Category Archives: Thirty years ago

Thirty years ago, and Everton start to look up rather than down 2 March 2014

It was his goalscoring that was remarkable, not his arms

It was his goalscoring that was remarkable, not his arms

When an early penalty was converted by Notts County’s Ian McParland in the first match of February, Everton fans were still looking down the table towards their opponents, occupying the third relegation spot. Half an hour later, such fears were allayed until the grim 90s, as Adrian Heath scored two thirds of a hat-trick and Kevin Sheedy added a penalty of our own.

The feelgood factor was carried through to the Priestfield Stadium where Gillingham were eventually put away with the same two players delivering three first half goals – Wembley, and a visit for the first time in seven years, was beginning to feel close in both cup competitons.

A young team relished the chance to play two games a week – nobody seemed to worry too much about squad rotation back then: unless it was turns to get the beers in! So, after a one-all draw at the Hawthorns in the league (when Derek Mountfield showed the eye for goal that would become so critical a year later), it was a big house at Goodison for a repeat of the 1977 League Cup Final this time with the Villa coming for the semi. Sheedy notched a fourth goal in four matches and the emerging Kevin Richardson added a second which was to prove the ticket to Wembley after the second leg’s one-nil reverse. The weekend brought a comfortable passage through to the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Shrewsbury, before the month was rounded off at Watford, a team we were to meet again in May.

Blues fans walked the long way round to the away end on what looked like a dogtrack with a football field in the middle. Elton John and Graham Taylor had fashioned a swift rise to the top flight and had a couple of gems upfront in Mo Johnston (later a Blue) and John Barnes (later, of course, a Red), but, as was the way then, hadn’t spent much on what was clearly a Fourth Division ground. Having become accustomed to these surroundings, we turned round one-down but with some optimism. Little did we know.

Before the offside rule changed, the back-pass to the keeper was circumscribed and cards were thrown like confetti, goals were rarer commodities – but not that late winter afternoon (nor in the same fixture the next season). Graeme Sharp equalised to spark a clatter of six goals in 27 minutes. We were still on the end of a 4-3 defeat, until Adrian Heath popped up with his fifth goal of the month to salvage a point and send Everton into March with plenty of confidence.

That month was to bring three matches against Liverpool, the start of a seven year period of huge derbies against the old enemy in which trophies, or careers, seemed always to be on the line. Not that we could see that then – but we were daring to believe.        

It was 30 years ago today / Howard Kendall taught the band to play 2 February 2014

And don't forget to run in behind on the backpass Son

And don’t forget to run in behind on the backpass Son

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.  

Everton December 1983 – The season so far 25 December 2013

Yes, the shorts really were like that.

Yes, the shorts really were like that.

Another in the series of monthly updates tracking the rise of Everton’s double Title winning side of the mid-80s, thirty years on.

December started well with Kevin Sheedy showing his growing penchant for scoring goals in big games with the winner at Old Trafford. He was at it again just three days later with the extra-time strike that dispatched West Ham 2-0 and sent the Blues through to the fifth round of the League Cup – the competition that saved Howard Kendall.

While cup progress was pleasing (and a portent of what was to come in 1984), league form was as elusive as ever. Five more Division One games brought just one goal (Andy Gray at, inevitably, his old club, Aston Villa) and three more points, the year rounded off by a horrible 0-0 vs Coventry in front of just 13,659 at Goodison. The “Kendall Out” brigade were in fine voice and, had there been a transfer window about to open, it’s hard to believe that he would have survived. 

And yet the 12 players who took the field on the last day of 1983 included nine of the greats who were to deliver the 1984-85 title with five matches to spare. Neville Southall was already showing his class in goal, an unlikely footballer who excelled in what was then a more limited role – he stopped shots and collected crosses, commanding his box. His fellow defenders were a young but athletic Gary Stevens, a man who suddenly added astute positioning and a cool head to his always electrifying pace – Kevin Ratcliffe, fellow centre-back and wholehearted defender with an eye for goal, Derek Mountfield and the bonkers John Bailey, a decent left-back, but no Pat Van Den Hauwe, who would replace him in the Autumn of 1984.

With Graeme Sharp missing the match, Adrian Heath was up front with a not yet resurgent Andy Gray. They were prompted by a midfield that included the incomparable Kevin Sheedy and pugnacious Peter Reid, with Kevin Richardson coming on as a late substitute. Paul Bracewell had yet to arrive and form his rock solid partnership with Peter Reid in the middle of the park, two box-to-box midfielders who could tackle, beat a man and play a killer ball. Trevor Steven was already at Goodison, but not yet a regular – his direct play and energy would transform Everton’s right-side. 

Could we have known that 80% of Everton’s greatest team was there in front of us throughout that dismal end to 1983? Perhaps if each player could reach their potential – Reid to stay fit, Stevens and Steven to develop, Andy Gray to blossom in an Indian summer, Graeme Sharp to play at his top level week-in, week-out. But for the alchemy to work for all those players, simultaneously, in the teeth of a disgruntled Goodison crowd for a manager under pressure? That is the stuff of dreams. But dreams do come true and, in January, we got a glimpse of the future.   

Everton November 1983 – The season so far 26 November 2013

HKThis 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.