ON September 27, 1999 in Liverpool L4, Everton striker Kevin Campbell brought down Franny Jeffers’ through ball and slotted it past Sander Westerveld at the Kop end.
The game was just four minutes old and Everton led against Liverpool. It was to be the only goal in the game and their first win there in four years, but that was just the beginning of a night of madness under the Anfield floodlights. In the second half, Jeffers and Westerveld went in for a 50/50 ball and took umbrage at the other’s aggression. They slapped each other for a minute or so and were sent off for being dickheads. As the Reds had used all their substitutes, Steve Staunton had to take the ‘keepers gloves for the last 16 minutes. As the game ran into injury time, with the Reds desperate for an equaliser, Steven Gerrard ran studs up into Campbell and he too was shown a red. Three red cards in the Merseyside derby. Ah, those were the days.
A couple of months later, Campbell became a father to a son called Tyrese. As the infant grew to school age, Campbell stayed on Merseyside with the Blues and briefly ran his own record label with rapper Mark Morrison. In 2005 he moved to West Brom for a year and then to Cardiff City. He retired in 2007.
It took Campbell a whole year to sink into obscurity. So much so that he became a feature on the Sky ‘Where Are They Now?’ programme just twelve months after his final game.
But let’s stay with Tyrese for a minute. He followed his Dad’s footsteps and now, aged 16, he plays for Manchester City. There’s talk of him moving to Arsenal or West Ham as Pep doesn’t seem keen on getting Leroy Sane into the first team, never mind Campbell Jr.
Time marched on for the other players in that game, too. Richard Gough — centre back alongside Richard Dunne that night — is now 54 years old.
The world has changed a good deal since then. Prime Ministers, Presidents and even whole countries have been and gone but one thing has remained constant. Since 27th September 1999 when Kevin Campbell scored, Everton have never won a league game at Anfield.
Campbell has sired a child who has grown to become a professional footballer, Richard Gough has aged to his mid-fifties and Ross Barkley — then five years old — hasn’t seen Everton win at Anfield since the Teletubbies were a thing.
A whole generation ago.
As enjoyable as it is for us, that’s an appalling state of affairs for the School of Science. Since that Monday night in the last century, Everton’s Anfield record reads: played 17, won zero, drawn nine and lost eight.
And, of course, as we never tire of reminding them, they haven’t won a trophy since 1995.
I honestly don’t mean to gloat (too much) about this. If anything, it’s a bit sad. My Dad was a Blue and he would have hated to see this. He saw the last three Everton titles in 1970, 1985 and 1987 and, though he admired how the Reds played, he wasn’t overly bitter towards us. He believed that the Blues search of honours came first over any rivalry. How he would have taken the Guard of Honour for David Moyes, who won fuck all in over a decade, and t-shirts proclaiming that it’s the taking part that counts, I don’t know. Everton, for him, was about tradition and the endless search for silverware — not lauding mediocrity.
The past 17 years speaks first of failure and then acceptance. The plan has changed from beating us to merely making sure that we don’t beat them. For two of the last three games they’ve done well to just stop us scoring five times. How has that been allowed to happen?
There have been many drab 0-0 games at Anfield too but lately they’ve barely been competitive. Nowadays, and certainly under Moyes, Everton came for a draw.
The Goodison derby is different — far more atmospheric and intense. It’s my favourite game of the year as that stroll from The Albert across the park feels like an army leaving its camp and heading to battle. I love the ground too and welcome its dilapidated state. But the Anfield derby has shrunk in terms of its ability to stir the blood and stiffen up the sinews. Much as we try, it’s all a bit “meh”. There’s nothing wrong with 4-0 wins but I can’t help but feel that, lately, it’s been about damage limitation for the Blues than an even toe-to-toe contest.
Such are their miserable attempts to bloody the Liverpool noise that a friend of mine — who is not from the city — recently told me that, for her, derby day has all the importance of West Brom at home and nothing more. Just another game and nothing like as big as the United game.
It didn’t used to be that way. It’s been thirty years since we won the double from Everton and many from around at that time will argue that the Blue half had the better team and we won both trophies purely thanks to experience of how to get the job done. I couldn’t argue with them. Everton were a hell of side back then. In the mid-1980s, Everton could win at Anfield.
Those days were glorious. Even though we were fierce rivals, there was a genuine sense of the city against the world. If Liverpool weren’t winning the league, the other lot were. Merseyside owned football. The only serious rivalry came from 32 miles away on the M62 but they were more of a cup side with their cigar toting knobhead seeping misplaced braggadocio. Arsenal were a coming side but never strong enough to sustain a title charge while Spurs and Chelsea were just places we went to rather than sides who got between you and your sleep.
But somehow that got lost as both teams declined. Of course, ours came with the odd trophy including the big one in 2005, but joint challenges for the league are now a distant memory from a bygone age.
This is a shame. Weak Everton sides don’t help Liverpool. I’ve long believed that. Good Evertons help improve us. When they pushed us all the way in ’86 and won the League in ’87, Liverpool had to stand up and make a statement for the following season. We made three following the average showing in 1986-87 — Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge — and arguably the greatest Liverpool side were created. Of course, other clubs emerged as our strength in the league waned, but a strong rival close to home, tapping you on the shoulder helps. Aside from 2005, we’ve been the dominant team in the city since 1987 and if it takes a resurgent Everton to push us further then I’m all for it.
And they’ve got a chance this year. They still have work to do — having come off the back of two straight losses to Norwich in the League Cup and Bournemouth in the league — but they finally have a manager with a pedigree rather than one whose sole attribute seems to be an intense dislike of Liverpool FC (Royle and Moyes). Ronald Koeman won everything as a player and there’s a winning mentality so deeply instilled within him that he won’t be content with Anfield draws. It may take him a few transfer windows to throw out the deadwood, but he’s the sort of manager to build a squad rather than a first team. Everton, for the first time in years and if they keep him long enough, could be about to get serious.
This would benefit the city too. From 1982-5 their average attendance increased from 20,277 to 32,227. They now average about 38,000 but a stronger team would see more supporters for the less interesting games and more fans mean more visitors to the city.
I speak from experience. The match days in 1985-7 always saw town buzzing. Midweek saw continental fans coming in for our European Cup games and their Cup Winners’ Cup matches. In April 1985, Goodison attracted 48,000 fans as they beat Bayern Munich 3-1 to reach their final. On the same night we won against Panathinaikos in Greece to reach ours. Imagine town that night.
So, the city needs a strong Everton. One that can stand up to the weight of their own history and eradicate all this “yeah, but we’re the first to sell tickets via text message” and such inconsequential boasts. One that cannot see a draw to their biggest rivals as a Hodgson nirvana. One that helps Merseyside make a statement to the rest of Europe.
But not strong enough to be better than Liverpool. Never that strong. Let’s not be stupid, eh.