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The Dogs of War

Some Evertonians enjoy ridiculing the achievements of Joe Royle as Everton manager.  I find that a terrible indictment of the self-proclaimed "most-knowledgeable fans" accolade: winning the Cup in 1995, and finishing 6th in 1996...  Oh for success like that again!

One phrase from that now-distant era became engrained in Everton folklore and stamped on the hearts and minds of those who witnessed the dogged determination that ensured some rare success for Everton: the Dogs of War.

The Dogs of War midfield consisted of:

  • the ever-chasing but skill-wise lacking John Ebbrell
  • the industrious true-blue Barry Horne who was on an amazing Indian summer 
  • and the best defensive midfielder that Everton have had for decades by a country mile, Joe Parkinson

Everton's defensive strength in midfield were supplemented by one wide player, Andy Hinchcliffe, on the left side.  As full-back, he provided the cover needed to supplement the midfield wall, and going forward, his dead-ball deliveries proved vital in creating the goals that produced some very unlikely victories. 

The dogs of war midfield began with the 2-0 win over Liverpool when Joe Royle took over from the dreadful Mike Walker.  It operated for most of that tumultuous 1994-95 season, and was a vital building block for Everton's rare top-six finish the next season.  In an interview with the Swedish television on the day when Duncan Ferguson's excellent headed goal beat Manchester United at Goodison Park, Anders  Limpar said that he didn't expect to figure a lot in the team because Joe Royle wanted to play the "slitvargarna" (a Swedish expression meaning to play like wolves rather than dogs).  

Joe Royle originated the Dogs of War catchphrase almost unintentionally and later with much regret as it dogged his efforts to elevate the standard of Everton's football once rose above the relegation zone, and the need for such backs-to-the-wall defensive solidity was much reduced.  

Parkinson and Ebbrell had the potential to be world class players, but both had careers blighted by injury.  It was all down to Parkinson (who had the potential to become a world-class defensive midfielder), Ebbrell (who was widely touted to get international honours early in his career), and Horne who blossomed in a way that nobody could have ever dreamed, to assume the brief status of a folk hero with the Everton faithful.

If you have tapes of our games from the Dogs of War era, please check them and you can see that Joe Parkinson was an exceptional player who won the ball, could take a quick dribble and release passes that 9 times out of 10 went to an Everton player.  He hardly ever lost the ball.  His style wasn't spectacular and that's the only reason he was so invisible.

Our relative success in 1996 was of course a lot down to Andre Kanchelskis hitting form but the team would never have been as effective without Joe Parkinson as was proved the following season, when Everton were riding high until Hinchcliffe and Parkinson were injured.  Our rise up the table in Spring 1996 happened also because Tony Grant emerged as the playmaker.  Sadly he too was injured and in and out of the team the next season.



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