25 Years Ago Today...

by   |   16/12/2021  24 Comments  [Jump to last]

25 years ago today, Nick Barmby scored a late winner away at Derby County, live on Monday Night Football. Everton walked off the pitch with the commentators, Alan Parry and Trevor Francis, talking about how we must now be considered as title contenders.

We were 6th in the Premier League but only a few points off the top; we had an Everton legend in Joe Royle managing the club; we had a top-class winger in Andrei Kanchelskis; we had a hugely promising striker in Duncan Ferguson; and we had some momentum, having won the FA Cup the previous year.

I was 15 years old and convinced we were going places... Big Places! My Dad had told me all the stories of the 1980s, so I knew that our rightful place was at the Top of the Tree. We were one of the Biggest Clubs in the country and nobody could argue with that.

Quickly after that game against Derby, we sold Kanchelskis and 'fired' Joe Royle after a disastrous run of results. A horrible injury list in the days of much smaller squads contributed massively.

The point of this article is... I always look back at that game with a sense of longing for what used to be. Not just the club, but me personally. I've always believed we'd get back to the top, always.

But today, I'm not even excited about our match with Chelsea; I'm only going to watch out of a sense of responsibility and habit. There is no excitement, just a sense that – no matter what happens – we'll end up plodding along and never amount to anything ever again.

25 years ago today was, almost, the peak of my excitement as I honestly thought we could do anything. Today, I'd be pleased with a decent performance and a point. I wish I was 15 again and possessed that kind of optimism.

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 16/12/2021 at 16:54:51
Nice one, Lee.

Can't believe how enthusiastic and optimistic I sounded in my commentary: "Kanchelskis was probably having one of his best team games ever – linking, passing, cutting in, and shooting – even DEFENDING!!!"

Those were the days. And hate to be a killjoy but my records suggest we were only 8th going into that game, but the win took us up to 7th. But then, after a dull draw with Leeds Utd, we suffered 6 straight losses that took us through January 1997.

But pissing off Joe Royle seemed to be such a huge mistake, although Peter Johnson, then Chairman, claimed if he'd stayed as manager, Everton would have been relegated.

Michael Kenrick
2 Posted 16/12/2021 at 17:04:38
That's got me ferretting around, trying to find out when Joe left the club for the last time:

Royle's time as Everton Manager came to a premature end, following a 6th-placed finish the previous season. A sadness over his departure lingers. “I fell out with the local paper — I always said I gave them a silver service but unfortunately they used one of the knives to stab me in the back. It came from nowhere.

“I still see Peter Johnson (then chairman) on holiday and we usually end up with a glass of wine, shaking our heads at what happened.”

Barry Hesketh
3 Posted 16/12/2021 at 17:11:20
I wonder if Joe passed that knife on to Moyes to use in the gunfights? Reading this article, reminds us all how long that Everton FC has been a troubled club, with odd moments of hope scattered over a huge heap of despair.
Kieran Kinsella
4 Posted 16/12/2021 at 17:18:15

It was amazing how quickly it all unraveled. I remember at the end of that season we only had about 14 players so Paul Rideout came back from China as an emergency midfielder.

Lee Courtliff
5 Posted 16/12/2021 at 17:54:56
Cheers, Michael. How can I read your match report from that game?

Kieran, that game was against Spurs in April '97. We won 1-0 thanks to a Gary Speed header.

I watched My Life at Everton featuring Paul Rideout on YouTube (well worth a watch) and he said that was his last game as he had to dash off to the airport to fly to China. Dave Watson (temp manager) wanted to him to stay but Paul just had to take the offer.

For those of you that don't know Toffee TV on YouTube has some great content with in-depth interviews with former players.

Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:06:42
Michael. Pissing Joe Royle off was the correct decision for me, Dave Watson saved Everton from relegation that season on and off the field.
Dale Self
7 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:13:40
Ah good times, nice move Lee. A very nice move indeed.
Kieran Kinsella
8 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:22:11
Dave Abrahams

It would have been interesting if Royle had stayed and been allowed to sign Tore Andre Flo.

Finn Taylor
9 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:23:42
That's a good piece that. I feel exactly the same. I don't feel anything at the moment.

I recall that Derby game very well.

Tell a lie - we haven't won there in the league since 1994, was it Royle's second game in charge? I can see the goal in my mind, but can't recall who scored.

I too always remember that quote at the end of the Derby game about being challengers that season. We weren't good enough - and what followed did not come as a surprise. I seem to recall starting that season well until a really nasty home game with Villa which we lost 1 - 0.

Something was never quite right that season before Royle went.

Its strange, looking back, as we did have some decent players. Perhaps the dogs of war just ran out of fight...

Tony Hill
10 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:25:42
Correct, Barry @3, but careful testing and analysis reveal that the fault always lies with Benitez.
Ken Kneale
11 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:43:30
Kieran @8 another of the many imponderables of Everton FC but a good point indeed as does Dave A make with Dave Watson - what an underrated contribution he made over his 500 odd games as a player, captain, and stand-in boss - a top bloke in my eyes
Clive Rogers
12 Posted 16/12/2021 at 18:49:27
25 years ago was pre Kenwright. Enough said.
Darren Hind
13 Posted 16/12/2021 at 19:04:18
Joe of course won the cup.

Thats what Evertonians do at this club. We have never won a sausage without one being at the helm despite spending millions to bring in "names".

It's who we are.

Ray Robinson
14 Posted 16/12/2021 at 19:15:02
Or look at it another way, Darren. How many non foreigner managers have won a trophy in the last 25 years? Football management 25 years ago was totally different.
Dave Abrahams
15 Posted 16/12/2021 at 19:28:58
Kieran (8), There was a lot of controversy over that Tore Andre Flo deal, whether it was him or his brother was coming to Everton, some reports suggested that Tore never had any intention of signing for even if we had the money to buy him, which was doubtful.

Near the end of the season Joe had no doubts that Everton would stay up, While Martin O’Neill, manager of Leicester City, I think, who one point point more than Everton and a game in hand insisted that Leicester were in a relegation fight.

Joe couldn’t believe it when he got the bullet, he went to meet Johnson over something else, he thought, and came out of the office with his comics and his P45, although it was stated that it was a mutual decision that Joe left, mutual decision my arse, Joe was shell shocked.

Barry Hesketh
16 Posted 18/12/2021 at 10:42:11
A little bit further back than the article, I've just put ITV4 on, and it's showing Everton's trip to Southampton in an FA Cup encounter, in 1981, I really can't believe that it's 40 years ago since I went to that game at the Dell, where Saints had Keegan, Channon, and George in their attack. Anyway, it was a memorable day for me as the excitement of the FA cup was alive and well in those days.
Darren Hind
17 Posted 18/12/2021 at 10:54:00
That was some attack the Saints had Barry.

They were all a little past their best, but still capable. Channon and Ball were great racing buddies and got most of the headlines.
Charlie George was not quite as high profile, but he was probably the best one touch player I've ever seen. Truly brilliant on his day.... Maybe I'm biased because his celebration after scoring the winner against the shite in the cup final still rankles with Kopites nearly half a century later.

He was a proper, proper, footballer too though

Darren Hind
18 Posted 18/12/2021 at 11:09:34
Just remembered.

We took Southampton back to the old lady for the replay. Eamonn O'Keefe was really having one and was taking more abuse than player I have ever heard. I te dying minutes, he pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and smashed an unstoppable winner into the top corner.The ground erupted.

Never heard so many Evertonians change their mind so quickly. The words "I always knew he would come good" were being said by so many people around me. It almost sounded like a chant.

Alan McGuffog
19 Posted 18/12/2021 at 11:14:30
Darren...remember that night. Was living in Manchester, got over in good time and never seen scenes like it in Gwladys St. Only time I've ever failed to get into Goodison. Back home in time to see the goal on the news
Barry Hesketh
20 Posted 18/12/2021 at 11:34:25
Alan @19
It was bedlam at Goodison that night, people dumping their cars all over the place, and then racing to the ground, 49,192 was the official attendance, but I can't remember the Old Lady being quite as packed as it was that night, I also seem to remember the stadium announcer saying there was circa 35,000 at the ground, but obviously, it was revised later - nothing to do with tax, I'm sure.

Watching the rest of the big match revisited, I notice the PC brigade have put little bubble things over the player's mouths when they are uttering expletives - I realise that swearing isn't acceptable to many many people, but it's not as if we can hear what the players are actually saying is it?

Barry Rathbone
21 Posted 18/12/2021 at 12:23:45
The Southampton ties were the best support I've personally seen from Evertonians.

We took over the Dell in the first leg creating one of the most spine tingling moments ever as every blue in that ground thundered out "we're on the march . " as players stood in position for the start of the second half. The saints fans cowed into absolute silence as players looked about the ground in awe.

An Everton player post match remarked it made them grow a foot taller.

The zeitgeist carried on to Goodison people bemoaned city trafic coming to a standstill writing to the echo about it in the ensuing days. Lord knows how many actually went suffice to say the street end was chocca half an hour before kick off

As Keegan later said "the fans won it for them"

Tony Abrahams
22 Posted 18/12/2021 at 13:19:18
Only a kid but couldn’t ever remember the paddock ever being so chocca. I definitely thought we were going to win the cup that year, until Jim McDonagh, fucked up in the last few minutes against City, in the quarter final.

Still had to wait another three years to see Everton win the cup, but it was definitely worth the wait when it finally happened!

Danny O’Neill
23 Posted 18/12/2021 at 14:03:13
I was excited about Thursday, Lee. We got a performance and the point!

I remember when Ball went to Southampton because my Dad suddenly took an interest in their results. He was always interested in the 60s players; his idols.

Randomly, the mention of O'Keefe gave me a flashback to the early days of Howard Kendall's first managerial reign when he was player-manager. I was in the lower Gwladys Street stand with my dad, right at the front behind the goal (early 80s, plenty of space). Kendall brought himself on and I could hear him coaching and talking O'Keefe through the match.

Lee Courtliff
24 Posted 18/12/2021 at 16:17:33
Danny, I felt numb until I saw the team then suddenly I had a completely unexpected surge of excitement!! Playing the kids just gives people hope.

And yes, we did get a point. We rode our luck but I was more than happy with the performance in the end. It really cheered me up.

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