Generations : A Derby Day Trilogy

Posted by WOOLTONIAN on December 10, 2004, 12:15:26 PM

With the first Derby of the year approaching, I thought I would relate the story of some of The Greatest Derbies and their effects on the Brodrick household of the day.

Part I: Grandfather Peter’s Story

Peter, following in his father’s footsteps, was a Liverpool docker working on Garston Docks. Known as “Little Yanna” due to his elder brother Frank being known as “Big Yanna”, I can only assume it was their relative waistlines or beer intake that inspired their nicknames as Peter was an imposing figure. His girlfriend Rose Houghton (the 1st Wooltonian in our family), had first seen the wirey youth plying his trade for Garston Gasworks XI on Camp Hill (Woolton Woods). The left wing Adonis caught the eye of many a passing girl with his trickery up and down the touchline but it was to be Rose that stole Peter’s heart.

Peter’s only other loves were playing and watching football. He was one of the old school who liked watching the Blues and Reds on alternate weekends. I don’t think anyone ever drew him on the question as to which was his favourite of the two, so I hope he forgives me for assuming he was the first Red in our family. Either way his first Derby game was on the 7th October 1922 at Anfield.

Liverpool: Scott, Longworth, McKinlay, McNab, Wandsworth, Bromilow, Lacey, Forshaw, Johnson, Chambers and Hopkin.

Everton: Fern, Raitt, McDonald, Peacock, Fleetwood, Hart, Chedgzoy, Irvine, Chadwick, Williams and Harrison.

Liverpool playing their third game in 8 days due to a midweek cup replay, were not the favourites for this encounter, but they started the game stronger than the boys from across the park. 45,000 had packed into the ground that day and the first action of note saw a looping header by Johnson land on top of the net. Hopkin was having all his own way with Raitt and it was his cross that had led to the first chance. Again Hopkin skinned Raitt minutes later and Chambers brought a magnificent save out of Fern. But soon after there were signs this would not be a one sided affair, when Fleetwood’s long range effort warmed Lisha’s hands.

Lacey and Forshaw were combining well on Liverpool’s right, when a one-two put Forshaw clear, he skipped over a wild tackle by McDonald, before sending in a great cross which Fern dropped at Johnson’s feet and an almost certain goal. Fleetwood somehow volleyed the goal bound effort clear off the goal line, leaving the crowd agog. The ball broke free and the ensuing Everton breakaway saw Williams put the blues in front 1-0.

As the game went from end to end, a poor back pass by McKinlay put Forbes through, but a great diving save from Scott kept the Reds from going even further behind. Harrison, for once got the better of our Ephraim and only another agile save from Scott denied Chedgzoy.

Unless Liverpool picked the tempo up this was looking like becoming a very one sided affair, as wave after wave of Everton attacks breached our defensive line. Scott kept Liverpool in the game with an array of amazing saves. After one save from Irvine Elisha released McKinlay down the left, his forward pass to Hopkin drew calls from the Paddock Blues for offside, but luckily the linesman was dreaming of his half time orange. Only a great tackle by Raitt stopped Hopkin from going through on goal, with Liverpool rewarded with the consolation of a corner.

The mighty Kop roar echoed around the ground as Hopkin curled in the corner. The noise was doubled when Chambers bullet header hit the net. This was a significant turning point in the game as shortly after McNab’s fierce drive, put Liverpool ahead for the first time in the game. Half time was celebrated with copious amounts of Brown Ale, by the assembled Kopites. Some enjoyed the boozy break so much they missed the third Liverpool goal of the game which was scored by Chambers. After a delightful one-two by Lacey and Chambers the latter drove home from just outside the box.

Former shipyard worker Harry Chambers was having a field day, and it was only two minutes later when he completed his hat-trick with a curling shot, again from outside the box. 4-1. Lacey was involved once more when he “nutmegged” McDonald and sent in a powerful cross which Fern couldn’t hold. Birthday Boy Bromilow, tapped in Liverpool’s fifth from close range. A crunching tackle late in the game saw Bromilow and Hart finish the game as observers. The whistle went for full time when Scott had made yet another wonderful save from Williams. A great win for the Reds.

Grandad Peter began his long walk to Smithdown Road, to catch his tram home. Today you can comfortably get home to Garston in 30-40 minutes by car. In the days of horse drawn trams the same journey was over 2-3 hours. That’s if you had the ha’penny fare. But it wasn’t all bad news, with beer at a penny a pint you could get slaughtered for a shilling.  And so the night in the Mona Castle began.

Whether Peter was actually a red or a blue, I’m unsure. But I bet he spent the night celebrating as a RED. He was like that, he loved a bloody good excuse to get ‘happy’. Liverpool would build on the victory and go on to win the league by six points. The manager at the end of the season Matt McQueen would take all the bows for the league title win, but it was David Ashworth who was in charge and who earned victory at Anfield that day.

In 1932 Peter married his beloved Woolton ROSE. And after a Christmas frolic, young William John was born the following September. It must be a family thing in our house. I too was the result of my father playing Santa with me Mam. Anyway, with William still wetting the bed and squawking all night (sorry Brod), Peter decided it was time to take in the latest Derby.

He had missed the Liverpool 7, Everton 4 game due to his work commitments. Liverpool dockers were working short time and only a select few were chosen to work daily. Peter although notorious as one of the most laborious of workers, had only worked 3 days that week and if it wasn’t for the odd crate being dropped, many a scouse family would have gone hungry that week.

But by September 1935, his industrious working nature, had caught the eye of the top gang hand. Ergo Peter, was bringing a few bob home more regularly. As I said earlier, it’s hard to know, where my Grandad's true allegiance lay, but I do know he was a great admirer of the legend that was Dixie Dean. Anyone who tells you Dixie was otherwise, either doesn’t know or has a convenient memory. But if Evertonians had Dixie, we had Gordon Hodgson. Our hat-trick king’s goals-per-game ratio is still the best in our history.

So Peter headed from the docks, straight to Anfield. The talk walking up Wally Hill was  would Dixie do us again? Or would Hoddo do the business? No one was talking about the new kid on the block, inside left Howe, after all, it was his first Derby. The good news for all Liverpudlians was that Sagar (he who picked the ball out of the net 7 times) was still the Everton number one.

Homosexual relationships in those days were still locked firmly in the closet, but I can't help thinking the blue boys singing “I wish I was in Dixie” were doing so tongue in cheek. After a few pints of black stuff in the Sandon, Peter and a few of his mates from the docks headed to the turnstiles along with 48,000 others.

Liverpool: Riley, Cooper, Blenkinsop, Savage (Lily’s Dad ?), Bradshaw, McDougall, Nivvy, Hodgson, Wright, Howe and Carr.

Everton: Sagar, Williams, Cresswell, Britton, White, Thomson, Geldard, Miller, Dean, Stevenson and Leyfield.

Everton started the game looking like they were going to wipe the floor with the Reds. Dixie in particular looked at the top of his game coming close twice early in the game, but after 15 minutes Liverpool took command of the game. Carr skinned Williams on the outside with pace and sent in a powerful cross which Howe glanced inside the far post. The deft header was followed 15 minutes later by Hoddo placing one just inside the opposite post. The Reds were already two up.

Only 5 minutes later Gordon got his second, this time with a powerful shot that left Sagar flat footed. Sagar was having a nightmare of Elm Street proportions when Howe also scored his second just before half time. Once again it was Brown Ale time for the Kopites and Bovril for the Gwladys Street boys.

Liverpool were playing exhibition football, while the so called ‘School of Science‘ were trying to discover oxygen. As the teams came out for the second half any hope of a Blue comeback was gone. Everton fans watched as Dixie limped onto the ‘Hallowed Turf’ of Anfield. To his credit, Dean ran round the pitch for the rest of the game giving it his all.  Only later did fans find out he had broken his toe in the first half.

Howe and Hodgson though, were on a mission. Who would get the hat-trick? Money would have said Hodgson was favourite. Although Gordon came close on two occasions it was Howe who scored a brace from his two chances in the second half, finishing with four. The Anny Road was half empty by the time the ref put Everton out of their misery.

Thus went into the record books, The Largest Ever Margin in Derby History. Liverpool 6 Everton 0.

The Mona Castle was going to be the place to be again tonight, but the journey might be a bit quicker now, the trams having converted to electric. Some fans (mainly the nobs from Mossley Hill) even had cars. God only knows what we’re gonna use on our roses from now on if these motor car thingies catch on.

Was Howe a flash in the pan? Hardly, he scored another hat-trick seven days later in a 7-2 victory against Grimsby Town. But history would definitely say he played second fiddle,to the goal machine that was Gordon Hodgson. Dixie? Well for all the codswallop yer Grandad may tell yer, he went down in folklore on Merseyside as a total legend of the game and RIGHTLY SO.


Part II: My Dad’s Story

The Brod’s are well known for shifting addresses, quicker than Gypsies. Little surprise recently when it was established our ancestry was derived from Irish Tinkers. Between 1957 and 1965 we had already lived in 5 houses.

This story begins in our 3rd house in Garston, having already moved from Brunswick Street (under the bridge), Calthorpe Street (by the park), we settled in Condor Close (by the market). My father had had as many jobs too, but this latest job in Fords was looking like we could finally put down some roots. I have mixed feelings about Condor Close. For a start, everyone in the close was an Evertonian. From next door up,  Bembo, Carrol, Feast, Reid and Hughes everyone a blue nose. But from memory my parents were very happy with their latest move and made many friends.

Gerry Flaherty and Angela also lived close by. It was Gerry that struck up a lasting friendship with my Dad. Whether it was their love of Liverpool or their growing working relationship (T&GWU) I’m not sure. It was a week before my 8th birthday and the talk of the Close all week was the latest battle of the Blues and Reds. I had great hopes that this would be my first ever Derby Match, because what else would a kid want for his birthday. As the week was coming to a close though, things were not looking good. There had been no talk of me going.

Friday I decided to bring the matter to my father's attention. It ended with me being disappointed. The reason being there would be too many fans going to the game and a crush was likely. Later it was announced the gate was 53,557 ergo my arl fella was right. Our new car, a Ford Popular (FKF 808), was parked outside and at 12.30 my Dad and Gerry waved goodbye.

The gladiators for today’s battle would be:

Liverpool: Lawrence, Strong, Byrne, Milne, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith and Thompson were the Spartans.

Everton: West, Wright, Wilson, Gabriel, Labone, Harris, Scott, Young, Pickering, Harvey and Morrissey were the Trojans.

In the first few minutes it was glaringly obvious Mae West was in the form of his life. His point blank save from a Cally corner and Yeats header really was top drawer. Minutes later his efforts in keeping a Hunt volley out left mouths agog. Not satisfied with that, he denied Thompson in a one-on-one which had started deep in the Liverpool half. After only five minutes, Sir Roger saw a shot pushed onto the post and within two minutes Smith hit the same post with a long range effort. After only 10 minutes the Reds could easily have been five up if it was for the gallant efforts of West.

St. John was giving Brian Labone an absolute torrid time in the middle; the “pocket dynamo” made the Labrador Labone look very laboured. Thompson was having all his own way with Tommy Wright, twisting right, then left, then coming back to do it all again (typical of Thommo). After half an hour it was one of these twisty turny moves that resulted in a free kick. As Thompson had passed Wright, all Wright could do was try and pull the shirt off Thommo’s back.

Thompson’s swinging free kick was met by a horizontal Tommy Smith and his header flew passed the static West. The Kop roared its approval, the Anny was somewhat reminiscent of a funeral parlour. The last 10 mins of the first half were much like the first 10. Callaghan, Stevenson and St John all going close. As the ref blew the whistle for half time, no one with a Red scarf could believe we only led by one goal. Those in the blue were relieved more than anything else as they knew deep down it could have been all over as a match. Lawrence had only made one save in the first half and that was a lacklustre effort by the Arch Angel Gabriel.

Whether it was an injury or the fact that Labone had quite simply had enough of Ian St. John, only he will know why he didn’t come out for the second half. He was replaced by Glover. A strange move if tactical as Glover was a midfield player. Yes, they had lost the battle of midfield, but they had been just as inept at the back. Bladders relieved, the two Southenders settled back in the favourite spec on the Kop. The famous “Kop Roar” indicated to the ref that he could start the second half any time he liked.

Then the flood banks opened.

As Roger Hunt went through on West, the keeper went down far to early and all Hunt had to do was clip one over the top of the forlorn keeper. 2-0 was quickly followed by 3-0. A Thompson cross from the left was deflected by Harris, straight into the path of the forward running Stevenson. His delicate lob left Mae West totally flat footed. The blue fans fell silent, the only shining light they had was “the turncoat” Morrissey, he had at least given Strong a game, unlike the others who seemed to be accepting the inevitable.

Another run by Thompson led to the fourth.  He had done Wright twice again, before he pulled back the ball to Stevenson. Willie’s cross was met by a stooping Sir Roger. 4-0 and the Kop decided to raise the noise levels even more. “We want five, we want five” echoed around the ground.

By the time St John rose to a Callaghan cross, the Anny looked depleted in numbers. Not only had the Toffee players had enough, the fans had too. Only half the blues saw St John score Liverpool’s FIFTH that day. But the Kop were rejoicing when the ref finally brought the blues miserable day to a close.

Meanwhile back at Condor Close. I was at home watching the Saturday afternoon wrestling (weekly event of pantomime antics on ITV). As the last bout finished (on time for the footy results as usual) the teleprinter kicked into gear. After a few reserve results had been posted, the Scottish results started to blip and buzz their way onto the screen. After what seemed like an age, one or two first division scores started to appear. Then came the moment of magic.

Der der der dot, der der der Liverpool 5, (the printer paused) Der der der dot, der der der Everton 0.

Yahooooo I ran out into the Royal Blue Close, screaming with joy. The close was empty. It was a very quiet Close that night at 5 O’Clock, as it was for the rest of the night. Young Wooly would have to play football on his own tonight. NO ONE ELSE WAS PLAYING OUT!

My Dad had two match mates, Gerry as in above game and later Norman Williams. Norman also worked with my Dad in Branch 6 of the T&GWU. The Derby of note in their friendship was one I did enjoy. It had become standard practise for my Dad to watch me play for the school team Saturday morning, then after a quick bite at home, off we’d head to the game. In 1970 the agenda for the day rarely changed. Down the Drive, park opposite The Clarence. Two pints of Mild, one Ginger Beer and a pack of crisps and up the slope we headed. We always called in a sweet kiosk halfway up, for a supply of chewy for Norman, mints for my Dad and whatever took my fancy (as long as it didn’t exceed 1 shilling).

Our tickets that day were for the paddock as it was standard practise then for the Blues to take over the Anny. I didn’t mind the Paddock, I always got a more balanced view of the game.

The programme introduced the teams:

Liverpool: Clemence, Lawler, Lindsay, Smith, Lloyd, Hughes, Hall McLaughlin, Heighway, Toshack and Ross.

Everton: Rankin, Wright, H Newton, Labone, Kendall, Harvey, Ball, Whittle, Royle, Hurst and Morrissey.

The talk of the Paddock before the game was that of the famous midfield trio of Kendall, Harvey and Ball who were growing in reputation as one of the finest around. But little could prepare us for what we were about to receive. The Everton midfield were indeed dominating the game and then came a moment I will never forget. The following passage may cause some doubts, but I assure you it is true, no matter how unlikely it seems.

A 50-50 ball between “The Anfield Iron” and “The Turncoat” ended with Morrissey coming away ’intact’ and winning the ball (I told yer it was gonna be a mind blower). Reds were in shock all over the ground, even the Blue fans couldn’t believe it. Worse still, his pass put through Whittle. Even worse still, the cheeky little buggar chipped Clemence.

I know it was only 1-0, but what a catastrophe of events. Smith beaten in the tackle by a lightweight and Clemmo being lobbed by a precocious little tw@t. The Blue quarter was going nuts and for the first time we realised we were not alone in the Paddock.

Things couldn’t get any worse, but they did. Minutes later a quick one-two by the turncoat and the snotrag Ball (had a habit of wiping his nose on corner flags) led to a cross which was met on the back post by Joe Royle. My heart sunk. 2-0 and even more Blues came out of the closet next to us. An old fella stood next to me opened his jacket and announced to the Paddock, I too am an Evertonian as his hidden scarf told.

Now alright I’m only a teenager at this time, turning 13 only weeks before. But the following action really made my blood boil. The old Buggar looked me right in the eye, and ruffled the hair on my head. “never mind Red” he said.

My face was Redder than my scarf! “Never mind”? my thoughts were not suitable for print then or now, but I mustered “it ain't over yet mate” but my true thoughts told a different story. I looked at my dad for some solace or at least a modicum of hope. He looked dumbfounded.

Our relatively new front line up of Hall, McLaughlin, Heighway, Toshack and Ross gave us little to cheer in that first half. They looked like strangers in the night. They had hardly had a kick of the ball between them and no one looked more alienated than Big Tosh with his hands on his hips. But in fairness it was only his second appearance, perhaps he would improve with time. I remember Tommy Smith coming out and watching him roll up his sleeves. It was a gesture that would lift not only the team, but let the faithful know “This means War”.

Tommy had a way of lifting everyone around him with gestures such as this. Our Tommy seemed just as capable of belting one of his own if they didn’t knuckle down. Morrissey was left in no doubt by the Anfield Irons glare. “You wanna try that one again Johnny”? The look on Morrissey’s face confirmed he would not be playing in the second half. His roar across the park to Emlyn, accompanied by a shake of the fist, told everyone what was expected. No wonder Tommy was our favourite, we knew in our hearts, this was a player who would lay his life down for the cause, rather than knuckle under.

But is would be the Derby Debutant who would break our duck. Heighway (a BA from Skem - must be a misprint in the programme) broke past Hurst on the left, he cut inside and thundered one across the goal, I swear Rankin didn’t move, it was a screamer. It wasn't long before the “Moustachioed Prince” who did Wright inside and out before sending in a wicked cross. Big Tosh rose in the box and his header went flying into the net. 2-2. The Kop went absolutely wild.

The assembled Blues in the paddock had somehow turned into chameleons. Where was that ruddy old bloke? Time I rubbed his baldy bonce. He was nowhere to be seen. For the first time in the game, there was a ray of hope for the faithful. You would think that the game would then have settled down for a while both teams took stock. There was none of it.

The game bust into life, one minute yer heart raced near 150 beats a minute, then we got the ball and the 150 barrier was shattered. 54,000 scousers screaming their lungs out incessantly.

The game was there for the taking by either team. It was time for someone to gain legendary status. The noise from both sets of fans had the ground shaking. Both sets of fans could smell blood. I swear I could see steam coming out of fans ears. Their contorted faces told you how much a win would mean today. Half of the fans looked cannibalistic, the spit dribbling from the corners of the mouth, gave them a rabid appearance.

I’d have loved my school teacher to be there that day and try his “It’s only a game” speech. The eyes on fans were bloodshot as every vein in every fan looked like bursting. The veins in the fella’s neck stood next to me looked like popping. THIS WAS A REAL LIVERPOOL DERBY, not the timid affairs which some have become accustomed to of late. No one would leave this ground with their voice box intact. The noise just got louder and louder.

Everton had a chance, more than half the grounds hearts stopped, but it was saved.
Liverpool broke forward, the blue quarters began to wish they had worn nappies.
Everton had the ball on the edge of their own area, time for a respite ? Yer avin a laugh, the Reds fans were baying for blood. “Get in there“, “have him“, “get him“, “get stuck in”. Frankly I had never seen anything like this. Slowly as the game went on Liverpool took the upper hand.

Newton fouled Cally, “go ‘ed you dirty get”, the ref agreed and awarded a free kick. The roar from the Kop reached new heights as the Liverpool players headed for the box. Everyone picked up their opposite number, everyone had just become a Siamese twin. And then I noticed a ghostly figure, heading toward the back post.

Was he an apparition? He was as far as the Everton defence was concerned. No one picked him up. As the free kick came swinging in Big Tosh rose elegantly in the area, Fatty Labone hardly leaving the turf. Tosh’s little flick on, was heading just wide of the far post and the ghost materialised, like a Klingon battle cruiser. The Silent Knight had stepped up for his moment of glory. As he pulled the trigger there was a half moment of pure silence. BANG, Chris had caught hold of it, sweet as a nut.

As the ball flew across the area, everyone in the ground drew a deep breath. It was the Red fans who released the trapped breath first. G-O-A-L! it had gone in off the far post. I swear the sighs from my left were just as deafening. Lawler had clinched it. As the heads of Kopites fell back, they let out the biggest roar of the game. The heads in the Anny were firmly fixed to chests. Thus ended one of the greatest Derby games both me and my father ever watched.

We headed for the car that day with adrenalin still pumping. This was a classic. Even some of the blue fans heading in the same direction as us, were still buzzin. Back in the Clarence, whether if was sheer joy or not, I’m unsure, but my arl fellah elevated me to the status of “Shandy Boy”. Real Beer with a splash of Lemmo.


Part III: My Story

Selecting two Derbies from my era has proven near impossible. Would it be the Rush Derby, where we comfortably beat the blues 5-0? Nah, too one sided. I wanted to pick games that made the blood boil. The search continued. Crazy Horse's two screamers at Woodison in 1973 was a classic, but again my memory says it was a solo victory. Then there were the two games where I was totally stitched up by the wife. In 1986 close to celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary, I certainly had an itch. An itch to “bin the bitch”.

Marrying into the Case’s family was an experience and a half. Suddenly I had 14 nephews and nieces, ruddy expensive at Christmas and financial ruin at Easter was only saved by buying eggs from a wholesale outlet. Having seven brother-in-laws had its highs and lows, but as six were Reds we had more highs than lows. But the worst thing by far had to be receiving “Florrie's Command” to attend family weddings. Six of us all had tickets for the 1986 Cup Final against Everton all sewn up and then the bomb shell dropped. The 10th May cousin Jimmy decided, would be the perfect date to tie the knot.

“You Ferkin Plonker”!!

A tribal meeting was called at Flo and Joe’s, mainly to discuss if separate presents or a combined effort was the best idea. As the girls all huddled in the living room, the lads decided there wasn’t enough room for us. Would we sit in the lounge? Nah, the bar was the place for us. Dave Nicho started the ball rolling. He took his prized possession out of his jacket pocket. I pulled mine out of me wallet and declared “snap”. George pulled his out and said “you mean, oh Crap”. Keith Laddie showed us his brace, so even young nephew Carl was sorted. Ronnie completed the showie. Six FA Cup tickets were going to be up for grabs unless someone could have a brain wave.

“What we gonna do”? pipes up Nicho.

“Whats this "we" crap?" I said, "I hardly know the lad”.

We all looked to George, he was not only the eldest but also the wisest. He announced with all his sage powers “We’re fucked Boys”. Sad as it was, I had to laugh; this was the brains of the outfit.

So on the 10th May 1986, eight of us with faces like thunder stood in a Page Moss church. Eight of us stood, not taking a blind bit of notice to the ceremony, one with a pocket size radio in his pocket. As we all lined up for the obligatory photo session, the camera man decided he was David Bailey.

“Just a bit to the right madam”

“Could you put that fag out please sir”

A voice from the back mutters “get a shift on soft arse, we’re missin' the match”

The lads only appeared on one photo that day, by the time the lens was clicking for number two, we were heading for the cars. After one last glance at the traitor who had stitched us up good and proper, I whispered to Lynn “where’s the do?, we’re heading off”. Information received, I headed for the cars.

“George, where are the Blue Rooms”?

“Has no one told yer” ? he said looking amused, “It’s a Woodison function room”.

On the way to the shithole, Radio Merseyside informed us the day was getting even worse. Lineker had scored. We arrived at the black hole of Calcutta just as the half time whistle went. The doorman greeted us … “Welcome to Goodison lads, home of the Blues”. Eight fella’s snarled at him as they passed. I’d have loved to be able to read his mind.

The wedding breakfast was nice we were told later. The silver service of the day would be taking at least 12 dinners home with them. We sat in the lounge as Rush put us level and then Ozzie Johnno put us one goal ahead. The loudest cheer of the day was not for Rushie's second though, it was reserved for the final whistle. I forgave Lynn, as the Blue rooms were not the worst place to be when Liverpool humped Everton 3-1 in the Cup. And perhaps sometime in the future her timing would improve. Not a bit of it !

“We need a holiday Babe!” she announced one night after a heavy session at the local Leg-Iron. “Well you book it and I’ll weigh it in” I spluttered. “I was thinking of Butlins for the kids” she came back. “Great, just what I need being woken up by Uncle bleedin' Johnny”. So she booked it.

March 1989, after a successful journey to Middlesbrough where we knocked them for FOUR and they knocked me for SIX, I arrived home. “The postman’s been Darlin' and the tickets for the holiday have arrived”.

“Great, when we going?”

“From the 20th -27th May, the week after the season finishes". I sat in Blackpool Pontins the week we beat Everton in the Cup and lost to the Arse in the final match of the season. Events at the time meant I wouldn’t have gone to either game anyway but needless to say though, Lynn has not booked another holiday in the last 20 years. I love my missus, but her bonce has the contents of a balloon at times.

20th February 1991. I was sat in the office on the morning of the 20th. Busy as usual with my crosswords. One look at the setter “Vixen” told me not to bother today with the main one, she was the biggest pain in the butt I’d come across. So I settled for the quickie.

1 Across Gobs
3 Across Heights

The quicky was famous for it’s first two clues leading you to another word. Then the phone rang. Our southern area sales rep was just heading down the M62 and had heard there was still tickets left for tonight’s match, the FA Cup 5th round replay. Did I want any? As hard as it was to believe, he turned up an hour later with four tickets. When he had arrived at the ground they had told him less than 35,000 tickets had sold. The gate which was later announced at 37,700 confirmed that for some reason fans didn’t want to see this game.

I phoned home to tell Lynn about the last minute plans and asked her to get the lad ready after school, as I had a ticket for him. My Lad was only 9, but I thought it was time I introduced him to a Derby game. After a couple in the Arkles we headed across the park.

Everton: Southall, Attveld, Ratcliffe, Watson, Keown, Nevin, Ebbrel, Hinchcliffe, McDonald, Sharp, Newell.

Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Hysen, Burrows, Nicol, Mřlby, Ablett, Beardsley, Staunton, Rush, Barnes and Venison.

Programme in hand, we headed for our seats in the stands, not knowing what we were in for. I’ll always remember the look on my lads face when he sat down in his newly bought, red bob hat and scarf. It was enough to make a Father very proud. His smile must have been a mile wide. His pre ball-drop voice was like a shrill in the night air, when we started singing YNWA. But it reached glass breaking levels when Beardo scored the first after a goal line clearance from a Rush shot.

By the time the whistle went for half time, we could have had another couple, but the Blues held out with a resilience rarely seen. But my lad seemed happy enough, until he took his first ever swig of Bovril.

“Get it down yer” I said, “it’ll put hairs on yer chest”

“But it tastes like shite Dad”

“Go'way wid yer, you’ll be able to see in the dark”

After two more sips, he accidentally dropped the cup. “Oh, I and was beginning to enjoy that” he said.

“I’ll get yer another then eh”?

“Nah, yer’ll miss the kick off if yer go now” he said. He was right, the lads were coming back out. Before we had time to settle properly, Sharpe had equalised. It seemed as if we’d come out in the second half, half asleep. They certainly didn’t deserve to be level on the balance of play.

We had to wait about twenty minutes before Beardo made a run that will go down in Derby history and what a finish, it went in like a rocket, right in the top corner. With twenty minutes left, I told our Billy if he crossed his fingers for the rest of the game, we’d be going home happy. Dutiful as ever he crossed his fingers. But after only two-three minutes our luck ran out. Sharpe scored again, after Nicol and Grab-it-lar had dropped a clanger.

I was gutted and then I noticed the lad. He must have uncrossed his fingers just before the goal had been scored. He looked horrified. Cruel, but I said, “I warned yer lad”. I watched as he crossed again, almost immediately. When Rushie's header hit the net I’m sure our Bill thought his efforts had been rewarded. He stuck the two crossed fingers up to me. "Keep em crossed" I said, yer know what happens if yer don’t.

Poor little beggar must have had cramp in his hand when substitute Cottee equalised with what seemed like seconds to go. It must have been his first touch of the game to boot, only just having come on for the other “little git” Nevin (still can’t stand that poison dwarf, how Barnes puts up with him on Channel 5 is a complete mystery to me). Then came the goal that shook the ground to its foundations. Barnes from just underneath us, scored an absolute cracker, curling the ball from near the touchline into the far top corner. I was too dumbfounded to cheer it was that good. My lad looked happy, he was an integral part of that match, never had a lad crossed his fingers so well.

I was still talking to a mate when Cottee scored the fourth equaliser for Everton in the game. And as both sets of fans left the ground, there was an eerie silence. I’d suggest most were dumbstruck. It was hard to believe what we had just witnessed that night. I struggle still, thinking about how we lost four leads in one match. And the gate of under 38,000 amazes me even more. But as our Bill's first experience of Derby football, it will be a night never to be forgotten. It was also to be King Kenny's last game in charge.

Here’s where this Kopite, Kops-out. I cannot believe there will not be another “Classic” in my lifetime and have therefore decided to leave my last choice for the future. Atmospheres may well be dwindling in recent years, but I honestly believe, there will be a game in the future, where “The Blood Boils” like it used to. Who knows, this Saturday's game has all the makings of a classic, after all: can you remember the last time we played them when they were above us in the League?

The Derby game is and will always be, a game of contradictions. Where else, can 5 seconds last 30 minutes and 30 minutes can flash past yer eyes in 5 seconds? What other game is there where you have to cover yer ears from the deafening noise, but you can still hear yer heart beat?

The Merseyside Derby is the Greatest Match in the History of the Game. Long may it continue. BRING ‘EM ON, I’M READY TO DO BATTLE ONCE AGAIN in the “Amphitheatre of Wood” this Saturday.

© Wooltonian 2004

(This trilogy has been brought to you by “Yer Can Stick Yer Fuckin' Groundshare Up Yer Arse” Publications)

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