Everton losing Double to Liverpool in 1986 no match for current woes
The mood is grim at Goodison Park these days, with Everton drifting aimlessly towards the end of the season under Sam Allardyce. The last thing the team (and fans) need is a home match against an upbeat and improving Liverpool.
No matter what the result is in the Merseyside derby, Everton's players can console themselves that they will never suffer the indignities imposed on one of Goodison's greatest teams. What the Everton players had to go through after the 1986 FA Cup final was one of football's cruelest ordeals.
It had been a long and difficult season. Howard Kendall's team had ended 1984-85 by winning the title and the European Cup-Winners Cup. Everton were arguably the best side on the continent but they were denied the chance to contest the European Cup by the ban on English clubs after the Heysel Stadium disaster.
Supporters of Liverpool played a significant part in the tragedy in Brussels where 39 people died. The Anfield club were Everton's main challengers in the domestic campaign that followed. In the spring of 1986, the Merseyside teams became engaged in a titanic tussle for the title and the FA Cup. When March started, Everton were 11 points clear of their rivals. Kenny Dalglish's side whittled away that lead and won the league on the final Saturday of the season. By then, both clubs had booked their places in the FA Cup final, meaning the climax of the English domestic season was a Merseyside derby at Wembley.
The game mirrored the season. Everton dominated for an hour, with Gary Lineker scoring his 40th goal of the campaign in the first half. Dalglish's team appeared to be demoralized and defeated. Bruce Grobbelaar, the goalkeeper, became embroiled in a shoving match with left-back Jim Beglin. Liverpool were fighting among themselves and then, in a moment, the game turned.
With Everton rampant and pushing forward, full-back Gary Stevens misplaced a pass that was intercepted by Ronnie Whelan. The Liverpool midfielder found Jan Molby and the Denmark midfield slid the ball through to Ian Rush, who scored with ease. Liverpool were back in the game.
Everton self-destructed. Craig Johnston added a second for Liverpool and Rush applied the coup de grace. Dalglish's team took the cup with a 3-1 victory but the worst was to come for the Blues.
Ten days before the Wembley final, Kendall's team were favourites to do the league and cup Double but the turnaround came with shocking suddenness as Liverpool captured both trophies.
Heysel, along with political events in the United Kingdom, had sunk Merseyside's image to an all-time low. The clubs and local politicians believed that a show of unity was necessary in the aftermath of Wembley to illustrate to the world that the area's football clubs were a positive force. A decision was taken before the final that, whatever the result, Liverpool and Everton would travel home together on a plane from London and then participate in an open-top bus tour of the city.
It seemed like a good idea at the time but in the immediate aftermath of the game, reality hit home to the defeated Everton players. They would have to spend the next day in the company of the victorious, jubilant Liverpool team. Even though both sets of players were good friends, it was bound to be a painful episode for the defeated side.
Peter Reid, the Everton and England midfielder, could not bear the thought of the bus tour. He approached Kendall at the team's post-match banquet and told his manager that he was not prepared to participate.
"Howard said he'd fine me two weeks' wages if I didn't go with the team," said Reid. "I said 'done' and got my mate to pick me up and take me home. I watched the parade on TV in a pub in Bolton."
Reid's teammates wished they had made a similar decision. On the flight back to Liverpool airport, Dalglish's squad conducted a party at the back of the plane while Everton sat grim-faced at the front.
When they touched down, things got worse. There were three buses. Liverpool boarded the first, the media climbed into the second and Everton brought up the rear. "We had all the trophies," said Steve Nicol, with a laugh. "All they had was a few cans of beer."
The world believed it was watching a remarkable show of sportsmanship from the defeated team but on the Everton coach, the mood was grim. At the front of the parade, champagne was flowing. At the rear, the losing side consoled themselves with beer.
Their bus was not equipped with a toilet either. By the time the convoy reached Queens Drive, one of the city's major routes, the Everton players needed a comfort break. Striker Graeme Sharp jumped off the bus and saw a woman in the doorway of a house. He went across and asked her if he could use the toilet. She agreed and the Scot raced up the stairs to avail himself of the facilities. When he came out, he found his teammates forming a queue up the stairs.
One of the greatest sides in English football's post-war era were lined up in a semi-detached house in West Derby waiting for the toilet to become free but incredibly, there was another indignity to come.
The woman's husband was sitting in the living room watching the parade. The live television coverage focused on the Liverpool bus, where Dalglish and his men were showing off their trophies to the crowd along the route. When the Everton transport stopped, though, the TV helicopter covering the event focused on the stationary bus to find out what was happening. The man of the house was shocked to see Everton players scuttling through his front door on live television. He was appalled, too: he was a Liverpool fan.
"He stormed out," said Sharp, "and threw us all out of his house. It was probably the low point of the day."
With the perspective of 32 years, Sharp can see the funny side. He and his teammates had the last laugh, too: the following season they regained the title and were once again Merseyside's best side.
Even if the current Everton side lose this weekend's derby at Goodison, they will not have to suffer the humiliation their predecessors endured back in 1986. No other losing side in the game's history had their defeat rubbed in so heavily. The worst that can happen to Allardyce's men is they get beaten, although that is pain enough for Everton and their fans.
Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.