There were a few Easter double-headers I could choose from down the years, but this weekend, this very day in fact (Sunday 9th April ), there’s only one winner. The 1995 FA Cup semi-final.

Played at the neutral venue of Elland Road, Tottenham were favourites to progress to what the media had described as the “dream final” against Manchester United. Everton had other ideas.

For anyone reading this who somehow doesn’t know what happened that day, Everton ran out 4-1 winners, the only scare came when Teddy Sheringham made a back for Dave Watson and the referee somehow interpreted that as a penalty to Tottenham, which Jurgen Klinsman duly dispatched. Then on came Daniel Amokachi for the greatest substitution Joe Royle “never made”, to score a brace and send the 3 sides of the ground that were filled with Evertonians into raptures.

The penalty decision became even more sickening when it transpired to be the only goal Everton would concede in the competition. Winning the FA Cup without conceding a goal would have been a unique achievement, still unmatched to this day, I believe.

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However, Amokachi coming on and scoring would not have been anywhere near as memorable had it simply made it 3-0. Restoring Everton’s 2 goal lead to clinch the game after Tottenham had their only threatening spell (their tails up after being gifted a way back into the match) made it all the more special.

All but the first 20-odd minutes of the game are on that well known internet video site (Andy Watson’s channel, well worth a look at for this and other archive Everton footage).

As glorious a game as it is to relive, it’s kinda tinged with sadness when you consider that less than 2 years later, it would all have fallen apart again.

Listening to Joe Royle and the players after the game, hearing the mutual respect they clearly had for each other and their passion to do well for this club – this should have been the beginning of a dynasty, rather the the flash in the pan that it turned out to be.

David Unsworth looked well on his way to being a top class centre-half – Tottenham’s fabled front two of Klinsman and Sheringham were reduced to half chances and hopeful shots all game against him and Watson (that awful penalty decision aside), and he received acclaim in the commentary and afterwards for his distribution that day too – he was awarded what would be his only England cap shortly after this game. He was 21 years old.

Watching his performance that day, it’s astonishing that he would end up spending most of his career as a somewhat awkward left-back.

When wondering why it went wrong under Joe Royle, I’ve always reasoned that they didn’t have the players to take it to the next level. While the “dogs of war” trio of Ebbrell, Horne and Parkinson were hard workers and tenacious battlers, they weren’t the footballers that could unlock a team that had set up to defend against Everton. Rather like under David Moyes, the philosophy and style of play could grind out enough 0-0 draws and 1-0 wins to stay out of trouble at the worst of times, and finish 6th – 8th during a good season, but it couldn’t go beyond that. No so much ‘keep it tight and nick one’, more ‘keep it tight and it’ll free up the couple of flair players we have to do something to make the breakthrough’ (not as catchy, I know!).

The performance against Tottenham that day makes a mockery of my reasoning. Horne and Parkinson were terrific in possession, showing moments of skill and balance that made the Tottenham players going after them look silly.

Everton’s 4th goal summed it all up. On the break again, the late Gary Ablett (playing at left-back that day) made an overlapping run. Limpar, who’d also been fantastic all game, for once didn’t quite get the pass right, and it looked like the Tottenham defender was favourite to retrieve the ball. Ablett wanted it more, though, and not only won it, but, in one touch, slide-tackled the ball across the face of the goal for Amokachi to finish – it wasn’t an easy finish either, having to side-foot it at an awkward height on the half volley with the keeper flying across his goal, but such was Amokachi’s confidence after finally scoring a few minutes earlier that he made it look effortless.

That combination of good football, individual technical skill and desire to win summed up the whole game of Everton. Tottenham were supposed to be the pretty footballing side but it was Everton who played all the good stuff and Tottenham who were reduced to high balls as they tried, and failed, to fight their way back into the match.

For all the talk of being a long ball side, Everton actually did score a few nicely worked counter attacking goals on the carpet around this era. The move at Leicester that Samways finished off the previous month, the last 2 goals on this day, and, of course, the goal in the final itself.

In the previous round against Newcastle, Alan Hansen was loathe to give Everton any credit, dismissing them as “route one”. Even at half time in this game, he was talking about how Tottenham would have their spell/moment in the 2nd half and suggested they were struggling to cope with the pressure of being favourites rather than anything Everton were doing. At the final whistle, though, even he had to concede that Everton had been by far the better side, including on a technical level. High praise indeed.

Later that day, the other team who were expected to just turn up and reach the final, Manchester United, needed a deflected free-kick to help them come from behind twice to draw with relegation-bound Crystal Palace at Villa Park, the game being decided by a replay at the same ground 3 days later (remember them?!). So neither side expected to be in the “dream final” finished semi-final Sunday with their name booked for Wembley.

On an individual note, it was also great for Joe Royle to personally guide a team to the final after being so close the year before. Actually, although he’s associated with defensive and unattractive football, his Oldham Athletic team were a swashbuckling side, known for both scoring and conceding a lot of goals. Their style was possibly too direct to be compared to other cavalier sides of the time (like Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle), but still, it was never short of entertaining when they played.

Joe Royle spent over 12 years at Oldham. It was hoped this would be the beginning of a similar time period with his boyhood club, during which, who knows what they could achieve.

 

Every other manager since 1987, could, in my opinion, have been let go sooner. For me, Joe Royle’s the only one we let go too soon.


Reader Comments (6)

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David West
1 Posted 10/04/2023 at 18:29:07
Never forget this day !! As a 15 year old being told by RS mates, we'd get beat in every round. I started to believe after the Norwich game .

We played some really good football in this semi.

Amo will always be remembered for this match for the rest of time in Everton history.

When Joe added kanchelskis to the team I thought it was the best Everton team I could remember at that point .

And oh that final !!!!

Dave Abrahams
2 Posted 10/04/2023 at 18:37:35
I don’t think Everton conceded a goal on their way to Wembley in 1966 including three games versus Man. City but Sheffield Wed. scored two in the final to spoil the record that year.
Lee Courtliff
3 Posted 10/04/2023 at 18:38:18
I was talking about this yesterday and today with my Mum. We both remember it very well.

I was 13yrs old and the FA Cup was as big a trophy as you could win, pretty much. Our performance was superb right from the off, Limpar clearly in the mood.

As mentioned, the Dogs of War were playing like actual midfielders, almost silky, than the Battlers they usually known as. When the opening goal came it was probably overdue, as we'd had a few chances beforehand!

The penalty was ridiculously soft but worth it due to the sheer relief and exhilaration of Amo planting in the 3rd goal! The 4th was the just the icing on the cake, and he probably should have had a hat trick too!

I've said this many times before and I'll say it again now...thank God Earl Barrett was Cup-tied as without Matt Jackson there is no way we would have won the Cup that year.

The only thing I've ever seen us win... I'm 42 in August!!!

Dennis Stevens
4 Posted 10/04/2023 at 19:20:46
"Every other manager since 1987, could, in my opinion, have been let go sooner. For me, Joe Royle’s the only one we let go too soon." Too true!

Although, to be fair, in Ancelotti's case it wasn't so much that he left too soon, more that he arrived too late

John McFarlane Snr
5 Posted 10/04/2023 at 19:21:59
Hi Dave, [2] you're correct in stating that Everton reached Wembley in 1966 without conceding a goal, the only game I missed in that FA Cup run was the Bedford Town match. An exiled Evetonian wrote to the Liverpool Echo advising anyone not to travel because Bedford was buzzing.
My uncles [Tommy and Phil] on their return from the game, told me that the Mounted Police were handing out loads of tickets, needless to say I wasn't too pleased.
Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 10/04/2023 at 19:30:00
John (5), Brian Labone and Gordon West were selling tickets, at the correct price, about 20 or 25p in old money, outside the ground at Bedford that and asking the buyers were they Everton fans before they sold them, I got in with a hookey printed ticket myself that day!!

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