The article prompted me to gather my thoughts and memories of that season. Unfortunately, by then, I was no longer living on the Wirral. My home for the duration of that season was Great Malvern in a shared house and with no other football lovers. As part of my degree course, I was posted to Worcestershire County Council for 12 months. So going to the game was irregular, particularly as I was reliant on public transport. Much depended on the where and when of the fixture schedule. So, for those games I could not get to, I became reliant on the reports set out in the national press.
A few weeks before Lyndon posted his article, I had embarked on a clear-out of the loft and in two cardboard boxes I discovered some real gems. a mountain of old football programmes from the 60s and 70s, plus two foolscap notebooks in which I had studiously collected the reports on most of Everton's games for the Championship-winning season. So the seeds for this article were sown.
Having sat down and refreshed my memory armed with these reports, it emerges that it was clearly a season of highs and lows, and by no means all plain sailing for the Blues. Reference to the final points tally of 66 out of 84 on offer (2 points for a win, remember), with a 9-point lead over 2nd place Leeds, might seduce many into thinking it must have been won at a canter. Not so. Very often outstanding displays were followed by the more mundane or workmanlike.
This pattern showed early in the season. After securing a vital first win at Arsenal on the opening day (9 August 1969) without the services of the suspended Alan Ball, we then played Manchester United at Old Trafford. Brian Chapman in The Observer described the Arsenal game as a poor augury for top-rank football for which the crowd showed a remarkable tolerance. However, come the following Tuesday, the Blues turned on the style in a 2-0 win, a performance described by The Telegraph as one in which the former champions of Europe might have been playing a minor role in a bear-baiting demonstration. Back to earth with a more economical display at home against a defensive Crystal Palace and a further 2 points secured.
By this time, the services of Howard Kendall had been lost to injury and he did not get back until we played Derby County on 6 September. Tommy Jackson ably filled in.
The first dropped point was at Manchester City away, but the follow-up to that was an outstanding performance against Leeds United at Goodison Park on 30 August, which was described by Arthur Hopcroft in The Observer as a game in which it is hard to imagine Everton playing better. David Miller in The Telegraph went one better by reporting this was one of the finest matches he could recall since the birth of this newspaper.
The Leeds game was, however, a prelude to the season's first defeat, and a game I witnessed at first hand. Howard Kendall was back but, despite that, our normally strong and fluent midfield was disrupted and over-run. All the hacks picked up on that aspect of the game. From now on, it was not to be plain sailing since the other clubs would have picked up on that. After this first defeat, we dropped to 2nd in the table.
Nevertheless, 9 more wins and an away draw at Palace were secured which, with hindsight, clearly established strong foundations for the difficulties coming over the hill. It is of some interest to note that the draw at Crystal Palace prompted Geoffrey Green in The Times to observe that, if there were any sense to things, one would follow the score-line and say nothing.
So by 1 November, Everton, following a scrambled home win against Nottingham Forest, had 32 points, 8 ahead of Leeds. 9 points were acquired from the next 8 games, a run that included two defeats at West Bromwich and most ignominiously at home to Liverpool. By 27 December, the lead was reduced to 1 point following a 2-1 defeat at Leeds. The foundations were beginning to look shaky...
During this period, Harry Catterick signed Keith Newton from Blackburn and he played in the hard-fought win at home against Derby County. The team also lost Colin Harvey and later Jimmy Husband to injury, the able Tommy Jackson filling in again. However, a number of hacks noted that Everton were now developing the necessary steely resolve to back up their acknowledged attractive football style.
The introduction of Whittle for Husband seemed to bring a different attacking dimension to the team. He was beginning to forge a good link with Royle and consistently knocking in the goals (West Ham, Man City, and Leeds).
We were now entering the grim dark winter months of January and February, pitches were cut up and did not provide the best playing surfaces. The up and down performances of the team continued during that period. Home wins against Ipswich ('Everton snap back to form' – The Sunday Times) and Wolves ('Lack of cohesion' – The Sunday Times) were the only highlights within a series of drawn games, home and away. By the beginning of March, Everton were still 2nd with 49 points.
But subsequent events showed that the dark days were now behind the team. A series of eight wins took them on to the Championship as Leeds faltered. Beginning with an away win at Burnley during which The Sunday Times recorded that Everton began to find their self-assurance. That game was to be Brian Labone's last appearance of the season.
By the time the second of two consecutive wins against Spurs was secured, Everton were 3 points clear at the top before arriving at Anfield to avenge the earlier home defeat to the Reds. Eric Todd in The Telegraph noted that the team had an all-round efficiency which destroyed their neighbours. The Sunday Express noted that all of football's golden talent – courage ,skill, and imagination – flowed from the team.
And so we moved on to the second of the team's most outstanding displays, against Chelsea at Goodison Park on 28 March. We all know the result: 5-2 to the Blues. This was the game described by Arthur Hopcroft as the one in which the team made all their promise blossom. Chelsea were swept away in a mesmerising first-half display. 'A blistering performance' said Mike Charters in the Football Echo.
On to Stoke on 30 March. Alan Whittle pops up to score after 8 minutes following which Everton defended with dedication and resolution.
On 1 April, the Championship was sealed with a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park. Eric Todd in the Telegraph noted that Everton were as fast and furious as I have ever seen them... and there was only one team in it. A bit nervy at times, Whittle opened the scoring in the first half. It was fitting that one of the club's most loyal servants, Colin Harvey, scored the clinching goal with a sublime shot from the left side of Albion's penalty area.
The Championship trophy was presented to the team, who dutifully did a lap of honour accompanied by Brian Labone who, during the season, made his 400th appearance for the team, in the game against Palace on 16 August.
Three more points were added to the tally in subsequent games at Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 and at Roker Park, Sunderland 0-0.
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 09/04/2020 at 11:26:01
A special mention for Whittle who scored many a winning goal in crucial 2-1s and 1-0s after Christmas.
It was a pleasure, honour and a privilege to have seen it all from before Carey took his taxi ride to the W. Brom game. You turn your back, 50yrs on and behold, they won't even let you out the house now.
Buddy, you're an old man, poor man
Pleading with your eyes, gonna get you some peace someday
You got mud on your face, big disgrace
Somebody better put you back into your place.
But by god, did they rock us or what.
Fuckin right they did !
2 Posted 09/04/2020 at 12:02:56
It was an awful rain sodden evening I recall, but coming out of Goodison, I simply didn't care as a 14 year old. I seem to recall Jimmy Cumbes the West Brom goalkeeper covering his ears in mock horror down at the Gwladys St end as the noise from the crowd was that raucous that night.
Standard pitch invasion by all at the end of the game, before the players reappeared (I think) in the Goodison Rd stand?
Happy days, and I DID enjoy going into school the next day.
3 Posted 09/04/2020 at 12:12:10
One of the reasons team's form dipped in mid season was certainly the state of the pitches but more significant, I believe, was the absence of key midfielders. Colin Harvey was out for some time with an eye injury while Alan Ball served a lengthy suspension before returning in his new white boots against Coventry.
As well as the home wins against Leeds and Chelsea I would nominate the 2-0 wins at Old Trafford and Anfield as among the best performances I saw that season. I remember United fans applauding our team towards the end as we stroked the ball around the field with consummate ease. The icing on the cake was Joe Royle crossing for Alan Ball to nod home the second goal. It was of course usually the other way round.
In those days playing pretty football was the least of the considerations when it came to winning the league. Teams frequently needed to dig in very deep to eke out one or two points. That season our team displayed the mental resolve required to win the title. We did not realise it at the time but the team was slightly past its peak with some key players already in decline through injury or fatigue, â€˜burned out' in modern parlance.
4 Posted 09/04/2020 at 12:35:13
5 Posted 09/04/2020 at 13:14:35
Alasdair, you've put that season together very well I agree with almost all you have written, maybe one of the reasons I agree with your history of the season is it helps me to believe my theory that the 1963 title winning team was the best team I saw at Goodison, only my opinion of course.
6 Posted 09/04/2020 at 14:28:31
Funny to read that you lived in Great Malvern. This is the place I've lived in for the last 9 years or so. I hope you used to walk the Malvern Hills. I walk them almost every day - beautiful views.
I must be like you once was, carrying the blue flag for the Toffees in Malvern. I know of only one other Toffee apart from my wife in Malvern. We are the chosen few trying to spread the word LOL
7 Posted 09/04/2020 at 14:58:40
8 Posted 09/04/2020 at 15:31:21
My slightly offbeat recollections include a pre-season defeat to someone like Rochdale or Bury maybe 4-3. Anyone recall it?
John Raftery#4 - John Osborne certainly was a joker! He was an avid bird watcher (twitcher!) - I recall him coming down to the St End on one occasion and all fans were whistling/tweeting - he pretended to use a pair of binoculars to watch the birds! On another occasion before facing a penalty from Bally he turned round to the crowd whilst pointing to both posts and mouthing "which side will he put it?"
Where are today's characters?
9 Posted 09/04/2020 at 15:33:41
Glad you and others enjoyed the read as much as I did putting it together.
John @3. I will have to look back at some pictures of the games to get a handle on the white boots.
10 Posted 09/04/2020 at 16:13:39
11 Posted 09/04/2020 at 16:44:01
Ball and his white boots, I'm fairly sure that he had a contract with Patrick boots who gave him the white ones. The story goes that Ball didn't like them so painted his favourite boots white. The Patrick ones weren't comfortable.
I mentioned on one thread recently that the Holy Trinity only played together for less than half the games that season so the efforts of Tommy Jackson and Whittle shouldn't be underestimated.
12 Posted 09/04/2020 at 17:02:58
13 Posted 09/04/2020 at 17:43:43
14 Posted 09/04/2020 at 19:45:30
Memories from the season? Crying when we lost to them and snarling back at some red woman, we'll beat you at your place. City a couple of days before Christmas - why were we playing before everyone else. Tommy Wright scoring against Forest. I think it was his only ever goal (correct me, I'm probably wrong). Sandy's header into the park end. The Chelsea game when a guy came in late and said what is the score and when we all said 2-0 he never believed us until the next one went in and the street end started singing "We want 4". Howard's hitch kick opener - years before Di Canio - in that same game. Whittle robbing Bobby Moore at Upton Park to snatch a 1-0 (watched on MOTD).
All of them etched into the memory. And my dad's description of Colin's 2nd against West Brom when I came back from London. Those were the days. Chelsea Saturday, Stoke on the Monday, West Brom on Wednesday and I presume a match on the Saturday - and a few nights down the pub in the meantime.
15 Posted 09/04/2020 at 22:35:50
16 Posted 09/04/2020 at 23:00:05
Terry (10) Thanks for the update, again my memory is all over the place. Can't recall the lap of honour. I've still got my old Echo and Daily Post black and white pictures, so must dig them out and have a look.
17 Posted 09/04/2020 at 00:38:33
I have some wonderful memories from that finest of all seasons. I don't remember any real doubt that we wouldn't win the League that year. We went to all 21 home matches and 8 aways, only seeing 2 defeats, Liverpool H (which still hurts) and West Brom A. The most memorable matches, all cracking wins: Leeds and Chelsea H, Manchester United H & A and Liverpool A.
The Chelsea match was on Easter Saturday, with Stoke A on the Bank Holiday Monday, the clincher v West Brom two days later then Sheffield Wednesday A on the following Saturday. Hard to believe now: 4 wins in 8 days and we saw all four.
The 69-70 team should have achieved so much more success and its inexplicable decline the following season remains one the greatest of many disappointments in the last 50 years.
Thank you for the article Alasdair; perhaps due to the uncertain time we are all living through at the moment, I nearly overlooked the anniversary.
18 Posted 10/04/2020 at 01:49:21
Happy Days! And in these difficult times a great tonic to Evertonians.
In some ways I'm realigning the best team I've seen, my Dad watched, and old me and the way it is.
Regardless now of Everton's illustrious past, global economics and effect of COVID 19, etc will mean it will take decades to get life back to normal.
All stay safe and well and a Happy Easter, to the greatest football supporters in this World!
“What's Our Name?â€
19 Posted 10/04/2020 at 03:57:27
20 Posted 10/04/2020 at 07:22:47
Had to be Wednesday as we were on the coach to London on the Monday after Easter for the trip to London and they would not have played 2 days running.
And it says it was Wednesday April 1st on Steve Johnson's https://www.evertonresults.com/ website.
Why did the season end so early in those days? All done and dusted by April 8th. Oh, of course we had an England tour of South America including Columbia.
21 Posted 10/04/2020 at 09:40:40
The season also started earlier than usual on 9th August so the season was squeezed into a period of eight months with more midweek games than normal.
22 Posted 12/04/2020 at 21:30:26
We need articles like these to take our minds off the thought of lockdown for at least 3 months, how I wish I was back in those happy days. Thanks, Alasdair.
23 Posted 12/04/2020 at 22:10:10
24 Posted 12/04/2020 at 23:00:48
Another time, on returning to my place, my dad's old army great coat had gone missing and I was so proud of it.
25 Posted 13/04/2020 at 03:39:14
26 Posted 13/04/2020 at 08:08:59
27 Posted 13/04/2020 at 19:35:03
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