Season 1995-96 was an enigmatic one for Everton. Sometimes we were brilliant,
others, well, we were not so brilliant...
After the FA Cup and Charity Shield successes, and the purchases of
Andrei Kanchelskis and
defender Craig Short for a total
fee of £8.1M, expectations were high amongst Evertonians. Ray Harford,
manager of Champions Blackburn, even tipped us as an outside bet for the
title! That comment was made following our Charity
Shield success against his team, as we ran out worthy 1-0 winners, courtesy
of a Vinny Samways goal in
the second half.
The League campaign started with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Ruud Gullit
making his debut for Chelsea. Despite having
chances to win the game, we failed to score, but managed to get a creditable
point in a 0-0 draw. August proved to be quite a good month, gaining 7 points
from a possible 12. The only real disappointment was the first home defeat
inflicted by Arsenal, who won the game 2-0,
and with great comfort. Our first win of the season against
Southampton at home in which club record signing
Kanchelskis made his debut, was quickly followed by the first away win at
Manchester City, both games finishing 2-0.
September, however, was an awful month for the Blues. We failed to register
a single win in the league, losing at home to
Manchester United, away to
Nottingham Forest, and away at
West Ham. At this point, nothing was going
right. In just his third appearance for Everton, Andrei Kanchelskis broke
a shoulder, ironically against his old club, Manchester United. Despite
progressing to the next round of the European Cup Winners Cup, we were
unconvincing in knocking out Icelandic part-timers Reykjavik, eventually
winning 6-3 on aggregate. We won 3-2 in Reykjavik,
but in the 2nd leg the Icelanders levelled the
tie at 3-3 by taking a shock 1-0 lead, although we eventually won the game
Unfortunately October didn't get much better. The football world was stunned
by the Scottish Crown Court's decision to uphold a jail sentence given to
our £4M striker Duncan
Ferguson, for three months, following an incident in Scotland where he
head-butted his opponent, John McStay then of Raith Rovers, in a league match
for Glasgow Rangers.
On the pitch the month started with another defeat, this time at home to
Newcastle, the final score being 3-1 to
the league-leaders. Humiliation swiftly followed when first division
Millwall came to Goodison and knocked us
out of the Coca Cola Cup, winning 4-2 after extra time, following a 0-0 draw
at the Den in the first leg, two weeks earlier.
Next up were bottom team Bolton at Burnden
Park. Kanchelskis made his return, but we still struggled, and only a late
Paul Rideout goal earned us
a point, in a dour 1-1 draw.
Following that game was our first real test in the Cup Winners Cup
a tie against Dutch Cup Winners Feyenoord.
The Dutch side somehow scraped a 0-0 draw at Goodison, and then in the
return leg at the beginning of November won
1-0 courtesy of a Regi Blinker goal. Ironically, Feyenoord was the scene
of our only previous European triumph, in the same competition, in 1985.
Back in the league, we drew 1-1 with Tottenham
at home, but then played possibly our worst performance of the season, as
Aston Villa won 1-0 at Villa Park. By now,
we were as low as 14th in the table. Our lowest point came after the
Newcastle game, when we dropped to 16th,
one place above the relegation zone.
November, however, was the turning point. The form and influence of Graham
Stuart and Andrei Kanchelskis proved invaluable, and they spearheaded our
pursuit of UEFA Cup qualification in the league. We collected 10 points from
4 games, which included wins over Champions
Blackburn, and neighbours
Liverpool at Anfield. Kanchelskis scored
his first goals for us in the derby, and by the end of the month,
Graham Stuart had scored 5 goals
in 11 starts. In the home game against Sheffield
Wednesday Paul Rideout suffered a horrendous facial injury, and
he didn't really recover mentally from that incident for the rest of the
season. November was also the month that Duncan Ferguson was released from
Barlinnie prison, and he received a hero's welcome on his return to Goodison,
saluting the crowd before the Sheff Wed game. He wasn't fit enough to play
December had its ups and its downs. Three wins, two defeats, and one draw
was the record in a topsy turvy end to the year. Our only draw of the month
was away to Tottenham a good result
against the side placed 3rd in the division at the time. We had chances to
win the game, but failed to put any of those chances away, and in the end
drew 0-0. The three wins all came at home, firstly
West Ham were beaten 3-0 as Ferguson made
his return as a second-half substitute, then
Middlesbrough, fourth in the league and with
the best defensive record in the country, were tonked 4-0, and four days
later we beat Leeds 2-0, despite having Dave
Watson sent off on 31 minutes, by which time we were 1-0 up. The two defeats
were disappointing as we went down to ten-man
Newcastle 1-0, and then we lost at
The New Year started well with a 3-2 win at
Wimbledon, that after being 3-0 up with
just twenty minutes on the clock. The FA Cup defence started on January 7,
but we didn't start it too well. Second Division
Stockport came to Goodison and were extremely
unlucky not to pull off a shock victory. We played diabolically, and were
grateful to have another chance. The game ended 2-2, but it could have been
worse. We won the replay 3-2, John Ebbrell
scoring a last-gasp winner in a frantic finish, which saw two goals in thirty
seconds. Alun Armstrong cancelled out our two previous efforts, after the
home side had taken the lead in the first half.
Chelsea visited Goodison in-between the Stockport
games, and got a 1-1 draw out of an exciting game. We then got a superb result
at Arsenal, winning 2-1, despite trailing
to an Ian Wright wonder goal at half-time. Port
Vale were our next FA Cup opponents, and they too came to Goodison and
almost snatched a victory, but as Stockport did, went away with a 2-2 draw.
They though, were quite thankful for another game. Ferguson had put us 2-1
ahead with a minute to go, but in injury time, substitute Ian Bogie tried
a shot from thirty yards which deflected off Watson, and looped over Southall
and into the net.
February was probably the most disappointing month. After beating
Man City 2-0 at home, and then drawing 2-2
at Southampton, humiliation followed. We were
knocked out of the FA Cup in the replay at Port
Vale, as we lost 2-1 in an absolutely diabolical performance. The score
line was in a way actually quite pleasing, because it could, and should have
been more. It still didn't detract from the humiliation of being knocked
out by a struggling first division side, and manager Joe Royle described
the day as a "Watershed in the history of Everton Football Club", thus implying
that changes would and will be made.
Defeat at Old Trafford further dampened the
atmosphere at Goodison, but a 3-0 win over
Nottingham Forest raised a few more smiles.
We also completed the signing of
Marc Hottiger in February.
The Swiss International right back was signed from Newcastle for £800,000,
but he would have to wait 50 frustrating days to make his Everton debut,
as the PFA stalled on granting him a renewal on his work permit, because
he hadn't been a regular at Newcastle this season.
March, once again, proved to be an inconsistent month. We could only manage
a draw at home to struggling Coventry where
Hottiger made his debut, followed by a draw against a depleted
Leeds side at Elland Road, and a shock defeat
at the hands of Wimbledon, before we pulled
off a superb double against the reigning champions
Blackburn at Ewood Park. We ran out 3-0
winners in a game dominated and dictated by
Tony Grant and Andrei Kanchelskis.
Grant played his finest game for us yet, and Kanchelskis simply tore Jeff
Kenna apart, scoring two and having another disallowed. Surprising, considering
before the game AK told Joe Royle that he wasn't match fit, and would probably
have a quiet day. Unbelievably, it was his pace and power that Blackburn
couldn't cope with! Amokachi
scored the other goal.
April was a good month, spoilt only by a poor defeat at
QPR, which effectively ended our pursuit of UEFA
Cup qualification, the Londoners ran out 3-1 winners. Bolton were defeated
3-0, thanks to goals from Hottiger, Amokachi, and Kanchelskis. In the
home derby, we drew 1-1. Kanchelskis put
us 1-0 up in the first half, but we missed a host of chances to put the game
beyond doubt, and in the second half Liverpool got a deserved equaliser.
It was a good result considering three of our players Ferguson, Ebbrell
and Amokachi were all playing with pain killing injections.
John Ebbrell was superb, setting
up the goal, and working tirelessly, and was just pipped to the post by
Barry Horne for the MoM award.
Our final away game of the season was at Sheffield
Wednesday, and it proved to be our best away performance as we ran out
5-2 winners. Kanchelskis grabbed his first hat-trick for us, and he also
had another strike ruled out, and hit a post! Amokachi put as ahead on three
minutes, and Hirst's equaliser was quickly cancelled out by John Ebbrell,
before AK took over. Degryse netted a consolation for the home side. Grant
also hit a post, as he ran the rule over the midfield, and Graham Stuart
was unlucky not to register his 15th goal of the season.
Our final game of the season was at home to fourth placed
Aston Villa, who had just won the Coca Cola
Cup. Pending other results, we still had a chance of UEFA Cup qualification.
We had to beat Villa and hope that Arsenal were held by already relegated
Bolton, and also that Newcastle got a result at home to Tottenham. All looked
rosey on 80 minutes as we were 1-0 up, and Bolton had taken a shock lead
at Highbury, and Newcastle had levelled things at St James' Park, after going
1-0 down to a Jason Dozzell strike. Unfortunately, Arsenal scored two goals
in the last four minutes at Highbury and therefore won 2-1, and so claimed
the last UEFA Cup place.
Or is it? Rumour has it that the FA are trying to appeal against the decision
to take one UEFA Cup place away from English Clubs. If that extra place was
re-gained we'd be in Europe next season, for sinishing sixth in the table.
Had it been last season, we WOULD have been in Europe, but as always we got
the rough end of the stick.
ALL IN ALL IT WAS A PROGRESSIVE SEASON, WITH ITS HIGHS AND ITS LOWS. PARTICULALRY
PLEASING WAS THE AWAY FORM AND THE GOALS FOR COLUMN. DISPLEASING WAS THE
HOME FORM, AND THE DEFEATS IN CUP COMPETITIONS. THE LADS CAN GIVE THEMSELVES
A BIG PAT ON THE BACK AFTER A HARD AND GOOD SEASON'S WORK. AND WHO KNOWS,
WITH THE PURCHASE OF ONE OR TWO NEW PLAYERS, WE MAY WELL BE CELEBRATING A
TROPHY SUCCESS THIS TIME NEXT YEAR...
FINAL POSITION - 6TH
Highest Attendance - 40,127 ( v Aston Villa
(h), 4/5/96 )
Biggest Win - 5-2 ( v Sheff Wed (a),
Biggest Defeat - 1-3 ( v Newcastle
(h), 1/10/96, and v QPR (a), 8/4/96 )
Leading scorers - Andrei
Kanchelskis - 16 (16 league),
Graham Stuart - 14 (9 league,
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