But it did not start well: a home draw against Aston Villa was followed by four consecutive losses. This was a trend that was going to continue over the next couple of months. Everton eventually won their first game of the season on 1 November 1994, beating West Ham United 1-0, the only goal scored by the now late Gary Ablett. At that point, though, patience with the Everton Manager (Mike Walker) had run out and he was thankfully relieved of his duties.
Joe Royle stepped in to take charge of Everton and his first game was the Merseyside derby... boy, what a night that was! A cold wet miserable Monday night was lit up when Duncan Ferguson scored an absolute belting trademark header on 56 minutes. As with most Merseyside derbies, we were made to sweat for the victory but thankfully Paul Rideout finished the job off, scoring in the 89th minute. I was in the Upper Gwladys Street and went crazy when the first and second went in, so much so I had battered shins and knees the next day from the seats in front! I know, we have all been there!
The season picked up slightly but was still somewhat indifferent in terms of progress. In fact, from memory, we didn’t string a consecutive run of games together, and the stats showed this (WLDLWLWDL) was very much order of the day.
The FA Cup provided some light relief to the indifferent form we were experiencing in the league. The FA Cup run started at home in a dour 1-0 home win against Derby County and then on to what was deemed a ‘tricky – banana skin’ tie away at Bristol City. Matt Jackson scored a thunderbolt from about 30 yards and famously said he was only “whacking it towards goal so he could get back in defence!” It was a fantastic strike and the thousands of Evertonians at Ashton Gate went berserk in their usual fashion. Norwich and Newcastle were disposed of in the next two rounds and then it was on to the Semi-Final against Tottenham.
The Semi-Final was unbelievable, we travelled up to Elland Road (home of Leeds United) in the car; there were four of us squashed in the back of I think it was a Sierra. Barry Edwards, a friend of my Dad’s, was pilot for the day... and what a day it was. We got to Elland Road early as it was an early kick-off. We parked up and walked to the ground and all I remember seeing was Everton Fans, no Tottenham fans whatsoever. We sat outside the Peacock Pub (I think) until the gates opened and then went in.
We were in the end behind the goal, normally where the away fans are hosted. Everton had three sides of the stadium that day, whilst Tottenham had one stand, the large one to my right. Everton won the game 4-1, with goals from Jackson, Stuart, and Amokachi grabbing two. Teddy Sheringham scored what was a dubious penalty late in the first half; it turned out to be the only goal Everton would concede that season in the FA Cup.
The Tottenham semi-final is up there with one of the best Everton games I have been to. The result, the atmosphere, the fans, and the fact that everyone in the Country apart from Evertonians were talking about the ‘showpiece’ final being Spurs against Manchester United. We played Spurs off the pitch that day and the car was rocking all the way home.
Despite the progress in the FA Cup, the fear of relegation was still a nervous twitch in the background of my thoughts and it was only put to bed with a 1-0 away win at Ipswich on the Tuesday night a week before the FA Cup Final. Paul Rideout got the only goal that night and it wasn’t to be his last pivotal goal of the season either as there was one more to come!
So to the FA Cup Final day itself; we had booked our train tickets which meant we were on the early Football Special leaving Lime Street at around 6:30am on Cup Final morning. As expected, I didn’t sleep the night before, it was such a massive day, and I ended up getting up at about 4am in the morning to get ready. We all got ready: my Dad, sister and I were travelling down together, along with Colin and other friends who we had been going the match for years with, about 15 of us in total.
We got to Lime Street at around 6:15am and there were Everton fans milling around, some drinking cans, and a film crew. I was interviewed and asked about my thoughts about the day. I responded by saying “I just hope we have a great day out.” I was quite nervous as we were playing Manchester United who were coming into their period of mass domination of every competition.
We boarded the train and the songs started. The film crew who were also on the train and I later learned they were filming “24 Hours with Joe’s Army” of which I still have the video cassette (yes VHS tape) somewhere. The interviews and the songs were flowing, a few United fans were on the train and everything was good natured and full of banter.
We arrived at Euston Station around 9:30am and again there were just Evertonians everywhere. We got the tube and headed for Dollis Hill as the friends we were with knew a pub that opened early around there; there was no 24 hour drinking back then... not legally anyway.
We got to the pub around 10:15am; it was full of Evertonians, and we just launched into the beers, songs being sung, photos taken and just building up to what would be a monumental day. We left the pub to head back to the tube around 1pm(-ish) and, as the tube pulled in, it was just full of United fans. Me and Colin ended up in a carriage on our own, both with our Everton tops on in a carriage full of United Fans. The whole of the journey across to Wembley station the United fans were singing, the usual songs about Scousers. Me and Colin just laughed it off, what else could we do, we had the last laugh on the day though!
We eventually got into Wembley about 2:35pm, around the time of “Abide With Me” I think. We were full of anticipation, singing songs and hopeful of winning the FA Cup. There had been so many disappointments over the years, I remember saying to myself “I hope not this year, let this year be the one!”
The game started and from what I recollect it was all Manchester United, constant pressure, and I was thinking: How are we going to continue to absorb all this pressure? On around the 35th minute from yet another United attack, we broke away, I recall there was just a surge of energy of Blue players bursting forward. It was obvious that there were more Everton players than United players and I was just thinking “Don’t mess this up, make it count” as the ball came to Jackson, he squared it inside to Graham Stuart (Diamond) who smashed the ball against the bar, all I can recall is hearing the "Yeh! — Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!" as the ball smashed the crossbar and the next thing I knew I was on the floor with people on top of me screaming, "We’ve scored! We’ve scored!!!" There were a few expletives in there too and it was such an amazing feeling. When I got up, as probably most football fans do, I just prayed to get to half time at 1-0.
We made it to half-time with our lead intact and the second half is very much a blur, apart from the constant United pressure and me talking to myself of saying, "Just get to 60 mins, just get to 60mins." That changed to "Just get to 75mins, just 75mins," which in turn changed to "We have come this far, let’s just get to 90 minutes."
On the final whistle, the Everton end erupted, hugs for people who I have never seen before and probably not since; it did not matter, this was Everton, the Everton family celebrating together as one: “We had just won the FA Cup!!!”
I sat down for a minute and reflected on the previous 12 months; little under a year earlier, we had just about survived on the final day... and now, here we were... Winning the FA Cup!!! The ups and downs of supporting Everton... and I admit, I shed a tear or two.
As my team walked up the famous Wembley steps, I was ecstatic. I looked to my right and it was just a sea of blue, all singing “We won the cup, We won the cup, Ei iy addio, we won the cup!”. Dave Watson picked the cup up and turned to us and raised it aloft, he had been a stalwart for us through the season and been pivotal in scoring the winning goal in the quarter-final at home against Newcastle.
The players came down on the pitch and the music was banging out loud, We are the Champions, Rocking All Over the World, it was simply one of the best feelings of my life. The players did their lap of honour, blue noses on a few, hats, scarves all parading the cup to us. The songs just kept pumping out, I didn’t want it to end.
Eventually, don’t ask me what time it was, we left Wembley and made our way back to the tube, back to Dollis Hill to continue the celebrations in earnest. I remember when I got back to the pub, I rang my girlfriend (now wife) and mum on the pay-phone (didn’t have a mobile back then) and was overcome with emotion of seeing my team win the FA Cup against all the odds.
We stayed in Dollis Hill until around 8pm, drinking, singing, dancing and talking about the achievement and how far we had come in 12 months and how we now as a club and team needed to kick on. Europe again next year, what would that bring?
We made our way back to the Tube we were booked on the last train home from Euston to Lime Street. All the way on the Tube we sang songs, the locals must have thought we were crazy, we didn’t care, we had just won the FA Cup and we were letting the world and locals know about it!
We got back to Euston and boarded the final train home. We realised when we got on it, it was the one that stopped at most stations, not the fast track train. There were some United Fans, along with police on the train too. The train journey home was quite subdued, from memory I think we were all exhausted from the memorable day we had just been through.
We arrived back at Lime Street after midnight and I just remember getting off the train and there were Evertonians singing and dancing on the platform and in the station. People were hugging each other and it was just amazing to see.
I got myself home, climbed into bed and just thought what a day and as I drifted off to sleep all I think of was the home coming parade and how special that was going to be too.
Saturday, 20 May, 1995 will live long in my memory —one of the happiest days of my life and it would be great to read other’s reflections and memories of that pivotal day in our history.