In recent years, the so called ‘friendly derby’ has become anything but. The sight of Evertonians at Anfield last Sunday turning their backs on the pre-match rendition of ‘You’ll Never walk Alone’ was represented in the media as yet another example of the breakdown in relations between the respective sets of fans.
become commonplace now, both before and after derbies, for articles to appear
in the media exploring the increasingly poisonous atmosphere, lamenting the
loss of the once ‘friendly’ tag.
this tag was ever completely accurate is open to debate. Those Blues of a more
mature vintage can attest to the fact that there has never been much love-loss
towards our neighbours. From the 1970s onwards, as Liverpool began to marry
success on the pitch with a sneering contempt for Everton off it, relations
began to sour.
but arguably just about remain cordial. Until the 1990s, if not exactly
‘friendly’, the rivalry between the two clubs had an undercurrent of tolerance.
The same could not be said about the rivalry today.
few of the articles written have highlighted the role that Heysel has played in
this deterioration, many claiming that we Evertonians exaggerate its impact on
our club. A recent piece by Tony Evans in the Independent summed this up,
have been in decline since the 1980s and the after effects of Heysel
contributed to that downturn in fortunes – but only to the smallest degree.’
would obviously disagree. For Blues the UEFA ban has been a gripe for over 30
years. Far from contributing to the ‘smallest degree’ it has long been
identified by many as the main reason why the club’s mid-1980s period of
success proved short-lived and a significant contributory factor in Everton’s
relative decline in the years that followed.
there is certainly a case to support this. For Everton, the ban was a
particular blow. The club would have qualified for European football in four of
the five years that the prohibition was in force, and done so with some of the
finest Everton sides to have ever graced Goodison Park; sides that won league
titles, bristled with talent and which were packed with an array of Everton
from missing out on the revenue aspects of participation (ticket sales,
sponsorship, prize money) the absence of European football also meant that
Everton suffered a talent drain.
the most important loss was Kendall. Here, the ban was key. As he wrote in his
autobiography, Only the Best is Good Enough:
one of the major reasons why I felt so drawn to the continent was the UEFA ban
on the participation of English clubs in the European competitions, imposed in
the wake of the Heysel Stadium tragedy. I missed those nights of European glory
very much indeed.‘
like Kendall are rare in the game, people who come along and transform clubs.
Kendall awoke a sleeping giant, shouldering the pressure of the crowd and
moulding something that even managed to threaten Liverpool’s dominance in
English football. He was our Shankly, our Ferguson, our Wenger. That’s how
important and how rare he was.
And whereas the above got to remain at their clubs for years, shaping them and building something great, ours was stolen, robbed from the club because of the ban. Imagine Liverpool without Shankly, United without Ferguson, Arsenal without Wenger and you get a measure of how catastrophic the resignation of Kendall at that point was.
with his loss, several players also left Goodison in search of European
football. Gary Lineker moved to Barcelona in 1986 after just one season with
the Blues, robbing Everton of one of English football’s greatest ever
goalscorers. A few years later, the club
then lost the right-sided partnership of Gary Stevens and Trevor Steven to
Rangers, two players who had been an integral part of the title winning sides
in the mid-1980s.
Because of this, many Evertonians contend that Heysel ruined the club’s best ever chance to build something magical. The various squads of Kendall’s first-era collectively represented Everton at its finest, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum brought to life. The potential was there to ‘do-a-Liverpool’ and dominate on the European stage. And, as Colin Harvey mused in his autobiography Colin Harvey’s Everton Secrets, there was every reason to believe that such an outcome was possible:
that period I felt we were the best team in Europe. We’d beaten two of the
great European forces in Bayern Munich and Liverpool and even without the
comfort zones of today’s Champions League system – in which you can lose
several games and still win the trophy – I felt we were a match for anyone,
capable of beating anyone. We had a squad filled with international quality and
experience with an average age only in the mid-20s. The players had
demonstrated their mental and physical toughness and durability, Howard was a
proven manager, I felt great fulfilment in charge of the coaching and Mick
Heaton dovetailed into a balanced backroom set-up.’
Everton been permitted to compete and, as Harvey contends, done well, it’s
possible that the momentum created could have continued (with Kendall at the
helm). Certainly English clubs had been succeeding in Europe. The European Cup
in particular had been a happy hunting ground for this country. In the years
leading up to Heysel, seven of the eight finals contested had been won by an
in the long-term, success in Europe could also have helped the club in other,
less obvious ways, as Simon Hughes, author of several books on Liverpool FC,
the 1970s and 1980s, Liverpool built a strong reputation in Europe that has
sustained the club. It’s helped Liverpool maintain popularity amongst a global
audience, which has ensured that the club enjoys decent revenues from ticket
sales, broadcasting rights and merchandising, even though Liverpool hasn’t
enjoyed the same level of football success as European and domestic rivals
the club’s own lofty (if unrealistic) standards, the past two decades have not
been great. Yet, despite the relative lack of silverware, the absence of any
Premier League title and the sense of a club that has underachieved, Liverpool
remain wildly popular. They are one of the top ten most followed clubs in the
world, one of the most televised clubs across the globe and one of the richest
football businesses on the planet.
Liverpool teams that won four European Cups during the 1970s and 1980s created
an enduring legacy,’ argues Hughes. ‘That’s what a European presence can give
you. It might be a horrible term, but the Liverpool FC ‘brand’ was created
during those years; years when English football was slowly growing in
popularity across the globe, though nobody at the club really knew how to
capitalise on it in monetary terms until much later. Liverpool’s European
history has undoubtedly enhanced the club’s allure during the leaner years of
the 1990s and 2000s and it is part of the reason Anfield still sells out and
attracts wealthy foreign owners.’
strong showing in Europe could have been enormously beneficial to Everton. Even
if, for whatever reasons, the momentum of the 1980s had dissipated, much as
Liverpool’s did during the 1990s, a wider fanbase would have been a useful
source of income to cushion the club against any storms faced. But the ability
to build one up was denied the club and instead Everton remained a peripheral
although the UEFA ban was undeniably devastating, an external shock that could
not fail to have some impact, Everton were not the only club affected. Back in
the late 1980s, each of Everton’s peers within the ‘Big Five’ was also denied
European football of some description during the length of the ban. But none
would suffer a fall from grace as dramatic as that endured by Everton.
the close of the 1990s three of those five, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester
United would be regularly challenging for domestic silverware and back
competing in Europe on an annual basis.
was a terrible blow but I think attributing Everton’s problems to that one
moment is slightly revisionist. Heysel had an impact, that’s unquestionable.
But other clubs endured the ban and managed to cope. Over time, we’ve become
too fixated on it as the main reason for our problems’ says Graham Ennis of
When Skies Are Grey.
Everton did not respond well to the fallout from the ban. Most obviously, it
appointed poorly. Any club, big or small, must make the right managerial
appointment. Get it wrong and no matter how successful you are, everything can
unravel. Following Kendall’s departure, the key was to ensure a successful
transition. Without this, the momentum that the outgoing manager had created
could be adversely affected.
it came to transition, the model that had proven most effective in English
football in the 1970s and 1980s was that employed across Stanley Park at
‘Liverpool promoted from within, picking members
from the coaching staff when a new manager was required. Bob Paisley had taken over when Bill Shankly
had resigned from the position. Then, when Paisley eventually stepped down, his
assistant, Joe Fagan took on the job. When Fagan resigned in the wake of the
Heysel tragedy, Kenny Dalglish was installed as player-manager. The belief was
that appointing in this way ensured that men who understood the traditions of the
club, and the approach to football that had proven so effective, would always
be in the manager’s chair’ says Rob Sawyer, author of Harry Catterick: The
Untold Story of a Football Great.
successful was this method that it’s understandable why the Everton board did
not cast its net very wide when it came to appointing a successor to Kendall.
The Liverpool method was seductive. It promised seamless transition and the
continuance of those elements that had made the previous regime so effective.
With that in mind, from the board’s perspective, the appointment of Colin
Harvey (Kendall’s number two) as manager made perfect sense.
aged 42, for those looking through a ‘boot-room’ perspective, Harvey’s
credentials were impeccable. Not only had he been Kendall’s right-hand-man,
Harvey had also coached at youth and reserve level and played for the club for
most of his professional career, including a role at the heart of the so called
‘Holy Trinity’ of the 1960s alongside the departing manager and Alan Ball.
believe very few people at the time, fans or journalists, questioned the wisdom
of appointing Colin to the vacant hot seat. I certainly didn’t. The year
before, Howard had made sure the club’s hierarchy were aware of the initial
Barcelona approach. Sir Philip Carter indicated that if Howard went to Barca,
Colin would be the next manager of Everton. It was therefore no surprise at all
to see Colin’s name in the frame when Bilbao tempted Howard 12 months later. It
seemed to make absolute sense for the Blues to turn to the coach who had been
such an influence in the winning of two titles, the European Cup Winners Cup
and the FA Cup’ says Ken Rogers, author of Born Not Manufactured
the decision turned out to be a poor one. Harvey, despite his many talents,
wasn’t cut out for management, specifically a managerial job as tough as
Everton’s. What followed Kendall’s leaving was an inevitable period of
transition, as the old guard from the championship winning season moved on and
new blood arrived. It was a transition that was far from seamless.
were never a ‘team’. That was the problem with Everton. We had really talented
players and on our day could beat anyone. But those days were depressingly few.
There was limited cohesion to the side and at the root of this was an inability
to reconcile the cliques that had developed’ says Pat Nevin.
these were divided between the ‘old guard’ that had thrived under Kendall and
the more recent acquisitions brought in during Harvey’s process of transition.
‘I had no time for cliques and tried to get on
with everyone’ continues Nevin ‘but I can remember how destructive they were to
team morale. In short, you had the older players thinking that the new arrivals
weren’t as good as those they had replaced. And on the other hand you had the
new arrivals, some of whom might have believed that some of the older players
were possibly past their best.’
A better manager could’ve handled this transition
better. But instead Everton had Harvey. And so, the momentum of the mid-1980s
was hit by the double blow of the European ban and a poor managerial
appointment. By the time Kendall returned in 1990, the club was back to where
it had been before he arrived, a struggling mid-table mediocrity. And by this
point, his managerial talents had dissipated after his European adventure.
Kendall was never quite the same again after he left Everton that first time.
Although other factors played their part, and into
the mix you could also add Everton’s lack of commercial sophistication as
English football moved into the Sky age, Heysel unquestionably played a key
role. But that only really reveals part of why Heysel matters to us. Because
had the disaster been perpetrated by fans of Manchester United or Spurs, it
perhaps would not have resonated as much as it has done. But it wasn’t. It was
perpetrated by our oldest enemy. And that makes a difference.
‘I, along with many other Blues, have never
forgiven, understood or respected Liverpool Football Club since that time. They
damaged the future prospects of Everton – our great club, perhaps irretrievably
and have shown little humility for the trouble they caused. Even taking into
account mitigating circumstances, like poor policing and an unsuitable choice
of stadium by UEFA, Liverpool fans were primarily at fault for what happened.
And yet we suffered because of it’ says lilfelong Blue, John Bohanna
Since Heysel you have never got the sense that
Liverpool, both the club and the fans, have really felt any sense of shame at
what happened. No shame at the lives lost, no shame regarding the damage done
to English football and no shame at how the ban impacted on so many other
clubs. What you get instead is either indifference or a disgusting sort of
wriggling, a grasping attempt to find others at fault, the Belgian police, UEFA
or even the Juventus fans. And that inability to admit fault, to say sorry
fuels our anger.
along with anger at what Liverpool did and how they responded to it, many
Evertonians also feel a strong sense of injustice. Just two weeks before that fateful night in
Brussels, Everton had clinched the Cup Winners Cup against Rapid Vienna at the
Feijenoord Stadion, Rotterdam.
the match, the press praised Evertonians for their impeccable behaviour from
“sunrise to sunset”, citing them as a being “a credit to Britain”. After the
horror of Heysel people tend to forget that just a few weeks earlier
Evertonians, the police and the fans of Rapid had been happily playing football
together in the centre of Rotterdam’ says James Corbett, author of Faith of Our Families Everton FC, An
huge injustice, perpetrated by our greatest rivals (who remain indifferent to
what happened), and one that had a devastating and long-lasting impact on the
club. And that, in essence is Heysel. What set of fans, anywhere in the
country, would be able to let that go?
if you would, Everton fans somehow conspiring, right now, to rob Liverpool of
Klopp, Salah, Mane and Van Dijk. To, in the blink of an eye, devastate
everything that club has spent the last four years building towards. Now,
keeping in mind the average Liverpool fans complete inability to let anything
go, could you imagine that event being quietly forgotten about. And could you
imagine the outcry if we taunted them about it, dismissed their anger as them
just being ‘bitter;’ and got our friends in the media to write about the way in
which Liverpudlians refused to let go of the past.
is an open wound, a festering sore that poisons everything around it. And it’s
hard to see how it ever gets healed. Although, I’m pretty sure that dismissing
it and presenting it as an Everton problem alone isn’t the way to do it. Our
anger and frustration remains justified. It’s an unresolved injustice. Far from
a small thing