May 7th 1994 is a day I will never forget……….
The Day Everton Scared The Life Out Of Me
At the age of 14 we used to do predictions in school on a Friday (last lesson was welsh with a teacher who couldn’t be arsed) for the weekend’s footy, written in the back of our welsh books, this is one prediction I desperately wanted to come right.
Everton v Wimbledon was the fixture that had my nerves shot all week.
Living in Wrexham at the time my Uncle Steve, who has took me and my twin Ben to the match since I can remember, picked us up from school. This meant that he was home from work (he worked away delivering all week on the lorries) and that we would be going the match. The realisation that I would be going to a match that had my stomach in knots all week finally sunk in, Ii wanted to go… I didn’t want to go… relegation would have meant the end of my life as I knew it. I Just couldn’t handle the situation at all…..
The day arrived…
I spent the morning in my Nanna’s, being 14 I somehow saw logic that spending the morning helping my Nanna with the garden would give me enough good will in the bank to see me through the day with Everton emerging victorious
My Nanna, a scouser from Litherland who had lived in Wrexham for over 30 years, who had no interest in football whatsoever, put an arm around me and my twin brother, gave us a big hug and told us everything would
work out fine. I needed that, confidence was low. Everton were on a shocking run of form and I personally couldn’t see us being good enough to beat the notoriously tricky Wimbledon.
We drove up to Liverpool around 11.30 with my Nanna en route to my aunty Pats who lived opposite the then Sportsman pub on Tees Place, Kirkdale.
The sight of the cranes on the docks used to fill me with excitement, I knew it wasn’t far to go now to get to Liverpool. On the radio my Uncle had Radio City on, I remember Graham Beecroft and Kevin Keetings being at Goodison that day. Every time they spoke about the game I was searching in vain for some re-assurance that we would be alright. Of course, no such assurances were forthcoming.
After more nervous sitting round in my Aunty Pats having seemingly endless glasses of orange juice and club chocolate bars we set of for Goodison via the Carisbrooke pub for my uncles Steve’s pre-match pint, accompanied by my scouse uncle… Uncle Ron.
My uncle Ron had seen the greats, he had and still has a great calmness, he had no such worries, fully in the belief that nothing would go wrong today he said the Goodison crowd would lift the players and we would be celebrating tonight.
The pub was rammed and we were stood outside by the railings having our drinks. The weather was absolutely stifling. My big thick NEC Everton shirt was a bad choice of clothing. I could see the swell of people walking towards county road, the tension was so thick it could have stopped traffic. Seasoned fans genuinely looking worried, at this point I was beyond conversation, stomach in knots and dreading the whole occasion.
As we took our seats in the Lower Bullens, where the away fans sit now, the atmosphere was so uplifting, so defiant, I thought there’s no way all these people are going home unhappy. The noise, bearing in mind there
was no park stand at all, was frightening but in a good way. The passion of Evertonians was never more evident. Words fail to justify the atmosphere. It was unbelievable.
The game started and Everton quickly followed form with a dreadful handball from Limpar. Holdsworth rolling the penalty past big Nev. When the sadly departed Gary Ablett deflected the ball over Southall to make it 2-0 to Wimbledon on 16 minutes, my world came crashing down.
I’ve never cried at Goodison since or before but the thought of relegation rapidly becoming a reality was overwhelming. My throat started to swell up. I’ve never wanted our players to come good as much.
Limpar used all of his cunning to win a penalty, I turned away unable to stomach the penalty, praying to God we’d score. Graham Stuart cooly obliged in a manner alien to our situation. The sound of the Gwladys Street going mad was amazing, such relief. All my hope had returned.
The players left the pitch at half time to a tremendous ovation. I have never seen such resounding support. That goal from Stuart had filled the place with belief.
Second half begun and Wimbledon had numerous chances to make it 3-1. I remember Dean Holdsworth missing an absolute sitter from 3 yards. Then the ball broke in Midfield….
Barry Horne took it on the bounce advanced 5-10 yards before unleashing an Exocet. From my viewpoint I was convinced he had hit the bar and Cottee had scored off the rebound. It didn’t matter, the ball was in the back of the net and we went mad. I ended up 3 rows down with bruises and scrapes on my legs. The ecstasy and agony of scoring a goal.
You Need Hans
The winner seemed inevitable at this point, the game seemed to be going on forever, like the footballing Gods had decided to pull out all the stops to ensure our safety. Stuart played a one-two with Cottee, the ball bounced back of Cottee into the path of Stuart who hit the tamest of shots which somehow beat Segars who saw it coming the whole way. The shot looked like a pass back but the Gwladys Street erupted and nothing mattered.
The news came through on my uncle’s personal radio that Mark Stein had scored a last minute winner for Chelsea, ensuring our safety. I hadn’t grasped just how dangerous our situation had become.
The final whistle went and we were safe. I know a lot of people felt that we shouldn’t celebrate escaping relegation but the panic that we’d go down was overwhelming, the relief massive.
I ran on to the pitch with my twin brother to celebrate, the atmosphere was crazy My first thought was to run over to the Gwladys Street and imitate Trevor Steven making it 3-1 v Bayern Munich, my ultimate Gwladys Street goal.
Walking back to Tees Place was joyous, the atmosphere on the streets as we passed The Carisbrooke down towards The Old Tramways pub was electric. The amount of people outside the Carisbrooke was insane, everyone drinking, it felt like a day where paste tables were being used for street parties.
The relief was overwhelming and my nanna was waiting outside my Aunty Pats house for us to come home.
My nanna as stated, had no interest in football but she knew what this meant, giving us the biggest of hugs and excitedly telling us I told you Everton would win.
The day was over. I couldn’t wait to get the Football Echo for the ride home, and looked forward to the one programme I prayed I would want to see…. Match of the Day.
My mate Darren in school had correctly predicted 3-2 to Everton in our Friday predictions. If only he had put money on it.
An awesome day to be an Evertonian, the ultimate 12th man. A day everyone vowed never to happen again.
And it didn’t …. for 4 whole years.
Follow Mark Ellis on Twitter @Markthablue