Everton v Newcastle United

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FA Carling Premiership 96/97, Game 1
Saturday 17 August 1996; Goodison Park, Merseyside

Result: Everton (2) 2 - Newcastle United (0) 0
Unsworth 29 (pen), Speed 40

Everton: Southall, Barrett, Hinchcliffe, Unsworth, Watson (c) (46 Short), Stuart, Ferguson, Speed, Ebbrell, Kanchelskis, Parkinson. Booked: Unsworth, Hinchcliffe.
Subs Not Used: Rideout, Limpar, Grant, Gerrard. Unavailable: Hottiger, O'Connor (Injured), Jackson (On Loan)

Newcastle United: Hislop, Beresford, Howey, Watson, Albert, Batty, Lee, Gillespie, Shearer, Ferdinand, Ginola (69 Beardsley). Booked: Beresford, Albert.
Subs Not Used: Barton, Srnicek, Peacock, Clark.

Ref: Mike Reed Att: 40,117 League Position: 3rd= Results and League Table

Previous Match (Pre-Season): Birmingham City v Everton - Next Match: Manchester United v Everton

Match Summary

Daily Mail Soccernet: It was billed as the day of the Great Man but that the finest player on show should turn out to be Duncan Ferguson was certainly not part of the Newcastle script. The gifted Scotsman took Alan Shearer's headlines with a stunning display which put Newcastle's title hopes into perspective and Kevin Keegan's judgement on the line.

The 6ft 4in Scot had spent the summer recovering from his April hernia operation while Shearer was leading the Euro 96 scoring charts and then making football history with his £15million move from Blackburn. But while Shearer was experiencing another frustrating afternoon in front of goal, Ferguson was making Keegan pay for his failure to bolster the defensive ranks after the miseries of May.

Although the idol of Goodison did not get on the scoresheet himself it was his sheer physical presence that created both David Unsworth's penalty opener and Gary Speed's debut strike. And with Ferguson, aided by the direct thrust of Andrei Kanchelskis, running rampant throughout, Newcastle went back to Tyneside bedraggled and beaten and with their tails firmly between their legs.

Perhaps, with Faustino Asprilla suspended and Peter Beardsley left out, it was supposed to be all about Shearer and the Geordie fans in one corner of a packed Goodison believed so. But Joe Royle, who welcomed Earl Barrett back into action after a 10-month lay-off, clearly had not read the script, and from the outset, with Newcastle incapable of doing anything about Ferguson, Everton took charge.

Keegan had brought back Shaka Hislop, Steve Howey and Keith Gillespie - surprisingly on the left - after the Charity Shield debacle, but Newcastle were still a shambles defensively. Within 10 seconds the alarm bells were ringing as Kanchelskis, running past John Beresford at will, nearly picked out Graham Stuart, and with Ferguson scaring the life out of the St James' Park men, the writing seemed on the wall.

Ferguson, Stuart, Speed and Kanchelskis had all gone close, before Shearer appeared to have applied the whitewash in the 24th minute. David Batty's free-kick found the purposeful Les Ferdinand and he nodded back across goal where Shearer and Philippe Albert had only Andy Hinchcliffe near them.

Shearer's header ended up in the back of the net, but referee Mike Reed had spotted the Belgian pushing down on the defender, instantly silencing the travelling Toon Army. And within 16 minutes, the contest was effectively over, as Ferguson's constant menace belatedly delivered what had been promised.

First the hulking frame of the Scot pressured Steve Watson into giving Hislop no chance with a woeful back header. Ferguson nipped in, the ball ran free, and when Watson tried to atone, he only succeeded in felling Ferguson from behind. Again Mr Reed had no hesitation, and neither did Unsworth, comfortably sending Hislop the wrong way from the spot.

If the Newcastle defending was poor then, it was criminal five minutes before the break. Stuart's ball in from the right was nothing special, nor was Ferguson's flick into the box. But a gap as wide as the Mersey Tunnel allowed Speed to dance through unopposed and crown his debut after his £3.5million move from Leeds with a simple shot.

Shearer tried to rise to the challenge with a superb header from David Ginola's right wing cross which was going for the top corner before Southall showed that 38 years and 700 games have not dimmed his ability. But with that, and a Gillsepie header easily saved, went Newcastle's fleeting chances, only Everton's failings keeping them nominally in the contest.

Kanchelskis somehow allowed Hislop to save just before the break, and afterwards it was even more one-way traffic. Andy Hinchcliffe was a fraction away, Ferguson shot when Stuart had to score from a centre, and then in swift order the giant Scot saw Howey clear off the line and then watched a header from Speed's cross drift wide.

Keegan tried to put some life in the Newcastle corpse by sending Beardsley on for Ginola, but it was to no avail, the cause long since lost. When Southall dived to his left to parry Shearer's curling free-kick in the final minute, Newcastle's day to forget was complete. Everton, though, appear to have plenty to look forward to.

Marching into Europe

Guy McEvoy: There is nothing like the start of a season. With the sun shining, shirt-sleeved fans all over the country trek to their respective Meccas each with the absolute belief that this is their season. Some have more reason for optimism than others, some, for instance, have splashed out 15 million quid on a new striker. Nevertheless, everyone starts off with the same points - all is briefly equal.

The one thing that detracts from the bliss of the blind hope you enjoy on that first Saturday is the utter fear you have about who will be sitting next to you for the entire season. Last year I suffered a woman who I remain convinced went to the match instead of taking prescribed downers. "Rubbish", "Crap", "I thought yer were supposed to be professionals", "yer too fat Unsworth", she would go on and on. And that was just while players were warming up.

It was with great relief that I saw I had Toon fans next to me, they're obviously seats not gone to season ticket holders, so for once, however irritating my neighbours may be, I know I'll only have to put up with them for one week. The season was looking better than ever.

I surveyed my new spot. Front row, top balcony, pitch laid out in front of me like a chess board with turf that would be the pride of any bowling green and a full Goodison Park swathed in blue and banana (testament to the record sales of the new away kit). I was as happy as I've been in months. Until that was I realised that maybe front row, top balcony, unbeatable view though it is, may not be the best place to sit if you suffer from nauseating vertigo. Such is life. Never mind, I'm told if you sit it out long enough you can conquer it.

A competitive atmosphere was steadily building up with great exchanges developing between the Park End and away section. It had built to quite a crescendo by five-to-three when the moron on the tannoy announced, in a futile attempt to gain credit for the atmosphere, "I can't hear you!". In immediate response to his stirring battle cry demand all 40,000 people promptly shut up!

Full voices were found again when Everton 96/97 entered to the familiar Z-cars. The long wait was over, memories of Euro 96 and exhibition matches faded away as it was back to the proper thing, and boy, did we start meaning business. Straight from kick off an attack was launched and we honestly did not let up for the entire of the first half.

It was pulsating at times. One-touch football that flowed up the field like a pinball, every cross hit forward attracting Ferguson like a magnet, and the blues accounting for a good 65% of possession. So assured was this stunning display of total football (and I don't use that phrase lightly) that I was absolutely convinced, as only a long-suffering Evertonian can be, that Newcastle were inevitably going to score a soft goal on their first meaningful attack.

But it just didn't happen. We kept this flowing game up, chances continued to pour our way and miraculously Newcastle continued to look like they weren't going to be joining in. One of many long balls to Dunc picked him up he held off his man inside the box, Hislop charged out and failed to gather, Dunc reacted quickly to attempt to take the loose ball but a defender foolishly made a grab to pull him down. A whistle, a point to the spot and a David Unsworth side-foot: 1-0 Everton.

We were now taking the proverbial thingumajig. All Newcastle could muster was their own dodgy diving/cheating competition in our box. A few of them had a go, but by far the worse culprit was Ginola who made not so much a meal, but a five course banquet with an apple stuck in the pig's mouth out of a class clean challenge by Unsworth.

The Frenchman's every next touch in the game was rightfully met with a chorus of boo's from the Goodison faithful. True, the Geordie's were narked about having a Shearer header disallowed but from where I was sitting the fact he held back his marker was beyond doubt.

Still, the pressure went on, another long ball by Stuart, again Ferguson towered his defender to knock it into the box, this time Speed was following it up and arrived first to hit it low and confidently under the advancing keeper. The childhood Evertonian had marked his full debut with a goal in front of the Street End. By now I was no longer sure if it was vertigo or joy, all I knew was that my legs were jelly and head as light as a feather.

As I again asserted to myself that things couldn't possibly get any better, half time brought the discovery that the club are now selling beer during the break. I had to pinch myself.

The second half continued were we had left off, everything being neatly knocked about in midfield until we could find the space to knock it up to Dunc and he would hold it up 'till everyone else could get forward to support. Newcastle had absolutely no answer. The best they could manage was to belatedly bring on Beardsley, to an extremely warm welcome, in place of the moaning Frenchman. His presence seemed to inspire some half-chances but anything that did find it's way on target was more than matched by Neville Southall on his 700th appearance and playing like he was still in 1986.

The pace did finally lull in the last 10 minutes, but this served to give the Ends a chance to manage a number of uninterrupted recitals of "Cheer up Kevin Keegan" which only added to the occasion.

The final whistle completed the famous victory, and you'd have to get a dental surgeon to remove my smile, Everton don't start seasons like this, what is going on?

Again I thought the joy of the day could not be topped any more when the woman in the Park End box office failed to check the voucher on my season ticket and so I was able to walk away with a ticket for the United game despite having the incorrect number. That woman is beautiful.

So we start off already with more than the 2 points I'd have settled for from our first two games.

Bring on Man United!!!

Individual Performances

Full marks for overall team performance, bottom marks to the linesman who had no grasp of the offside rule and tried to conceal this by waving his flag at entirely random intervals (usually when Duncan was about to break).

What a start!

Richard Marland: On a beautiful summer's day in front of a capacity 40,000 crowd, Everton sent out a message of intent and capability to the rest of the Premiership. If they weren't already aware of the fact that Everton are a gathering power and worthy of the utmost respect then they should be now.

Everton lined up with:

This was an interesting and slightly surprising tactical switch, but one not without it's merits. Andrei, Stuart and Speed all had licence to get forward quickly and support Dunc. This left Ebbrell and Parkinson playing the holding role. Time will tell if this was to counter the threat of Newcastle or whether it will be a regular feature.

Newcastle won the toss and unsportingly made us attack the Gwladys St End in the first half. This meant though that we had the kick-off and we made good use of it. An extremely clever and well planned kick-off routine got Andrei in behind the full back. Within seconds of the kick-off Andrei was homing in on goal, it came to nothing in the end but it was a marvellous statement of intent and set the tone for the bulk of the first half.

Everton were clearly fired up for this one and no-one typified this more than Dunc he caused Newcastle problems all afternoon with his ability in the air and his strength on the ground. he chances started to come as Everton pressed forward, Gary Speed should have scored when he was presented with a diving header by a cross from the right which cut out the keeper, however he got it all wrong and mistimed his header totally.

The goal though wasn't long coming and typically Dunc was in the thick of the action. He chased a long ball down the left putting the right full back in all sorts of problems. The full back attempted to head it back to Hislop but couldn't get enough power on it, in the ensuing scramble Dunc was brought down by a combination of the keeper and the full back: penalty! Unsworth stepped forward to take it and dispatched it coolly, sending the keeper the wrong way.

We continued to dominate, playing some lovely football. Further reward soon came. Stuart picked up the ball on the right wing he spotted Dunc in some space just outside the penalty area and launched a cross towards him, Dunc won the header and placed it nicely into Gary Speed's path as he broke into the area, Hislop came out quickly but Speed just nicked it under his body and into the net, a well taken goal by Speed.

As half time approached, we started to sit back a little and got a big scare when Shearer put the ball in the back of the net with a header. Fortunately the referee blew for a foul by Shearer and the goal was disallowed. Shearer also had a goal bound header saved superbly by Nev. It was though, emphatically Everton's half and the 2-0 scoreline didn't flatter them unduly.

The second half brought an enforced change as Short came on for Watson. Initial concerns that this would disturb our balance proved unfounded as we continued to be the better team. Newcastle did come into the game more in the second half but could never turn their possession into chances. We continued to look good going forward, Dunc continued to cause them all sorts of problems and Gary Speed continued to get into the penalty area. But the goal that would have totally sealed the game never came. As it turned out it wasn't needed. Shearer had two late shots one from outside the box which Nev held comfortably, and one from a free kick which Nev had to fist away, but that was about it from Newcastle.

Player Ratings

Team - 8 - A very good, hardworking team performance. More goals wouldn't have flattered us. We were good in all parts of the field, no-one had a bad game. However, you still felt that there was more to come. We were, occasionally, a little slow in supporting Dunc, and really were a little profligate with our finishing. That, though, is just nit-picking; it was a very good and very encouraging performance.

Cheer Up, Kevin Keegan

Dave Shepherd:Glorious sunshine and a home fixture with a 40,000 sellout crowd -- just what one dreams of when conjuring up an opening-day scene in the mind. Add to this a plum fixture, facing the debut of the close-season's top transfer... it's approaching the fantastic. Perhaps you'd also add to the scene a famous Everton swoop too: Ball or Latchford, Lineker or McCall. Perhaps if you had the optimism of a 9-year-old, you'd expect this new Blue to score a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.

OK, so we only had Gary Speed (the first debutant I can remember who did not have his name called out by the kiddies choir before kick-off!). OK so he only got one goal. But EFC did dominate and without ever looking in top gear, won with a clean sheet against Mr. I'll-get-35-this-season -- (including penalties) and more significantly, his partner, Mr. Ferdinand, whom it seems has never failed to score against Everton, be his stripes horizontal or vertical.

The pre-match atmosphere was vibrant -- Evertonians both in the Street and Park Ends were signing, loud and continuously. This very rarely happens at Goodison unless there is a derby match on. It had the effect of drowning out the Toon Army, who normally have the highest decibels per head rating in England.

Well... I assumed they were just drowned out -- but as the match got going, the noise from their corner was more akin to Man City than the loony Toons. OK their dream team looked ropey from the start, but this was never cause to turn the volume down before... are the Toon army being diluted into cosmopolitan sops as we have seen happen at Leeds, Forest, and other previously caustic fan bases?

Team news - the defence was full of semi-surprises: Barrett given the first go, ahead of Hotty and O'Connor; Short left benched for an Unsworth-and-Hinchcliffe left side, with testimonial man Watson completing.

Of course, 5 subs are allowed on the bench now, so more inventive team selections will be worth a risk.. and the better managers will prosper most, right Joe??

First Half

Everton kicked off attacking the Street End, and had a scoring chance on their first possession. United's early possessions were frustrated by the whistle of Mike Reed, who, much to their exasperation, hardly allowed any contact to pass -- even from the man with the ball. Under these conditions it took less than 15 minutes for the game to be shaped... Everton were clearly going to create chances all day. Once freed from the spoiling tactics that infest the modern game, Everton's skill was a headache, and Ferguson's head a nightmare.

Settling back to enjoy the inevitable goal feast, only one thing worried me.. since Reed was so quick on the whistle (though, pleasantly, not with the cards), wouldn't he be a sucker for a Shearer special -- the dive in the box? This worry was slightly reduced when stripey strips started going down all over the park, only to be ignored and waved on by Reed. The Dream Toon were beside themselves in exasperation -- how could this moron who was blowing for everything not be blowing for their 'fouls'?

After three more killer decisions, exasperation turned into despair, then into a horrible display of millionaires sulking about how lousy life is for the last hour. Those three decisions were:

Unfortunately, TV showed Dunc pulling Dumbo's shirt before they got into the box -- more than enough for a Reed whistle. This did make you wonder if Mike was a Birmingham City fan saying 'thanks for the castoffs'. Perhaps the reason only one player half-heartedly tried to protest was that the champions elect had already decided they were being screwed and put it down to experience.

In this respect, it would be easy to have sympathy for the poor beleaguered Toons, were it not for a recent memory we Evertonians have of being royally reamed by {ahem} an 'individualistic' interpretation of referees' duties up at Jim's Park. How does it feel, O Replikitted ones? 8-(


Well, the penalty was the first goal out of a procession of great chances, best of which was a bullet cross from Kanchelskis from the bye-line, giving Speed a free header from four yards, but Shaka the Shakey managed to be in the way of it. The score was made barely realistic before the half when Speed tore in to toe-poke a Fergie flick under Hislop. This is how he's been scoring in pre-season, and the art of snapping up such chances is what his former club named 'sniffing' in the days of another opportunist, Allan Clarke. The penalty itself:- interesting to see Rhino not being shoved aside by Hinchy as happened late on last season.

Second Half

Nothing changed at all, even (surprisingly) when Peter Beardsley came on to rousing Evertonian applause with 20 mins left.The Blues at times seemed to slow into a 'come and get us' mode, but only spent one five-minute period under any real pressure.

Interesting to report then, that Everton never really got into top gear. They didn't quite gel. The passes never got to that sublime state where they are played without thinking but are still perfect.

Kanchelskis, for example, only had one 'run' at goal all game. For all his headers, Dunc never had one to get hold of. Had all gone perfectly, it would have been carnage -- a case of C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le football.

To this glorious fixture, the Beeb devoted just 5 minutes of their 70 minute program, preferring Wimbledon and Boro hosting Reds and more Reds.


TEAM: - 8 - Things haven't quite come together yet, but on this occasion they didn't need to -- the host of chances alone were enough to make it a confidence-building cruise.

REF: Mike Reed (Birmingham). Reed is extremely intolerant of the slightest hint of illegal contact, yet doesn't use this as an excuse to wave his cards. It is my personal preference that all refs should act this way -- sadly most don't -- they're either laissez-jouer or auto-carders. Reed is very bad news for teams full of players who use 'professional' tactics as an integral part of their game. This cost Newcastle the game, frustrated into depression firstly by being called for so many fouls, then decisively when they couldn't feed off this by diving. Pallister must have nightmares in which all refs are like Reed and he's rendered ineffective.

I'd give 'em a Perfect 10

Steve Malone: The whole team showed stunning commitment and seemed to win almost every 50:50 ball, tackled anything that moved, and -- unlike almost the whole of last season -- nearly always had the extra man wide on both sides in defence to pass out of danger.

Before the match, I had lunch with my mate's True Blue mum, who mentioned that she had had a go at Chairman Carter a few years ago about the team resting on their laurels when they went ahead. One of the most impressive things about Saturday's game was that, despite comprehensively outplaying Newcastle in the first half, we continued to attack for much of the second half like we were the team who was 2:0 down.

We might have had several more goals -- In particular, Kanchelskis creating for himself an open goal then duffing it.

Whilst we were very dependent upon Big Dunc up front, there was another pleasing change from the boring tactic of the hopeful punt from midfield in the vague hope that Dunc might be able to reach it. This time many of the punts from midfield were with the outside of the boot to either wing, with the ball then taken purposefully forward before the inevitable cross to the Scottish forehead.

This tactic seemed to work especially well against Newcastle, partially because they always seemed totally surprised when it happened. And even that master of the crappy distribution, Earl Barrett, found his man a few times when he passed down the wing rather than his more typical give-the-ball-away lob into the middle.

Gary Speed seemed surprisingly confident given his brutalising at Leeds, and had clearly been told to play forward rather than deep. On local radio after the match he said that, for his goal, he ran into space before the ball reached Dunc because he knew that Dunc would win it, and he took what looked from behind the goal as quite a difficult chance well. Speed also said that he was very surprised at the high level of skill the other players in the club had and expected the team to do well this season.

Final applause must go to Big Nev - he made an incredible, world-class save from Shearer, appearing to dive horizontally at the hight of the bar to claw out a Shearer special. I'm sure young Gerrard wouldn't have got near it (like most of the other Premier League goalies). This was Nev's 700th appearance, and I was very glad to hear that Peter Johnson presented him with an engraved watch before the match to mark the event.

Time to bury my pessimism about not buying any expensive players - make that 11/10 for the best team performance I have seen for a very long time.

Match of the Day

Neil Woodhouse: For those of you unfortunate enough only to have seen Match of the Day and its usual biased editing, let me tell you the real story.

2.55 pm at GP in brilliant sunshine, the strains of Altogether Now fading and being replaced by the Z-Cars theme, the ground packed to the rafters, a deafening roar greets the players for the first game of the season -- it doesn't get much better than this!

Everton started brightly with Dunc having two attempts on goal in the first five minutes -- then they got better -- and better! Constant pressure was applied for the whole of the first half with Dunc playing the best game since he joined us.

The formation was 4-5-1 with Stewart, Kanchelskis and Speed alternating to play off Dunc. Newcastle had no idea how to defend against him and their centre backs Howey & Albert got more and more ragged as the game went on. Albert eventually resorting to booting him in the head to earn a richly deserved booking.

Apart from the goals everyone has heard about, Kanchelskis should have scored after waltzing round Hislop; Hinchcliffe almost scored from a free kick; Dunc missed a sitter from 6 yards, Speed should have scored another, Stuart(?) almost scored after a brilliant passing move involving 3 or 4 players carved through the defence it was so bewildering and fast that I can't recall the details. The good old Beeb obviously didn't have time to show any of this but they did show every single shot by Newcastle. Plus ca change......

On the rare occasions Newcastle got to our area they were easily contained by excellent covering and tackling by ALL the back four. Ebbrell and Parkinson won everything in midfield and stopped Shearer getting any service to speak of. Ferdinand was dominated by Unsworth and spent most of his time whinging to the ref.

When Newcastle did get a shot in Nev was there making several good and one outstanding save.

I know one swallow does not make a summer..... BUT??????

Individual Contributions

Team performance - 9 - First class! the only minor concern is that the attacking options were so dependent on Dunc and whilst it was not a one man show, you can't help being somewhat concerned if he is injured. The crowd got behind the team all game and comprehensively drowned out the away support. Something of a contrast from the same fixture last year.

Restricted View of Goal

Phil Bowker:After a slow drive from Derby, we arrive at 2:30 and coming out of the car park, out of 40,000 people I bump into my Geordie mate. We knock each other round in a playful kind of way as young bucks do and I feel distinctly laddish again - not bad for someone who's 36. Rush to the ticket shop to pick up my restricted view tickets, dash up the stairs, miss Z-cars (bugger!) but get sat down just as the match starts.

Everton kick off with a move straight from the training ground that gets Kanchelskis round the back of the defence and almost gets Stuart in for the opening goal.

I find myself looking around for something but I'm not quite sure what, and then I realise - the restriction! Where is it? Well, a post is obscuring the goal line at the Street end from the far goalpost to the near edge of the 6-yd box. This include the goalposts as well but not the net. Other than that, the view of the pitch is perfect and the restriction is no big deal.

As everybody else has said in their match reports already it really was one way traffic for the rest of the first half, the exception being NUFC's disallowed effort. I could clearly see our penalty incident and Ferguson was brought down, though clumsily rather than maliciously. Cucumber-calm penalty from Rhino who seemed to have to re-spot the ball on the referees instructions. More pressure followed, Dunc winning everything and then came the second, Speed showing great awareness to move onto Dunc's knockdown while everyone else stood still.

Throughout the first half, the most impressive thing was Ferguson's aerial ability. It's not just that he's 6' 4", it's also that he can jump. He was literally a well-know brand of shampoo above the Newcastle defence. Kanchelskis could also have scored right on half time when, one on one, he just couldn't quite get round Hislop. Earlier, Stuart was nearly put through with a glorious one-touch short passing move involving what seemed like most of the team.

Second half and for the first 15 we just carried on where we left off. Hinchcliffe had a free-kick that whistled just wide, Ferguson tapped a cross at Hislop when he should've lashed it, and one header drifted just wide. At the Street end not much was happening. Unsworth policed Shearer magnificently, reminiscent of the job he did on Klinsman in the semi-final, Short tidied up the lose ends and Pieman Parkinson did everything he could to stop the defence ever needing to touch the ball.

For the last 20 EFC seemed to kill the game. We played some great keep-ball at he back just knocking it around and generally playing the kind of stuff that gives fans the jitters. Dare I say it was reminiscent of the way our Stanley park neighbours used to frustrate opponents in the 70s. Going forward though, we'd lost our cutting edge. The longer passes were less accurate and there was noticeably less running in the forwards.

About 15 mins from the end, Beardsley came on to a standing ovation from the Goodison crowd. Nice touch that. Also, there was very little of the "what a waste of money" chanting that could've been expected. Also a plus point.

Final whistle and jump up and down, arms in the air, jubilation etc etc. Great result, great performance! It genuinely could've been 5- or 6-nil we were that dominant, although to qualify the result a little Newcastle were poor.

The only worries from my point of view were the number of chances that we missed - we will not always win if we are so profligate in future, and the fact that we visibly tired for the last 20, especially Dunc. We need to be fit and ready at this stage of the season, especially with the mid-week games coming up.

On a different theme I noticed at the Park End two Irish tricolors. Is this investment in Home Farm Everton paying off? I also noticed that Everton market a scarf of Everton/Ireland with a handshake motif in the middle. Is this exploitation of a genuinely untapped market or is it a more genuine reflection of the City of Liverpool's close historical links with Ireland? I suspect the answer is both.

Debutante Comes Out

My first trip to Goodison - Andrea Thrussell: The trip involved arranging for our little boys to sleep at their Grandparents' and rising at 5am on Saturday morning to catch the boat from the Isle of Man to Liverpool. The boat arrived at about 11am and we killed a couple of hours in the city counting the number of people wearing the new away shirts and eating lunch.

Am I alone in thinking the new Liverpool away shirts are AWFUL? For those who haven't seen them they are baggy, shapeless, cream coloured sacks with the club badge and sponsor's name the only features. The Everton shirts outnumbered them easily, and I must admit that although I was unsure about our new away shirts before, by the end of the day I was a great fan. They were everywhere!

We arrived at Goodison Park before 2pm. The weather was glorious and everywhere you looked there were fans in our shirts, about 4 to 1 in favour of the away colours. Outside the ground they were giving away plastic bowler hats in the club colours -- seen to great effect the previous weekend at Wembley -- but sadly once inside there weren't many to be seen. After getting the essential programmes, fanzines, tee-shirts etc we climbed to the heady heights of the Main Stand Upper Balcony and were grateful for the escalators.

Stepping into the daylight again my first view was breath-taking -- the blue and white of the seats opposite in the Bullens Stand and a bright green manicured pitch below. Wow!

We were seated just before 2pm so had plenty of time to take in the view, enjoy the sunshine and watch as the seats filled up. When the first players came out to warm up they got a huge welcome, and as the others followed they were all given the same greeting. Nearer to kick-off time there was a presentation to Neville to recognise his 700th appearance for the club and also Andrei received the Carling 'No.1' Player of the Month award for April, which seemed like two great ways to greet the new season.

We lined up exactly as expected and took the game to the Geordies from the very start. I couldn't see an empty seat a few minutes into the game, just a great sprawl of blue and amber stripes. The singing was great, too.

Impressions of the game

We varied our tactics quite well, I thought. Although there were a lot of long balls forward to Duncan, we also played some superb stuff on the ground too and some of the moves through the middle were reminiscent of a certain Manchester team, with the ball pinging from foot to foot at speed. Great to watch, especially from our elevated position, and the Newcastle defence looked quite bemused at times.

Barrett and Kanchelskis will have to work on their understanding if they are the first choice right-sided pairing but it showed promise. Barrett is a true defender and I would breathe easier with him behind Andrei than I would if Hottiger were there. Having said that, Barrett did get forward a couple of times and gave Beresford an additional headache.

Hinchcliffe's left foot was awesome from set-pieces and when crossing from the flanks, and he looked good. Unsworth is one of my favourite players and I thought he had a stormer on Saturday -- he looks as though he could be back to his best or better. I knew the penalty was going in as soon as he stepped up.

Watson looked solid in the first half and I was a little worried when he didn't come out at half time but Short didn't put a foot wrong in his place and will provide hot competition at the back. Ebbrell and Parkinson worked *so* hard in the centre of the pitch. Let me stress it was a hot day and the sun was streaming down all afternoon. I caught the ref wiping his face after only ten minutes! They worked tirelessly and unselfishly and I was particularly impressed with Parkinson.

In attack we looked dangerous every time we had the ball. Duncan of course led the line brilliantly. He WAS awesome, as JR said after the match. He made himself available all the time, running forward to create a target all afternoon, and only in the last ten minutes or so did he start to look a little tired, as did KanKan, who had a fairly quiet match by his own exceptional standards.

The weather must have been a factor, and Duncan will still be regaining match fitness, so I'm not concerned at this stage. But back to Duncan, we must all pray that he stays fit and out of trouble as he will be a real star this season. Newcastle couldn't handle him, and with Andrei, Speed and Stuart all willingly getting forward at different times to support him, we have great attacking options.

I was delighted for Gary Speed -- not just that he scored on his debut, but that it was in front of the Street End, where he watched as a kid. He should chip in with a dozen or more goals this season and that could be an important feature of our season.

Newcastle? Well, they just weren't in it. I must admit the disallowed Shearer 'goal' was a nasty shock after we had dominated so completely, but the impression I get is of a team of individuals who don't want to, or know how to, defend. We defended as a *team*, willingly and effectively and everyone except possibly Andrei got back when we lost possession.

Why did Keegan play Ginola on the right and Gillespie on the left? They both looked ... well, useless really! And one of my lasting impressions is of Ginola diving blatantly in the box, then staying prostrate, beating his fists on the turf and staying down for maybe 40 seconds, even when his side had the ball and were starting an attack. In Keegan's shoes I would have been tempted to haul him off, and he thoroughly deserved the "Cheat, cheat" chants and boos he got for the rest of his match.

Shearer and Ferdinand weren't on the same wavelength at all, although I was tense every time one of them got the ball in or near the box. I think they will be a lethal pairing before long. However, it was a good opportunity to see the Toon humbled and laugh as the Park End sang "Cheer up Kevin Keegan" repeatedly for the last 10 or 15 minutes.

Peter Beardsley replaced Ginola with 20 minutes to go and another strong memory is of the welcome he got from the entire ground. He was also the Newcastle player to walk furthest towards their supporters at the end and applaud them, so he was the last man off and got great applause from everyone as he walked back to the tunnel.

It was a great result and a thoroughly professional performance by the Blues. If we can sustain this early form we will be hard to break down. Did anyone else in the UK notice how the pundits on Sky today were all agreeing that Everton will be a team to watch this season and swooning over Dunc's early form? Oh they are fickle!

To end my account of last Saturday, I found out shortly after our result that my 'other' team, Cambridge Utd, also made a winning start, and then saw Barry Manilow's 'Copacabana' stage show at the Empire (a great surprise, I had no idea it was on in Liverpool this month!) before getting back on the boat at midnight and arriving home at 0530 on the Sunday - an exhausting but GREAT twenty four hours! I *will* do it again, soon.

Everton Storm the Castle

Joey Lovejoy, Sunday Times: AS FALSE starts go, Newcastle's has been well up in the Linford Christie class. The Charity Shield was only a glorified friendly they told themselves. They would be all right come the real thing. Wrong and wrong again.

Everton's dogs of war were hungrier than the north-east thoroughbreds, their appetite personified by Duncan Ferguson, who is clearly eager to make up for lost time after missing Euro 96 while recovering from hernia surgery. Scotland's centre-forward produced a towering performance in every sense, terrorising Newcastle's brittle defence in the air, running them ragged on the ground, and completely outshining Alan Shearer.

The £15m man did have a goal disallowed, but his push was a blatant one, and when he threatened with a typical header it was clawed out from under the crossbar, impressive evidence of Neville Southall's enduring excellence on his 700th appearance for Everton. Again it was no more Shearer's day than it was Newcastle's.

Everton, with Andrei Kanchelskis pacily incisive, won well, and might have had more than David Unsworth's penalty and an opportunist strike from Gary Speed to show for their superiority. Joe Royle thinks they are capable of improving on last season's sixth place, and points out that was achieved without his two best players, Ferguson and Kanchelskis, for long periods. Nobody who witnessed this high-voltage start was inclined to argue.

For Newcastle, it was another deeply dispiriting afternoon. Newcastle were unrecognisable as the barnstorming title-contenders of just three months ago. If their humiliation at Wembley had been the stuff of managerial nightmares, so was this. They were two goals down and on the rack before half-time.

Kanchelskis was presented with Everton's player of the year trophy before the game, and said his thank-yous in some style. The way Everton set about their work gave Keegan and his team an immediate attack of déjà vu. That dodgy defence was in trouble from the start, and seemed likely to come apart at any moment.

Kanchelskis was on fire, accelerating past two and three men at will in devastating bursts down the right touchline. Poor John Beresford would probably have settled for David Beckham to mark instead, the Ukrainian flier was that good.

Newcastle, clearly shaken, were kept on the back foot throughout the first half, although a couple of strong runs by Les Ferdinand panicked Joe Parkinson and David Unsworth into fouls, the second of which saw the young England defender booked.

Startling superiority had its reward after 27 minutes, when a typically determined run by Ferguson down the inside-left channel had Hislop bolting from his line and getting in a terrible panic with Steve Watson. Between them, they could do no more than bring down their tormentor for the most obvious of penalties, coolly dispatched by Unsworth.

After 40 minutes Newcastle's brittle back-line collapsed again when the rampant Ferguson challenged strongly for Stuart's cross from the right and the ball ran loose for Speed to shoot under the goalkeeper.

For Everton, it was the sort of half you wish would never end. It had to, of course, and Newcastle, having used the interval to regroup, reappeared in more competitive mood. Everton had to dig deep, but Craig Short and Dave Watson were granite rocks on which Newcastle's attacks foundered. Ferdinand was just wide with a header, Shearer had a 25-yarder saved, but Everton could point to accurate shots from Ferguson and Speed. As Keegan was the first to acknowledge, justice had been done.

Report Copyright The Sunday Times

Dream pairing in dire need of fine tuning

Andrew Longmore, The Times: Everton's victory was every bit as convincing as Manchester United's in the FA Charity Shield. Football might be a simple game, but it does not conform to statistics quite as readily as Keegan would like to believe. Only in fantasy football does double the number of strikers equal double the number of goals. "Most of the 50-50 balls were theirs," Keegan said, which was a tribute to the wholehearted work of Parkinson and Ebbrell in the centre of Everton's midfield but a tacit admission of a costly failing. "If you don't pass it well and keep it well, you get down to battling against these teams and we become second favourites that way." The priceless art of scrapping for points is still being sacrificed on the altar of perfection.

The implication was an unintended slur on Everton, who looked more likely title contenders. With Speed, the £3.5 million new boy from Leeds United, down the left and Kanchelskis on the right, Ferguson's supply lines are well laid. The Scotsman, a bargain-basement £4 million, only needed a goal to round off his afternoon. He forced Watson into a desperate lunge for Everton's first goal, a harsh penalty converted by Unsworth, and nodded on Stuart's long cross for Speed to score the second on his debut. "Awesome," Joe Royle, the Everton manager, muttered.

Had not Kanchelskis over-elaborated a simple chance before half-time, Newcastle's embarrassment would have been even deeper. Keegan, though, has taken solace from Manchester United's defeat by Aston Villa on the first day of last season. Clearly, he intends to play the tortoise, not the hare, this year.

Ferguson finds more holes in Newcastle's flagging defence

Colin Malam, Electronic Telegraph: ALAN SHEARER was completely upstaged by Duncan Ferguson yesterday as Newcastle made an uncharacteristic losing start to a new season. Ferguson, who cost only £4 million, £11 million less than the world's most expensive player, was the catalyst of an Everton victory that asked more awkward questions about Newcastle's teamwork and tactics.

As in the Charity Shield a week earlier, last season's Premiership runners-up were made to look old-fashioned and disjointed. While their much-hyped, double-barrelled attack of Shearer and Les Ferdinand was muzzled easily enough by Everton, their own suspect defence was constantly pulled out of shape by Everton's clever use of a flexible 4-5-1 formation.

David Unsworth, with a penalty, and Gary Speed, the Merseysiders' £3.5 million signing from Leeds, scored the first-half goals that decided an unexceptional match. All Newcastle could be grateful for was that an increasingly dominant Everton took none of the many scoring chances they created after the interval.

At first glance Newcastle appeared to put out a formation more rational than the one that fared so disastrously against Manchester United at Wembley in the Charity Shield. In particular, the inclusion of Keith Gillespie seemed to offer greater width and balance on the right, not to mention a better service for Shearer and Ferdinand.

Perversely, however, Kevin Keegan, Newcastle's manager, chose to play Gillespie, a right-footed player, on the left and David Ginola on the right. Granted, Ginola is also right-footed, but at least he is used to playing on the left and has evolved a technique to deal with it.

The reshuffle cost Peter Beardsley a start against one of his old clubs. With Robert Lee chosen as David Batty's attacking partner in central midfield, Beardsley had to be satisfied with a place on the substitutes' bench.

It was not a bad place to be, since Batty and Lee were swamped by Everton's use of a five-man midfield. From time to time, one of them, Graham Stuart, Andrei Kanchelskis or Speed, would break forward in support of the lone striker, Duncan Ferguson.

Shaka Hislop was the busier goalkeeper in the opening 20 minutes. He was not troubled unduly by Kanchelskis's shot from Unsworth's short free-kick or by Ferguson's header from Kanchelskis's flighted free-kick, but Everton would almost certainly have taken the lead had the Newcastle goalkeeper not got his hand to a teasing Kanchelskis cross before Speed met it with his head.

As Everton continued to buzz around Hislop's goal, Stuart headed an Andy Hinchcliffe centre wide before being refused a penalty for a heavy challenge on him by Philippe Albert. Stuart was also extremely unfortunate to have the ball stolen off his toes at the last minute after he and Ferguson had ripped Newcastle open with some slick inter-passing.

Ferguson might have had a hat-trick, but he could not quite muster the finish each chance required.

Ferguson was a real handful for Newcastle's central defenders, Steve Howey and Albert. They found it so difficult to cope with his aerial power and strength on the turn that it was hardly a surprise when the tall, angular Scot won his side a penalty after 27 minutes.

Under pressure from Ferguson, Steve Watson under-hit a headed back pass to Hislop. When Ferguson then nipped in between the two Newcastle players, he was brought down clumsily by Watson in the ensuing tangle between the three of them. Unsworth took the kick and calmly sent Hislop the wrong way.

In all that time Newcastle had only once looked like scoring themselves. It was when Shearer and Albert went up together for a Batty free-kick, and a header floated over Neville Southall into the far corner. Newcastle's joy was cut short, however, by the referee's decision that Shearer had pushed a defender. Shearer went close again, after 43 minutes, when he steered a Ginola centre towards the top far corner with a twist of his neck muscles. This was Southall's 700th appearance for Everton, but he leapt to claw the ball away with all the agility of an enthusiastic teenager.

By then Everton had established the 2-0 lead they enjoyed at half-time. When Newcastle failed again to deal with Ferguson in the air, the tall striker flicked on a long clearance out of defence for Speed to celebrate his Premiership debut for his new club by beating Hislop to the ball and sweeping it first time into the net.

Everton made enough openings in the second half to have scored several more goals. Ferguson might have had a hat-trick, but he could not quite muster the finish each chance required.

Set free on the left by Stuart, Ferguson blazed the shot over the bar when a square pass would have found Stuart running unmarked in front of goal for the return. Then, when Kanchelskis picked him out with a low centre from the right, Ferguson's shot was too careful to beat Howey's intervention.

The striker's most convincing attempt was a standing header that directed a Speed centre a foot wide of the far post. Ferguson also miscued with a late attempt to chip Hislop.

Shearer, as if to remind us he was still on the field, very nearly succeeded in snatching a goal for Newcastle in the last five minutes. Each time, however, he found it impossible to beat the evergreen Southall. He saved Shearer's shot on the turn comfortably enough, but really had to exert himself to beat away the free-kick the England striker tried to curl into the far top corner.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

Results and League Table

Sunday, 18 August 1996

SOUTHAMPTON             0-0    CHELSEA                   15,186  

Saturday, 17 August 1996

ARSENAL                 2-0    WEST HAM UNITED           38,056  
Hartson(27) Bergkamp(pen 40)
BLACKBURN ROVERS        0-2    TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR         26,960  
                               Armstrong(33, 67)
COVENTRY CITY           0-3    NOTTINGHAM FOREST         19,468 
                               Campbell(13, 36, 47)
DERBY COUNTY            3-3    LEEDS UNITED              17,927
Sturridge(77,88) Simpson(78)   Lausen(og 19) Harte(72) Bowyer(85)
EVERTON                 2-0    NEWCASTLE UNITED          40,117 
Unsworth(pen 29) Speed(40)
MIDDLESBROUGH           3-3    LIVERPOOL                 30,039  
Ravanelli(pen 26, 36, 81)      Bjornebye(4) Barnes(29) Fowler(65)
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY     2-1    ASTON VILLA               26,861  
Humphreys(56) Whittingham(84)  Johnson (88)
SUNDERLAND              0-0    LEICESTER CITY            19,262

WIMBLEDON               0-3    MANCHESTER UNITED         25,786
                               Cantona(25) Irwin(58) Beckham(90)

Table after 18 August 1996

Pos Club             P     W   D   L    GF  -  GA    Pts
 1. Nottingham       1     1   0   0     3  -   0     3
 1. Manchester_U     1     1   0   0     3  -   0     3
 3. Arsenal          1     1   0   0     2  -   0     3
 3. EVERTON          1     1   0   0     2  -   0     3
 3. Tottenham        1     1   0   0     2  -   0     3
 6. Sheffield_W      1     1   0   0     2  -   1     3
 7. Derby            1     0   1   0     3  -   3     1
 7. Leeds            1     0   1   0     3  -   3     1
 7. Middlesbrough    1     0   1   0     3  -   3     1
 7. Liverpool        1     0   1   0     3  -   3     1
11. Sunderland       1     0   1   0     0  -   0     1
11. Leicester        1     0   1   0     0  -   0     1
11. Southampton      1     0   1   0     0  -   0     1
11. Chelsea          1     0   1   0     0  -   0     1
15. Aston_Villa      1     0   0   1     1  -   2     0
16. West_Ham         1     0   0   1     0  -   2     0
16. Blackburn        1     0   0   1     0  -   2     0
16. Newcastle        1     0   0   1     0  -   2     0
19. Coventry         1     0   0   1     0  -   3     0
19. Wimbledon        1     0   0   1     0  -   3     0

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Kermit the Blue Frog for Marko Poutiainen. 22 Oct 1996.