Paradise Lost in the Blue Side of Mersey
Records that can stand alongside those of the top English football clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. So which club is the proud proclaimer of these grand victories? Well, none other than Everton! To some recent observers of the Premier League, Everton might seem like a hard-working team from Merseyside who finish between sixth and twelfth consistently and has the capability to beat the ‘Big Boys’ on their day. Everton too has been quite a big club, and still is, if you ask me; and to understand what I am saying here, we would need to delve into history. So, let’s flip through the pages of English football history and find out, what stories Everton has to tell us and learn more about its contribution to English football.
Nine League titles, five FA Cup wins, nine Charity Shields and one European Cup Winners’ Cup
A Religious Foundation
Everton began its journey as St. Domingo’s, named after a local Baptist church which encouraged the youngsters in its parish to play football, once the cricket season got over, so that they could remain fit and healthy. A year later, they adopted the name Everton Football Club, as Everton was the name of the district in Liverpool, where they played their football.
A decade later, with football growing ever popular, they joined forces with other football clubs, like Preston North End, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Accrington (no relation to Accrington Stanley of today), Burnley, Derby County, Notts County and Stoke City to form a football league. The first ever league winners in 1888/89 were Preston North End, though Everton were soon in on the act, winning their first title two years later.
The club originally played at Stanley Park but with increasing interest in the game and more and more supporters thronging in to watch the Blues play, it was decided in 1882 that the club will move to a new home to accommodate more fans to watch the game. They did so, by moving to a piece of land in Priory Road. Today, Liverpool’s Anfield stadium stands in that patch of land.
They continued to ply their trade at Anfield till 1892, when a dispute with the land owner, John Houlding over increased rent, forced them to move out of Anfield and set up another stadium on the other side of Stanley Park. This was to be called Goodison Park, the ground the club continues to play in today.
The remaining players and Houlding decided to form their own club – Liverpool FC. A city-wide rivalry was born and both the clubs continue to play their home games with just a small stretch of green park land separating them.
Dixie Dean: The Greatest Evertonian?
Dixie Dean moved to Everton from city rivals, Tranmere Rovers in 1925. In the 1927-28 season, he helped Everton secure the League title with an amazing goal-scoring record of 60 goals in 39 matches – a record that still stands today. Surprisingly, Everton were relegated two seasons later but Dixie was back to his best and scored 39 times in 37 games to propel them into the top division again.
The Dire 50’s and the Swinging 60’s
Post-war, Everton had some years in the doldrums due to some players leaving. Theo Kelly, the manager was unable to match the standards the club had set before the war and left the club in 1948. Cliff Britton took charge and oversaw a distinctly dire period in Everton’s footballing history. The club was undeniably flirting with relegation for a number of seasons, before the inevitable happened in the 1950/51 season, and the Toffees slipped into the second tier of English football. After spending two seasons in the tier two of English Football, Everton was back among the ‘big boys’ for the 1953-54 season. In 1956, Britton left Everton and Ian Buchan and Johnny Carey temporarily came to the clubs for short stints as managers. Neither of them was unable to turn around the fortunes of the club, and Everton went through a barren patch.
Fortunes of the club changed with the appointment of Harry Catterick as the manager in 1961. Catterick is regarded as one of the best managers in Everton’s history. Everton were crowned League Champions in the 1962-1963 season, with Roy Vernon having considerable impact on the pitch. This led to Everton competing in the European Cup for the first time, during the 1963/64 campaign. Everton also won their third FA Cup in 1966, after defeating Sheffield Wednesday. This win was all the more special, as they had come back from two goals down, to win 3-2. The Toffees (Everton’s nickname) were aiming to win their fourth FA Cup after reaching the final in 1968. However, they faced a strong West Bromwich Albion team, who eventually came away victorious.
Such was Catterick’s ambition, he continued to add to his side with the then British record £110,000 signing of Alan Ball – who became the corner stone in one of the greatest ever Everton teams.
After assembling a glittering squad consisting of Howard Kendall and Allan Ball, Everton won the league title for the seventh time in 1969-70 season. However, after winning the league, Catterick saw his team stuttering down the table, and with his health deteriorating, Catterick resigned as the manager in 1973.
The Glorious 80’s
Billy Bingham took over for a few years, but fourth place was the highest that Everton ever finished in the league under him. Gordon Lee took charge in 1977, and the Toffees performed well, with the team finishing third and fourth in consecutive seasons. The season that followed, almost saw Everton relegated and Lee left Everton in 1981.
Former player, Howard Kendall was appointed after Gordon Lee left Everton. Little did the Blue side of Merseyside know that Kendall will oversee the best period in the club’s history. Kendall had a rocky start at Everton. In fact some supporters were calling for his head when the club made a poor start to the 1983/84 season with the lowest point being a 0-0 draw with Coventry City in December, in front of close to 14,000 fans at Goodison, the majority of whom booed the players from the field. Kendall was on the brink.
A League Cup away tie at Oxford United was the day things turned around for Kendall and Everton. Oxford were a goal up and their defender, Kevin Brock decided to play a back-pass to the goal-keeper, unaware that Adrian Heath was lurking behind him. Heath duly obliged and equalized, saving Kendall’s blushes.
The club never looked back since, and lost only three of the last 21 games and finished seventh in the league and reached both the FA and League Cup finals. The League Cup final finished 0-0 against Mersey rivals Liverpool, though the Reds had the last laugh in the replay.
Thankfully, Everton had another chance for Wembley glory in the May against Graham Taylor’s side, Watford. Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray grabbed a goal in each half to give Everton their fourth FA Cup.
Everton began the season with the confidence of a FA Cup win and defeated Liverpool in the charity shield. However, they lost their first two games, which dampened the spirit but with a win away at Chelsea, started a run that saw only one defeat in the next 20 games.
Everton were on a rampage in both the domestic and European front. Three separate consecutive-winning runs of 10, 9 and 7 games – including a win over Liverpool at Anfield and a 5-0 thumping of Manchester United in consecutive weeks – kept an amazing trophy treble well on course.
The first title since 1970 was secured with a 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers and with a late winner by Derek Mountfield, at Villa Park against Luton Town, sent Everton to the FA Cup final in Wembley.
The real drama was happening on the European Front…
Goodison’s Greatest Night
Everton had reached the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup by overcoming University College Dublin, Inter Bratislava and Fortuna Sittard. They faced Bayern Munich in the last four and after a goalless first leg in Germany, they fell 1-0 down at home.
Such was the noise that day at Goodison that Kendall believed the ball will get sucked in by the sheer noise of the Gwladys Street end. He was not off the mark.
Andy Gray scored a brace to put Everton ahead and Trevor Steven sealed the win to send the Goodison faithful into a delirium. The match is still considered to be the greatest game ever played at the famous old ground.
Everton faced Rapid Vienna in the final and duly dispatched them 3-1 to win their first European trophy. The FA Cup final against Manchester United was a step too far and after a goalless 90 minutes, Norman Whiteside scored in extra-time to win it for the Red Devils.
Then and Now
After the Heysel stadium disaster and subsequent ban of English clubs from European competitions, Kendall left Everton as he wanted to test himself in Europe. The subsequent managers failed to inspire any confidence and Everton slumped down the table. Howard Kendall then came back to the club to manage for a second time. He failed to inspire the players, or get the results required to succeed. Realising that he was not the man to take Everton forward, Kendall resigned at the end of 1993.
In 2002, David Moyes was appointed as Everton’s manager and with a meagre budget, he has repeatedly built teams that punch above its weight and has done a great job in keeping Everton in the top flight. Everton is in dire need of investment and the current chairman, Bill Kenwright has failed to attract investors. With such a history, Everton should be attracting significant investments to either improve the old stadium or build a new one, although the latter might prove to be a hindrance.
Everton is a great club and needs revival. It deserves to be among the top clubs in England. With such a passionate support base and such history, Everton should attract investors and revive the club and bring back its glory days. Although, one thing Everton will never lack, is PASSION.