Continuing my look back to 30 years to the greatest Everton side of all time.
Everton started the new year with a trip to St Andrews and a rare chance to play a team below them in the League. Just 10,000 pitched up to watch the match which did not alter either team’s position but gave Howard Kendall’s men a much needed confidence boost with a solid 0-2 win. Evertonians who did travel down the M6 had their first sight of Pat Van Den Hauwe, a player who was to become the final piece in the Kendall jigsaw just nine months later.
The next two fixtures threw up one of those curiosities – successive matches against the same club – that can happen in a good Cup year, with Stoke dispatched 0-2 at the old Victoria Ground in the cup tie before grinding out a point at Goodison. Over twice as many turned out for the Third Round match as for the League fixture, which attracted fewer than 8000 fans – times change.
That sent Everton to Oxford’s Manor Ground on the back of four games unbeaten, but with rebellion hanging in the air. Even the Milk Cup mattered in those days and there was a widespread sense of “Do or Die” for Howard Kendall and his transforming side. Into the last ten minutes a goal down and fingernails at the quick, Kevin Brock essayed his fateful back pass and Adrian Heath, in the middle of a spell of nine goals in seven games, finished superbly, wheeling away in relief as much as joy to salute what may be the most important goal in the club’s history – a truly legendary moment. After squeezing in a 2-1 home win over Tottenham, Oxford United were put away 4-1 in the replay and Everton were a game away from Wembley and the “Champagne on ice” song.
A couple of goalless draws in the Third Round of the FA Cup carried the Gillingham tie into February, but there was no mistaking the feelgood factor amongst Bluenoses as Notts County succumbed to another 4-1 Goodison scoreline powered by an Adrian Heath hat-trick as February dawned. Everton had finished January still in both Cups and 14th in the 22 club First Division. After an Autumn and early Winter spent looking down the table, a Spring looking up beckoned. But nobody could have foreseen exactly how far up we would be looking.