This week – 16 years ago

David recalls a nice emphatic derby victory from what seems like a very long time ago.

David Hardman 12/09/2022 18comments  |  Jump to last

Da daa d da. Andy Johnson

Don’t think I need to type any more. But I will.

Background

The early weeks of David Moyes’s 4th full season in charge. In that time, the blues had finished 7th, 17th, 4th and 11th. 

Last week, I talked about 1988-89, when Everton signed 4 outfield players (back in the days before it was a squad game) – Neville Southall brilliantly described it as both too much and not enough at the same time. Too much in that it was a lot of upheaval to the team. Not enough in the sense that the players failed to improve on what was already there. 

In 2005, the proceeds from the Rooney sale and the unexpected extra revenue from finishing 4th were reinvested in... I can think of 7 outfield players off the top of my head, there’s probably more, plus Matteo Ferrari on loan, and as in 1988, it was too much and not enough. It unsettled the team that had exceeded expectations the season before and, with the exception of Arteta and maybe Phil Neville (though some would disagree), the signings didn’t come off. If you were to list Moyes’s unsuccessful buys, most of them came in 2005 – Beattie, Davies, Krøldrup, Valente, Van der Meyde...

In 2006, they took a different approach. Quality not quantity. With Nigel Martyn retiring and Richard Wright just not living up to expectations, a new goalkeeper was needed, and Tim Howard arrived on loan from Manchester United.

The defence desperately needed reinforcing – during the previous season, Alan Stubbs had been brought back from Sunderland just a few months after going there, but more pace and athleticism were required, ideally someone to play on the left side to compliment Joseph Yobo. That someone was Joleon Lescott, costing around £6 million.

Wolves, relegated 3 years earlier, had no more parachute payments coming in and were in a predicament in which they couldn’t afford not to do the deal. Everton took full advantage of this and wore them down to accepting a deal involving instalments and a percentage of any future sale – and Wolves arguably had the last laugh when they pocketed another £6 million just 3 years later when Manchester City spent big on the defender.

Pace was also injected into the forward line with the arrival of Andy Johnson from Crystal Palace. Again Everton played hardball and only met Palace’s asking price when fellow northwest rivals Wigan and Bolton had bids accepted. Again, I believe the deal involved instalments and future incentives, and I distinctly remember the then Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, publically acknowledging that Bill Kenwright and Everton had done everything on the level, which may well have been a thinly veiled swipe at other chairmen who he felt hadn’t when pursuing talent from Selhurst Park.

Anyway, on to the action, and it looked like Everton’s good-season, bad-season pattern was going to continue. Bolstered by these new signings, the Blues had amassed 7 points from the first 3 matches. A rather fortuitous home win against newly promoted Watford (one of the few times I can remember benefitting from poor refereeing decisions!) was quickly cancelled out as Everton were denied a penalty at Mark Hughes’s Blackburn but still managed to gain a respectable point.

Most impressively of all, they then won at White Hart Lane for the first time in 20 years, a fate all the more impressive as the rapidly improving Tottenham had taken the race for 4th to the last day of the previous season. So optimism was in the air as Everton welcomed Rafa Benitiez’s FA Cup holders, Liverpool, to Goodison.

The Game

I’ve never been a fan of lunchtime kick-offs. Usually makes for a subdued atmosphere. Not for this game. Goodison was absolutely bouncing. Tim Cahill put Everton ahead with an emphatic close-range finish that I was convinced was going to be disallowed for a foul in the build-up. For once, it wasn’t. And it was added to before half-time as Andy Johnson (whose goal clinched the victory at White Hart Lane last time out) pounced on an error by The Spitter and finished clinically.

Prior to this game, there had been an international break. I think England played Andorra – I don’t really care, whoever it was; Gerrard was among the scorers, controlling the ball with his chest and unleashing a half-volley into the top corner. During this derby, the ball sat up for him in a similar way – same part of the penalty area, same angle, same control, same powerful half-volley... only this shot went closer to the corner flag than Tim Howard’s goal. From that moment on, you kinda knew it was gonna be Everton’s day.

And the day was complete shortly before full time, when – similar to Jordan Pickford’s horror show at Anfield 12 years later – Pepe Reina helped the ball onto his own crossbar. In the confusion that followed, he and Andy Johnson both went for the loose, bouncing ball. Johnson got there first, and, like something out of a silent comedy, Reina grabbed Johnson’s head and held onto for a couple of seconds thinking it was the ball.

3-0. The biggest derby win for I don’t know how many years. This win put Everton top of the table with 10 points from four matches, albeit maybe only for a few hours, thanks to that earlier kick-off time.

Epilogue

Expectations among the fans were by now more realistic, or maybe they’d just been worn down by years of disappointment, but no-one was kidding themselves that the title was imminent. Another push for a European place, though, seemed reasonable enough, and so it proved, as they finished 6th to qualify for the Uefa Cup (I think it was still called that in 2007).

More interestingly, the media’s expectations also seemed to have altered. This was the third time in 5 seasons that Everton would be challenging at the right end of the table and would finish in the top 7, and yet it was the first time that the expressions “overachieving” and “punching above their weight” (those buzzwords of 2003 and 2005) weren’t used.

Andy Johnson would join the likes of Kevin Langley, Wayne Clarke, Mike Newell and Joe-Max Moore in starting their Everton careers scoring like men possessed, only to burn out after a few weeks. Actually, the only example I can think of since him would be Jelavic. I guess the strikers just arrive burned out now.

If that’s putting a downer on things, the reaction in certain quarters went the opposite way, as this result was treated like a major trophy had been won. Souvenirs, tee-shirts, the full match released on DVD – I can’t help wondering if this contributed to Benitez’s “small club” comments after the return fixture.  

Speaking of Rafa, I couldn’t finish this epilogue without mentioning that he would go on to manage Everton one day. His tenure lasted about as long as Andy Johnson’s goalscoring streak, but would be nowhere near as enjoyable.

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Reader Comments (18)

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Peter Mills
1 Posted 13/09/2022 at 22:16:50
That third goal was one of my favourite Everton goals ever.

Comedy gold followed by delirium.

Don Alexander
2 Posted 13/09/2022 at 23:11:14
That match was a very small oasis indeed in our 30 year, still deteriorating, Premier League trudge across a desert of failure.

Is there anyone at or close to the top, still, who's culpable throughout?

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 13/09/2022 at 23:32:22
Phil Neville was massively underrated. Not the best player but in the Everton Moyes era, a captain and leader. When he wasn't on the pitch, you could tell his presence was missed.

It was a great win and I love these articles.

But it was a one-off that meant little other than celebrating the day.

The biggest derby win in my lifetime was Anfield 1984 and Sharp's volley.

No marketing DVDs over a one-off victory. Everton were back and we rattled the neighbours as well as going on to win titles and trophies.

Duncan McDine
4 Posted 13/09/2022 at 23:38:02
#2 Don’ing the turd tinted spectacles again, but accurate nonetheless.
John Pendleton
5 Posted 13/09/2022 at 23:40:06
Great game. I was the only blue watching it in a pub in Wetherby.

As the camera panned in on the Goodson crowd going nuts after the third goal, a local Yorkshire Liverpool fan – a grown man in full red kit mode – ran up to the big screen and screamed,

‘Fuck off, you scouse bastards!'

Christ, that next pint of Guinness was the best I've tasted outside of Ireland.

Brian Wilkinson
6 Posted 13/09/2022 at 00:09:23
David, a very good read.

One player you missed out for me in our modern times as giving everything and scoring against the big boys is Steven Naismith.

Okay, not in the 16 years category but certainly worth a mention, alongside Jelavic. I swear whenever he got a chance around the area, it ended up in a goal or a save; I cannot recall Naismith hitting Row Z.

Absolutely wasted when we played him out wide for over a year, but gave everything and did so much for charity and the fans as well.

One of my favourite modern players, who played for Everton.

Kieran Kinsella
7 Posted 14/09/2022 at 02:32:04
I remember Andy Johnson as a kid giving the RS the runaround in the League Cup. Not sure why he went off the boil but he's been at Goodison many times since indoctrinating his kids into the Blues.

To Brian's point. Naismith was a champ. Didn't he get a perfect hat-trick v Chelsea?

Diagnosing remotely, I think he had self-esteem issues. When he was a spare at Everton he was great. When he carried the mantle of main man for Norwich or Scotland, he wilted.

I always remember him as a good player and a very down-to-Earth bloke who truly appreciated his position and did a lot to help ordinary fans and those struggling to pay bills. Really a top bloke in my eyes.

You can't call him a legend as he won nothing and set no records but, like Cahill, he got us so, in my mind, he's always a personal favourite.

Lee Courtliff
8 Posted 14/09/2022 at 07:38:16
Steven Naismith was an excellent player, considering he was free and we all thought he was rubbish in his first season. Played out of position, granted.

Before the 2006-07 season started, I told a friend in the pub that we'd finish Top 6. He replied, "you sound very confident!". And I was, because we'd got the exact signings we needed, as mentioned in the op.

AJ wasn't the best after that blistering start but his pace and movement was precisely what we needed. He'll always be fondly remembered by myself and many others, I imagine.

Moyes built us a good team and for fans of my generation, that 3 spell from '06 to '09 was the very best we've ever witnessed. In terms of consistency.

3 Top 6 finishes on the bounce, 2 Semi-Finals and 1 Final. We just weren't quite good enough to get that elusive trophy!!

Danny O’Neill
9 Posted 14/09/2022 at 07:46:35
Great point, Lee. That Moyes team around that period was as good as we've had in a generation.

Just not good enough to break the glass ceiling.

Like you say, a generational thing and I probably have what some would call unrealistic ones in the modern era, but I won't drop them.

We'll watch that match together at some point. Just let me know when!! Health warning; beware of my ability to attract away fans!!

Lee Courtliff
10 Posted 14/09/2022 at 10:04:13
Danny, I considered myself an optimistic person until I 'met' you!! I much prefer that to those pessimists who are depressing to be around.

I'll be at Goodison on Sunday, I'm taking my girlfriend to the match for the first time. She's a Manc so I'm educating her on proper football...hopefully.

We're staying in Liverpool for the full weekend so I'm going to walk up to Bramley-Moore Dock and have my first look at our new stadium. Can't bloody wait!!!

Brian Murray
11 Posted 14/09/2022 at 10:41:25
Lee. It's "err on side of caution" for most of us but hats hat to Danny's blue disposition.

I'm always clinging to the hope that he or his mutts have a sixth sense that we are rising fast and that loft conversion at the piggery can now see us clearly on the banks... one by one!

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 14/09/2022 at 10:43:05
Don't forget the gathering in The Bramley Moore Pub, Lee. Go and meet some of the gang.

That place is going to become as iconic as the Stadium. Not that it's all about the money, but the owners are sat on a gold mine.

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 14/09/2022 at 10:46:32
Brian, I told that young lad from Gloucester to bring 2 points home against Palace after hugging you.

He did.

If you keep saying it and believing it, it will happen.

No wonder my family and dogs keep shaking their head at me.

Brian Murray
14 Posted 14/09/2022 at 11:05:32
Danny,

Maybe get a donkey. At least it may nod in agreement sometimes.

John Raftery
15 Posted 14/09/2022 at 20:57:00
That 3-0 win against the neighbours was the first time we had scored three in a league derby since August 1966 when we won 3-1 with Alan Ball scoring two.

One reason for the improvement in 2006-07 compared with the season before was the presence of Lee Carsley. He had missed most of the previous season with an injury he had sustained in the final game of the 2004-05 campaign, at Bolton.

Christy Ring
16 Posted 14/09/2022 at 21:54:01
I remember that wonderful 3-0 victory.

Me and 11 of my workmates were in Merthyl Beach, Carolina, on a golfing trip. We watched the game.

I was the only Evertonian, but had 7 anti-reds in my corner.

After Johnson got the 3rd after Reina's blunder, I started ordering us all shots and singing Grand Old Team, I was lucky I wasn't strangled! Great memory.

Trevor Powell
17 Posted 15/09/2022 at 13:44:33
Thanks for the memory! I got married that day to Lynne in Pembrokeshire just after the game finished. We had a few drinks in our local pub and then down to the hotel for our reception. When we walked in there were half a dozen scousers at the bar and I asked them the red or blue question and they were definitely Blues!

They were staying there as they were working on the Liquid Gas Pipeline. They had been told that they must be quiet as there was a wedding reception! They were great lads and we shared a few drinks during the evening. Beating Liverpool and getting married to Lynne on the same day. Absolute magic!

Brian Wilkinson
18 Posted 17/09/2022 at 19:07:22
I think I can add a little something to the Andy Johnson debate.

He was quick, but as like anything Everton associated, he would get nudged off the ball and his speed would send him tumbling. It did not take the experts long to start calling Johnson a diver. In the end he was getting knocked left right and centre and getting nothing.

The defenders cottoned on quick that fouling Johnson was a free hit, as the refs would just wave play on.

In short, Johnson's speed and skill was being counteracted by simply pushing him and knocking him off balance. In the end, Johnson gave up appealing. He was unlucky in my view; he got nothing, while years later, Salah and Mane got everything..


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