My viewing of Howard's Way

Gerard McKean 20/11/2019 80comments  |  Jump to last

It was with an uncommon mixture of whimsy nostalgia and visceral anger that I set off one afternoon last week to catch a showing of “Howard’s Way” at FACT in the city centre. Nostalgia is an obvious emotion when one is about to be reminded of a great period in our club’s illustrious history, but anger, too, at knowing that I would also be reminded of the events now all too often airbrushed away like they never happened that deprived us, as Nev puts in the film, of at least 5 years of domestic and European domination.

I had decided to leave the car and take the train into town on the off chance, as it were, that I might end up having a few beers before or after the film. My spirits were lifted while standing on the platform at South Parkway station by the unmistakeable Liverpool accents singing “An' if ya know yer ‘istory” as a group of girls and fellas made their way down the steps to join us on the platform. “This could be lively,” I thought to myself, as I and several others joined in!

Encouragingly the screening was a virtual sell-out and anticipation was in the air as many there took the opportunity to say hello to fellow Blues we hadn’t seen for quite some time. Let me say first of all that the film is well worth a watch and it will work on different levels according to age, but it did strike me that this audience was almost exclusively people who had been lucky enough to have seen this team live. I would recommend it to younger Blues though as a way of understanding better not only our history but how our future can be when we get some brave leadership to take us forward.


About these ads

So, having said that it is a good film, and I will deal with some of its many good points, it is also flawed in giving far too much prominence to a certain “celebrity Evertonian”. It’s accepted that you can’t make a film about the 1980s in Liverpool without mentioning the politics of that decade but it’s also a fact that not everyone agrees with the debts accrued on behalf of the city by the Militant Tendency led Council. The post-film discussion over a few pints was reflective of the differing viewpoints, ranging from some in our group in complete agreement with Militant, to the contempt of others for the “champagne socialists” who did rather well out of their 15 minutes of fame.

I’m not arguing the politics, I’m arguing that – by giving a platform to Derek Hatton who deeply divides opinion amongst Evertonians – the film veers off into a bit of a political cul-de-sac. I think personally also that the film misses two crucial political points: i) in this city in the 1980s, the quality of football actually saved the bacon of the politicians running the Town Hall by providing such a wonderful distraction; and ii) it avoids even the slightest allusion to the role of the leader of the Tories in the city at that time in not resisting his Prime Minister, Thatcher, in her determination to persuade Uefa to ban English clubs from Europe. You think he might at least have given it a go seeing as he was also Chairman of Everton Football Club, the Champions of England as that ban was implemented. And a while after that they gave him a knighthood.

And a while after, that someone at Everton had the, well – let’s call it the “dynamite” idea, to name a stand after him. I know I’m off-piste here but that last bit beggars belief when we are reminded in a recent ToffeeWeb article of a true Everton great who does not even have a hot dog stand named after him: Royston Vernon.

Now to some of the film’s good points. I particularly liked the way the stories unfolded; each player was given time to reveal his own thoughts and recollections and the seemingly random group of proper Evertonians sitting round the pub table turned out to be people who had all played a part, great or small, in the story of our club. Normal people, down to earth, humorous, and it was clear that the film-makers had gone looking for them and their stories rather than the other way round. I really enjoyed listening to them and thinking, “Oh, so that was YOU!” or “I know exactly how you felt as that 8-year-old who phoned the club switchboard!”

The players excelled themselves on film as much as they did on the pitch, although the same cannot be said of their singing. All of them came across as genuine blokes and clearly each has a deep and lasting affection for Howard himself and Colin Harvey, for the fans, for the city and, most of all, for Everton Football Club. Howard and Colin knew themselves how important it was to instil a sense of togetherness and teamwork and it simply shone through that these lads would have (and still would) run through a brick wall for each other. I know times have changed but it was still good to see film of the likes of Reid, Ratcliffe and van den Hauwe dispensing summary justice to anyone who’d taken out one of their mates.

What also comes across in the interviews is how articulate this group of players is. Pat van den Hauwe was perhaps the biggest surprise; a softly spoken man of considered words totally at odds with his on-pitch persona, this guy is no psycho! Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy, Paul Bracewell were as good to listen to as to watch them play and John Bailey, Graeme Sharp and Gary Stevens carried themselves well, and Andy Gray’s media training was evident in his moving interviews.

The stars of the show, for me anyway, were Peter Reid, Derek Mountfield, Kevin Ratcliffe and Neville Southall. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are not the first names that come to mind when today’s Everton is looking for lounge hosts etc because these lads say it as they see it. They are not diplomats. Nev doesn’t say much but what he does say makes so much sense, and what a waste he’s not saying it to today’s players.

The skipper is equally uncompromising as is his centre back partner, although Derek is slightly more eloquent, but Peter Reid oozes common sense, class and leadership in a team of leaders. The brief extracts of his eulogy at Howard’s funeral show that he hit the right notes in balancing humorous anecdotes with the celebration of a life and this stood in contrast to the crocodile tears of the actor’s contribution.

And so to the man himself, Howard Kendall, and the film mostly let others do the talking about him, directly and indirectly. Without fail the players spoke with real love for a man they respected totally and yet knew to be ruthless when he felt he needed to be. Often they mentioned Colin Harvey in the same breath and it was clear, as we all knew already, that Howard and Colin were as complementary as coaches as they had been as midfield partners.

When I say “indirectly” I mean, for example, the interview with Harry Catterick attempting to justify selling Alan Ball, while not for one moment being about HK actually spoke volumes about HK; you just knew that what Catterick did to Ball and the way he did it just would not have been Howard’s Way. It was so poignant to recall how hurt the third member of that most complementary of midfield trinities was when he was told he had to leave Everton.

I said at the start that the film might also give pointers to the future. It’s quite eerie to reflect that we are currently in a similar situation as the one that greeted the arrival of Howard as manager. There are some valid reasons why the club did not manage to build on the success of this great team; Heysel being the most obvious, and maybe the occasional bounce of a ball that could easily have gone a different way for us. But, for the most part, it has been our own fault as a club: the lack of leadership, inertia and the acceptance of mediocrity. This all has to change. Still!

I am aware of the arguments for and against the present manager and I regard Marco Silva as a decent man and coach, but this film made me question if he is really the right fit for Everton Football Club. How we would all welcome a young fearless manager to come in now in the mould of a Howard Kendall in the early 1980s; someone who would command the respect of the players because by his sheer work ethic and passion made the best of himself and his talent, someone who would instil the kind of team spirit that he gave his all for as a player, someone who could be as ruthless as Howard in pursuit of his vision for Everton.

To use that word “eerie” again, how prophetic might it be that the film ends with some words from Tim Cahill? He and Duncan Ferguson have the honour towards the end of rounding things off from a present-day perspective and while I would welcome Cahill as potentially exactly the kind of manager I have just described I would hope he would be as shrewd as Howard Kendall in appointing a partner, which means looking beyond Ferguson and anyone else currently at Finch Farm. Ideally Mikel Arteta, but I guess he will be looking to be his own man. But you never know until you ask and Alan Ball was right in saying that once Everton has touched you nothing else will be the same.

Share this article

Reader Comments (80)

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer

Andrew James
1 Posted 20/11/2019 at 22:52:54

Good article. I always look out for your posts because my Auntie says you're a proper Blue.

I agree regarding the Philip Carter point. I was only 6 when it happened but history shows it was a severe punishment for an entire League not the club's fans who were culpable.

I know there was a hooligan problem on the continent from British fans but it wasn't one way. It felt like the English teams conceding their domination of Europe which eventually led to them needing a new way of re-branding with the Premier League and then reducing the amount of clubs in it.

If just our neighbours had rightly been banned, it would have sent the message. Clubs like Everton and Spurs – both who lost out in the first season of being banned I believe – would have been given the opportunity to sort out any hooliganism in-house or might have played behind closed doors.

But our board just lay down and took it.

That Howard Kendall won the league in 87 with an injury-hit squad containing the likes of Paul Power and Wayne Clarke was his greatest achievement in my opinion.

Gerard McKean
2 Posted 20/11/2019 at 23:00:26
My apologies to the editors, all TW readers and especially Jamie Yates: I received a call tonight informing me of Jamie's previous review of the film. Somehow I'd missed that and was wondering why nobody had sent in a few comments. Really sorry, Jamie!
Danny O'Neill
3 Posted 20/11/2019 at 23:48:16
I agree, the nostalgia was great. I was 14 when we won the league in 1985. I know they were a great team but watching that film, I don't think we (I) really appreciated how good they actually were or could have been.

Which goes onto the fact it was very frustrating that they were never given the opportunity to push on and fulfil their even greater potential. Need to dance carefully here as that is the source of the bitterness we get labelled with that materialised in the 90s as we declined. As the theatre production alludes to "bitter, twisted & proud" is a sentiment I relate to as being bitter with reason, twisted with a cause & always proud; you cannot underestimate the impact the events of English hooliganism had on our fortunes.

Yes, there were subsequent bad decisions that were Everton Football Club ones that meant we never capitalised on our success, but just as we were in our prime, we were cut down by forces outside of our control and ironically, our red cousins were at the centre of that. Let's not dwell, as the Kopites can't see past the end of their own noses ("always outraged, never embarrassed" springs to mind).

I agree as well, hooliganism wasn't just restricted to England or the UK; it was a European disease and if I recall, the Dutch in particular were notorious. I suppose this goes back to European institutions having a bias against the UK for reasons I don't understand considering the UK has literally given blood for that continent on many an occasion. We see that politically now, but again, that's another debate.

Finally, the '87 team; I totally agree, this was arguably a bigger achievement by Howard as a manager given the injury challenges he was dealt and the patched-up squad that not only got us through that season, but gave us our 2nd league title in 3 seasons. But for me, the first 11 that romped to the title in 84-85 were on a par with the best we've seen. They simply didn't know how to lose.

Danny O'Neill
4 Posted 20/11/2019 at 00:03:23
I forgot Hatton. The "socialist" who had a season ticket in the 500 Club. The epitome of an Animal Farm hypocrite; everyone is equal, although some are more equal than others. That man and his agenda destroyed my city more than anyone else he blamed it on, in my humble opinion.
Derek Thomas
5 Posted 20/11/2019 at 00:08:53
Well said, Gerard... and full praise for the restraint in the 'unsaid' bits. Proof again, if ever it were required, that one Evertonian is worth twenty kopites.
Andrew James
6 Posted 21/11/2019 at 00:21:06

Totally get your Animal Farm point but, as I am too young to remember Hatton, I would be interested to hear more about what he got up to, thus giving me context.

Danny O'Neill
7 Posted 21/11/2019 at 00:32:46
I don't want to distract the discussion away from what should be about our great 80s team, Andrew, but high-level, the militant Liverpool council of the 80s, led by Hatton, implemented policies (well-meant and intended) that bankrupted the city.

Yes, create jobs... but 5 binmen per wagon when only 3 are required (for example) is not sustainable or economically viable over time. And then his councillors infamously hiring black taxis to distribute leaflets: great use of public funds.

Forget party politics, "Degsy" was and is a poster boy socialist; "Do what I say, not what I do" springs to mind as he led a totally different & privileged life to those he preached to.

Anyway, you asked. but I go back to my original point. From a footballing perspective, what a great time to be an Evertonian and so glad to have lived it.

I guess you just can't escape talking about the city of Liverpool in the 80s without referring to politics as the film implies. Future generations will likely say the same about now!

Dave Ganley
8 Posted 21/11/2019 at 07:55:38
That's a good read Gerrard, it's good to be reminded of how good we used to be, it's also a sharp reminder of the standards we need to get back to.

It's also refreshing to see you put the blame squarely on the club for letting things drift after Heysel. Yes, it was unfair that we didn't get to compete in the European Cup but it was entirely the clubs fault for not building for when we got back into European competition.

As a side issue, looking at previous comments about how unfair the ban was, it was inevitable in my opinion. I was 19 when we first won the league in 85, and I do remember how bad the hooliganism was. Yes, England wasn't the only place to bring hooliganism to the table but England was directly responsible for bringing it in the first place.

The hooliganism in Europe was Europe saying you're not going to take the piss any longer. We are going to fight back and in some instances get our retaliation in first. After Heysel, although we all felt the ban was really harsh, nobody was overly surprised. It was long overdue.

Every week there was mobs rampaging all through England and Liverpool, Mancs, Spurs, West Ham etc had all rampaged through Europe, kicking the living daylights out of people and completely looting all the clothes shops. That's not even mentioning the national team. Everton fans weren't beyond reproach either. I know loads used to go with RS fans abroad to get in on the robbing of shops.

So when Heysel happened, whilst we all thought it was harsh on us, nobody was really surprised at the sanctions. The English were the scum of Europe at the time.

Stan Schofield
9 Posted 21/11/2019 at 10:01:40
Dave, all that is true, but honestly (and this is not looking through blue specs), I don't recall Evertonians ever really getting up to that kind of nonesense. So the ban was very unjust because it included us!
Dave Ganley
10 Posted 21/11/2019 at 11:10:03
You're right to an extent Stan we weren't like the mancs or west ham etc, however we definitely had our moments. Throughout the mid to late 70s there was a lot of trouble in and around Goodison as I remember it often kicking off in the park end. I think by the mid 80s, every sane person was sick to death of trouble week in week out. You couldn't go to many grounds in england and not be subjected to some form of abuse or violence. Also don't forget Heysel came off the back of millwall running riot in Luton. So while Everton were unlucky in that we got banned on the back of the RS rioting, was anybody really surprised that all clubs were made culpable for years of misery that english clubs caused at home and in Europe?
Peter Mills
11 Posted 21/11/2019 at 11:41:38
Excellent article, Gerard, I’m looking forward to watching this.

I couldn’t agree more about Tim Cahill, a man who would command respect in any dressing room on earth and who has vast experience of football worldwide.

Dave Abrahams
12 Posted 21/11/2019 at 11:49:00
Great post Gerard as usual, I couldn’t add a single word to your post nor subtract one about Everton and that period. The least said about the self serving Hatton the better.
Niall McIlhone
13 Posted 21/11/2019 at 12:33:39
Interesting stuff, Gerard, thanks-I would love to see the film at some stage.

I was 27 when we won the (then) old Division One Championship in 87, I recall we played Luton Town at home in the final game and the ground wasn't full? I think I was in the old Family Enclosure. It was indicative of the malaise which had affected football in England post-Heysel, but in no way diminishes what a very good side that "jumbled together" 1987 side were. A curious mix of old crocks, young bucks and good seasoned pros, extremely well-motivated and well-coached.

As for Derek Hatton and the Militant crowd, I had no dealings with him, but did work for LCC at that time, and Hatton's acolytes – the likes of George Knibb – used to regularly do the rounds of local offices and residents meetings trying to directly interfere with the work of Council officers, sometimes contradicting the decisions based on the Council's own policies. Never before or since have I seen such direct and deliberate activity by elected councillors, but I guess it did show some sort of leadership!

Ray Roche
15 Posted 21/11/2019 at 13:16:47
Regarding Heysel and the spineless capitulation of our (And other) Chairmen, does anyone think that the Italian FA, the Spanish FA or the German FA’s would have all quietly accepted the ban? No, at the very least they would have hung the guilty club out to dry and fought the ban. Hooliganism was as much a problem in other countries as it was here but Europe tagged it as a British problem. (Incidentally, France referred to strike action as the “British Disease “, and this from a country that is regularly hamstrung by strike action, Ports, Airports, Air Traffic Control etc. It’s no surprise that they dumped the blame for hooliganism on our shoulders )

As for Hatton, he was another self serving “ socialist “ but he had charisma for some and was a good orator. Just like Hitler.

Ray Roche
16 Posted 21/11/2019 at 13:17:47
Sorry Gerard, I also meant to say that I enjoyed your thought provoking article.👍
Phil Parker
17 Posted 21/11/2019 at 15:32:32
Nice piece, Gerard. As well as the Heysel disaster impacting severly on our club, the club itself made three huge errors, one after the other, which we have never recovered from.

At the end of the 85 season, we allowed the main playing reason for our reanaissance to leave, Andy Gray. What I would have given to bring him on in the 86 season as sub at Forest or Oxford away, or in the final when we needed a lift.

The next brainwave was to let the best goalscorer in England leave after netting 41 times for us. Just one season? The year he was with us we totalled 86 points, but finished runners up by 2 points, and some Blues blamed him? The following year 1987 we also got 86 points. 9 points clear. Champions.

Then, massive clanger number 3, the one that was truly unforgivable, Howard allowed to leave, to manage a mid-table Spanish club. Can still see our then chairman saying that we had now matched the financial offer from Atletico, £125,000 a year. Too late. Howard had given his word. I was truly gutted when these 3 things happened. Still am.

And that was us. Finished. One trophy in 33 years, ripped off trying to replace Lineker with Cottee (no comparison), becoming so desperate we made a man who was happy at the '86 and '89 finals our chairman, and him then having to sell Ferguson to Newcastle for £8 million behind the managers back to appease the bank because of the debt he had put on the club...

I could go on but I would sooner look forward to cheering myself up at the Harry Catterick night tomorrow, reliving the Everton I was brought up on.

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

Christy Ring
18 Posted 21/11/2019 at 15:36:31
Great article Gerard, to this day, I still can't understand how the spineless FA, and all the club's in England,apart from the culprits, just accepted it, without a backlash. Why not ban Liverpool, why should every other team suffer. It wouldn't have happened in any other country.
David Pearl
19 Posted 21/11/2019 at 17:43:01
Must admit, Gerrard, l really liked your style of writing.

And all Blues should hate the other lot for many reasons – not least stopping one of our greatest teams in its tracks. (Justice For The '85!)

Though am I correct in remembering that less Liverpool players jumped ship than ours? If any... plus our manager. It could only happen to Everton.

Danny O'Neill
20 Posted 21/11/2019 at 18:07:00
In fairness, Phil, aside from Andy Gray being released too early (agree with you on that), the other 2 factors can be linked to the European ban.

Would Lineker have left had he had the opportunity to play what we now term Champion's League football with Everton? And would Howard have left so soon and at a time he had built one of the best teams in Europe if he had the opportunity to test himself against Europe's best with that Everton team?

If my ageing memory recalls, I believe he cited something along those lines at the time (sorry, I've not researched so am "shooting from the keyboard" so to speak!!).

I also agree with a lot of what's been said above on both sides. Yes, it was an English / British disease that spread to Europe, and yes, it was dreadful to experience. However, no other nation would have accepted a total ban on all clubs over what was ultimately one incident, albeit a culmination of years of hooliganism.

Arguably it was an understandable reaction to a terrible tragedy at a time when the authorities and fans alike were fed up with the problem. But maybe making an example of Liverpool alone would have been a wake-up call to those clubs who were infamous for their "firms" and an incentive for them and English football in general to clean up their act. I didn't and still don't see a reason why everyone got punished. A singular ban could have been a serious deterrent leading to the same outcome of eradicating the problem & improving football.

On the Everton thing. To echo the sentiment above, I don't own a pair of blue-tinted spectacles either, but I don't ever recall us being like a Chelsea, West Ham, Millwall or Leeds. Yes, we could go toe to toe and stand our ground if provoked but I don't recall us being one of the firms that went looking for trouble (in the main). Maybe I wasn't part of that but I didn't see it like that.

Ray Roche
21 Posted 21/11/2019 at 18:29:36
Danny, Lineker's transfer was purely money-motivated. And not by Lineker. Everton more than doubled their outlay on Lineker in one season and, just like with Ball, took the money and ran. Other players may have wanted to leave after getting a taste of European football but Lineker didn't request a move. In short, we sold him.

We have always been a selling club if the money is right. Sad but true. Rooney, Stones, Lukaku etc – apart from a brief stand re the Stones transfer to Chelsea, we've given in to the pound sign.

Barry Rathbone
22 Posted 21/11/2019 at 18:47:02
We need to stop bleating about Heysel. It was the same for everyone. We just imploded as per our history.

Somebody once said on these pages "We don't do dynasties." The 80s decline was just another example.

Danny O'Neill
23 Posted 21/11/2019 at 18:47:44
Possibly Ray but I'd argue our stance with Linekar could have been different had we had top flight European football as a bargaining incentive; after all, English players aren't renowned for their desire to play abroad and never have been really. It's always been ones and twos unlike our continental counterparts who by nature seek foreign ventures to develop.

Yes that season at the time we wouldn't have qualified for what is now the Champion's League, but we'd have been a team / club that could genuinely have offered that potential to both existing players & prospective signings for the foreseeable had it been available.

That's the football purist in me, but I wouldn't for one minute dismiss other aspects of poor management at the club, so you are right; there were, of course, many factors but this was, at the time, a big contributing one.

I said early on (not on this article!), the European ban aside, Everton never caught onto modern football as it transitioned into the Premier League era and rested on our laurels as one of the then big 5. We didn't invest and that is evident now in our mentality & stadium. It said it all when our only addition to the 87 title winning squad was Ian Wilson (yes who?!!). If you stand still, you're walking backwards right?

To be honest, it could be a city thing as our red cousins only got away with it because of the global standing they generated, in my opinion. It wasn't too long ago they were also competing for 6th / 7th / 8th for a short period and were not too far away from the financial abyss themselves (on the steps of the courthouse for winding up I understand). I have family who worked for them (still do) for decades, and they were seriously lagging behind United & the London clubs in terms of how they run themselves as a business. They too rested on their laurels to a degree but nowhere near as much as we have.

Ray Roche
24 Posted 21/11/2019 at 19:30:36
Danny, Lineker himself has said that we sold him, he didn't ask or push for a move.

He knew he wasn't wanted. He's also intelligent and embraced Spanish life, learning the language sufficiently well to conduct interviews in Spanish. He also enjoyed his adventure in Spain. Not your average Brit abroad in the eighties?

Your post though is on the money in your other observations.

Danny O'Neill
25 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:07:03
I know he didn't ask to move Ray and your points are well made. I just feel had the circumstances been different, when the approach was made (there will have been an approach given he'd banged in 40 goals), we might have dealt with it differently in different circumstances.

You're right, it was undoubtedly a business / financial decision at the time. If we had the bounty of European football on the financial forecast, would we have thought different about selling off prize assets to balance the books or make profit?

We can only guess and our behaviour since would suggest not, but had we continued in the vein we had done, enabled by European success, would we have grown into a different club? Hypothetical, I appreciate... and something that wrangles with me to this day!!

Ray Roche
26 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:24:40
Danny, yes, if we had been able to compete in Europe I have little doubt that our stars, Lineker included, would not have left or been sold. The Board would have been happy with the income from the European games etc.

I mentioned earlier that I am still pissed off that everyone capitulated instead of fighting the ban. Although the public outcry from the country who don't follow football would have been deafening.

Brian Harrison
27 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:28:42

I wholeheartedly agree on both Hatton and Sir Philip Carter. For me,the sale of Lineker by Carter said everything about the man, long before we had Sky or radio programmes dedicated to football. I remember Carter being interviewed on the radio and the reporter interviewing Carter said "The rumour going round is you have sold Lineker to Barcelona." Carter replied that he could categorically deny that Lineker had been sold to Barcelona.

Then minutes later the same radio programme had an interview with Linekers father who ran a fruit and veg stall on Leicester market. He was asked could he confirm the rumour that Gary had signed for Barcelona, to which he said yes Gary has signed for Barcelona, which was confirmed some hours later.

I haven't had a chance to see the film, but I can imagine it must have been terrific listening to the players talk about being in a great Everton team. I was lucky enough to be at the players banquet after beating Watford in the FA Cup and those guys played hard and also knew how to enjoy their success.

I was also lucky enough to bump into Peter Reid when both our Grandsons played in a 5-a-side game in Manchester. I spent a whole hour just reminiscing with Peter about those days I was in heaven.

I know some posters have suggested past Blues to take over at some point in the future, Cahill and Arteta being well supported. But, for me, there is only one stand out candidate, and his playing career was on a different level than either Cahill or Arteta. For me, it has to be Wayne Rooney.

He played under some of the best managers around Ferguson, Van Gall, Capello. He also became England's leading scorer as well as being a Champions League winner and a Premier League winner. I know many will say he hasn't managed anyone but Lampard only had a season at Derby and Gerrard no experience of management before taking over at Rangers, and both have done well. But, for me, Rooney has a better footballing brain than both of these.

Stan Schofield
28 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:33:19
Brian, I would agree with that. Wayne Rooney was born a footballing genius. Genius is an overused term, but it applies to him. There's no guarantee that that genius would transfer to management, but there's only one way to find out.
Stan Schofield
29 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:35:47
Ray @21: Spot on. Everton first started pissing me off when I was 17, when Alan Ball was sold,
Joe McMahon
30 Posted 21/11/2019 at 20:37:06
Brian @27,

Gerrard and Lampard are doing well, as you say, but also remember Derby County were a success last season – look where they are now. Rangers are a threat again to Celtic also.

Your claim about Rooney is a big one, time will tell.

John Keating
31 Posted 21/11/2019 at 21:09:06
We rightly talk about all the hooliganism the English supporters took to the Continent in the '80s but personally, maybe luckily, I didn't see any following us.

The run in the Cup Winners Cup, I went every game, and, although there may have been some naughtiness I can't recall seeing anything amiss.

Everywhere we went, we had a great time. I don't think we went to any of the centres, we just got an ale house a bit out of the way, had a good drink with the locals and ended up getting them becoming Blues!

Brian Garside
32 Posted 21/11/2019 at 21:14:31
A really enjoyable read, Gerard.

Very few acknowledge the 30 pieces of silver stand and more concerned with Derek Hatton who had less to do with our downfall than the Chairman.

I too really enjoyed the film and will do so again and again.

Tony Abrahams
33 Posted 21/11/2019 at 21:21:47
Very good read that, Gerard, and because we “mostly think” the same way about the club we both love, our club, it also makes me sad.

Steve Hogan
34 Posted 21/11/2019 at 21:31:18
Gerard, thanks for your comments and observations above. I downloaded the film from Sky and watched it on my own, so I could get an uninterrupted viewing for the length of the film.

I too, was disappointed with 'you know who' being given a leading role in the introduction of the film. I lived through the '80s as a committed Labour voter and trade unionist and was amazed how a humble fireman rose to such an influential position on Liverpool City Council so quickly.

Neil Kinnock, whatever people think of him, exposed him brutally at the Labour Party conference, which was the beginning of the end for his political career.

As to the film itself, I have to say, I felt slightly disappointed with the result. There was little or no 'new' footage (perhaps there isn't any) on show, and very little or no time given to Howard's managerial career prior to joining Everton.

Also, no mention of him being the youngest player ever to appear in an FA Cup Final at the time, in 1964.

I'm felt as if the Evertonians in the film talking in the pub, were simply repeating what we all felt at the time, that a great side were denied the opportunity to play against Europe's best teams, but maybe with a sense of us being cast as 'victims', and fate conspiring once again to 'kick us in the balls'.

I'm not sure what relevance the infamous Clive Thomas incident in 1977 had to do with the ban we suffered in the mid-80s?

I enjoyed the film, simply because it was a visual reminder of what I witnessed at the time, including my midweek trip to Oxford United and that famous Kevin Brock backpass which proved the catalyst for everything else that followed.

I just think the film-makers could have left much of the local political 'figures' of the time on the cutting room floor.

I still enjoyed the film though.

Keith Taylor
35 Posted 21/11/2019 at 22:12:54
I thoroughly enjoyed the film from a nostalgia point of view, and it was great to hear from the players just how much they loved the club and Howard. It was clear that the team was a very tight group who looked out for each other, and this was clearly a big part of their success, along with their undoubted footballing skills.

However, I felt a great deal of sadness when they talked about the Bayern game being the best night of their footballing lives. There should have been so many more nights like that.

I was disappointed that the film focussed so much on the 18 months of 1984 through to mid-1985. The subsequent two seasons were very successful, we were probably a better team in 85-86, and becoming champions again in '87 was a fantastic achievement, but it was given very little recognition in the film.

Yes, 84-85 was a period of unrivalled success, but the break up of that great team and the failure to build on it was painful for us all to watch, and hearing about that from the players would have been very interesting and illuminating.

I am not sure why we had to hear so much from Derek Hatton, I am not clear why his views are relevant to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster but, at the end, I was left wanting more.

Andrew James
36 Posted 21/11/2019 at 00:03:54

Thanks for your input about Hatton.

For the record, Lineker's transformation from being a high scoring Leicester striker to scoring nearly 40 goals for us and winning the Golden Boot in Mexico '86 was done in 18 months so I suspect Howard Kendall, knowing we'd not won anything, trusted his '85 winners and was prepared to let him go for a profit.

My Dad says this and I agree, we should have negotiated a buy-back clause when he left Barca. Somebody like him would have massively benefited us in the early '90s.

Danny O'Neill
37 Posted 22/11/2019 at 06:03:32
Interesting point Stan. I generally think that truly great (genius) players, don't make great managers or coaches.

Cruyff aside, I can't think of many. I remember reading about Gullit. Apparently he found it difficult to coach because players at that level don't think about how they do things - it's that natural to them. So it becomes difficult for them to explain and they get frustrated when players can't do what they consider "normal" stuff.

Keith; agree and I think I said above, from Howard's perspective, the 87 title win was arguably a greater achievement. In pure footballing terms though, the 85 team was one of the best ever put together. And when you consider the position we were in only 16/17 months earlier (that Coventry game, leaflets, Kendall must go etc), to be champions of England with an FA Cup & European Trophy under our belt was also a fantastic achievement & turn around.

Great times. Finished my 3rd viewing last night!!

Paul Tran
38 Posted 22/11/2019 at 07:39:48
Lovely piece, Gerard, and I agree that there was too much about Hatton.

I would have liked to have seen more of the 85/87 seasons. We played some great stuff, Nev gavec the best goalkeeping display I've ever seen at Anfield and we got a high points total. In 87 we came from behind to win the league at a canter.

In the mid 80s, both Merseyside clubs were run like small family businesses. I think our success caught our board on the hop and they didn't know what to do. Some may argue they still don't.

Jim Bennings
39 Posted 22/11/2019 at 08:45:21
Good point Paul.

Right down to this very day, success is never planned or expected at Everton Football Club.

It was the same in that all too brief period in the 1980’s.

It came about unexpectedly and our board never had a clue what to do with it, we sold our better players and replaced them with lesser men (something else which to this very day is still happening).

We should have went into that 1990’s decade with a higher expectation level than say the likes of Arsenal even but we totally disappeared, partly because the European ban but also because we had idiots working on the board.

The fact that Everton have not challenged for the title for 30 years now is a disgrace whenyou look at the list of clubs that have been up there in that time challenging at least.

Even when Liverpool has barren spells they always harboured the belief that they SHOULD be winning things and demanded success.

Everton have simply been too half arsed whether it comes or not.

All comes down once again to mentality.

Jimmy Hogan
40 Posted 22/11/2019 at 11:22:21
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. You can stream it on Amazon for £4.49. The only disappointment for me was that I felt the filmakers ran out of time, so 1985/1986 and 1986/1987 had to be crammed into about 5 minutes. The 1985/1986 team was probably our best side, even though we had to settle for second place that year. My other observation is those shorts!!! How tiny were they compared to the modern era. I'm surprised they could play in them.
Dave Williams
41 Posted 22/11/2019 at 17:42:20
Lineker was correctly sold because we made a huge profit and Heath was chomping at the bit to play. Whilst Lineker and Sharp scored 60 odd goals between them the change to a more direct style of play badly affected the goals contributed by the likes of Steven and Sheedy. With Sharp and Heath reunited we went one better than we did with Lineker and won the league.
The decline was due to Kendall leaving and Harvey wasting a stack of money on Cottee, Nevin, McDonald, Beagrie and never coming close to replacing the man who never gets the credit he deserves for his huge contribution- the great Peter Reid. Steven and Stevens became disillusioned and left, Pat was going off the rails in his personal life and Ratters lost his pace due to injury.
Harvey was a coach and could not sort out this mess- Howard back in those days before his decline set in probably would have done. That was the big mistake- allowing him to feel sufficiently undervalued so he’d leave- he should have been tied to a long and lucrative contract.
Dermot Byrne
42 Posted 22/11/2019 at 17:42:57
Just watched the final 20 mins. Fantastic. Fuck this is right or that is wrong.

Perhaps we could learn from those players.

Support and get together.

Shit...that would mess up the 8 or nine "scientists" on here.

I love our club..regardless!

Darren Hind
43 Posted 22/11/2019 at 17:50:30
It would Keep the arl quilts happy at least AND although it would kill debate, they would get to replace TW with the baggie they always wanted

Lets all raise a port and lemon to the wonderful "fuck this right and wrong" lark


Dermot Byrne
44 Posted 22/11/2019 at 18:03:35
What are "arl quilts"?

'Lets all raise a port and lemon to fuck this right and wrong lark"

Absolutely, 1000000000% agree my friend.

Isn't that what we do with our differing knowledge, experience and location. Great. Who is right? Fuck knows but usually quite spread.

Open of course for contributing nothing apart from a reaction to a film. Or comments on team and club. But hey our family season tickets ended when I was 12 due to cost, so I look at this through TW and TV and the occasional visit.

Sure some here I wind up but so I do in life. As we all do. C'est la vie.

Thankfully it means little and is s bit of fun. My friend from Chicago used to do the same but called it a day sadly.

Seems OK to me.

Brian Wilkinson
45 Posted 22/11/2019 at 18:22:56
Some good inputs on here and looking forward to watching the dvd later.

I will try and add some input, I started going the games towards the mid seventies and around 79 followed Everton home and away and was lucky enough to be a regular as the team started to build, I have no shame in saying we were really struggling and was one of those on the terraces booing at the Coventry game, the football was dire, I could not image what was to unfold within a year.

Peter Reid and Andy Gray gave belief to the team, they were the voice and never give up attitude that lifted a team, Sharp learned how to handle himself, we took two a Liverpool reserves and boy did they both turn out to be a shrewd buy.

Even through that golden period, we suffered like no other Champions through injuries, Heath, Bracewell, Southall all out long term, that team of 85 were untouchable for me, then it happened, the ban came into force, just like when we won the league just before the First World War, it hit us again when the Second World War broke out, so to be cut short in our prime a third time was extremely bad luck.

Norwich City wanted Everton to back them in fighting the ban, but Everton refused and accepted the ban.

Then came the 86 team, again Lineker did a fantastic job filling the boots of Andy Gray, it made sense, we were a young side, so buying the best striker for long term made perfect sense, all was going well, well clear then fate bit us on the backside, when Southall picked up his injury playing for Wales, good as Mimms played, there was no way Everton would have let that 12 point lead slip, with Neville between the sticks.

Then came the rumours Barcelona were looking for a Manager, to this Day, I still say Kendall let Lineker go to Barcelona, expecting to join up with him soon, Venables got the job instead.

Lineker never asked for the move, Kendall said we were too dependant on Lineker and did not suit our style, but still say we should not have sold Lineker.

The following season would seem to back up Kendall’s claim, but personally for me, we just had rotten luck with the Southall injury along with Bracewell and Heath, that 86 team were no mugs, just fate yet again biting us on the backside.

That team from 85 going onto 87 were the the best in the Country, fate snatched it away from a team that would have certainly picked up more Silverwere.

So any of the younger generation who were unlucky not to see that great Everton team, I would strongly suggest watching Howard’s Way.

One final note, Derek Mountfield had a knack at popping up and scoring, a great defender and again has stated by Mountfield himself, he suffered a fit and told Kendall about it, Kendall said not to worry and he will keep it hush hush, a month later Kendall paid out big money to bring Dave Watson to Everton and that was the end for Mountfield who was allowed to move on to another club.

Brian Wilkinson
46 Posted 22/11/2019 at 18:34:59
Sorry above should say Venables was leaving Barcelona job with Kendall on the short list for the job.
Darren Hind
47 Posted 22/11/2019 at 19:03:05
BTW; The quality of your work is remains a cut above Gerard. Skillfully crafted article.

I have a question; On a scale of 1-10 How good could an injury free Paul Bracewell have been ?

I don't know whether its because his career was cut short by bastard luck, but Brace seems to always be in the background when the plaudits are being handed out. Never quite front and center.
I thought he went through a spell when he was quite simply the best midfield player in the country.

Brian Wilkinson
48 Posted 22/11/2019 at 19:16:24
If not for injury I would put Bracewell up there with the very best.
Paul Tran
49 Posted 22/11/2019 at 19:21:13
He was wonderful, Darren.

If my memory's right, he had an injured leg, kept getting patched up and injected, then it emerged he'd fractured his leg. That's what did him.

That debut against them at Wembley. That pass to Steven against Sunderland.

Brian Williams
50 Posted 22/11/2019 at 19:24:46
Ah that pass to Tricky. Still remember it well, and what a team performance that was as well.
Danny O'Neill
51 Posted 22/11/2019 at 19:37:36
Bracewell was simply graceful to watch. He sprayed the ball around like an artist; that pass for the Steven goal says it all.

Injury blighted him however I wonder that even had he been free of that, would he have suffered from the Everton blight.

No bitterness here, but even before my generation, we were a top & very successful club but Harvey & Kendall had one England cap between them.

Even when we have been successful, we just aren't media darlings.

Brian Wilkinson
52 Posted 22/11/2019 at 20:19:25
If you look at our history, we must be the unluckiest team going, in 1915 Everton were champions, the outbreak of the First World War put a stop to that team.

Then you have Everton winning the league again in the 39 season, with Tommy Lawton banging the goals in, yet again another war stops that great team in its tracks.

Then you have the eighties team, who once again was stopped in its tracks, by the Euro ban.

As for injuries, I doubt there is any other top flight league Champions who have had to play with key players missing through injury long term.

Pretty damn sure there is a gypsys curse laying somewhere within Goodison Park.

Ray Roche
53 Posted 22/11/2019 at 20:58:27
Brian Wilkinson @45,

Brian, can we please end once and for all the misconception that Southall's injury damaged our chances of winning the League in 85-86. Neville was injured playing for Wales on 26th March. We had nine games left. We won 6, Drew 2 and lost 1. Mimms kept 6 clean sheets and our goal difference was F 14, A 3.

We lost the League because we failed to beat Man Utd and Nottm Forest away and lost to Oxford. Meanwhile, Liverpool were on a winning streak, with eleven wins and one draw in their last twelve games. Nothing to do with Mimms, more our forwards failing at Oxford etc. and Liverpool in unstoppable form.

Ray Roche
54 Posted 22/11/2019 at 21:00:05
Incidentally, in the three games we didn't win, Mimms conceded one goal.
Geoff Cadman
55 Posted 22/11/2019 at 21:59:21
Brian #45,

Spot on with your views on the sale of Lineker. It was El Kel to replace El Tel. I think we tried to resign him but he picked Spurs because of Venables. It wasn't just Bracewell who suffered after injury. Inchy was never the same player after his knee and I hadn't heard about Derek Mount and his fit, I thought he had been replaced because of dodgy knees. One thing that did come out in the film, one of the reasons for Kendall's success was how ruthless he was.

Regarding the European ban. From the day Thatcher told Ted Croker to do something about his Hooligans his reply: "They're your Hooligans, not mine." She was on a mission. There was only one outcome after Heysel, and no amount of protest would have overturned our ban.

I agree that Uefa should have been also held accountable, and Italy too. A lot of kopites where given hidings the previous year in Rome, but no punishment was dished out. In Brussels, Italians were riding round on scooters, randomly slashing fans. Again, no reprisals.

For the record, when we finally beat Liverpool in a derby, there will be trouble for the first time in years. Guess what: there will be no reprisals.

Danny O'Neill
56 Posted 22/11/2019 at 22:12:00
Mimms actually played fantastic. As the posters above say, it was our own misgivings at Nottingham & Oxford combined with a ridiculous run by Liverpool that swung it their way.

To think we were that good though. Champions the season before, close runners up that season, to come back and be crowned Champions again the following season. Even the season after, which was "poor" as we only finished 4th. I appreciate the prizes were different then, but imagine that; 1st, 2nd, 1st, 4th.

Good days.

Jeff Armstrong
57 Posted 22/11/2019 at 22:36:53
Danny #56,

We were runners up in '87 and in 5 cup finals too.

I don't believe this team or squad received the credit they deserve for an incredible 5 years... even from our own long-standing supporters... 2 league championships, 4... yes FOUR FA Cup Finals!!!! A League Cup final, a European final win, and apparently we were better in '63 and '68-'70.

Danny O'Neill
58 Posted 22/11/2019 at 22:46:12
No Jeff, Champions 84-85 & 86-87. Runners up 85-86; I remember it all too unfortunately well but a great team.

It was an incredible period as you say; I'm just grateful I was there at Goodison and other stadium around the country to witness it first hand.

I can't comment on the '60s teams as they were before my time. However, I grew up with my father talking about them and all I can say is that he rated the 84-85 team as the best he'd seen (and he watched the Holy Trinity, I didn't).

Geoff Cadman
59 Posted 22/11/2019 at 23:47:15
Regarding the Southall injury, no matter how well Mimms played, the knock-on effect of Southall's injury on the rest of the side was apparent. They didn't play with the same confidence and were more defence-minded; they were scrapping through against sides they would have beaten more comfortably. It was only after the defeat at Oxford, and the title as good as gone, that they had the comfortable wins against Southampton and West Ham: 9 for, 2 against... previous 7 games: 5 for 1 against.
Jack Convery
60 Posted 22/11/2019 at 00:10:04
The Tories have always ruled by the law of the classroom – when one steps out of line, all are punished, hence Thatcher's ban. Everton FC have never recovered from that ban and all the memories we had stolen from us.

But our heartache over the decision is as nothing to the heartbreak of the families who were bereaved on that night in Heysel. May they Rest In Peace and not be forgotten, as seems to be the case in some quarters.

I have bought the DVD and intend to watch it on my own as I know the tears will flow as the greatest of times in my lifetime as a Blue is played out in front of me.

Paul Tran
61 Posted 23/11/2019 at 07:06:18
Mimms played really well, but he wasn't Nev. The next time we have a truly outstanding goalkeeper we'll remember the difference between a good one and great one.

For what it's worth, my memory of 1985/86 was that we had a sluggish start and that cost us as much as anything else.

Danny O'Neill
62 Posted 23/11/2019 at 08:16:44
That's a good point Paul; I think we were adapting a slightly different style as we adjusted to going a bit more direct to exploit Linekar's pace. That said, we still threw it away at the end; ours to lose & we choked. I was only 15 & have always been a superstitious soul, so personally, I always blamed that awful "white bib" kit!!

Remember the start to 84-85 as well? Thumped 4-1 at home to Tottenham on the opening day followed by defeat to West Brom; indeed, come early September, we'd only taken 4 points from 12.

Derek Thomas
63 Posted 23/11/2019 at 08:30:07
Paul Tran @ 61; Exactly so. Our first 'Lineker' league game of the season was away to his old our 'Everton That' world we seem to inhabit, there's only one way that's going to go...and so it went.

Another prime example was the home Derby - we get a point, (not to mention 3) and they don't get 3 and the League Table is a different ball game.

And I'm convinced that we went into the Cup Final with Mountfield and definitely Bracewell carrying injuries and not 100% fit. Bracewell played the whole game, wasn't subbed and walked off under his own steam...he didn't kick a ball for 18mths and was never the same player.

Ray Roche
64 Posted 23/11/2019 at 09:31:20
Geoff Cadman@59, Paul Tran@61

Our style for the whole season had been different to the previous and, as it turned out, the following season.
I have given the stats (I know, Stats! But they are important here) for the last nine games with Mimms in goal. The previous nine with Neville in goal are almost identical: P9 W6 D2 L1. Goals for-19. Against 8. So we scored more and conceded more. If Lineker had buried the two easy chances against Oxford the outcome would have been different. Plus, you forget that the RS put together an incredible run with 23 points out of a possible 24. We, basically, bottled it. Nothing to do with Mimms and the imagined lack of confidence.

Derek Knox
65 Posted 23/11/2019 at 10:00:56
My hat's off to you Ged, what a good read and a painful reminder of when our success was 'rewarded' in expulsion from Europe, through no fault of our own making.

That decision which was 'unchallenged' by those who were in a position to do so, also grates, even so many years later. Like you succinctly mentioned was to result in the gradual break-up of our team, which hypothetically could have gone on to achieve great things.

I am 70 next year, so was fortunate enough to have witnessed our great times and attended most matches home and away, so thanks again for your article Ged, and a reminiscent trip down Memory Lane.

Paul Tran
66 Posted 23/11/2019 at 11:41:26
I share your view on spurious stats, Ray, but your stats stand up here. I've always had a view that the great keepers have a presence that inspires those in front of them and intimidates those against them. Nev had it, Bob didn't.

I still think we lost the league at the start. I also remember being at both Old T & Forest and wondering if those dropped points would cost us.

I also remember going to that 2-0 Anfield Derby with a good RS mate. Sitting in the pub afterwards, he pointed at their run-in and thought they still had a chance. He was right!

Kevin Molloy
67 Posted 23/11/2019 at 11:47:25
I don't think it does any of us any good to lament Heysel vis a vis Everton. 39 people dead, and English hooliganism having been a problem for at least ten years before, the country was always going to get a lengthy ban, and after such a horrific event we were well advised not to go belly aching to the government or Uefa. Also, the events of Heysel could easily have been Everton, of course it could. We were no better or worse than Liverpool fans, and charging other fans was a well known phenomenon in those days. Tragically, a wall came down and people died, I don't blame Liverpool the club for that, it was just bad luck.
Yes, it's very disappointing the way it ended, but it was always going to end, one way or another. These teams have a shelf life, and we had four or five fantastic years. I think we should revel in those times and then move on.
Ray Roche
68 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:00:04
Yes, Nev would have had a positive effect on defenders but I do think that it detracts from Mimms performances for people to regularly point to his inclusion in the team as a reason for our failure to win the League. The blame lies elsewhere. Ignore the last two matches when Lineker scored 4or 5 and, in the previous eight or nine games, I think he scored once.
Kevin Molloy
69 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:04:14
I've not seen the DVD yet, but for me it is the 87 team that underlines Howard's true greatness as a football manager.
How on earth did he get a team made up on many occasions of Mimms Power Pointon Adams Langley Harper and Clarke (good players though they were) to win the League? A staggering achievement
Brian Williams
70 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:14:41
Also, the events of Heysel could easily have been Everton, of course it could. We were no better or worse than Liverpool fans, and charging other fans was a well known phenomenon in those days.
Sorry but I take umbrage at that statement. Compare that incident with Rotterdam TWO WEEKS earlier. Everton supporters playing football in the square with Dutch police involved in the game. Everton supporters lauded by the Dutch authorities for their behaviour. You, Kevin, may think you were no better than rs supporters. I, and all my match going mates were, and still are.
Paul Tran
71 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:22:09
I certainly wouldn't blame Mimms, Ray, he did a great job. It was a great run in by both teams, which they edged.
Kevin Molloy
72 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:41:51
Everton fans and Liverpool fans are drawn from the same families. this is ridiculous, surely.
Jay Wood

73 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:48:19
Three things from this thread:

1) (the most important!). Curiously, I'm struggling to find the film on Amazon, preferably the download version, as Brazilian post is lousy and I wouldn't trust it to deliver the DVD. Any links would be appreciated.

2) Ray Roche's numbers confirm my memory. Bobby Mimms was nothing less than excellent on taking over the keeper's gloves when Big Nev got injured.

Claims that the rest of the team were a bit more cautious or nervous with Mimms in goal don't stand up for me. In a time keepers could still pick up the ball from back passes, I recall in the game at Old Trafford Gary Stevens, under pressure, gave a very tight, pressured back pass to Mimms. It could have gone horribly wrong. Mimms dealt with it with aplomb. I genuinely recall thinking at the time, Stevens would never have played that pass unless he had total confidence in his keeper to deal with it.

3) Totally agree with Brain Williams @ 70. I'm not having that claim by Kevin Molly re: their fans vs ours at the time of our respective European finals.

I was in Rotterdam that day. It was a joyous event all day long and the Dutch loved us.

By contrast, some time last year, somebody put up a very disturbing piece by a (now) journalist, a city-born red, about their own day in Brussels. I can't recall his name (others knew of him), but it was the most honest assessment I have ever read by any Red of that day.

He said there was a lot of anger, a lot of hate, a lot of intimidation and violence throughout the day which was just the prelude to the tragic events that occurred in the stadium.

You've called that one badly, Kevin.

Gerard McKean
74 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:51:43
Kevin #67, sorry but I agree completely with Brian #70 in saying you’ve got this wrong. Your willingness to forgive is admirable but I believe you fail to understand the context.

In my time, and that includes the hooligan period in question, I have travelled far and wide with Everton and over the years I also got to know some of the real hard men. Let me say this: the Everton crew were bad lads but they had a sense of “honour” that meant they did not trouble anyone but the opposition crew, by which I mean their counterparts who were geared up for a rumble.

I’ve been in situations where Everton fans have been attacked inside and outside grounds like Man Utd, Leeds, West Ham and Notts Forest. In each case there was no reason for such attacks and the police were too few to prevent it, but each time I was glad to be with good men who by not running away actually defused worse trouble.

Rotterdam and Brussels are geographically close so there was no huge cultural difference to take into account in explaining the events of two cup finals two weeks apart. What happened at Heysel was that a minority of Liverpool fans saw a chance to serve retribution for previous attacks on Liverpool fans in Rome.

Not only is Juventus not in Rome but their supporters inside the ground at Heysel were very different people to the thugs waiting all tooled up in the dark passageways of Rome for innocent and unsuspecting foreign fans.

I am with Brian: Everton fans did not go out looking for trouble. The organised crew went about their business away from the ground. My issues are: no, it could not have just as easily been us, yes, the events of Heysel should be commemorated and its victims mourned, and yes, I’m still angry that EFC’s chairman (and Tory leader in Liverpool) acquiesced with Thatcher in agreeing to a ban that should have been put on LFC only. It was not this bloody ban that solved the hooligan problem by the way, but that’s another story.

Kevin Molloy
75 Posted 23/11/2019 at 12:56:28
I'm not making a specific comparison of the two finals, but of the twos sets of supporters, but ok, I've also read alot of accounts given by LIverpool fans of that day. It was a completely different scenario to Rotterdam. Heysel was a hostile environment, the fans did not take to each other from the off. alot of cons thrown, alot of provocation to behave badly. liverpool fans charged the Juventus fans, after alot of argy bargy. if Everton fans had been in that stadium, it would in my view have been people from the same city schooled by the behaviours of the day to react in the same way.
Kevin Molloy
76 Posted 23/11/2019 at 13:00:08
I think you make some fair points there. I don't know THAT much about the Liverpool fans m o to be certain of my views. But the fact that Liverpool fans indulged in a 'charge' after bad behaviour on both sides, does not make me want to cast them, and them alone, into outer darkness. They were violent days, with fault on all sides.
Jay Wood

77 Posted 23/11/2019 at 13:37:05
Read this, Kevin. I found what I referred to. It may give you a different perspective on your original claims.

No tabloid made-up story this. This is Tony Evans writing in the Sunday Times. He was 22-years-old at the time of Brussels. This is his account of his day.

Our Day of Shame

A Liverpool fan recalls how events spiralled out of control. By Tony Evans at the Sunday Times.

NEVER forgive, never forget. Never understand. On Merseyside, the feelings about the Heysel disaster are as deep as they are confused.

The chant above was sung at the derby match last month by Everton fans, many of whom feel that in some way they are the real victims of that dreadful day because their title-winning team could not play in the European Cup the next season. It taunted Liverpool supporters, some of whom still feel that they had nothing to do with the deaths of 39 people on that May night nearly 20 years ago.

“A wall collapsed, that was all."

I have said it and heard it countless times. Except it is a lie.

There was a moment that day that, more than anything that would happen over the ensuing 24 hours, has haunted me. Our train had just arrived at Jette station and a long column of Liverpool supporters set off downhill towards the centre of Brussels. I lingered and watched them, chequered flags flying, and thought it looked like a medieval army on the move. Above the narrow street, the locals hung out of open windows and watched, half-grinning but nervous. As I set off for the Grand Place, I thought: “We can do what we like today. No one can stop us."

It was warm and sunny, but there was a dark side to the general mood. It did not need the chequered flags, bought in Rome, to remind anyone about the events in the Italian capital a year before. Then, playing AS Roma in the European Cup final in their own stadium, Liverpool had won the cup but it was not a day remembered with affection. Before the match, scooter gangs has stalked the travelling fans. After the game, Rome erupted in rage, and the bloody events around the Olympic Stadium left everyone who was there and those who had only heard talk of what happened determined not to suffer again at the hands of Italian ultras.

“The Italians won't do that to us again” was a refrain repeated in the weeks since the semi-final. It was not a matter of revenge. It was a wariness, a fear that built itself up to an enormous rage that would spill out at the slightest perceived provocation.

The anger was palpable, and not just toward Italians. The British media, we felt, had barely reported one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the game's history. Had it happened to supporters from any other city, there would have been outrage. But Liverpool was out of step with the mood of the country, marginalised and despised. Well, we could fight our own battles.

Turning into a narrow street in the centre of town, my brother and I saw about six Juventus fans in their twenties, lounging outside a cafe, trying to look cool and hard at the same time. When one looked me straight in the eye, I snarled: “Go on gobshite, say something." They did not take up the offer. But the tone was set. And the drinking had not even started.

We were used to confrontation, though not necessarily at football matches. The first half of the 1980s was perhaps the city's lowest point, philosophically and economically. Scousers were labelled as thieves in the press, the city's working class moved ever leftwards as Margaret Thatcher was feted and the culture gap between Liverpool and the rest of England was stretched to breaking point.

Many of Liverpool's travelling fans were politicised, even if only in a loose way. Quite a few of us had battled with police outside at Eddie Shah's printing plant in Warrington and gravitated towards Militant Tendency. On the ordinary trains the tales were as likely to be about picket lines and Troops Out marches as incidents at football grounds. This was not hooligan culture as popularly imagined.

Where other clubs' supporters gave themselves butch names and built a myth of organisation and generals, Liverpool and Everton fans mocked the hooligan ethos relentlessly. Read copies of The End, the seminal fanzine of the period, and the picture is clear. Service Crews, Headhunters and their ilk were laughable. The Inter City Firm drew guffaws and was seen not as a force to be admired and feared but as something from a Thatcherite Ealing Comedy. None of those people were present in Brussels, no matter what was said at the time. Hooligans from the far right would not have been welcome.

Of course, this did not mean there was no trouble at our games, just that it evolved in a different manner. When groups of young, aggressive, predominantly working-class men are put in confrontational situations, then there will be confrontation. There was.

The Grand Place was less tense than might have been expected. Liverpool fans were here in numbers and small groups who had travelled independently met up, felt safe and relaxed into an afternoon of drinking. Clustered around the bars, we sang, bare-chested in the sun. It was almost idyllic. Then the atmosphere started to turn as the drink kicked in.

The common belief was that Belgian beer was weaker than the booze at home. In the heat, young men used to drinking a gallon of weak mild were quaffing strong lagers as if they were lemonade. Small incidents started to mushroom and suddenly the mood changed and the bars began to shut down.By now, there were four of us in our little group. We were reluctant to leave the square because other friends may still be heading for the rendezvous. I went to find some beer, taking a red and white cap to give some protection from the sun. Walking down a narrow street, I saw a group of boys laughing almost hysterically. Seeing my quizzical look, they pointed at a shop. It was a jewellers with no protective grating over the window. All you could do was laugh.

Farther on, I saw a group of Juventus supporters, and one was wearing a black and white sun hat. It would give me more cover in the heat, so I swapped with him. Only he clearly did not want to part with his hat. He had no choice. Sensing danger, he let me have it and looked in disgust at the flimsy thing I'd given him. This was not cultural exchange: this was bullying, an assertion of dominance. I remember strutting away, slowly, the body language letting them know how I felt.

There was a supermarket by the bourse and, at the entrance, there was a Liverpool fan. “You're Scouse?" he said. There was no need for an answer and he knew what I was there for. “It's free to us today” he said, handing me a tray of beer. Things were spinning out of control.

On the way back to the square, the group of Liverpool fans by the jewellers had been replaced by riot police. Glass was scattered all over the street. There was hysteria and pride in my laughter. This was turning into an excellent day.

We set off for the ground and there seemed to be more and more small confrontations. On other days the little cultural misunderstandings would end in hugs. Here, with the hair-trigger tempers, it was tears, and we were determined they would not be ours.

At the ground there was madness. People were staggering, collapsing, throwing up. A large proportion of Liverpool fans seemed to have lost control. We met a group of mates who had come by coach. A fellow passenger we all knew had leapt off as soon as they arrived and attacked two people, one an Italian, with an iron bar.

Even in a drunk and deranged state, the stadium appalled us. The outer wall was breeze block, and some of the ticketless were kicking holes in its base and attempting to crawl through. Most were getting savage beatings from the riot police, finally making their presence felt. It was easier to walk into the ground and ignore the ticket collector, some of whom were seated at tables. I went home with a complete ticket. Four years later, on another dreadful day, I would enter another ground without needing to show my ticket. It is not just the Belgians whose inefficiency had deadly consequences. Section Y grew more and more crowded and, in front of us, a crush barrier buckled and collapsed.

The rough treatment by the police drew a response and they disappeared from the back of the section after skirmishes. Seeing a policeman beating a young lad who was attempting to climb over the wall and was caught in the barbed wire, I pushed the Belgian away. He turned to hit me and I punched him not hard through his open visor. He ran away.

With the police gone, groups of youths swarmed over a snack stand and looted it. I climbed onto the roof, and was passed up cans of soft drinks. It felt like being on top of the world up there.

Back on the terraces there was an exchange of missiles nothing serious by the standards of the day. We looked enviously at the space in section Z, though. There were too many people in our section. I went to the toilet and, by the time I came back, the fence was down and people were climbing over. Unable to locate my group, I joined the swarm. In section Z I wandered around for a while. There seemed to be very little trouble. People backed away but there were no charges, just a minor scuffle or two.

I climbed back into section Y, oblivious that 39 people were in the process of dying. It was clear that a huge commotion was going on at the front, and we began to get tetchy about the delayed kick-off.

Then there seemed to be a long tirade in Italian over the public address system. Someone suggested it was a list of names and all hell broke loose. Juventus fans came out of their end and came around the pitch and attacked the corner where the Liverpool supporters were standing. My mother, brother and sister were in there. Everyone went crazy. Men tore at the fences to get at the Italians and, at last, the police did an effective job of holding Liverpool fans back. The brother with me said: “If those fences go, football will be finished. There'll be hundreds dead. It will be over. Finally, the police drove the Italians back.

The game? I remember nothing. Afterwards? A deep disappointment, a nervousness about Italian knives, and a Belgian policeman whose parting shot at the stadium was to open the doors of a bus, throw in a canister of tear gas, and shut everyone in.

At Ostend it was a passive, depressive struggle through overcrowded departure rooms. No one mentioned deaths and shock ran through the ferry when we heard the news.

And so we limped home, quickly throwing off any shame, repeating the mantra that it was a construction problem, just a wall collapsing, hiding from the scale of what had happened. The disaster has a long causal chain. Stabbings and beatings in Rome, hair-trigger tempers, aggression on both sides, excessive drinking, poor policing and a stadium ripe for disaster. Remove any one link and the game may have passed off peacefully. But it didn't.

So, Evertonians sing, with pathetic self-pity, “Thirty-nine Italians can't be wrong." Well they weren't. We were. I was.

Kevin Molloy
78 Posted 23/11/2019 at 14:00:16
Jay, yes thanks. And I agree, this does put the blame rather firmly on Liverpool's shoulders (with Juve being pretty blameless). I still think though that if Everton had been in Rome the previous year, and then gone to Heysel, exactly the same thing would have happened
Danny O'Neill
79 Posted 23/11/2019 at 14:09:30
A very honest article from a Liverpool fan willing to accept their part. Many don't & have effectively air brushed it from their history. Yes they weren't the only ones at the time, and it was an English disease, however I don't believe Everton fans would have reacted the same. As the Liverpool fan suggests, there was a feeling of sinister atmosphere from the onset. Our trips to Europe & Rotterdam in comparison set a completely different mood from the onset thus not resulting in trouble.

We may be from the same City. We may come from the same families & bloodlines, I have many close friends & family on the other side.

But for some reason, we are very different when we discuss football; even my family members. They have an air of entitlement about them. They fly a Jeremy Corbyn banner yet behave like untouchable royalty. I find them hypocritical & condescending, especially when referring to Everton. Challenge them and you're bitter. Agree with them & praise Liverpool; you're one of the sensible blues. As long as we know our place they're okay with us.

Always outraged, never embarrassed is very apt. Some will argue that their continuous sense of injustice & protests achieves their aims whilst we accept mediocracy.

Cut from the same cloth maybe. But tailored & fashioned very differently.

Finally, just to agree with Kevin, who I respect for his very honest view. The key point often missed (outrageously by many Liverpool fans), is that 39 people went to a football match and never came home. That challenges their own late (and great) Bill Shankly's statement in my opinion.

That's why we're different. A kopite speaking against the party view would likely be strung up & expelled. We can debate sensibly amongst each other. Back on thread, as Howard himself is quoted: "the most knowledgable fans in football".

Paul Kelly
80 Posted 24/11/2019 at 10:41:44
Here's another article;

For many years, Liverpool ’s response to Heysel was woefully inadequate. I was shown a copy of the club’s official yearbook for 1985/86. There were two articles about the tragedy on page three, but they were both of the “Let’s put this behind us, improve the matchday Anfield atmosphere and look to restore the club’s good name” variety. There was no direct reference to what had happened. There was no hint of an apology. Later there was a round-up of the previous European Cup campaign, in which 1985/86 was identified as a “watershed” because it would be Liverpool ’s last for some time.

Ashamed of nothing

Alan Williams
81 Posted 25/11/2019 at 14:01:29
Film was Ok but I've seen so many clips and old shots that every story has been out there since 85 and it was a nice time to reflect I guess. I was 15 at the time and went home and away, you can see me at the Luton semi final with hair!!

Would prefer that idiot Hatton not to be in it, hate him, what a fraud he is. I remember we played Blackburn home in the FA Cup, not sure what year but the enclosure was split down the middle home & away fans and Hatton & Mulhern in the box by the EFC fans. He sat there drinking bubbles, smoking a cigar and giving the wxxker sign to the fans below. He was a lucky man the EFC fans couldn't get to him, Everton lads at the time wanted to rip his head off.

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

» Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.

About these ads

© ToffeeWeb