This Week – 30 years ago

Looking back at an early-season midweek fixture in August 1992 when Aston Villa were the visitors at Goodison Park

David Hardman 28/08/2022 7comments  |  Jump to last

With all the recent fuss about it being the 30th anniversary of the inaugural Premier League, and given my penchant so far for using nice round numbers when looking back, I was bound to pick this season eventually!

Last time out I bemoaned the disappearance of midweek matches in August from the schedule. Actually, the trip to Leeds on Tuesday will be a throwback to those days.

And one such early season midweek fixture came on Tuesday 25th August 1992, when Aston Villa were the visitors at Goodison Park.


The final season of the old First Division was also Howard Kendall’s first full season back at the helm, and it had been a disappointing one – rather than improve their league position from Colin Harvey’s tenure, Everton would finish in the bottom half of the table, something that hadn’t happened since 1981, which was ironically the point at which Kendall took over for the first time. They were also out of all cup competitions before January was over, and they went into the summer of 1992 with the club in a worsening financial situation, limited funds and growing dissatisfaction, with home crowds regularly below 20,000, a fact that was all the more visible thanks to Gladys Street becoming all seater the previous summer – unlike when supporters would spread out over the terraces, now anyone watching home matches from around that time wouldn’t fail to notice the thousands of empty seats  behind the goal.

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As for the team, Paul Rideout arrived from Rangers to bolster the attack, and Southampton’s Barry Horne was brought in to reinforce the midfield.

Ironically, of the two new signings, it would be the defensive midfielder who would score on his debut in the season’s opener, a respectable 1-1 draw against the previous season’s 3rd placed Sheffield Wednesday.

And it was beginning to look like Everton didn’t need to sign a new striker anyway. The previous year’s star player, Peter Beardsley, and expensive signing Mo Johnston were looking impressive as Everton’s front line. In the 2nd game, away to eventual champions Manchester United, both players scored in a 3-0 win, and Beardsley was on the scoresheet again in the next game, a 1-1 draw at the season’s surprise package Norwich. After all the disappointment of the previous campaign, the blue’s unbeaten start from a tough fixture list was a pleasant surprise.

The Game

The feel good factor continued as Everton came out victorious in the game against Aston Villa, thanks to a late goal from Mo Johnston. And a decent goal it was too, with Everton breaking away from their own box, Johnston was on the end of a good counter-attacking move involving Ablett and Beardsley, took a good first touch and then hit an unstoppable effort from 20 yards into the corner.

A crowd of 22,372 saw this game, and the reaction from the Gladys Street end as the net bulged in front of them seemed to go beyond merely celebrating the goal and the near certain win that it earned – it felt like this result was more confirmation that Everton were back. An air that Kendall had found the winning formula again and the good times would roll. Similarly, it felt as though Mo Johnston had finally found form after taking a while to get going.

His goal that night came against the run of play and the result could be considered smash and grab, but who cares! If anything, it’s a sign of champions when you don’t play at your best but still win.

Aston Villa would go on to finish 2nd that season. While no-one could have known at the time that 3 of the 4 opening opponents would be the top 3 teams in the division that season, it was enough to know that Everton had lost all 4 of the corresponding games in 1991-2. So they were already 8 points ahead from the same games the previous season. Surely, an improvement on the previous year’s position would be the least they would achieve.


It was billed as a “whole new ball game”, and the early weeks of the 92/93 season were strange times. The backpass rule had just been introduced, referees were dressed in green, and Monday night football became a weekly event, complete with the short-lived cheerleaders and fireworks. And, with defending champions Leeds having a dismal time and eventual winners Manchester United not getting going until halfway through the season, it meant that top spot was up for grabs as summer turned to autumn. Coventry, QPR and Norwich were among the unlikely early leaders, with Norwich further stunning everyone by lasting the pace for most of the season – they were still serious title contenders going into April, all the while playing attractive passing football in the process. This impressive feat was overseen by a certain Mike Walker, but that’s another story.

Newly promoted play-off winners Blackburn were also among the early leaders - less surprising given their big spending, but it’s worth noting that, had it not been for Shearer missing the 2nd half of the season due to injury, Rovers may well have had a much bigger say in the title race until the end.

And Everton were also among the earlier front runners thanks to this bright start.

After beating Villa, they drew with Wimbledon to maintain their unbeaten start. The following week, they travelled to Tottenham, where a victory would put them top of the table. Peter Beardsley scored his 3rd goal in 6 games to put Everton ahead. Unfortunately, they conceded 2 late goals and lost the game, and both Beardsley and the team didn’t really recover from this. Between this match, in early September, and the final day of the season, Beardsley would manage only 2 more league goals from open play.

The defeat at Tottenham would also mark the start of 4 defeats in 5 league games for the blues, who would only win one of their next 9 league matches after the Villa game. That one win? Away to the aforementioned high flying Blackburn. This maddening inconsistency continued throughout the season. It’s not even that they simply went to pot after the good start. They’d alternate between losing runs and winning streaks, or they’d beat one of the top teams one week, then lose against fellow strugglers the next.

The ability to get results against the top sides should have at least made for some excitement in the cups, but once again they were out of it all before January was over.

The topsy turvy league results would continue until the very end, with Everton signing off on a high with a 5-2 win away to Manchester City. But even this result only lifted Everton to 13th, still lower than they’d been the previous season. However, it at least created an illusion of mid-table respectability which masked the fact that Everton only finished 4 points above the relagation zone (had they lost at Maine Road, they'd have finished down in 18th place and just one point clear of the drop). 

That winner against Villa would be Mo Johnston’s penultimate goal for Everton. His final goal for the club would come over 3 months later, the equaliser against Liverpool. Beardsley would also break his long goalless run in this match to hit the winner. It was Everton’s first derby win for over 4 years and was incredibly also their first win at home since the Villa game. What was I saying about inconsistency?!

I’ve mentioned Barry Horne scoring on his debut, on the first day of this season. His next goal wouldn’t come until the last day of the following season, and what an unforgettable goal it would prove to be. As for the other new signing of this time, Paul Rideout, he only chipped in with a handful of goals in 92-93 and fared no better the following year. Thankfully for Everton, but sadly too late for the manager who signed him, Rideout would very much show his quality throughout 1994-5.

Of Everton’s inaugural Premier League season, and their inability to build on this bright start, I’ll leave you with the words of the great man himself:

“ ....we couldn’t sustain it. I don’t know why. There was no obvious reason as to why we fell away. It was just something that happened. If I’d had the answer, then my second spell would have been more of a success.”

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Reader Comments (7)

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Lee Courtliff
1 Posted 29/08/2022 at 17:47:43
My Dad and I attended this game one day after my 11th birthday. We laughed for years about how Villa absolutely dominated the match and should have been 3 or 4 up before we snatched a late goal.

Quite possibly the most undeserved win I've ever seen us have.

Christy Ring
2 Posted 29/08/2022 at 19:05:46

I remember Mo Johnston sitting next to me in the stand, when he fell out of favour, I can't recall the opposition, but he left before half-time!

Dave Abrahams
3 Posted 30/08/2022 at 15:12:27
Christy (2),

Did he fall out of favour or out of the seat he was sitting in?

He was another player who was fond of a good drinking session. Howard wasted a lot of money on Mo and got nothing back for him when he finally left, and got precious little from him when he was on the field.

Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 30/08/2022 at 17:19:04
Dark times. Watching what we had become only 5 years after being crowned English Champions for the second time in 3 years, only narrowly missing out on a hat-trick.

Maybe it's blind optimism or maybe I'm just older and more experienced in mediocracy and relegation escapes. But, Benitez toxicity aside, I strangely, but genuinely never felt the same as I did in that period or during the 2nd Great Escape.

We usually have an "Everton October", but looking back at the results for 92/93, we surpassed ourselves and started early in September, extending it to November.

Thank you for taking me back to a dark Everton corner of my life David. Appreciated!!

On a serious note, another great read. Given your like of round numbers, can the next one be 35 years? We'll be Champions again!!!

Michael Kenrick
5 Posted 30/08/2022 at 17:41:53

I've refrained for a long time – and many a post – but I think the word you should use is "mediocrity", not "mediocracy".

I wasn't sure your variant existed but, in the unique context of Everton FC, power may indeed rest in the flaccid arms of an incredible "mediocracy" – Chairman, CEO, Board, Owner – that has proven unequalled in their inability to rise above the essence of pure dross.

But that just doesn't fit in your sentence... unless you have somehow been more personally responsible than you let on?

I just hope Brian Murray doesn't twig to this or we'll never hear the end of it!

Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 30/08/2022 at 17:52:01
Busted by the linguist police again, Michael.

I must have broken your tolerance threshold and you snapped!

Just as with my use of bias versus the correct biased, I stand corrected!!

Brian tends to sniff these things out better than my dogs smell a fox scent!!

Finn Taylor
7 Posted 30/08/2022 at 18:06:54
I was thinking about this game - was it the start of the following season 93/94 we were top after 3 games? I seem to recall winning at Southampton, no idea the 2nd game and then we beat sheff united 4 - 2? Cant recall...

Always remember after the Sheff Wed game I dashed to meet a mate at the showcase and the Sheff Wed team bus pulled up and they all went in for a McDonalds. And of coures, Barry Hornes goal. We needed a striker, I thought, at the time. I was at the villa game, I cant recall too much about it, but recall winning 1 - 0. I do remember thinking we were in decline and teams were moving on. The next fixture I attended was 0 - 2 defeat to Man United in late September - could never understand how we played them so soon after the freaky 3 - 0 win at Old Trafford in the August of 92. I can bearly recall anything of that season... although... was there a whopping at home by QPR and the emergence of Sir Les always gets a goal at Goodison?

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