In a couple of weeks, we’ll arrive at the 40th anniversary of the Blues’ 1970 League Championship triumph: 1 April 1970: Everton 2 - 0 West Brom... on a Wednesday night. 10 days earlier, we’d beaten Liverpool at Anfield when Shankly had recalled Ian St John and Ron Yeats in a desperate attempt to halt the Blue tide.
The following week I saw us put 5 past Peter Bonetti and Chelsea in the first 45 minutes; still the best half of football I’ve seen. Then a tight win at Stoke on the Easter Monday... followed by the West Brom game two days later. We won the league with two games to spare.
Our club doesn’t do dynasties but in all bar one case it’s always down to circumstances beyond our control: 1891... moved ground; 1915... WW1; 1939... WW2; 1985... Heysel. To 1985 you can add 1987 and the lack of European football. Blimey, even in the Dixie years between 1928 and 1932, we managed to get relegated! After '63, the team primarily broke up through the ageing process although that was accelerated by the Tony Kay saga and perhaps the fact that we drew Inter Milan in the first round of the European Cup — who went on to win it two years on the bounce.
But in 1970, we should have been all set. The average age of the squad (if you take out Morrissey, Labone, Newton and Brown) was under 25. The Holy Trinity only played 24 games together out of 42 in the league (I looked it up), suggesting that the team could cope without one of them (although, in the early part of the season, Tommy Jackson had been the replacement when Howard Kendall had been injured but Catterick sold him in the October and I can’t for the life of me remember why).
Brian Labone missed the last 10 games through injury but a young Roger Kenyon had stepped in seamlessly. Alan Whittle aged 21, had played the second half of the season and scored for fun... and we had an 18-year-old Dave Johnson waiting in the wings. Jesus, even Gordon West was only 27, although disconcertingly his missus had made him cry off from the ensuing Mexico World Cup, which I thought was a bad sign.
One thing I’ll never forget was an interview that took place on Match of the Day after the Sheffield Wednesday away game, 3 days after we’d won the Championship. The interviewer was questioning Harry Catterick and Alan Ball (Bally was captain as Labone was injured) about the victory we’d just achieved against Wednesday and the League triumph in general. I can’t recall the details but the general tenure of the interviewees was that they’d just been to a bloody funeral. What should have been an occasion of joy and mirth was the complete reverse. I remember thinking “What’s the fucking matter with the pair of them?” I know Catterick was an awkward sod and uncomfortable with the press but Bally wasn’t... It didn’t sit well with me.
Of course the following season was a disaster. We finished 14th. We got knocked out of the European Cup by Panathinaikos (in the 1st leg, how the fuck we weren’t 5 up in the first 20 minutes is beyond me) and the FA Cup by Liverpool in the space of 3 days... And for the next 13 years, apart from the odd oasis, that was pretty much it!
So... what went wrong? This much I know (or at least I think I know)...
1) Catterick was in poor health and this was to have a detrimental effect on his job performance.
2) Labone and Ball came back knackered from Mexico.
3) Harvey had some mysterious eye injury that meant he was never the same player.
4) Labone was pretty much finished by the end of the '71 season and perhaps his positive influence was a big miss.
5) Ball was sold to Arsenal at the end of '71 amidst rumours of gambling debts... although, as it transpired, I’m pretty sure we had his best years.
We should have dominated English football for the next 5 years. Apart from Leeds United, the rest of the potential challengers were very ordinary. Arsenal did the double in 71 with a team that was nothing more than workmanlike.
There are plenty of players from the 1970 team that are continually in the local media but I’ve never seen or heard a definitive explanation for the collapse; maybe I missed it. If so, perhaps someone can enlighten me.
The saddest part of all is that the team was absolutely brilliant and it was such a waste. As I said, we don’t do dynasties... but maybe we do patterns. Every 24 years we win the league. 2011...? We can live in hope.
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1 Posted 10/03/2010 at 23:18:02
I’ve always thought that Catterick lost the plot. He was outmanouvered by Shankley, Revie and others. It has to go down as another opportunity lost.
2 Posted 11/03/2010 at 00:35:53
2. Harvey, Labone and Royle had one injury crisis after another.
3. Moores built a stand: and as almost in every other case, ground redvelopment = lack of funds for team rebuilding.
4. There was a lack of vision, forward planning, as well as money.
By the way, we beat West Brom 2-0 on a Tuesday night.
I too remember the Charlton quote. And in fairness, the 70’s did see some good football and a limited amount of success. Dobson, Latchford, Thomas etc were no dummies, but they suffered in contrast with what had gone before.
3 Posted 11/03/2010 at 01:55:02
4 Posted 10/03/2010 at 23:45:00
The 1970 Everton team was a real enigma. As you rightly pointed out, it was a team destined for greatness. But one year on from winning the League title, it suddenly all imploded. I’m unsure why this happened, but I can speculate. In my view, it was a combination of factors.
From a macro level, I think player power was slowly coming to the fore and ’old-style’ managers like Catterick didn’t know how to handle this new situation. He seemed to want to use the time-tried and trusted method of ’sell them if they start to get cocky and rebuild from scratch’ which worked well in the 60s and before.
If you recall, Catterick rebuilt Everton twice before in the same way — once in the late 50s when he first took over, and then again after 1963 when he won the League Championship. However, as a strategy, this may not have been relevant by the 1970’s.
This aside, I also feel that many teams that were considered the ’Big 8" in the 60s — Everton, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds, Man City and Man Utd — all seemed to have lost steam as they entered the 1970s. All, that is, except for Liverpool.
For instance, the first half of the 70s were disastrous for Manchester Utd who found themselves relegated in 1974. Manchester City who’d won the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1969, 70 and 71, fell off badly as the 70s progressed.
Leeds Utd’s golden era ended abruptly in 1975. Spurs and Chelsea became Div 2 teams in the 70s too. And after their League and Cup double triumph, Arsenal went into a slump of sorts until the late 70s, when they started to recover with a couple of FA Cup final appearances. The void during this period was filled for a short time by teams like Derby and Notts Forest.
So Everton’s demise in the 1970s, sad though it may seem, is by no means unusual. Anyway, it’s nice to walk back through memory lane. The 70s were indeed a fascinating time. By the way, the team jerseys looked much better back then too!
5 Posted 11/03/2010 at 04:24:26
Wilf Dixon ran the team with Catterick making his guest appearances for the media.Sometimes I think Catterick was the most surprised that we won the league on both occassions and hadn’t considered the longer term.
To be fair Shankly was more or less the first manager in the "modern" era to plan for the future, hence the dynasties we’ve seen since then. I think prior to Shankley only Arsenal had really long continual challenging for honours periods.
Possibly it was a bit new for Catterick I don’t know but I think he just didn’t have the capacity to progress within himself.
6 Posted 11/03/2010 at 04:20:11
On a few occasions I was privileged to have a few pints in a company which included Brian Labone, who was a cracking bloke, who had time for anyone who wanted to talk Everton.
He regaled us with tales of having to clock on of a morning, and how you never saw him until the day before a match, when the tactics board came out.
But the things that really stuck in my mind were the fact that he used to write out a report card after each match, rating the overall performance, and each player individually. The one he showed us was of a home game against Man Utd in the early sixties, which we wone 1-0 with a penalty by the great Roy Vernon. It had comments like ’’Young - could do better’ and ’Vernon - much better in the second half’’.
You couldn’t really make it up. But it shows that at the time, nobody knew they were creating history.
The other story concerned going away on foreign trips. At the time he was telling the story, there was some media story about a club on tour in Europe, whose players had got involved in some sort of ’honeypot’ scandal involving prostitutes and the police. Labone said there was never any chance of that happening with Everton trips, simply because Catterick took everbody’s room key and the only way you could get back in was to go and see him for your key. If you didn’t get the key, it meant that you had stayed out with a resultant fine.
Labone had respect for Catterick but was far too civilised to criticise him at all, which is a measure of the man.
But can you imagine such things happening in this day and age?
7 Posted 11/03/2010 at 04:54:19
8 Posted 11/03/2010 at 06:31:22
Don’t really know what went wrong after this but one thing is for sure. That night left me completely hooked on the Toffees and I’ve had to put up with 40 years of mood swings (depending on results) ever since.
9 Posted 11/03/2010 at 06:44:12
* the players suffered a "hangover" from the previous season and weren’t focussed
* certain players had out-performed the in 69-70 and were never as good again - particularly Alan Whittle
* Catterick seemed to panic and broke the team up too early
Plus, some times teams just peak and never attain the same heights again. It may be sacrilege to say it but I thought the 68-69 team played better than the championship winning team but never won a sausage.
10 Posted 11/03/2010 at 08:00:58
11 Posted 11/03/2010 at 08:01:01
I remember Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter talking about life under Revie.
They said in the 60’s, on the nights before away games, he would organize things like Bingo for the players.
Hunter said "it might seem odd now to imagine that, but we really enjoyed it".
Later when Revie became manager of England, he tried to do the same.
Apparently all the (non-Leeds) players took the piss and If I remember rightly, Stan Bowles REALLY took the piss (and wasn’t invited back).
Years later, I saw Bowles (STILL taking the piss!) going on about "Grown men, aw sittin’ abaaht wiv bingo cards? Cryzee!".
The reason I mention it is that I think there was a big changes in ’society’ between 63 and 70.
I know society is constantly changing, but this was a sea-change really.
(mens haircuts are a good indicator - for most average fellers, a haircut was basically the same from 1900 to about 1965, then...head lunacy)
I believe players (especially players at non-London clubs) in 1963 were in a fairly similar situation to those in 1953.
A few quid more maybe but the Manager/boss’s word absolute law and...that’s it.
Any player that didn’t like it?
Choice - fuck off get on with it.
When we won the league in 63, I can imagine the Cat’s word was absolute law.
(nb: all that team had a short-back and sides!)
By the end of 1970 however, we’d been through The Beatles, The Stones, The Summer of Love (ie: drugs) Haight Ashbury, The Black Panthers, Paris riots, end the war in Vietnam rallies and men had walked on the moon.
By 1970, we had just had 6 or 7 years of "Question authority, your parents are wrong, break the shackles, old people cause wars, leave things to us young people" etc blah.
I’m not saying ’This is THE reason we fell apart’ but rather suggesting it was an unseen, but possibly potent contributing factor.
Players like the 18 year old Alan Ball might have been been prepared to be screamed at and fined for being late, but would the 1971 version?
Personally, I doubt it.
12 Posted 11/03/2010 at 11:20:11
13 Posted 11/03/2010 at 11:23:10
We won the league in 69/70 but this was the end result of a process. The process began with team rebuilding after ’66 and the emergence and signing of good young players. The arrival of Alan Ball was in many ways the final piece of a jigsaw (bar one...Kendall) which led to the Championship in due course.
But the best football for me (to watch) took place in the two seasons between Ball’s and Kendall’s arrival, the formulation of the Holy Trinity and the Championship itself. The footy I watched in 67/68 and 68/69 was far superior in my view to the stuff I watched in the title year, as good as it was.
What went wrong, I think, is that by 70/71 the majority of these players had been together for four years and neither managerially nor in terms of the influence of older players (as Labone and Wilson faded from the scene especially) the club did not have the glue to keep them together. Catterick was a dead loss in this respect.
I did hear a rumour at the time that the reason Alan Ball was sold by the club so readily was not just because of the phenomenal amount of money offered, it was also about Bally continually badgering for the gradual influx of better players and that Catterick did not take too kindly to that.
If anybody has seen the interview on Sky last year of Harvey, Kendall and Royle, things were said in that that do tend to suggest that this is true.
14 Posted 11/03/2010 at 11:40:57
If anybody doubts how good the football was in those two earlier seasons, try www.vimeo.com/8968127
Everton 3 Man Utd 1 (Ball2 Young1- Charlton1)
It’s an old Match of the Day recording and while difficult to view because of it’s age, it’s well worth a look!
15 Posted 11/03/2010 at 13:14:52
Funnily enough I think the 3 - 2 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield after being 2 - 0 up, the defeat to the Greeks in I think the European Cup quarter final, and the semi final defeat to the shite sowed the seeds for our demise.
16 Posted 11/03/2010 at 14:30:55
You just get....lost in it - fantastic.
There’s a great snippet of commentry that illustrates how fucking dull Wolstenholme was.
George Best goes on a little run..
KW: "And Best AT HIS......greatest there"
(is there ANYONE else who wouldn’t have said "...at his best"?)
Great piece of nostalgia.
17 Posted 11/03/2010 at 14:55:04
Prepare to be disapointed. Sky re-wrote the history in 1992 and, for better or worse, football hasn’t been the same since.
Good article. Your lucky to have witnessed a championship winning side. I wonder if i ever will.
18 Posted 11/03/2010 at 15:18:03
19 Posted 11/03/2010 at 16:17:35
Maybe things WILL eventually change.
I have nothing logical to base that on, but for those old enough (quite a few on this thread) there was a time when we thought Liverpool would win the title every year for the rest of our lives.
They seemed a reliable bet every bleeding season.
Year in, year out, there they were - horrible, relentless...champions. But it’s now getting on for 20 years AND...they’re getting further away!
It certainly is "a fanny owl gime".
20 Posted 11/03/2010 at 17:01:54
The primary change was to replace Bobby Collins with Dennis Stevens. Not popular at the time but Dennis did a great workmanlike job for us in the 63 title-winning side. Then there was Tony Kay......
21 Posted 11/03/2010 at 17:27:21
I suppose trading the young David Johnson for Rod Belfitt probably wasn’t Catterick’s smartest move & can’t have helped the early 70’s team at all.
22 Posted 11/03/2010 at 18:50:52
Our first home game of the 70/71 season was against Arsenal and I think it ended 2-2. I think it was the first match home or away. I was there. It was warm.
Alan Ball had taken over the captaincy from Labone. I don’t think it was temporary, I thought it was a new ‘club captain’ as Labone was nearing the end of his career. Great player. Both.
Henry Newton – majestic in the World Cup in Mexico – had arrived from – Blackburn? I think so.
But Newton made a poor headed clearance and – Charlie George? – scored from inside the box. At the Park End.
Ball went to confront Newton and Newton picked him up by his shirt and would have layed him flat if Labone hadn’t arrived to calm them down. Well – to stop them fighting. They weren’t calm – I don’t think ever again. At the match no-one had any sympathy for Ball. He showed himself what he would be – a poor captain, a niggler not an inspirer.
I’m going to post this and then research it as an exercise in memory – I’ve always believed that’s what I saw and that Ball left Everton because his captaincy was a failure. And until now I’ve never thought about checking it.
So don’t shoot me if any of the above is wrong – but it’s what I’ve always believed to be the main reason for the team falling apart in 71.
But one thing is for sure - I was there!
23 Posted 11/03/2010 at 20:19:30
The day I got up for school and heard on the radio that we had sold Alan Ball to Arsenal was a day I’ll never forget. It felt like the beginning of the end, although it had probably started before that as people have already said. I still haven’t got over it.
24 Posted 11/03/2010 at 21:40:02
25 Posted 12/03/2010 at 05:20:47
In truth all Evertonians have suffered greatly. Being an Evertonian is a byword for being depressed in footballing circles. At least now we have a team to be proud of in terms of their attitude and I really do hope that some of the sky four are ready to give it up. Liverpool and United are facing oblivion, they are so used to success and the finanacial state of their clubs are precarious in a global economic recession. Chelsea will soon need to recreate themselves as their kiss and tell stories and honeytraps reveal them as a team riven with internal strife. Only Arsenal with their brilliant stadium and philosophy seem ready for the next phase in the footballing oddysey. We are next best placed because we are the only team producing our own players of a sufficient high standard. Man City will do well and Villa are a threat. I dismiss Spurs - they don’t have the character or leadership and should have already broken into the sky 4 given their funding. Either Sunderland or Newcastle might emerge but they are nowhere at the moment. I am so excited about next season and get the feeling we could do something special with some luck. Great article by the way, football was different in those days, there is too much money in the game nowadays for clubs to go from Champions to relegation candidates in a season or two. The game isn’t as much of a lottery with bad pitches, inept refs, horror tackles, jumpers for goalposts etc.
26 Posted 12/03/2010 at 11:18:01
27 Posted 13/03/2010 at 02:49:56
Until I read all these fascinating replies to this article I would have answered that the biggest single reason why the 69-70 team did not go on to become the team of the 1970's was the lessening of team spirit and harmony brought about by Alan Ball's appointment as captain and his general frustration with teammates when things did not go well whether he was captain or not. However there are so many good points made in the comments above that I realise that there were also many other factors at play. So here are my comments not necessarily in order of imporance.
1. Alan Ball as captain as documented above and in many direct or indirect comments made by players in books and interviews.
2. Alan Ball as a player. He had been so fantastic in the years 1967-70 that his relative loss of form after the 1970 World Cup was bound to impact the team as a whole. The loss of form was not just through being knackered but he was also carrying a long-standing pelvic injury at some point 1970-72. As has been well documented his goalscoring dropped off in this period, whereas before he was good for around 20 goals a season which was incredible considering the amount of work he got through all over the pitch.
3. Brian Labone as a captain. He and Ball were such opposites but all teams need both a Labone and a Ball. As a captain he was just right for the talented team of mainly youngsters around him. The change both on and off the field must have been dramatic when Ball took over at the end of the 69-70 season.
4. The strengths of Harry Catterick as a manager were also his weaknesses as others have already commented.There was a world of difference between managing in 1963 and 1971 as times and football changed. He was known as a 'directors manager' whereas Shankly and Revie were known as 'players managers' and the latter two were perhaps able to cope better in the early 70's. Catterick was not the only manager who found it difficult around this time. Bill Nicholson, a fairly similar type of manager, left Spurs a year after Catterick left Everton and Joe Mercer, after great success at Man City,left around 1972 and Matt Busby stepped down at ManU around 1970. It is interesting however that it was certainly not the case that all players bristled as Ball must have done under Catterick's iron rule. I can remember both Royle and Harvey speaking with great respect and admiration and liking of the manager right through to his departure. Ball was compared most often with Billy Bremner as a player (and character) but when you compare how well Revie and Bremner worked together for so many years, then we can only wonder how good it would have been in the 1970's if Catterick and Ball had had a similar relationship.
5. The team and some key players had already peaked by 1971. Ball was such an outstanding player that we can well refer to the seasons 1966-71 as the 'Alan Ball years'. The first 4 of those seasons (66-70) saw an absolutely outstanding team and there was still some pretty good stuff in 70-1. As many players and fans have said, the football in 67-8 and 68-9 was even better than in the Championship year of 69-70. The 1968 Cup should have been won and then the 68-69 European CWC must have been a strong possibility as well as another Wembley Final (and win) against Leicester in 68-9 if not for the last minute goal by Tommy Booth in the semi-final. As for 70-1, then with a little bit of good luck and better refereeing,the Blues could have been at Wembley twice in 71 against Ajax and Arsenal (wins not guaranteed). That would have been quite a load of success to match any one else in that period.
6. Ball and Harvey had been playing consistent non-stop top class football for about 6 years by 1971 and their style of play, skill, running, endeavour, tackling, workrate, commitment, was perhaps best suited for players in their early and mid-20's rather than late 20's. Husband and Whittle, two of the other flair players, hit their peak even earlier. Husband's best seasons were 66-7 and 68-9 when he was barely out of his teens and Whittle was only 19 in his fantastic 69-70 season. These two were also heavily marked and Husband in particular suffered from a bad injury apparently in a tackle by Dave Mackay.
Finally there were so many good teams in that period. Arsenal, Leeds and Liverpool were defensively minded, organised and usually dour. ManU and Spurs were somewhat the opposite, they could never get a good enough defense to go with their attacking strengths. ManCity and West Ham didnt even seem to bother with their defense but were great going forward. Everton were well-balanced with of course a wonderful midfield. The nearest team to Everton in style were Chelsea, who were a very good team in the late 60's and early 70's.They were also based on a bunch of outstanding homegrown players (Hollins, Hudson, Osgood, Hutchinson, Houseman, Harris, Bonnetti etc for Harvey. Wright. Hurst, Husband, Royle, Whittle, Kenyon) and they too imploded in the early 70's. Their relative demise is often put down to Dave Sexton being too weak a manager to deal with his grown-up youngsters while Harry Catterick was said to be too tough ! Make of that what you can.
28 Posted 13/03/2010 at 14:31:49
With the anniversary approaching it would be good to hear something about this issue from one of Royle. Harvey or Kendall but I think it’s unlikely.
On a different tack I shall still have a flutter on the blues to win the league next year. COYB...
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