From My Spec - in the distant past

Paul Tran 12/08/2019 21comments  |  Jump to last

I miss Ken Buckley’s ‘From My Seat’ reports. As a rare matchgoer these days, I can only do these retrospective reports. I have plenty more and I hope others chip in, too.

Hope you’re well, Ken!

Everton 2 Liverpool 1, January 1981

They say youth is wasted on the young, it certainly wasn’t on 24th January 1981.


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I was a spotty-faced, long haired 16 year-old, with a love for Everton and a desperation to see some success, after ten years watching us win nothing except BBC TV’s ‘Superteam’. The cruel near-misses in 1977 & 1980 weighed heavily, especially with Liverpool winning way too many trophies. We loved Everton, when would Everton love us back?

1981 saw us in a bit of decline after four entertaining years. The cup draw wasn’t kind to us; Arsenal at home in third round. The gods were kind to us, with Sansom nodding an own goal in the last minute, followed by Young scoring another own goal in injury time. I’ve never seen two own goals like that before or since. Maybe that was a sign it was our year at last? That lasted till Monday, when we were drawn against Liverpool at Goodison.

The build up was fantastic, even in a pre-social media age. There was a move to put the game on a big screen at Anfield, blocked by the FA, who were suspicious of live TV affecting ticket sales. Little did they know. Cinemas put the game on live. Three days before the game, we got the news that the referee was to be one Clive Thomas, the man who disallowed our winner in the 1977 semi because of an ‘infringement’ that no-one else at Maine Road saw. Conspiracy theories bloomed, but it added spice to an already-spicy build-up.

Matchday came. As a 16 year-old, I couldn’t legally drink, so after a few pints on County Road, we filed into a packed Street End. Both sides had a few injuries and whatever the reason, I felt strangely optimistic.

They came out to a crescendo of boos, we came out to Z Cars and a rapturous welcome. Then, nothing, we all waited. Them Thomas came out to cheers from the red half and something slightly different from the Blue half. ‘One biased bastard, there’s only one biased bastard’, we all sang. No modern annoying shouty announcer was needed, as Thomas checked with his linesman, there was that lovely sound of 53,000 people shouting ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhh’ at the top of their voices while we waited for kick off.

The match started – it was what people of my age would call a ‘proper cup-tie’, this being a parade of wonderfully brutal violence, with a ball seemingly thrown onto the pitch every so often. The young McMahon was pitched against Jimmy Case, Trevor Ross against Ray Kennedy. The ‘responsible’ captains were Lyons and Souness. Amid the mayhem, Varadi smashed an early shot against the bar. Liverpool looked a bit shaky and we started to dream. A lovely reverse pass from Trevor Ross slipped Eastoe in, his shot slid under Clemence and bobbled agonisingly towards the goal. One of their defenders hooked the ball off/just behind the line, it bounced off Avi Cohen and nestled into the net. We all went potty, then looked at Thomas. ‘Will he give it?’, we thought, despite no reason for disallowing an admittedly bizarre goal. My abiding memory was John Bailey turning away from the celebrations to run to Thomas, begging him to allow the goal. Thomas kept us waiting, checked with the linesman and allowed the goal. Despite the goal being given to Eastoe, the Street End roared ‘Avi’s got no foreskin’.

Half time had us 1-0 up. They came out for the second half without Dalglish. More optimism. Early in the second half, Case ran after a through ball and, minutes late as ever, crashed into Martin Hodge studs up. If those fences weren’t up, half the Street End would have had him. Chaos ensued, as most of our players ran towards Case. Lyons stamped on Case two or three times, Bailey kicked him, then Souness came in and had a go. Fair play to Thomas (never thought I’d say that), he calmed everything down and booked Lyons and Souness. It would have ended five a side these days.

Buoyed by the mass fight, we roared the Blues on. An up and under came down with snow on it, Thompson’s nose clearly blocked the ball’s flight as it bounced over him. Eamon O’Keefe pounced and ran towards Clemence and with the touch of Lukaku on a bad day, rounded Clemence and sent the ball towards the corner flag. While we groaned, he controlled it, passed it across the box and Varadi smacked it in at the far post. No controversy, no problem. We went berserk, ‘Olive’ Varadi ran along the Park End and unwittingly towards the Liverpool fans in the Enclosure, getting a meat pie in the face for his troubles. Surely the game was ours now?

We sat back. They took the initiative. Case got a scruffy goal back and it was squeaky bum time. Varadi went through, rounded Clemence and missed the open goal. An ultimate ‘Everton, that’ moment. We were all certain it would be a turning point, as they spent the rest of the game in our half. We hung on. Thomas blew his whistle and most of Goodison went wild with delight. The pitch was invaded and we stayed in the stadium roaring with joy.

I don’t remember much about that evening. We beat them. It was wonderful. That evening, it was more than bragging rights, it was definitely our year. We loved Everton and that day, Everton loved us back.

Of course, it wasn’t our year. We beat Southampton after a replay and in the quarter-final, were five minutes from beating a thoroughly dirty Man City, when Paul Power equalised. Inevitably, we lost the replay.

Whenever anyone asks me about my favourite Derbies. I don’t just think of those wins at Anfield in ’84 and ’86, I think of that day in January 1981. Everything was set up; the poor form of both teams, Thomas appointed referee, the game shown live in cinemas, it being a cup-tie, the large allocation for them to boost the atmosphere.

Check it out on YouTube and make sure it’s the extended highlights. You’ll love it. None of us who were there will ever forget it.

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Reader Comments (21)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 13/08/2019 at 09:20:04
Crackin stuff, Paul.
Dave Abrahams
2 Posted 13/08/2019 at 10:48:02
Keep them coming, Paul, ‘The Varadi and coke derby', that's what plenty of Evertonians were asking for and drinking that Saturday night and Sunday afternoon following that game.

I remember my son, Tony, dancing and singing his way past me along Walton Hall Avenue with his mates all as happy as they could be, singing their Everton songs. We didn't get many happy derby games then and we've had precious few since.

Thanks for the memories, Paul, I hope you can write a happy derby game report this season.

Paul Tran
3 Posted 13/08/2019 at 18:35:38
Thanks Derek & Dave. Yeah, I remember the Varadi & Coke, that's probably why I can't remember much of that evening!

I'd be happy to do more of these - it would great if others chip in with some. I'm getting to an age where I like rekindling some old memories!

Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 13/08/2019 at 18:44:37
Nostalgia never goes out fashion Paul, me and my mates do it every Monday night recalling old films, records,jobs we’ve had and how we got our comics (sacked), boxing, including great street fights we’ve witnessed, natural funny characters who livened every one’s lives up which all lead to never ending arguments week after week. So keep them coming Paul.
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 13/08/2019 at 19:43:36
Brilliant day that was Paul, and looking into the distant past, I can’t believe how much value that the FA Cup has lost over the years.

Not to me, it’s still my favourite competition whilst Everton are still involved in it, and although we never won the cup that year, I can still remember beating Arsenal, who had played in 3 consecutive cup finals, the absolute joy of beating Liverpool, Eamon O’Keefe’s extra-time winner against Southampton at a proper jam-packed Goodison, and then Jim Mcdonought, coming off his line to make it simple for a fully stretched Paul Power to lob it over him and get City a late replay, and then Kevin Radcliffe’s head-but at the end.

I was in Colemendy when we lost the replay, but what memories I have of my childhood, when the FA Cup, was the most special competition of them all.

Stephen Brown
6 Posted 13/08/2019 at 19:51:12
Great article, Paul! Just before my time but I love reading about players I never really saw play!
Paul Tran
7 Posted 13/08/2019 at 19:54:51
That was some headbutt that Ratcliffe gave Hutchinson, wasn't it Tony?

I was at the replay. A horrible rainy night in Manchester, with Mick Lyons acknowledging the confident, loud support as we trooped off 0-0 at half time.

I love the FA Cup. The first trophy I saw us win. There's nothing like the manic hysteria of a proper Everton cup run.

Hope to see another one soon!

Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 13/08/2019 at 20:29:16
Just wrote on another thread about how we used to be one of the biggest teams when it came to the FA Cup Paul, and although Munich was my favourite game, and 50,000 Evertonians singing Champions after the QPR game, is still my most mesmerising moment alongside Rotterdam, I still look back at beating Watford, as possibly my most special moment watching the blues!

The special games are usually because of the noise made by the fans, and I still look back at Sunderland, the second to last time we got to an FA CUP semi, as one of the greatest supports, I’ve ever seen Everton receive.

6500 Evertonians sang from the first whistle to the last, and when they weren’t singing they were dancing, because they wanted to play Liverpool at Wembley, and all’s our manager had to do was have “the same belief as the fans” who are just desperate to see Everton win again!

Paul Tran
9 Posted 13/08/2019 at 20:49:23
Tony, my favourite was that 1984 Cup Final. After the defeat at Old Trafford the year before, when we played so well, I genuinely didn't think I'd ever see us win anything.

It was a great day and weekend. I'll do a 'report' on that one at some point.

Mark Murphy
10 Posted 13/08/2019 at 20:58:45
After the Olly Varadi (not Olive btw) I had a few in the pub on the East Lancs, danced on the bar of the boundary vaults and got thrown down the stairs of some dodgy disco in Newton le Willows before being arrested for D&D for taking a leak and singing “Everton are magic” in the doorway of a Chinese chippy directly across the road from Newton le Willows cop shop!
One of the happiest days of my life!
Paul Tran
11 Posted 13/08/2019 at 21:17:45
That's marvellous, Mark. You were one of the unlucky ones who got caught!
Dick Fearon
12 Posted 13/08/2019 at 22:15:45
In a big black hearse sans coffin with my brother in law and his mate heading to Maine Rd to watch the Blues and ending up at Anfield in time to see Roger Hunt score two against the RS.

To cut a long but true story short and something to do with filling up with Petrol instead of Diesel the Hearse that had supposedly been purchased by said mate for 20 quid broke down halfway down the East Lancs.. The Hearse was ditched and a kind truck driver gave us a lift but only as far as the other lots midden.

I don't remember much about the RS game except that Hunt was playing for Bolton (I think) and he scored the two winners. As they say, alls well that ends well.

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 14/08/2019 at 10:18:18
Just watched a clip of Andy Kings goal against Liverpool, which was the first time I ever saw Everton beat Liverpool, in my life.

Andy would have been 63 today, god bless him, hopefully in the same way god blessed me, when Andy scored that beautiful winning goal!

I often talk about the crowd making the performance, and that is why this game will always be my real introduction into the power of Goodison Park. I already loved the place anyway, but for a small child, the noise, the smell, the passion, and most importantly “the will” is something I've never forgotten from that day.


Brian Murray
14 Posted 14/08/2019 at 10:35:25
The 76 quarter final league cup at Old Trafford. Great night and team performance especially Goodlass on the wing. Mayhem outside as my older brother somehow got me back to the coaches to find hardly a window left intact.

His St Teresa boxing skills came in handy as he chinned a Manc asking if he was a Scouser just as he got me in the coach. Thought that was our year and went the final and 2 replays in my dad's Hackney much to the amusement of people on the motorway. Enter Darracott to totally balls that dream up.
Mark Quinn
15 Posted 14/08/2019 at 13:58:53
A fantastic read, Paul. What makes it so special for me is that it was my first trip to Goodison Park. No Ryanair in those days but a 7-hour overnight ferry trip from Dublin. Not complaining – a crowd of lads having beers and a friendly sing-song.

I recently found the highlights on YouTube and showed it to my kids – they couldn't believe the pitch and the tackles! As you say, a "proper cup tie".

We retired to the old Holiday Inn on Paradise Street and enjoyed a fantastic session afterwards. To his credit (and I wouldn't say that too often), Souness came in later with a mate for a drink - obviously disappointed but an absolute gentleman as he signed my programme and suffered the "wider than the Mersey" smile I was wearing! Great, great innocent memories.

I went on to visit many more times and was a season ticket holder for 6 years – the Walter Smith era being particularly depressing, but will never forget that joyous first visit. Thanks!

John McFarlane Snr
16 Posted 14/08/2019 at 15:32:55
Hi all, I have so many memories of the good and bad kind, but my most pleasant memories are, standing on the Boundary Park [Kop?] in 1954, when Everton won promotion back to the First Division, the May Saturday in 1963 when we won our first post-war Championship, and another glorious May afternoon in 1966, when Derek Temple scored the goal that gave us our first FA Cup triumph since 1933, also the night in Rotterdam when we won the 'European Cup Winners Cup.

I sincerely hope that younger supporters will be able to witness similar triumphs in the near future, and I have to be honest, that's mainly for my grandson Josh, who has been a season ticket holder since he was 7, [he'll be 15 next month].

The blackest days include the day we were relegated in 1951 and any defeat at the hands of our 'cousins' from across the park.

David Currie
17 Posted 14/08/2019 at 21:10:06

Great read, I was at that game and ran on the pitch at the end. Great scenes at the end and I remember the pitch was so heavy. Tony 13, was also my first time seeing us beat the RS I was 14 and to see my then favourite player Andy score the winner was a dream. King was one of my top 3 ever favourite players.

My uncle was friends with Jim Pearson and he kindly got us free tickets to our home game against Newcastle where we drew 4-4. My older brother and myself were invited to the players lounge before the game and after the game Jim took us into the dressing room to meet the players. Kingy was a character and talked non stop, all the players were great with us especially Martin Dobson and George Wood. Wood was a giant and his hands were massive.

Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 15/08/2019 at 09:08:16
David (17), George Wood, not a bad goalkeeper, he wore contact lenses, I think he forgot to wear them for that Newcastle game, he had a bad day for that match, did he go to Arsenal after leaving Everton? He was also a bird watcher, can’t spell the long word that describes bird watchers.
Matthew Williams
19 Posted 15/08/2019 at 13:18:18
Superb thread, Paul, could you imagine that Blues team wearing a pink away kit?

A real team, playing real footy, in a REAL fixture... that truly mattered to all of Merseyside back then. I still can't believe how we've let the beautiful game we all love become so Americanised and sterile.

That '81 team would batter the current side... and deep down we all know it too!

David Currie
20 Posted 15/08/2019 at 19:49:51
Dave 18, Yes Wood went to Arsenal then Palace. He also made 2 big mistakes in the UEFA Cup 1-0 defeats to Feyenoord in 1979. I went to Rotterdam with my older brother, my first ever trip abroad watching the blues, I was 15. We both got the train from Liverpool with the supporters club and both got arrested and interrogated by plain clothes police for what seemed like hours. Maybe I should post the story sometime on here. Quite a first time abroad trip for a 15 year old blue. Matthew 18, Agree the 81 team would win.
Matthew Williams
21 Posted 19/08/2019 at 13:47:01
The 4-4 verses the Toon was my first game too, David. There can't be many Blues that saw Mike Pejic score for us, he somehow did that day.

Can't be many fans anywhere that can say they saw eight goals scored in their first-ever game supporting their club!

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