In the second of a series of features showcasing the things that make Liverpool FC tick and with tongue firmly in cheek, ahead of Saturday’s derby our man Alex Miller delivers ‘An Ode To.. Everton Football Club’.
Rush’s quadruple, Macca’s belter, Stevie’s hat-trick. There’s something a little bit special about the Merseyside derby.
As the days tick down, there’s a frisson of excitement in the air, the sort of tingle only a Merseyside derby can offer up. It’s different to the United game, it’s different to a European night. Every tackle has a sense of meaning to it, every passing second one step closer to ecstasy or dismay.
‘The Friendly Derby’ notion is a myth. This is the Premier League fixture that has seen 21 red cards issued, five more than any other, and with every passing year, every year the gap widens, the rivalry intensifies.
Everton play their part in all of this, of course. For all their failings, the blue half of the city, so vocal in their indictment of all things Liverpool FC, are a fitting local rival to a club boasting five European Cups.
Quite why is up for debate. In terms of size, stature and success, they draw blanks. If you don’t include Tony Bellew’s win over David Haye earlier this month, the last time Everton won a trophy, Robson and Jerome were number one, John Major was prime minister, and the King had just lifted the Premier League trophy with Blackburn. It’s a lifetime ago.
Whatever the whys and wherefores, they are a big club, of that there is no doubt. In 2005, under the tutelage of David Moyes, they finished above Liverpool and qualified for the Champions League. DVDs were released, the triumph was lauded – and rightly so. After years of suffering, Everton deserved it, and that season the red half of Merseyside had to swallow its pride and make do with the European Cup.
Hibbert, McFadden, Marcus Bent – this was the best Everton side in a generation. If only Villarreal weren’t quite as strong.
And then there’s Phil Jagielka’s thunderbolt strike in Everton’s 1-1 win at Anfield in 2014. It was a goal the minute it left his foot, and that memorable roar from the away section can only be rivalled by the one that followed Ramiro Funes Mori’s badge-grabbing celebration last season. His leg-breaking lunge on Divock Origi was a statement of intent – the People’s Club hadn’t come to Anfield to be bullied. The People’s Club don’t lie down at Anfield anymore. The People’s Club lost 4-0.
These are their European cup wins, the sort of moments great clubs are built upon. Forget the fact that Ben Woodburn wasn’t born the last time Everton won at Anfield, this is the biggest game of the season. For Everton at least.
The blues will arrive at Anfield on Saturday in fine fettle after the announcement of another stadium build and a wave of optimism that has seen them hit seventh place in the table.
Let’s hope for another classic.