All Hell Broke Loose: The Battle of Goodison Park

The Battle of Goodison 1964

The editorial in the match day programme for the 4th round F.A. Cup replay between Everton and Leeds United on 02 February 1965 was quite sombre in its message to fans ;

“We hope that our supporters will be happy to let the past bury its dead. Let us not revive the unhappier moments of the League game here, and which to be honest were grossly – exaggerated. Let us live for the future of Everton and forget what happened months ago”

The war time terminology was justified. Just over 12 weeks previously, on the 7th of November 1964 ,newly promoted Leeds United arrived at Goodison Park and one of the most violent encounters on an English football pitch was about to take place.

In the early 1960’s Goodison Park with its vociferous fans was starting to become an intimidating place for opposition teams to visit. Between the terraces and the goal nets at both ends of the stadium, a semi- circular, crescent shaped, barrier had been positioned to provide opposition goalkeepers with protection from being pelted with objects by home supporters. During the match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur in November 1963, Bill Brown, the Spurs custodian had drawn the referee’s attention to a dart that had allegedly been thrown at him lying in the goalmouth. This incident became national news and allowed the red tops, particularly the best-selling News of the World to proclaim that Everton supporters were the “roughest, rowdiest rabble who watches British soccer”.

The News of the World was not alone in this opinion. One of the Sixties, most respected journalists, John Moynihan, who like most of his fellow London based journalists rarely left the capital, seemed quite aghast at the level of footballing fervour he encountered at Goodison Park. In his book ‘The Soccer Syndrome’, he wrote “Everton supporters…….liked to break things in the same way that a child likes to break toys”. He developed this antipathy towards Evertonians by stating “In the area people are intensely loyal but they are liable to go off the rails if they don’t get success…..they go mad. There’s beer coming out of their navels!”

In response to the outcry from the press and no doubt conscious that incidents of this nature would prevent Goodison from hosting games in the forthcoming World Cup in 1966, the directors took action and the barriers were constructed. When Everton met Tottenham Hotspur the following season a small group of Everton fans presented Bill Brown with a specially designed mock imitation dart. This must have frightened poor Bill to death; he let in four goals that day. So it came to pass that into this cauldron of footballing fanaticism, the newly promoted Leeds United side arrived on the 7th of November 1964.

The previous season, Leeds United had emerged as Champions of the Second Division. Don Revie’s Leeds team had hit the ground running and after four successive wins found themselves in fourth place within touching distance of the leaders Manchester United. They came to Goodison with every intention of continuing that run and prepared to face anything that Everton, league champions less than eighteen months ago could throw at them.

Just as the London based journalists had portrayed an exaggerated representation of the Everton fan base, Leeds United had already become victims of a vicious London journalistic smearing campaign. For most football fans the printed press was their main source of information. The BBC in 1964 had started to broadcast highlights of one match on BBC2 but Leeds United had only appeared once in eleven editions of the programme prior to their visit to Everton. Therefore for most fans their knowledge of Leeds and their playing style was dependent on reading newspaper reports.

Most journalists of this era were generally what could be termed “old-school”. They had spent their careers ,watching brylcreamed footballers who knew their place and believed in the public school Corinthian tradition of fair play. The style of football exhibited by Leeds United was beyond their realm of experience. Don Revie had successfully engendered a siege mentality in his players and they refused to be intimidated by reputations. If teams tried to kick them they would kick back, only harder and they knew exactly how far to wind up the opposition without upsetting the match officials. So to opposition supporters often the match appeared to be one long succession of fouls by Leeds and the image of “Dirty Leeds” started to spread across the back pages.

The Football Association at the start of 1964/65 had unwittingly provided the ammunition for the “Dirty Leeds” tag by publishing a league table of English clubs disciplinary records from the previous season. Leeds came top. However, closer examination of the statistics revealed that it was the number of dismissals in junior football that caused Leeds to top this table. In fact only one first team Leeds United player had been sent off. Leeds were apparently prejudged before the season had even started and Don Revie had his team bearing grudges before a ball had been kicked.

There was another key factor that loomed ominously over the fixture, the return of Bobby Collins to Everton for his first league match since Harry Catterick had decided that he was surplus to requirements at Goodison Park.He was ready to show Harry Catterick what a poor error of judgement he had made in releasing him from the club in 1961. Everton players already had an inkling of what to expect. The previous season, the two sides had been drawn together in the cup, but Leeds were in the Second Division and not were not really considered as rivals. However, the game had been a fractious encounter littered with fierce and uncompromising tackling. This time however, Leeds were returning to Goodison as potential title challengers. Everton’s players were clearly aware of Leeds’ growing reputation and as a traditional top club were determined to put these upstarts from Yorkshire in their place.

Bobby Collins had been Everton’s record signing when they paid Celtic a fee of £24,000 for his services in September 1958. Although only measuring 5ft 4 , he was an inspirational leader on the pitch and was nicknamed the “Little General”. Playing in a struggling Everton side, his goals helped keep Everton safe from relegation in his first two seasons and he was a massive crowd favourite. Harry Catterick took charge of Everton for the 1961/62 season and he harboured some doubts about Bobby’s effectiveness and felt that at the age of thirty one his best days were behind him. After a game against Fulham, in which he had scored two goals, Catterick told Collins that “he was not the player he used to be” and “was not giving his all”. The Everton captain was livid as he told a journalist “Nobody criticises my work rate, winning is all to me”. Collins asked to be informed if any clubs were interested in him. A certain Don Revie , looking for an experienced captain to take charge of his young team, struggling in the Second Division, saw Collins as just the man he needed to drill winning habits into his impressionable young players.

Jack Charlton, spoke of the impact he had on the team. “I got on alright with Bobby but I didn’t like to play against him. Even when we were playing five a side you never knew what he was liable to do because he wanted to win so much” Collins demanded the highest standards of performance from his team and they were petrified of the repercussions if they did not live up to their captain’s expectations. Collins also added a degree of ruthlessness to the team. He was not above kicking someone in the legs as they lined up in the players tunnel before the game as George Best was to find out later in that season.

Both the Everton players and the management were under pressure themselves. Everton had failed to defend their league title successfully in 1963/64 and even worse, their arch rivals Liverpool had taken it. Now Everton – a traditional giant of league football were not even the best team in their own city! They had started the season well but by the time of the Leeds game, they had won only one of their last six league fixtures and were now lying off the pace in eighth position. The patience of supporters was being tested and crowds had dropped from 55,000 in August to 40,000 in the previous home game v Blackburn. This was a match that Everton could not afford to lose. Over 43,000 were present at Goodison Park to see Everton test themselves against Leeds United.

The teams lined up as follows:

Everton: Andy Rankin, Barry Rees, Sandy Brown, Jimmy Gabriel, Brian Labone, Dennis Stevens, Derek Temple, Alex Young, Fred Pickering, Roy Vernon, Johnny Morrissey.

Leeds United: Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Willie Bell, Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Jim Storrie, Rod Belfitt, Bobby Collins, Albert Johanneson.

The official who was in charge of the match was the experienced referee Ken Stokes from Newark.

Colin Harvey of Everton recalled that “an air of menace pervaded the ground”. Jack Charlton never looked forward to playing at Goodison viewing supporters there as “the worse before which I have ever played…..there always seemed to be a threatening attitude”. Players of both sides could not fail to sense the tension in the air.

The game commenced and within seconds Bobby Collins had gone over the top on Everton winger Derek Temple and Everton forward Fred Pickering was fouled by Billy Bremner. The Everton crowd screamed their displeasure, the tempo was set. Next, Jack Charlton was the victim of a cynical challenge by notorious Everton hard man Johnny Morrissey, who was allegedly one of the two names that Jack kept in his little black book for future retribution.

If Leeds had ever thought that their tactics were going to intimidate Everton they were mistaken. Everton matched Leeds challenge for challenge and a whirlwind start to the game culminated when Sandy Brown jumped into a tackle with Johnny Giles. Brown, a player who could look after himself, reacted furiously to the challenge, complaining of stud marks on his chest and threw a left hander at Giles, leaving the referee with no other recourse but to send him off. Only four minutes had elapsed since the kick off! The atmosphere, already at fever pitch, now saw players from both sides flying into a series of reckless challenges which only served to add to the febrile brew of crowd hostility.

Incredibly though, Leeds showed that they could play football if allowed to do so and after fifteen minutes Bobby Collins floated a free kick into the Everton goal area and defender, Willie Bell, connected with a fierce header that left the Everton defence helpless and gave Leeds a 1-0 advantage. This was more than the home support could take. One irate Everton fan climbed onto the pitch and headed towards Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter. Fortunately, Johnny Morrissey helped the opposition players by restraining him and preventing a potentially serious assault. Morrissey was the one Everton player you didn’t mess with.

Gary Sprake , the Leeds goalkeeper, was pelted with coins throughout the match and any Leeds player foolish enough to venture near the touchline was met with a volley of missiles. The game reached a flashpoint on thirty ninth minutes when Willie Bell flattened Everton’s Derek Temple near the touchline causing Temple to be stretched off. The Leeds trainer, Les Cocker and match referee Ken Stokes were hit by objects thrown from the crowd and trying to convince the Everton fans that Bell had been hurt as well, his trainer told him to lie on the floor whilst he called for assistance. The ambulance man’s terse and angry reply that Cocker could fetch his own f***** stretcher showed how caught up everybody appeared to be in the emotion of the match.

Referee Ken Stokes had by now decided that, in the interest of player safety things could no longer continue in this fashion. He made the decision to stop the game and took the unprecedented step of ordering both sides to return to the dressing room to “allow the players and the supporters to cool down.” The players left the field to frenzied chants of “Dirty Leeds” ringing in their ears. According to a number of reporters who were present , the referee had decided to abandon the game but changed his mind on police advice. The players remained in their dressing rooms for ten minutes. Both captains, Labone and Collins went back out onto the pitch to appeal for calm from the supporters. The police issued an ultimatum via the tannoy system that the game would be abandoned if any more missiles were thrown.

Both managers used this unexpected opportunity to tell their players to calm down. Winger Albert Johanneson complained that one of the Everton players had called him a “black bastard”. In these less enlightened times, Revie advised him to call his opponent “a white bastard”, which incredibly appeared to relieve the tension in the dressing room.

Referee Ken Stokes was also active during the unscheduled break. He went to speak to each team and let them know in no uncertain terms that if the players didn’t stop kicking each other and start playing football instead then he would abandon the match and report them to the Football Association.

The match resumed but the carnage continued. The game continued with an undercurrent of barely concealed aggression. Norman Hunter was booked and Bremner and Collins from Leeds and Stevens and Vernon from Everton were fortunate to escape further sanction from the referee. Despite having to defend a barrage of attacks from the Everton side roared on by their fanatical supporters, Leeds led by their inspirational captain Collins held on for the win. Fortunately the crowd had responded to the police ultimatum and there was no invasion of the pitch when the final whistle blew.

At the end of the game the Leeds party decided to make a quick exit from the stadium fearing further confrontation with the home support. An angry baying mob was gathered outside the stadium and surrounding streets but on leaving Goodison and although the team coach was pelted with objects, it appeared that most of the home support was intent on taking revenge on the match referee who they blamed for not taking firmer action against Leeds. Mr Stokes was advised by ploice to remain in his changing room for several hours after the game whilst police cleared the angry supporters from the vicinity.

The press reaction to the events of 07 November was predictable. Jack Archer of The People called it a “Spine chilling game”. Brian Crowther writing for the Guardian blamed the players for “their collective irresponsibility”, the fans for “their disgusting behaviour” and the referee for “not being firm enough.” Joe Richards, the President of the Football League demanded that “something must be done”.

The Football Association disciplinary committee did become involved and investigated the circumstances of the “Battle of Goodison”. They met on the 9th December 1964. They suspended Everton defender Sandy Brown for two weeks for his sending off and fined Everton the sum of £250 for the behaviour of their fans. Leeds emerged unscathed. Surprisingly enough, the foul tally in the game showed Everton committing nineteen to Leed’s twelve. So much for Dirty Leeds?

Perhaps the final words on this encounter should belong to Bobby Collins. He recalled the Battle of Goodison in the following terms “It was diabolical ….it was like a fuse on a bomb being lit…. it really got nasty and brutal. There were a lot of hard challenges that day. But you can’t turn the other cheek or they’ll kick you”. However, he then added “People talk about that game but the following January we met them in the Cup and it was even worse than the original match!”