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, Mølby, 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.