a shovel.
These two links kinda back up my memory:
At 18, he was consistently clocked running the 100 metres in 10.56 seconds.
This link converts that to 34.09 km/h, which places him 4th in your list.
Methinks that qualifies him as pacey and fast.
47 Posted 19/02/2019 at 04:29:18
I agree Lineker was very fast and those that say otherwise didn't watch the guy. I still think he was wrong for Everton at that time though.
Very surprised to see Rooney measured at 31 km/h. Must have been on the way to the pub.
48 Posted 19/02/2019 at 08:54:07
If I was born in the '70s, of course I saw him plenty of times. Never mind, haven't got all day to debate over big ears who doesn't like us anyways, lol.
49 Posted 19/02/2019 at 13:08:03
50 Posted 19/02/2019 at 13:26:07
51 Posted 19/02/2019 at 13:36:40
I can still remember the feeling of us losing the '86 cup final to the RS. I was 12 at the time and was dreading going into school on the Monday. It was the start of me not eating my tea after an Everton defeat (good job I don't still subscribe to that diet). The '85 cup final was sickening but we'd won two trophies and the team were too knackered, coming back after Rotterdam.
Ian @19 sums it up for me. I'll never forgive them for getting us banned and I'll forever support two teams: us and whoever they're playing.
Like other posters, I used to think that our time would come again. All we have seen is false dawn followed by false dawn. For the first time in my lifetime, I genuinely don't think we'll get back to those days of the mid-80s when we were the best side in the country and we expected to win every game.
I know things change, look at Man City and Chelsea for example, but we seem so far off even being competitive at the top end of the table at the moment. We really have wasted a lot of money to produce a poor football team. It doesn't bear thinking about the players we could have bought and the team we could have had for the same amount of money we have squandered on poor buys and managerial compensation packages.
52 Posted 19/02/2019 at 14:17:09
53 Posted 20/02/2019 at 00:08:05
The ball was played back to the keeper, Lineker sprinted, closed his options down and scored, when any other striker at that timewould not have even chased a likely lost cause down.
54 Posted 20/02/2019 at 00:22:49
55 Posted 20/02/2019 at 09:25:58
Spot on. And a good manager makes a team with the materials at his disposal, and supplements those materials when possible.
Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey leading the club to the title in 1986-87 was the work of genius. We will never know whether the sale of Lineker was a good or bad thing, long term, but that season saw some of the best football I have seen at Goodison. The spell around Christmas was magnificent.
There were outstanding performances from the great players from the previous two seasons, but Alan Harper, Kevin Langley, Wayne Clarke, Paul Wilkinson, Neil Adams and the imperious Paul Power made huge contributions.
56 Posted 20/02/2019 at 20:13:59
In reality the way football has developed I think past strikers can only really be compared “like for like” with modern day strikers from (arbitrarily) 1960 onwards.
Greaves could be compared with any modern day striker, likewise Best.
Oh dear sounds like another thread.
57 Posted 21/02/2019 at 04:42:24
58 Posted 21/02/2019 at 07:10:34
The highlights of that Luton game are on YouTube.
Oh for a Gary Linkeker (or Mick Harford) now!
59 Posted 21/02/2019 at 07:32:18
60 Posted 23/02/2019 at 10:52:31
61 Posted 23/02/2019 at 11:08:51
Same with Catterick selling Bally for a good fee. No vision no dynasty. The Everton Way. Kenwright out!!!!
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