This Week – 28 Years Ago

Joe Royle succeeds Mike Walker as Everton manager and, with the help of hero-in-waiting, Duncan Ferguson, marked his first game in charge with a memorable Merseyside derby victory at Goodison Park

David Hardman 22/11/2022 11comments  |  Jump to last

Ferguson’s been a handful. I’ve said it all night in the air.

Background

A few weeks back, I wrote about the home defeat against Coventry under Mike Walker, along with a couple of games that had gone before. For those who commented about the Portsmouth game, yes, my bad. It was a 1-1 draw in the away leg, with Dave Watson scoring for Everton. Blame the club’s official season review, which didn’t bother to show this, even though they had no problem showing all 3 of Portsmouth’s goals at Goodison. Everton that. I may also have been getting mixed up with the 0-0 draw at Millwall the following year.

Anyway, following that miserable home defeat to Coventry, Everton lost at Palace, again without scoring. After this, though, things seemed to be beginning to turn around. The most comically unintentionally worked set piece ever saw Unsworth open the scoring against Arsenal, to finally get their first league goal in 5 matches. Stefan Schwartz equalized, but the 1-1 had at least stopped the rot. A few days later, Everton finally managed their first win of the season, 1-0 against West Ham, courtesy of the late Gary Ablett. It was also their first clean sheet of the season. A 0-0 at Norwich followed before the international break – Everton’s first away point of the season.

Last time I wrote about this season, I noted that no-one could reasonably be surprised if Mike Walker had been dismissed after the home defeat to Coventry. Instead, with results improving, and the defence finally tightened up with 2 clean sheets in a row, Everton took the decision to dismiss Walker during this break. Everton were still propping up the table with just 8 points from 14 matches, with 4 teams getting relegated as the top flight trimmed down to 20 teams, so while his departure was inevitable, the timing was peculiar.

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It’s possible it was simply the same lack of decisiveness that’s been typical of the club since the 1970s and sadly hasn’t changed. Another theory is that, with his position in doubt, a derby victory would make it a lot harder to pull the trigger, so they made the change before that could happen – in other words, they wanted to make the change before the derby because they were worried they might win!

Another possibility though is that Peter Johnson displayed the ruthlessness and efficiency that modern day owners at the very top of the game would be proud of. Perhaps the decision to do away with Mike Walker was made during that awful run in October, but they wanted to delay making the change until during the international break, to give the manager a clear two weeks to work with his team, and allow most of the players this time to adjust to the new manager’s ways before the next game (unlike now, when every PL squad is packed with international players, back then only a few would be away on international duty during the break).

And if this was the plan, it worked, because the team finally managed to pick up a couple of results towards the end of the Walker era, then the arrival of the new boss gave everybody a further boost.

Who am I kidding?! It was probably just the usual inept running of the club.

Any way, it meant Everton took on Liverpool in front of Sky’s Monday night cameras under the new management of Joe Royle.

The Game

Everton played with 2 banks of 4, getting the ball forward to the strikers as quickly as possible. And it was effective, not just in this game but for the rest of the season. How strange that players assembled by the pure footballing managers Howard Kendall and Mike Walker would turn out to be best suited to playing this way.

Although, you could argue that it’s testament to the some of the signings that, although they were signed for their technical abilities, they also had the character to scrap for results in this way. Graham Stuart and Paul Rideout were good footballers – Rideout in particular had a great first touch. He was also strong and good in the air, so Royle’s philosophy worked with that.

The only surviving Colin Harvey signing was Andy Hinchcliffe. Another gifted footballer, bizarrely overlooked for much of Walker’s time, he was best utilised under Royle for his delivery from corners. It got so that winning an inswinging corner was celebrated like being awarded a penalty.

Special mention too for arguably the only flair player, Anders Limpar, who was something of a wildcard - with Horne, Parkinson and Ebbrell doing enough defending for 4 people, it gave the Swede free reign to express himself.

That night, boyhood Evertonian Steve McManaman came close twice, but Southall and the Everton defence remained resolute. In the 2nd half, Amokachi’s deflected shot was well saved by David James. From the resulting corner, Duncan Ferguson headed in his first goal for the club. Again, a decent technical player, but this new style of play really utilised his aggression and physical prowess. He made his presence known at the end of the game too, challenging David James in the air and causing him to punch the ball poorly (something James had a habit of doing even without being challenged – see the 1996 and 2000 FA Cup Finals). The ball ricocheted ahead of Rideout, who impressively put the ball away at full stretch from a tight angle with players chasing back – one of these retreating players, Phil Babb (signed after appearing for Ireland at the USA world cup), managed to get some contact on the ball, but not enough to divert it away, and the goal rightly credited to Rideout.

While on the subject of Liverpool defenders, it’s worth noting that Neil Ruddock had earned his first England call up during that International break, ironically against Amokachi’s Nigeria team. And, although the English game was changing and more foreigners were improving the game, this was still an era when the England squad mostly read like a Premier League select XI.

Actually, given that the World Cup’s just started, it’s worth having a look at the England team of the time, who’d recently failed to qualify for US ’94.

They had numerous 20-goal a season strikers – off the top of my head, Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright, Chris Sutton, Les Ferdinand, Matt Le Tissier, and this season Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler, plus Peter Beardsley enjoying a renaissance back at Newcastle. It’s fair to say they had an embarrassment of riches up front.

If Ruddock’s selection is anything to go by, they just had an embarrassment at the back! Our very own David Unsworth was also called up at the end of that season for what would be his only cap. With all due respect, if Unsworth and Ruddock were the best defenders around, maybe that’s why the English strikers were scoring so many goals every week.

 Anyway, back to the derby, and Rideout’s goal clinched it and it finished 2-0 to Everton. A pitch invasion followed that would see a PL enquiry, heavy fine and life-bans to fans issued now. Back then it was taken as the natural outpouring of enthusiasm that it was, with no malice intended. While their record at Anfield was dismal, this was actually Everton’s third successive derby win at Goodison, so I’d like to think that the scenes of joy at the end were more to do with a sense that, under this new manager, one of our own and no danger to the street fight Everton were in having fought similar battles in with Oldham, there was hope for a brighter future.

Epilogue

This victory lifted Everton off the bottom of the table. The following weekend, they recorded what would be their last win at Stamford Bridge to date (just let that sink in). Next up, another televised Monday night game saw them beat Leeds 3-0 to climb out of the bottom 4 altogether, and they never looked back. Ferguson and Rideout were prominent in all 3 games.

Rideout in fact would be the main talisman all season, scoring the winner at Ipswich to confirm Everton’s Premier League status, then scoring the winner in the FA Cup Final, in the days when the FA Cup still had some of the glamour and prestige that the Champions League has since taken.

In short, We stayed up and win the cup.

For the Joe Royle era, I could actually have taken my pick this week. In 1995 there was the Kanchelskis derby, and in 1996 there was the 7-1 demolition of Southampton.

The following year, he wasn’t there. In fact, the less said about November 1997, the better!

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Reader Comments (11)

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Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
1 Posted 23/11/2022 at 08:29:07
I have written this story on here before and I will continue to write it with reference to this match until my last day on earth.

It was my very special birthday. One of those with an 0 at the end. My wife took me for dinner at the most expensive restaurant in Chester. We got home and it was only then did I remember there was a derby match that night. Mobile Phones were as scarce as hen's teeth. Kids were under 10 so no idea where they were. Did we have a babysitter? Don't remember. So they were not there to tell me the result.
Turned on the TV, probably checked Ceefax for the result.
I think you can guess the rest!

A birthday or Christmas a while later I was given a video "2-0 to the Blues".
An unforgettable night.

Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 23/11/2022 at 09:42:06
That night speaks for itself.

Walker was out of his depth.

Joe Royle initially steadied the ship, won us a trophy and then, just as he had built a platform, didn't get the backing of the board is how I remember it.

Glad Limpar got a mention. I used to like watching him even though Kanchelskis was the marque signing at the time. Not a great team but 2 great wide players of genuine quality.

Martin Reppion
3 Posted 25/11/2022 at 12:50:25
Great memories as usual.
I was there as in those days I seldom missed a game, home or away.
The interesting player of the time was the enigma Andy Hinchcliffe.
Signed by Colin Harvey from Howard's Man City only to have the manager that didn't fancy him return.
He apparently suffered stage fright in front of a crowd despite being, in Joe Royle's words, the best player in the training ground every day.
It took Joe's man management to get him to deliver on the field. The responsibility he was given, free kicks and corners, made him. As did the encouragement of a good man at the top.
Not all footballers are egos on legs. Some need to be coaxed to show what they can do. Andy Hinchcliffe was one such. And Everton winning the cup that year was one hell of an achievement.
Lee Courtliff
4 Posted 27/11/2022 at 09:25:56
I still miss those days, as I was 13 and football meant everything to me!

I still remember my last lesson at school that day was IT and I kept looking at the clock, counting down the hours until kick off. Monday November 21st 1994...not far off 30 bloody years ago!!

Joe Royle was such a monumental breath of fresh air that we suddenly looked almost unbeatable. Even though there was a lot of poor football played by us, it was still exciting to watch as the threat of relegation lingered for, near enough, the entire season.

And, Anders Limpar was a sublime player. I'd love to know exactly what happened between him and Royle in 1996, as he suddenly became very unpopular with the manager.

Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 27/11/2022 at 17:05:21
Lee (4),

The story was Limpar wasn’t selected for the team when they played away at Blackburn, not sure if he was even a substitute, but he was heard to say words to the effect: "I hope they get beat".

This was heard by a former Everton player who was a coach at Blackburn, he reported this to Joe Royle and that was the start of the beginning of the end for Anders at Everton.

Lee Courtliff
6 Posted 27/11/2022 at 21:03:28
I've never heard that story before, mate. I was at the Blackburn away game in March '96, Kanchelskis scoring twice in a 3-0 win.

Anders did start away at Blackburn in September '96 but barely kicked a ball for us after that. A real shame as he was a quality player and played a big part in our survival and Cup win in '95.

Lee Courtliff
7 Posted 27/11/2022 at 21:07:37
Dave,

I've just looked online and it says Limpar started the game away at Blackburn in the March but was subbed off after 15 minutes!!!

I have no recollection of that substitution so he was either injured or Royle decided to change tactics early due to Blackburn having Gary Flitcroft sent off after only 3 minutes. That red card I clearly remember as I was sat in the Blackburn end!!

Chris Hockenhull
8 Posted 29/11/2022 at 17:21:26
Lee (6). Anders played no part in the relegation fight/ FA Cup win. Wasn’t signed until the August… and em what another Everton transfer fiasco that was…. Nothing new there!!
Peter Carpenter
9 Posted 29/11/2022 at 17:28:53
(Whispering) Chris, he did just wot Lee said!
Kieran Kinsella
10 Posted 29/11/2022 at 17:36:00
Chris

Mike Walker signed Limpar in 94

Matthew Williams
11 Posted 29/11/2022 at 17:45:03
Your wrong Chris!...Limpar started in the Cup Final in '95 as have our line up on the day!

20th May,1995...such bliss!

Sigh


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