Across Stanley park, there is a team who play in blue. A team who created our wonderful football club. It’s the game I most look forward too. Red vs Blue. Families divided across our great city. It was once called the friendly derby because our fans used to sit together. Mates side by side, when both teams dominated at the top of the table. Playing each other in cup finals, unified chants of “merseyside” could be heard bellowed as one. Our city was suffering in the 80s. Thatcher had our city on its knees but there was always one thing she couldn’t take from us, our football teams.
Our clubs were 2 of the best in the world. This was at a time when only the league champions could play in Europe, otherwise Everton might just have European nights that we talk about. Make no mistake about it, Everton has a team that could beat anyone you put against it. Andy Gray, Trevor Steven, Graham Sharp and Neville Southall in goal, this team was a brilliant side. It was a time where the rest of the country would look back in envy but things changed between both clubs, all down to one event. Heysel.
With English clubs getting banned out of Europe, Everton blamed us for not playing in it. They won the league title in 85 when Heysel happened, and also in 87. They did have one of English footballs best teams assembled. They couldn’t compete against the best and blamed Liverpool.
The friendly derby? This is also the game that has produced the most red cards in Premier League history. This is far from friendly. The premier league comes, and the derbies stopped being competitive. Everton dominated the 90s. From the years of 1994 – 1998 Everton went 9 derbies without a defeat. They were fighting relegation most years, and Liverpool just could not get the upper hand. Liverpool win 7 out of 23 in 10 years.
Liverpool was changing by the end of the 90s, the joint manager role was doomed to fail, but Houiller came in and got Liverpool firing again. With young players like Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard (wonder what happened to him?) Liverpool would only lose 4 derbies since the turn of the millennium. To put that into context? Liverpool have played in more European finals than Everton have won Derbies.
Steven Gerrard cupping his ear to the Goodison park faithful, Luis Suarez diving in front of Davey Moyes and Gary Macca of course provided memories I will never forget. It’s a truly special game of football. There is a hatred in this game. Everton have a bitterness that only grows the longer the wait for a derby win goes on. They are currently on the longest run a team has went without a win in this fixture. 17 games. They have not won at Anfield since 1999. Something we like to remind them often, Ben Woodburn was not born the last time they won there.
It’s a game that provides me with the biggest joy winning, it provides me with the biggest sadness in losing. The guy wrenching feeling that goes through your body when the whistle goes, there is nothing like it. The phone goes off for the day, people get muted for a week or so. You turn off from your closest family members. There is something about playing them that gives you nerves like never before. Of course our recent record suggests it shouldn’t, but in the back of your mind, there is always a “what if”.
If the reds can do it, and based on last year at Anfield, I do believe Jurgen owes us one after resting players last year, if you win, Christmas is complete. Doesn’t matter what kind of socks you get, how your kids faces look, because we beat Everton. It means so much. Liverpool have to beat Everton. Not just for our premier league title push, but to give us those bragging rights. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take a Mane last minute winner over a 4-0 now.
It hurts them more. It’s the hope that kills them.