This Week: A Boxing Day Special

David Hardman 26/12/2022 2comments  |  Jump to last

Middlesbrough have been a frequent opponent on Boxing Day down the years. Which is a strange one when you think what a tough journey it is for the visiting fans on a Bank Holiday.

In 1988, a 2-1 win for Everton, care of goals from Trevor Steven and Tony Cottee, kept a quite decent unbeated run going and Everton among the chasing pack.

When Middlesbrough came to Goodison four years later, it had more of the feel of a relegation 6 pointer. And Everton could only take one point, as Craig Hignett scored twice, including a late, late equaliser, on his return to the city.

No such mistakes in 1995, as Craig Short’s opener led the way to a 4-0 victory which ended up being the catalyst for Everton’s second half resurgence that season. A win would have put Middlesbrough 2nd in the league – they would only win 2 more matches that season.

As I stated last time out, they somewhat turned the tables in 1996. There was then something of a hiatus, before playing them twice in three years on Boxing Day again. A disappointing 0-0 draw in 2006 and a win at the Riverside in 2008 (care of a solitary goal from Tim Cahill, I think). Middlesbrough have only been in the top flight for one season since then, and I don’t remember playing them on Boxing Day when they did come back up, although I could be wrong.

Their manager when they were relegated in 2009? Gareth Southgate, who’d only taken over in 2006, and inherited a side that had just reached the Europa League final. Ironically the job became available because Steve McClaren was to become England manager.

Other Boxing Day memories...

A 5-0 win over then 2nd placed Sunderland in 1999. This was a cause of double celebration because Bill Kenwright’s True Blue Holdings consortium had finally started the takeover process on Christmas Eve, after over a year (see my recent 1998 piece) – this news, along with Sunderland’s lofty position, was enough for this to be one of the featured games on Match Of The Day (back when they only had a commentator at 2 of the grounds). What a performance to put on in for them. Don Hutchison rightly man of the match with 2 accomplished finishes, but Kevin Campbell’s goal to round off the victory – all I’ll say is that if Dennis Bergkamp or one of the other darlings of the time had brought the ball down while spinning and finished like that, they’d still be replaying it now. MOTD took the unusual step of interviewing Kenwright after the game, and I vaguely remember him being asked if it was his dream to own the club, and he went all uncle cyril’s handlebars and started talking about how the dream was to own a season ticket.

Twelve months later, and owning a season ticket had turned into a nightmare. The star of that Sunderland game, Don Hutchison, had now joined the Mackems after Everton refused to offer him parity with other first team regulars. Arrivals around this time, including Mark Hughes and Paul Gascoigne, were reportedly earning the wages Hutchison was asking for, if not more.

Money had been spent, unfortunately the team seemed to have regressed as the new signings failed to deliver, and then it transpired that some of these funds were only splashed so freely on the strength of a media deal with NTL which reportedly fell through (how close Everton were to such a deal in reality may never be known). It would be followed in years to come by Chris Samuelson (“the cheque’s in the post”), the Jain group, the one bedroom flat in Manchester etc, before finally finding an investor with the funds (if not the sense) to back him up.

One of the first things the new ownership did was offer Walter Smith a new contract, but even this was now looking ill advised as the team continued to flounder under his management.

On Boxing Day, fellow strugglers Coventry arrived at Goodison. In a grim game, Scot Gemmill looked to have rescued a point for the blues with a nice volley with only a few minutes left, only for Coventry to re-take the lead moments later. I can only remember both Coventry goals were free headers from set pieces, something Everton struggled to defend with all season.

Fast forward a couple of years, and St Andrews in 2002, now under the more promising management of David Moyes. Geoff Horsfield’s header cancelled out Tomasz Radzinski’s opener, but the game is best known for the first red card of Wayne Rooney’s career for a horror tackle on Birmingham’s Steve Vickers. “Rooney’s gonna get ya” was the chant from the travelling supporters as the 17 year old was warming up, but I don’t think that’s quite what they had in mind!

2004 and a pre-takeover Manchester City came to Goodison, meeting an Everton side pushing for a champions league place. The 2 “marks and spencer” signings of Marcus Bent and Tim Cahill scored Everton’s goals, but the most memorable moment came when Robbie Fowler equalised for City at the Gladys Street end and proceeded to run the length of Bullens Road smacking his head.

One year later and, as with 1999/2000, the contrast couldn’t be greater, as a now struggling Everton side were hammered 4-0 by David O’Leary’s Aston Villa, in what I believe was Per Kroldrup’s only league appearance for the club. They’d lost their most recent home game against Bolton by the same scoreline. Grim times.

Boxing Day results did get better for Moyes after this (including the 2 against Boro), the final one being a comfortable win over Wigan in a monsoon. What a pity they couldn’t repeat the outcome in the FA Cup that season.

Martinez didn’t have much joy on this day, even during his first season, that awful home defeat to Sunderland c/o Tim Howard’s sending off.

I also remember losing a high scoring game at home to Stoke and it snowing afterwards.

And I can’t really remember any Boxing Day’s after this so I’ll wrap it up there.

Actually, before I do, lets go back to 2 years before I came in.

1986. St James Park.

Paul Power slides in to tap home Harper’s low cross. Trevor Steven scores the next two, before supplying the cross for Adrian Heath to complete the rout. 4-0. The 2nd of that 6 game winning streak that was so vital to our last Championship.

What a pity I’m not doing December 28th. I could describe Sheedy’s goal against Leicester all day. 

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Reader Comments (2)

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Andy Meighan
1 Posted 31/12/2022 at 21:59:54
Brilliant David. And I love these pieces.
Lee Courtliff
2 Posted 04/01/2023 at 09:04:06
I really like these pieces as you're pretty much the same era as me. I was at the Boro game in '95 and still remember it fondly.

3 at the back with Kanchelskis and Limpar on the wings. Parkinson, Horne and Ebbrell dominating midfield with Stuart and Rideout up front.

Jesus Christ, what we'd give for that kinda game now!

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