Looking back on a time when the Merseyside Derby was seen more as the friendly derby, and what it meant within families in Liverpool…


I WON’T be at the derby on Saturday. I know, yeah.

Is this due to modern led cynicism for the game? My contention that the officials hold more power than the players when it comes to results? Have I turned my back on my home city and refuse to give either side my time? No.

I had a seat in the Upper Annie. Now I don’t. There are no seats in the Upper Annie.

Oh, and there goes the Forest and Fulham games too. Cheers, modern progress.

I won’t be at the 243rd Merseyside derby and, even if I were, I doubt it would match my memory of the 129th.  The 1976-77 FA Cup semi-final.

That was my first. I mean, I wasn’t at Maine Road on April 23, 1977 — being eight years old I wasn’t always guaranteed to be allowed to stay up for Match Of The Day so a trip to Manchester was never on the cards — but that was the first one I can remember.

Colesbourne Road, Norris Green, Liverpool. The end house where the taps would occasionally turn themselves on and off for no reason. I loved that place.

Although I was always a Keegan and Toshack obsessive, it would be wrong to suppose that ours was a Red house. My dad (Tommy to his mates but always introduced as ‘Tom’ to strangers as it made him sound less like a callous-kneed schoolboy) was broadly Blue since his side of the family were entrenched in all things Goodison, but the old man liked the Reds if Everton weren’t playing them.

He cared more for the city than the rivalry. The city of Liverpool, Everton, the North West, the North. Those were his loyalties in order. He absolutely hated Keegan, though. ‘That sellout.’

He’d soon hate someone else more.

Blue, but he didn’t mind my Red tendencies. Some 17 months later he took me to Goodison to see if the lure of Duncan McKenzie would usher me over the Blue side, but he could tell my heart wasn’t in it.

Oh, I loved the day out as any live football was better than anything, but on the bus home I asked if we could go to Anfield the following week. We sat in silence all the way down Walton Hall Road (we’d moved to Crocky by then).

That derby, though. The FA Cup semi-final. Everton 2 Liverpool 2. That’s a hell of a first one.

Tom was never an angry Blue. He thought Billy Bingham foolish and Gordon Lee too austere, but rarely did he roar at an opposition player. Officials however…

Yeah, the Clive Thomas derby. Clive Thomas (Treorchy) to give him his full name. This was a time where it was traditional to put the ref’s birthplace or town of residence in brackets after their names to give them a sense of respect and authority. Howard Webb (Rotherham) would approve.

For younger readers, Clive Thomas became Everton’s Pierluigi Collina in 2005 and is now our Paul Tierney. The ref you absolutely detested and knew you’d never get anything from. Him.

Everyone hated Clive Thomas (Treorchy) including us. He was the only man to send off Tommy Smith. Brazil hated him. Even Bobby Robson hated him and he liked everyone.

But that was the day when the Merseyside Derby met the record number of expletives aired in the L11 postcode. Tom was never a swearer but he was apoplectic when Treorchy ruled out Bryan Hamilton’s perfectly good winner with minutes to go.

It could have been for an alleged handball or an offside, but Thomas never gave a reason for the decision that day or for any time in his career and retirement. Not once.

And this was hardly his first offence. He’d already become infamous during the 1974-75 semi between Ipswich and West Ham when he inexplicably ruled out an Ipswich equaliser in the replay at Stamford Bridge. The non-goalscorer that night? Bryan Hamilton.

Tom calmed down after a while and, ever consistent to the rank of loyalties, cheered for us in the final against Manchester United. Not that it did us much good.

He didn’t go to the match much after that. His last game was the 1984 Charity Shield which Everton won due to a Bruce Grobbelaar own goal.

Tom died in 1996, the day before the final of Euro 96. Cancer. He was only 51.

It’s the reason why most of my Blue invective is largely cartoon in character. I only really dislike them because they dislike us more and every game with them makes me think of Tom shouting in our tiny kitchen and it makes me smile. From fury comes love. Not always, but sometimes.

Into these, Reds.

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