Everton’s unexpected 1966 Cup triumph
“I get knocked down but I get up again” Chumbawumba 1999
January 15 1966 – the Blackpool Rumble
The League table made grim reading for Everton fans. The side, convincing Champions just three years earlier had endured an awful campaign. The team had mustered a meagre four wins from their last sixteen matches and were now becalmed in a midtable morass, lying in eleventh position. Fans had already started to vote with their feet as their last home game in January against West Ham United had produced yet another crowd of below 30,000 following on from below average attendances of 25,000 against Sunderland and 20, 000 against Fulham the previous month. Everton had no hope of challenging for the title this season and another trophy-less campaign loomed large. To make matters worse, near neighbours Liverpool after winning the League in 1963/64 and then the Cup in 1964/65 and were looking certain to win the Title again this season. It was too much for most Evertonians to bear. Shankly was dominating the back pages and the silence from Goodison was worrying.
Harry Catterick knew the pressure was mounting, and his job was under serious threat. Everton Chairman John Moores had famously sacked the previous incumbent Johnny Carey in a taxi and already some chants of “Taxi for Catterick” were starting to emanate from the terraces. He needed to provoke a response from his underperforming stars and before the away fixture at Blackpool he made the boldest decision of his managerial career. The Everton contingent on the bitterly cold terraces nearly spat out their Bovril as the team was announced. Fan’s idol – Alex Young , the Golden Vision had sensationally been dropped for a young sixteen year old rookie. His name Joe Royle! Joe’s time would come but not yet.
Everton slumped to a two – nil defeat, with Geoff Barnett in goal making two bad mistakes as Everton failed to deal with the threat of Alan Ball who excelled for the home side. The Blue contingent were furious. Yet looked at logically, it was the correct decision to drop Alex Young as he had scored a mere two goals in his last fifteen appearances and Catterick wanted to send a message to his players that nobody was indispensable.
At the end of the game, a group of about thirty or forty irate Everton fans waited for the team bus, demanding to know why their favourite player had been left out of the side. As Catterick left the stadium, he was confronted by the supporters who were allegedly chanting “Catterick out!”. As he walked towards the coach he was jostled and berated by some in the group and knocked to the ground. Some reports say he was kicked, others that he stumbled. Catterick was most certainly shaken up by the incident , although he understood the fans loyalty to Young,and spent the weekend recuperating with his family. If John Moores, the Everton Chairman was wondering what the fans thought of the manager, it could not have been clearer. The taxi ride was now looming large!
January 22 1966- The Golden Vision returns
The F.A Cup offered the solitary hope of salvation for both Everton and their fans but most of all for Harry Catterick. A whole generation of Blues who were not alive the last time Everton won the Cup in 1933 were now approaching their mid- thirties and had never experienced a trip to Wembley, they were desperate for a Cup run, having endured their Koppite friends endlessly boasting about their Wembley success the previous year.
The Third-Round draw provided Everton with a home tie against Sunderland. The teams had met two years earlier at the Fifth- Round stage and Everton had succumbed to a three -one reverse at Roker Park. However, the sides had encountered each other at the start of December and Everton ran out two – nil victors with goals from Hurst and Pickering. Catterick recalled Alex Young to the starting line up in place of Joe Royle. But, perhaps more significant was the decision to replace the rookie custodian Geoff Barnett with the capable hands of Gordon West, the first choice keeper who had been missing since October after breaking a collar bone against FC Nuremberg in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup. The return of West was to have a massive impact on the defensive solidity of the side.
Given the events at Blackpool, which had received extensive national media coverage, the official match day programme took the opportunity to defend the manager’s selection policy on the Evertonia page. It stated that “three players who have never cost the club a farthing, have made their debuts…..John Hurst, Geoff Barnett and Joe Royle….. all this is laying foundations for the Everton of the future”. Sadly for most Blues, the present was the overriding concern, the future seemed a long way off. The mood of many present was conveyed by a pre-match pitch invader who displayed a banner proclaiming “Sack Catterick. Keep Young.”
Fortunately, in front of an attendance of 47,893 Everton eased past Sunderland with a three- nil victory with goals from Pickering, Temple and Young. It looked like being dropped had shaken Young out of his complacency which was the reaction Catterick was expecting. Both Everton and Liverpool played at home that day and the afternoon just got better and better for Everton fans as they encountered their despondent Liverpool counterparts winding their way home after blowing their first defence of the Cup by losing at home two – one to Chelsea. Only one half of Merseyside would now be tuning in to their transistors to listen to the draw on Monday lunchtime.
February 12 1966 – The invasion of Bedford
Most Everton fans wanted a home draw but were instead awarded an away tie. However, this was at the Queens Park ground, home of Bedford Town from the Southern League. Catterick worked tirelessly to remove any vestiges of complacency from his players. Bedford had garnered a deserved reputation as a slayer of league giants and two years previously had gone to St. James’ Park and pulled off a sensational two – one victory against Newcastle , who were top of the Second Division. Already in this campaign, they had knocked out to two League sides in Exeter City and Brighton and Hove Albion and they fancied their chances of another upset. A record attendance of 18,407 crammed into the arena, with possibly about 90% of the assembled throng speaking with Scouse accents. Catterick had watched Bedford three times and his meticulous preparation paid off as Everton negotiated this tricky hurdle with a three- nil victory courtesy of two goals from Derek Temple and one from Fred Pickering. Once again, Chelsea did the other contenders a favour by knocking out the previous season’s beaten finalists – Leeds United.
March 05 1966 – The Sky Blue Express is derailed
Once again, the draw was favourable to Everton, another home tie and this time against Second Division Coventry City. Under the innovative management of Jimmy Hill, they were making a strong challenge for promotion and would eventually miss out by just one point. The Coventry contingent were conveyed to Goodison on specially chartered trains known as “The Sky Blue Express”. Everton fans were just starting to sense this might be their season after all., they were now just three games away from Wembley. The biggest crowd of the season, 60,290 packed into Goodison and were rewarded with a comfortable three- nil victory with goals from Temple, Pickering and Young. Three games played, no goals conceded and three consecutive three nil victories with both Pickering and Temple having scored in every round so far. It was also encouraging that another fancied team, Tottenham Hotspur were knocked out at this stage.
On Monday morning – the draw paired Everton with a tough but winnable fixture away to Manchester City, riding high at the top of the Second Division.
March 26 1966 – The longest tie
Encouragingly for Everton’s tifosi, the league form had shown a dramatic improvement since the start of the Cup challenge with seven League games producing five wins and two draws. Manchester City, with home advantage would be a tough adversary. They were top of the Second Division and the newly appointed management team of ex -Everton captain Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison were starting to create the outfit that would win the League in two years’ time. That side already featured such top players as Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell and a defence marshalled by ex- Everton defender George Heslop.
Everton went into the game boosted by a nil- nil home draw against Liverpool the previous Saturday which helped the team regain some respect after Liverpool had thrashed them five-nil at Anfield in September. Unfortunately, Fred Pickering sustained an injury which ruled him out of the game and powerhouse midfielder, Jimmy Gabriel, suffered the same fate but in front of a baying crowd of 63,034 Everton defended resiliently to earn a goalless draw and a replay at Goodison Park, three days later. Advantage Everton.
Manchester City had already knocked two First Division sides out of the cup that season, Blackpool and Leicester City so the prospect of a trip to Goodison did not worry them unduly. Fred Pickering had recovered from his injury and Everton fans were optimistic but before a crowd of 60,349, Manchester City held firm, with George Heslop outstanding in defence and Everton were unable to find a way through and after a period of extra time neither side had made the decisive breakthrough.
The subsequent replay was to be held at a neutral venue on Tuesday 05 April. Although the game was scheduled to be played at Ewood Park , home of Blackburn Rovers, due to concerns about predicted adverse weather conditions , it was switched to Molineux , Wolverhampton Wanderer’s ground, hardly the most convenient location for a mid- week fixture for travelling supporters and this was reflected in the crowd of 27,948 , over 50% down on the previous two games.
Manchester City dominated the early phases of play but Everton were boosted by the return of Jimmy Gabriel to the midfield (Incidentally Jimmy was the favourite player of George Galloway’s father) and his energetic style enabled Everton to regain the momentum. Derek Temple put Everton ahead after thirty- seven minutes and Fred Pickering made it two just before half time and Everton were on their way to the semi- finals. Undoubtedly this had been Everton’s most difficult encounter so far. Nevertheless, Everton had now not conceded a goal in 600 minutes of Cup football
16th April 1966- Who cares? We’ll just pay the fine
Everton were joined in the semi -finals by Chelsea, Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday. As reigning League Champions, United were the team to avoid so it was only natural that they were drawn out of the hat with Everton. Catterick knew that his team would need their best performance of the season to overcome a team containing George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. He also knew this was a game he could not afford to lose.
Everton were due to face Leeds United at Elland Road the week before the semi- final and there was no doubting the fierce animosity that existed between the two clubs. When they had met at Goodison Park the previous season the tackling was so bad that the referee took both teams off the pitch. Catterick had every reason to fear that one of his players could easily fall victim to an excessively robust challenge by the likes of Bremner , Collins or Giles and was not prepared to take the risk. He had already seen leading scorer Fred Pickering suffer another injury the previous Saturday, so he made the unprecedented decision to field an entire reserve eleven to fulfil the fixture. Everton, not surprisingly lost the game four -one, but the Everton goal scorer was a certain Mike Trebilcock who had arrived earlier in the season for a fee of £20,000 from Plymouth Argyle. The Football League fined Everton £2,000 for fielding “a weakened team” but for Catterick it was worth every penny.
23 April 1966 Burnden Park – Hail Harvey
Burnden Park, the home of Bolton Wanderers was a strange choice to host the semi- final. It had not held a fixture of such importance since 1907 and the tragedy that occurred there in 1947 when thirty- three supporters died at the venue loomed large in the minds of many fans. The official attendance was strangely issued as exactly 60,000, however most present would doubt the veracity of that claim. There were many instances of supporters gaining access without passing through the turnstiles and at half time the fencing gave way in one corner of the ground which meant that a large contingent watched the second half from the cinder track embracing the pitch. Once again , the Football Association had chosen an unsuitable venue for a match of such importance , a habit they would continue until the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
Manchester United were the bookmaker’s strong favourites to win the tie but Everton hopes were raised by the absence of a certain George Best but were dampened by the news that top scorer Fred Pickering would miss the match through injury. However United had been eliminated from the European Cup semi- final by Partizan Belgrade three days earlier and Catterick was convinced that this setback would adversely affect their performance. Bill Shankly is often lauded as a shrewd and canny operator by many in the football world and he certainly merited that reputation but history has tended to judge Harry Catterick unfairly by comparison. Yet, by fielding a reserve team against Leeds United , Catterick had ensured that his first team had not played a competitive game for almost two weeks, whereas United had been involved in two legs of a European semi- final and a league match during this time. Catterick hoped that fatigue would prove to be a decisive factor.
The game itself was a tense, dour affair with neither side willing to take a risk and little to separate the two teams. Nonetheless as the second half wore on, Everton’s superior fitness began to reap dividends and twelve minutes form the end of the tie, Derek Temple broke down the wing and switched the ball to the unmarked Colin Harvey who unleashed a shot that appeared to bobble several times before going past the despairing Harry Gregg in to the net. Everton’s defence held firm for the remainder of the game ensuring that they became the first team in sixty- six years to reach the final without conceding a goal. Everton were going to Wembley!
As fans were exiting the decrepit stadium , even better news filtered through from Villa Park. In the other semi – fina , the bookmaker’s second favourites Chelsea had surprisingly been defeated two- nil by Sheffield Wednesday, the Cup was now Everton’s to lose.
April 24 – May 12 1966 Any chance of a ticket?
Everton and Sheffield Wednesday were both allocated a paltry 15,000 tickets each for the final, which was nowhere near enough to satisfy demand. Everton decided to allocate the majority of their tickets to supporters whose season ticket holders ended in certain digits. Eventually the “lucky numbers” were revealed by the club via the local mouthpiece The Liverpool Echo- cue scenes of delirium and despondency across the city. Nevertheless, the club also decided to distribute some tickets to those who had a full set of Cup Final vouchers from their home match programmes. Suddenly, a thriving black market sprung up overnight as the value of these elusive items soared. Some voucher numbers, such as one and seven, were relatively easy to forge even with the limitations of a John Bull printing kit and undoubtedly a percentage of tickets were obtained via this method.
Other fans had to resort to even more drastic measures such as swapping their car for a ticket but many decided to just take their chance and head to Wembley in the hope of cutting a deal with Stan Flashman , the king of the ticket touts.
Everton’ s League form dipped after reaching the final. Bizarrely enough, Everton played Manchester United again at Goodison two days after the semi- final and drew nil- nil but then lost their two remaining fixtures to finish in eleventh position, their lowest ever under Catterick. Even worse, a resurgent Liverpool under the aegis of Bill Shankly had won the Title for the second time I three seasons. Catterick knew that the prospect of a taxi ride was still looming large if Everton failed to deliver.
Friday May 13 1966 – Unlucky for some?
Catterick still had one major selection dilemma to resolve. Fred Pickering appeared to have recovered from his injury and had played in his last three League games but without scoring. Catterick was having to weigh up whether to risk his striker on the notorious Wembley pitch where a number of finals had been negatively influenced by injuries to players. Strangely, substitutes had been allowed for the first time in the Football League that season but not in the F.A. Cup. Could he afford to run the risk of Pickering breaking down on the pitch?
Catterick’s options were limited. In the past he had played midfielder Jimmy Gabriel as an emergency centre forward with some success or he could gamble with the little-known, unheralded Mike Trebilcock who had deputised for Pickering in the semi- final. Trebilcock sensed an opportunity, recalling later “Fred wasn’t training that well leading up to the final ……and I was training my arse off.” The day before the game Catterick called Pickering and Trebilcock into his office and delivered his verdict “Fred, I’m leaving you out and putting Mike in”. Little could the manager have realised the impact that decision would have.
Saturday May 14 1966 – Holding out for a Hero
Just like Everton, Sheffield Wednesday had not reached an F.A. Cup final for three decades, their last appearance having been their four – two victory over West Bromwich Albion in 1935. They had endured a far more challenging route to the final, having been drawn away in every tie but winning each one without the need of a replay. Only five points had separated the teams in the final League table, which meant that The Owls finished in seventeenth position. An extra edge was added to the fixture as Catterick had been the Wednesday manager until he resigned towards the end of the 1960/61 season. Several players that he had introduced to that side such as Don Megson , Ron Springett and Johnny Fantham were now first team regulars and under the current coach , Allan Brown they were extremely fit and well organized as demonstrated by their emphatic victory over Chelsea. He was a manager who was assiduous in his pre- match preparation and had planned to surprise Everton with his team formation.
It was not the “glamour” final that many in the London dominated press had wanted. Their preferred choice was for a meeting between Chelsea and Manchester United and a number of scribes dismissed this forthcoming encounter between two mid- table Northern sides as a dismal climax to the season. How wrong they were.
Many sources, including Wikipedia, have suggested that both John Lennon and Paul Mc Cartney were present at the final as well. Mc Cartney came from a family of Evertonians and he has since confirmed this allegiance subsequently in several interviews. Therefore If any Beatle was actually in attendance it is more than likely to have been Macca. He could not have chosen a better game to watch.
The teams lined up as follows:
Everton – West, Wright, Wilson, Gabriel, Labone, Harris, Scott, Young, Trebilcock, Harvey, Temple.
Sheffield Wednesday – Springett, Smith, Megson, Eustace, Ellis, Young, Pugh, Fantham, Mc Calliog, Ford, Quinn.
Everton were slight favourites and although the omission of Pickering was substantial , Sheffield Wednesday were also missing their colossus of a defender Vic Mobley, who was replaced by nineteen year old Sam Ellis.
Everton were looking to become the first side since Sheffield United in 1902 to win the Cup without conceding a goal, however after just four minutes , Wednesday scored through Jim Mc Calliog to ensure that the Blades’ record remained intact. Allan Brown had gone for a four- three- three formation which surprised Everton and enabled them to dominate the midfield. Both Colin Harvey and Jimmy Gabriel appeared to be chasing shadows as they were totally overwhelmed by this tactical masterstroke. Everton were beginning to feel the fates conspiring against them as Alex Young had an arguably valid goal disallowed for offside and an even stronger penalty claim denied as Ron Springett dived and swept his feet away from him as he was lining up to score. As the Boys Book of Soccer reported “referees don’t like giving penalties in F.A. Cup finals”. At the interval, The Owls had unquestionably been the better side and deserved their lead.
Catterick was deeply troubled by the shell- shocked faces that greeted him. As he recalled later “the players were slumped on the benches…. They couldn’t believe what had happened to them”. The manager reminded them what was at stake and urged them to show more determination. For some this would be their last ever chance of a medal. For Catterick, a defeat would end in a taxi journey.
Nevertheless, despite Catterick’s cajoling, Everton started the second half with little signs of improvement. Then on fifty- seven minutes, the Cup appeared to be destined for Yorkshire. West failed to hold a shot from Johnny Fantham and David Ford converted the rebound. No team had ever recovered from being two-nil down in a Wembley Cup final before and with just over thirty minutes remaining there seemed no way back for Everton. Some Evertonians, including Colin Harvey’s grandad had seen enough and headed towards the exit gates. Catterick himself turned to Fred Pickering on the bench and said, “I wish I’d played you now.” The gamble of playing Trebilcock appeared to have back fired disastrously, he had hardly touched the ball in the first sixty minutes. Even match commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme told the watching viewers that the Cup was on its way to Sheffield.
Or was it?
Just two minutes later the Sheffield Wednesday back four failed to pick up the unmarked Mike Trebilcock at the edge of the area and he was the first to react to a header from Derek Temple and fired the ball past Ron Springett. Suddenly the Everton team appeared rejuvenated and sensed the comeback might be on.
Incredibly, just five minutes later Everton were level. Alex Scott floated a free kick into the box which Alex Young headed back to Trebilcock. He hit the ball first time on the volley to send it swerving inside the goalkeeper’s right- hand post. Within just seven minutes Everton had recovered from being two goals behind and both strikes had come from the most unlikely of Everton sources, the young Cornishman, Mike Trebilcock. It was a fairy tale scenario for the surprise inclusion in the side. Two touches, two shots, two goals in a Cup Final at Wembley. In an ironic twist, his name had not even been printed in the match programme line ups.
Cue mass delirium form the Everton masses as they roared their team on to an incredible and totally unforeseen comeback. The emotion was too much for some. Life- long Evertonian Eddie Cavanagh ran onto the pitch sporting his suit and braces to congratulate the players. Demonstrating some fleet footed skills, he skillfully evaded the clutches of several pursuing policemen and just as one of them was about to grab his suit jacket, he slipped it off leaving his pursuer on the turf grasping an empty jacket. As he was eventually caught the television viewers were able to glimpse Brian Harris trying on the crestfallen copper’s hat for size. The Everton players pleaded with the constabulary not to eject Eddie from the stadium but to no avail. Nevertheless, he still made it back inside the ground before the final whistle. This may have also been the last time when it was de rigeur for fans to wear a suit to the match.
Only one team was going to win now. All the fight seemed to have seeped out of Sheffield Wednesday, their previously decisive defence was looking increasingly jittery and their precision passing had collapsed. They were hanging on desperately.
The decisive moment of the game arrived in the seventy – ninth minute. The normally reliable Owls defender Gerry Young appeared to have ample time to collect a loose ball in midfield but he somehow lost control of it and it rolled away off his boot. Derek Temple was the first to react and set off with the ball towards the opposition goal. He steered the ball towards the penalty area, veered slightly to his right and then crashed his shot low and hard past the advancing Springett and into the net. It was one of the best finishes ever seen at Wembley.
The Owls rallied during the last ten minutes but never posed a serious threat. When the referee Jack Taylor blew his whistle, Everton had won the Cup in the most dramatic of circumstances with the most unlikely of heroes, sparking wild celebrations in Wembley and on Merseyside. Brian Labone went up to receive the trophy from Princess Margaret and after the team completed a lap of honour, Harry was chaired off the pitch by his players. Also, in a break with established tradition and in due recognition of their contribution to a thrilling final, Sheffield Wednesday became the first ever losing side to undertake a lap of honour as well.
Catterick later recalled that the Cup victory had been his best moment in football and acknowledging that he did not quite have the same relationship with the fans as his rival Shankly, he stated “ Many people have criticised my lack of rapport with ordinary supporters…… but no -one is a bigger Evertonian than me.”
Catterick had delivered the trophy he desperately needed and despite the gloom of the hugely disappointing League campaign, John Moores would not be inviting his manager for a taxi ride after all. From the depths of despair on a cold afternoon in Blackpool, Catterick had fashioned an unexpected grand finale to the season.
That Blackpool visit in January did leave an indelible mark on Catterick however. He had noticed how a certain young player called Alan Ball had dominated proceeding that day and three months later he made him his first signing of the next season. The new look Everton outfit that would clinch the League Championship in 1970 was starting to take shape.