This is the first in a regular series that will track Everton month-by-month through our four glorious trophy-winning seasons, now thirty years ago. It’ll provoke a smile or two, and maybe even a tear (definitely if Bill’s reading) and it’ll evoke a world so near, yet, in this global age of football, so far away. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ll enjoy writing them.
Everton had started November 1983 with a horrible at Anfield broadcast live on ITV for the nation to enjoy. Ian Rush had scored the opener (natch) and Steve Nichol had finished it with Spanish TV’s Michael Robinson killing us off on the hour mark. That sent a very strong Liverpool team top and dumped Everton into 17th, one off a relegation place. The “Kendall Out” brigades were clearing their throats and things looked grim. (I regret to say that I joined in the chants once after an horrendous 0-0 on which I shall report next week).
League form continued to be (at best) patchy, with a home win over a very decent Nottingham Forest side (who would finish the season in third place) offset by a shocking two goal reverse to Norwich City in front of just 14,106 at Goodison. A single goal defeat at Highbury wasn’t a bad effort, but, as was to be the case for much of that winter, knockout football provided Evertonians with cheer.
At a time when the League Cup mattered, Everton had been a goal down at home to an ordinary Coventry outfit with just 11 minutes to go and some of the 9,080 heading off for an early pie, when Adrian Heath popped up to equalise (as he was to do, unforgettably, a couple of months later at the Manor Ground, Oxford). Graeme Sharp put away the winner on the final whistle and we were through.
That Little and Large double act had already given more pleasure to Evertonians than their showbiz counterparts (then enjoying a run on the BBC), but both strikers had suffered a lean start to the season – it was just a second goal for Inchy and a fourth for the otherwise prolific Sharpie. Neither scored in the last match of the month, as goals from Peter Reid (he did get the odd one) and the great Kevin Sheedy delivered a draw in a tough assignment at Upton Park, to secure a replay in the League Cup 4th Round.
After the encouraging seventh place finish in 1982-83, with only runaway Champions Liverpool with a better goal difference, it all seemed to be falling apart for Kendall’s young side. Disillusion was in the air and we wondered if the lads were as good as we had hoped. Neville Southall, Gary Stevens, Kevin Ratcliffe, Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp, Adrian Heath, Kevin Richardson, Derek Mountfield – were they really up to it? The answer – the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime answer – was still some way off.