Memory Lane - League Cup Final

A look back at the ill-fated Milk Cup Final of 1984

Thirty Years Ago 1983-84 LC Final

1984 and Evertons quest for a double assault on the domestic cup competitions continued as the Toffees had won through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and eagerly awaited taking on their near neighbours in the League Cup final at Wembley.

Only a fortnight earlier at Goodison Park, Everton had banished the memory of their weak performance at Anfield late in 1983, as the Toffees had given Liverpool a much sterner test, especially in the second-half of the match. A similar performance at Wembley could see them lift a trophy and end fourteen barren years.

Everton had been close to winning a trophy during that barren period but the Blues through a combination of ineptitude or bad luck had been unable to impose themselves at the final stages of major competitions and thus had seen some good opportunities go begging.

Just seven years earlier Gordon Lees team had somehow managed to battle through to the final of the League cup and the latter stages of the FA Cup and the Everton support believed that their team would once again have something tangible to show for their endeavours; add into the mix the need for league points at the wrong end of the table and it had felt that every game that Everton played during that period was a must win match or at the very least a must not lose match.

In the FA Cup Everton had beaten Stoke City (2-0), Swindon (2-1) following a draw at the County Ground (2-2), Cardiff at Ninian Park (1-2) and Derby County (2-0) at Goodison, which culminated in a Semi-Final appearance where Liverpool stood between the Blues and a place at Wembley.

In the League Cup Everton had reached the final following wins over Cambridge (3-0) at Goodison Park, Stockport County (0-1) at Edgeley Park, Coventry City (3-0) at Goodison Park, Manchester United (0-3) at Old Trafford and Bolton Wanderers (2-1) on aggregate in the two-legged Semi-Final, as League Cup specialists Aston Villa awaited them in the final at Wembley.

1977 Wembley
Referee: Gordon Kew; Attendance: 96,223

Everton: Lawson; Jones, Darracott, Lyons, McNaught; King, Hamilton, Dobson; Latchford, McKenzie, Goodlass.
Aston Villa: Burridge; Gidman, Robson, Philips, Nicholl; Mortimer, Deehan; Little, Gray, Cropley, Carrodus.

A bright and sunny if not a little chilly afternoon at Wembley on 12 March 1977 had greeted the teams and it seemed to be the perfect setting for two of the oldest rivals in the Football League to put on a show for their fans, Princess Anne and the other dignitaries in attendance.

It might be difficult for younger readers to understand that a League Cup final was in those days not beamed live into the nations homes but at least there would be highlights beamed around the country the following afternoon. Gordon Lee would have been a proud man as he led his Everton team out at Wembley to face his former side who he had served for a significant part of his playing career - and of course the Villa manager Ron Saunders had been a former Everton player.

As most Blues fans will know the game was a complete non-event and one critic has noted A contender for the most boring Wembley final of all time with neither side managing a decent effort on goal.

1977 Hillsborough
Referee: Gordon Kew; Attendance: 54,840

Everton: Lawson; Bernard, Darracott, Lyons, McNaught; King, Hamilton (Pearson), Kenyon; Latchford, McKenzie, Goodlass.
Aston Villa: Burridge; Gidman, Robson, Philips, Nicholl; Mortimer, Deehan, Little; Gray, Cowans, Carrodus.

The replay was played the following Wednesday on the 16 March at Hillsborough. A website which gives details of how the game was covered by TV states that No highlights were shown. ITV did have "The Mid-week Match" scheduled for 10:40-11:35pm but this only showed highlights of the European Cup QF between Liverpool and St Etienne. BBC1 had a "Sportsnight" at 9:35-10:25 covering cricket and racing. The goals from the League Cup final replay were only shown as part of a newsreel on one or both channel's news bulletins.

The nation may not have shown much interest in the replay at Hillsborough but the Aston Villa and Everton supporters were still ready to back their teams to the hilt to help their particular heroes hold the trophy aloft.

The match at Hillsborough was a far better game than the first encounter at Wembley, but given how poor the game at Wembley had been it would have been extremely difficult for it not to have been. When the unfortunate Roger Kenyon (80), got himself into a tangle and somehow managed to put through his own goal, it looked as if Villa would take the League Cup back to the Midlands, but with time running out in the second-half of normal time Bob Latchford (89) scored in front of the Everton fans at the Leppings Lane end and Everton had salvaged the game and with it another 30 minutes of extra-time.

The period of extra-time hadnt produced a winning goal and so the never-ending saga of the 1977 League Cup Final took to the road once more, the next stop being Old Trafford, some fans had thought about ditching their usual coach firms and buying a second-hand bus my mate wanted to produce a logo and inscribe the side of the bus with League Cup Final on tour 1977, as it happens there was no need as the final would eventually be decided in Manchester because if the teams had have remained level after extra-time in that match penalties would decide the outcome.

Gordon Lee had special words of praise for the Evertonians who had backed their team so magnificently at Wembley and Hillsborough he said You were fantastic at Hillsborough. There is no other word to describe the incredible volume of noise that willed the team to come from behind and equalise with barely a minute to go in normal time. At a time when you could have been forgiven for thinking that the game had slipped away, there was more support for Everton than Aston Villa received during any period of the two hours. To me it was an indication of how much people want to see Everton back at the top.

1977 Old Trafford
Referee: Gordon Kew; Attendance: 54,749

Everton: Lawson; Robinson, Darracott, Lyons, McNaught; King, Hamilton, Dobson; Latchford, Pearson (Seargeant), Goodlass.
Aston Villa: Burridge; Gidman (Smith), Robson, Philips, Nicholl; Mortimer, Graydon, Deehan; Little, Cropley, Cowans

For the 2nd replay, played on the 13th April 1977, at Old Trafford the BBC showed highlights of a League Cup final for the first time since 1967, they were included on "Sportsnight" (9:25-10:55pm - the programme also included Boxing).

Old Trafford had been the venue for Evertons triumph earlier in the League Cup campaign when they had defeated Manchester United (0-3) and the massed ranks of Evertonians packed into the Stretford End had hoped that a repeat performance against Villa would see their captain lift that elusive trophy.

For the first time in the contest Everton took the lead shortly before half-time when Bob Latchford (38) steered the ball into the Villa net and the Evertonians celebrated wildly. As the game meandered its way towards a conclusion it looked as if Big Bobs strike would be enough to secure the trophy, but the fickle finger of fate had other ideas as Chris Nicholl (80) picked up a loose ball yards outside of the Everton penalty area and there appeared little danger until he launched a missile of a shot into the back of the Everton net and put his side back in contention for the trophy.

It was a dagger in the heart of the Everton team and its supporters but just two minutes later Brian Little (82) pounced to turn the match on its head when he put Villa in the lead and he looked to have served the coup de grace as his team-mates and the Villa fans celebrated their good fortune.

The never-ending cup final had yet another twist though as Mike Lyons (83), - the man who represented the Everton fan on the terraces more than any other player of his era - popped up to plant a header into the Villa net and once more Everton had rescued the game as they forced extra-time, surely the trophy had been destined for Goodison all along and the football gods had only been delaying the inevitable in order to tease the club and its supporters.

Unfortunately for Everton and the masses of Evertonians the football gods had other ideas, with just two minutes of extra-time remaining a ball played in from the Everton left-hand side somehow eluded every blue shirted player in the penalty area and at the far post directly in front of the Everton supporters, Villas Brian Little (118) was on hand to win the trophy for the Villa supporters A huge disappointment for Everton Football Club and its followers but at least they had another huge game to look forward to, the FA Cup Semi-Final with their neighbours and an opportunity to redeem themselves and reward the supporters who had like the players given their all in the pursuit of glory.

That game which would take place at the other Manchester ground in just ten days time but as far as this article is concerned the story of that game can wait for another feature.

[Since I compiled this article I found a recording of the Villa match at Old Trafford on the web just type in Aston Villa v Everton league cup and you should find the Sportsnight footage or if you prefer just the goals there is a shortened extract at the end of Aston Villa League Cup Winners]

Back to 1984 and Everton had eventually reached Wembley with wins against Chesterfield (3-2) on aggregate, Coventry City (2-1), West Ham United (2-0) following a draw at Upton Park (2-2), Oxford United (4-1) following a draw at the Manor Ground (1-1) and Aston Villa (2-1) on aggregate in a two legged Semi-Final. Liverpool remarkably hadnt got through at the first time of asking in any of their ties and had overcome Walsall at the Semi Final stage. Everton were chasing down a domestic cup double while their arch-rivals were chasing a treble comprising of League Champions, European Cup and League Cup.

1984 Wembley: Everton should have got off to a flyer in the game at Wembley but Referee Alan Robinson decided that Alan Hansen hadnt cleared the ball with his hand and therefore denied the Blues what had seemed to be a legitimate penalty claim. Memorable moments were few and far between but Neville Southall had produced some fine saves to deny the Liverpool strikers a winning goal. But the day in truth belonged to the fans of both sides and a draw was probably the correct result.

1983-84 LC Final Sunday, 25 March 1984
Liverpool @ Wembley 0-0; Attendance: 100,000

Everton: Southall; Stevens, Bailey, Ratcliffe, Mountfield; Reid, Irvine, Heath; Sharp, Richardson, Sheedy (Harper)
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Neal, Kennedy, Lawrenson, Hansen; Whelan, Dalglish, Lee; Rush, Johnston (Robinson), Souness

Ken Rogers in an article he had written in an Echo special publication entitled Here We Go Again issued prior to the 1984 Charity Shield game between Everton and Liverpool at Wembley said of the first Wembley encounter.

Merseypride One of the main highlights of an unforgettable season had to be the Milk Cup showdownwhen soccers greatest rivals clashed in the first all-Merseyside Wembley final. The match remained deadlocked after two hours of highly competitive action. No cups or medals were to be handed out in front of the famous Twin Towers, but the occasion did have a winnerthe fans. They travelled to the capital togetherunited under the banner of Merseyside. It was a chant that was to ring around the Wembley terraces on the final whistle as the players set off side by side in a unique lap of honour. Back in Liverpool the ticketless Scousers organised special street parties, with the women playing their part. In Saxony Road, off Kensington, all the men had travelled to Wembley, but the wives threw a street party for over 100 kids. It was the same all over the city. When the special trains and buses finally arrived home and the cars poured off the motorways, the fans were still elated. They had been part of an historic occasion.

1984 Maine Road Replay: The replay was won by Joe Fagans Liverpool side, due to a goal scored by Graeme Souness (22) but my abiding memory from that night was of the Evertonians who continued to support the team before during and long after the final whistle. The bond between the Everton supporters and the team was well and truly sealed that night and it would be quite a long time before that bond was broken. Everton and their fans would have hoped that they could match Manchester United and Tottenham as they too had lost out to Liverpool in previous League Cup finals but had gone on to win the FA Cup.

1983-84 LC Final replay, Wednesday 28 March1984
Liverpool @ Maine Road 0-1; Att: 52,089

Everton: Southall; Stevens, Bailey, Ratcliffe, Mountfield; Reid, Irvine (King), Heath; Sharp, Richardson, Harper
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Neal, Kennedy, Lawrenson, Hansen; Whelan, Dalglish, Lee; Rush, Johnston, Souness

[For those that would like to catch the flavour of that day at Wembley there is a TV programme made by Granada entitled Home and Away Liverpool V Everton which can be found on the Internet, it comes in six parts but in total lasts about an hour, it follows a coachload of Blues and Reds as they make their way to Wembley for the big day. I have also noted that the Goodison games with Oxford and Aston Villa can be found on the web.]

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Reader Comments (2)

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Paul McGinty
1 Posted 27/02/2014 at 11:54:35
Tell me ma, me ma,
To put the champagne on ice,
We're going to Wembley twice,
Tell me ma, me ma.

Happy days!
Mike Hughes
2 Posted 27/02/2014 at 13:04:40
Excellent write-up but, personally, I'd rather forget our Wembley appearances against the rs to date. I have no good memories of them. In the 1-3 loss to them in the FA Cup Final in the 80's, I even got on the wrong coach home - with a load of rs gobshites. Imagine the joy of that!

Therefore to block the distress and trauma I'm re-focusing my thoughts by speculating who would win the following fights:

The Archbishop of Canterbury .v. Bono
Cliff Richard .v. Sir Alex Ferguson
Mariah Carey .v. Madonna

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