Saturday Night Fever!

Saturday Night Fever!

Everton v Liverpool 11th March 1967. F.A. Cup Fifth Round.

“I am just wondering if you remember the Derby match at Goodison. F.A. Cup, Fifth Round and it was shown on a big screen at Anfield?”

“I do. I played in it. I was the goalkeeper for Liverpool… it was a great game!”

Ex Liverpool goalkeeper, Tommy Lawrence, interviewed by reporter Stuart Flinders, who clearly did not know who he was, on BBC North West 2015 in Liverpool City Centre.

As the draw was being made for the fifth round of the F.A. Cup for the 1966/67 season, fans of both Everton and Liverpool gathered around their transistors at home, school and work to listen to the numbered balls being called out as the various teams were being paired up. In authoritative, clipped and lugubrious tones, the presenter announced who each side had been paired with. A number of fascinating ties were drawn, including Sunderland against Leeds United but undoubtedly there was only one game that truly grabbed the attention of the listening audiophiles: Everton, the F.A. Cup holders and Liverpool, the League Champions were to meet at Goodison Park on Saturday March 11th 1967.

Undoubtedly, Merseyside could claim to be the footballing capital of England at the start of the 1966/67 season as both the major domestic trophies were residing at Anfield and Goodison Park. Everton with Alan Ball and Ramon Wilson and Liverpool with Roger Hunt featured players who had contributed so much to the World Cup success of England the previous summer. In fact, Everton had broken the British transfer record by paying Blackpool a fee of £112,000 to prise Ball away from the club during the summer much to the annoyance of a certain Don Revie who had tried desperately to sign him for Leeds United. As for Liverpool, it was almost impossible to read the back page of a newspaper without reading some comment or witticism from their media savvy manager Bill Shankly as they undertook the defence of their title.

Liverpool, as a city at that time was experiencing a period of unprecedented achievement. The Beatles were at the height of their fame spreading the image of the cool, lovable Scouser across the globe. The City Council had embarked upon an ambitious programme of urban renovation as the terraced houses and cobbled streets of the inner-city slums were being rapidly replaced by new suburban developments in green field areas such as Kirkby and Speke and the new towns of Runcorn and Skelmersdale. The local car industry at Ford was booming and the shipping trade with North America was in full flow. Goodison Park had become the focus of world attention by hosting five World Cup games , including a semi-final with attendances only surpassed by one other venue, Wembley. Furthermore, the basis for future prosperity appeared to be based on firm foundations as demonstrated by the fact that in the early sixties more pupils from the prestigious grammar schools, such as the Liverpool Institute and Collegiate, made it to Oxbridge than any other provincial city.

Surprisingly, since the Second World War the two teams had only been drawn together in the F.A. Cup on two previous occasions. The omens for Everton fans were not encouraging. In 1950, Liverpool had defeated Everton 2-0 in the semi-final at Maine Road and even worse when the two sides met at Goodison in January 1955; Liverpool shocked the hosts with a stunning 4-0 victory, a remarkable result when you consider that the Reds were playing in the Second Division at the time. To add to the humiliation, Everton fans attending the cinema had to suffer the indignity of watching the defeat the following week on Pathe news before settling down to watch the newly released “To Catch A Thief”.

Both Everton and Liverpool had battled with each other to be the dominant side of the decade. Since the start of the Sixties, Everton had won the League in 1963 and the Cup in 1966. Liverpool had clinched the League in both 1964 and 1966 and the Cup in 1965. Neither side had set the world alight during the 1966/67 season and Liverpool would finish fifth, nine points behind Champions Manchester United and Everton would end up sixth. Compared to the previous season, this represented a real improvement for the Blues, whose fans were starting to see Catterick’s new side take shape.

The rivals had already met three times that season prior to this tie. In August, they faced each other at Goodison Park in the Charity Shield. Although Liverpool as League Champions should have hosted the fixture, Goodison Park, with its greater capacity, was awarded the game. Before the match, not only were the League Title and F.A. Cup on display but also the Jules Rimet Trophy itself, held aloft by the World Cup Winning duo of Hunt and Wilson. It was a display which had never been witnessed by any English stadium before and probably never will be again. In front of a crowd of almost 64,000, Liverpool took the lead through Roger Hunt after nine minutes and held on for a comfortable victory. There was one important consequence for Everton supporters to this defeat, dismayed by his team’s performance, Harry Catterick decided to smash the British transfer record to bring Alan Ball to Everton.

Bizarrely, the Merseyside giants were to play each other exactly two weeks later in a league fixture in the same stadium! In a dream Derby debut in front of nearly 65,000 fans, Alan Ball immediately became an Everton legend by scoring two goals to ensure that Everton ran out worthy three – one winners. After the game, Catterick claimed that Ball’s arrival had improved the standards of the other players by 10%! So far, two games, one victory for each team and a total attendance of 128,000.

The fixture compilers decided to arrange the next league Derby at Anfield for New Year’s Eve 1966. In front of another capacity crowd of 54,000, Everton held on for a goalless draw, a huge improvement on their last visit to Anfield the previous season when they had suffered a five- nil demolition largely due to a classic piece of Shankly kidology. He told his players all week that he had been spying on his opponent’s training from his bedroom window claiming that the intensity had left them knackered. As the Everton team bus arrived, Shankly ran into his dressing room shouting: “They can hardly walk… they look shattered.” His team went onto the pitch convinced that they could not lose.

Before they both arrived on Merseyside, Catterick and Shankly had crossed swords before. In the final half of the 1950s Catterick was in charge of Sheffield Wednesday and Shankly was in the hot seat at near neighbours Huddersfield Town and there the foundations of a deep rivalry between the two were cemented. Catterick was already deeply conscious of how his rival was able to influence the local media in a manner that he could never aspire to. Throughout his career, Catterick understood that he could never match the loquacious and witty Scot when it came to dealing with the press, however this did not particularly bother him. Despite their rivalry they never displayed any antipathy towards each other. They even had nicknames for their conterparts. Shankly often referred to his opposite number as “Happy Harry” and he countered by christening him “Rob Roy”. Now, they were two of the best managers of the era, battling for supremacy in the football capital of England. As Catterick himself once said “No two managers in the country are under greater pressure than Bill Shankly and myself. Our fans believe that success is their right and they’ll give us the hammer if we don’t get it”

When he needed to be, Catterick could be just as canny an operator as Shankly and played the press to his advantage with devastating success just before the cup tie. Howard Kendall at Preston North End was a footballer coveted by many top sides and especially by Bill Shankly who had attempted to sign him in October. Catterick found out via a contact at Preston that Stoke City were on the verge of signing Kendall for £80,000. He headed straight to Deepdale to get his man but not before telephoning a reporter at the Sun to tell him that Liverpool had bought Kendall. Several papers led on the story with the headline,” Shankly swoops for Kendall.” The following day, the newspaper stands on Merseyside led with the news: “Kendall signs.” To the dismay of Liverpool supporters and to Shankly himself, Kendall had signed for Everton the day before the cup tie. For once, Catterick had won a psychological battle with Shankly, played out in the glare of the media. It later emerged that Shankly was so upset at missing out on the signature of Kendall that he handed in his resignation letter and frantic efforts were made by the club’s hierarchy to persuade him to rescind that decision.

Although the draw had captured the imagination of fans both on Merseyside and nationally, for the organisers of the game this was proving to be an unprecedented logistical nightmare. Quite clearly demand for the game was going to exceed supply. The two clubs had been averaging crowds of over 100,000 every fortnight. Even if the game had been switched to Wembley, it still could not have catered for the number of fans wishing to witness the encounter. Unfortunately, the BBC was in no position to help as they did not have the necessary technology or skill to edit a game that kicked off at 7 in the evening to show the highlights that same night via their Match of the Day programme. Viewers instead were treated to Sunderland v Leeds United. Granada Television, the local ITV channel approached the clubs with the idea of transmitting the game live at Anfield via its link with the Associated Broadcasting Company. It is fair to say that the officials at both clubs had no idea what would be involved.

The decision was taken, after consultation with the Liverpool City Surveyor’s department to allow the fixture to be broadcast live on eight giant screens, measuring 30ft by 40ft at Anfield using the latest close- circuit television technology. The installation of scaffolding platforms and platforms for the projectors meant that the ground capacity was restricted to 40,000. It was the first time that a sporting event of this magnitude had ever been broadcast in the United Kingdom. Colour television had still not arrived on the screens of the United Kingdom in 1967 so the audience were paying to watch the game in black and white which made it quite difficult at times to tell the teams apart. The idea of one team playing in a different kit to assist the viewers would never have been tolerated.

To ensure the best conditions for the television audience at Anfield, the Football Association agreed to break with tradition and allowed the fixture to commence at 7 p.m. The Merseyside Police, fearing potential mayhem with the draconian licensing laws of the time allowed pubs to extend their closing time by thirty minutes to 11 p.m. The screens were only installed the day before the match, with a projector being placed in the middle of the Kop, surrounded by fans! No refunds would be available if it failed. All the tickets for the game had been sold before the technology could be tested. Fortunately, the transmission was a success. Spectators at the Anfield Road and Kop ends had the best view as eight massive screens displayed the action. Although a strong gale had been gathering, the fittings stood firm throughout the match. However, only thirty minutes after the game had finished, two of the screens were blown away. The relief of the organisers was palpable.

Tickets for the game at Goodison and for the broadcast at Anfield went on sale at the same time. There was an additional sales outlet set up at the old Liverpool Stadium in the city centre to ease congestion. Crowds started to gather in the streets surrounding the two grounds over thirty- six hours before the ticket offices opened to purchase a ticket. At Goodison Park, the queue was reported to be over a mile long and more than one hundred people were hurt in the scramble for tickets, thirty requiring hospital treatment. Police reinforcements were summoned at all sales points to control the crowds. By 9p.m, three hours after they had been placed on sale, every ticket for Goodison and Anfield had been sold. 64,851 for Goodison and 40,149 for Anfield giving a combined attendance of 105,000 the largest ever for a F.A. Cup tie outside of Wembley. According to reports over 200,000 fans had queued for tickets. Many local employers reported suspiciously unusual levels of staff absence on that day and many local schools reported the incidence of letters received by teachers the following day explaining that their offspring had been called away on urgent family business.

The image of a city in the grips of football mania was also grabbing the attention of the television companies. At the time, ITV had a weekly current affairs programme called This Week which was broadcast on Thursday evening, normally dealing in heavyweight political and social matters. Billing the programme in the schedules as “Mersey Mania” they dispatched Clement Freud, a writer, politician and supposed “wit” to analyse the events that were unfolding on Merseyside in the build up to the cup tie. Displaying a classic mix of establishment superiority and bewilderment, he spent thirty minutes enunciating a thinly disguised mockery of the importance that supporting a football club in a Northern city held in the lives of the local populace. It may well have been the first time he had ever been north of Watford.

The classified advertisements in the local newspapers were filled with heart wrenching pleas from distraught fans pleading for a spare ticket. Those unfortunate enough not to have one were forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures as exemplified by a young Everton fan who was featured in an article in the Liverpool Echo having exchanged his Ford Consul car for a ground ticket, face value five shillings and sixpence (27 p).

So, on Saturday 11th March, the teams lined up at Goodison Park as follows:
Everton – West, Wright, Wilson, Hurst, Labone, Harvey, Young, Ball, Temple, Husband, Morrisey.
Liverpool – Lawrence, Lawler, Byrne, Milne, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, Thompson.

The Liverpool team featured only one change from the side that had won the Charity Shield at Goodison earlier in the season, with Gordon Milne taking the place of Geoff Strong. The Everton side featured four different players with Jimmy Gabriel, Gerry Glover, Mike Trebilcock and Alex Scott being replaced by John Hurst, Alan Ball, Johnny Morrissey and Jimmy Husband.
It must be stressed that a 7.00 kick off time on a Saturday evening was really unusual for footballers and fans alike and the unrelenting tension in the build-up certainly appeared to have affected both sides, even those accustomed to the stress of Merseyside Derbies. It came as no surprise to the majority of regular supporters that the game failed to live up to expectations. The two teams were evenly matched and neither could afford to entertain the prospect of defeat to their bitterest rivals.

One local reporter scathingly commented: “The football was so inadequate that I felt sorry for the thousands that had struggled so hard to get a ticket.” The weather conditions certainly did nothing to help. A strong wind was already blowing and became fiercer as the match progressed making control of the ball problematic. The first half had been a niggly affair which resulted in several stoppages as the referee Mr Howley struggled to impose his authority. On one occasion, St. John appeared to knock Ball to the ground. Everton players were incensed by the challenge with West running thirty yards out of his goal to confront St.John. At the same time Ron Yeats rushed from his own penalty area to grab West. A melee of players berated the referee and their opponents. After two to three minutes, Mr Howley spoke to West and St. John but no further action was taken. Ball was to take his revenge in devastating fashion within a few minutes.

As ever, in a game of such magnitude, the tie turned on a defensive error rather than a piece of sublime skill. In the final minute of the first half, Yeats attempted a clearance which was blocked by a Jimmy Husband. The loose ball fell to Milne who tried to deal with the situation by playing the ball back to his goalkeeper Lawrence. Unfortunately, he under hit the pass and Lawrence had to dive at the feet of the onrushing Husband to prevent a goal. As the ball spun away to the right of the goal, Alan Ball was the first to react, prodding it forward and giving chase. Lawrence, Yeats and Smith dashed to protect the net but Ball had somehow anticipated their response and volleyed the ball into the net from what appeared to be an impossible angle. Even better for Everton fans, Ball had scored in front of the masses of adoring faithful on the Gwladys Street terraces. The celebrations seemed to last a lifetime!

Liverpool pushed forward for an equaliser in the second half, with Tommy Smith playing a leading role in initiating their attacks. However, Labone hardly allowed St.John a touch of the ball and the twenty year old John Hurst assisted him superbly in preventing Liverpool from scoring. The whole match had been frenzied even by Derby standards, the flow was constantly disrupted by free kicks and the muddy pitch did little to help any attempt to play football. Finally, the referee brought an end to proceedings and a mini pitch invasion of delirious Blues ensued. In the words of Clement Freud “The police are deployed to keep the crowd off the pitch… They have never been known to succeed”

As the teams left the pitch and Everton fans rejoiced, a new chant started to emerge from the terraces. The previous month in February, Mohammed Ali had fought Ernie Terrell to defend his World Heavyweight Championship. Terrell had refused to recognise the new nomenclature of Ali and had constantly referred to him in the before the bout disparagingly as Cassius Clay. As Ali was pounding him to a pulp in the ring, he taunted Terrell by constantly shouting “What’s my name?” The vociferous Everton contingent immediately started to yell in an increasing crescendo of call and response sounds “What’s our name?” “Everton.” This turned out to be the same headline used by many of the back pages on the following morning.

Everton fans departed from the stadium convinced that they had witnessed the dawn of a new era and were already making plans for another visit to Wembley. Everton were drawn away to Nottingham Forest in the quarter finals, a side who were making an unlikely bid for the Double. Despite Brian Labone taking out the opposition star player Joe Baker, Everton lost three-two to a hat-trick from Ian Storey Moore. The absence of Gordon West in goal proved crucial.

There was still another twist to the F.A Cup story. Sitting in the stands watching the Liverpool tie was Catterick’s latest signing, a certain Howard Kendall. He would prove to be the final piece in the midfield jigsaw that was to become the fabled Holy Trinity of Ball, Harvey and Kendall. Everton’s league positions started to improve from 6th to 5th to 3rd and eventually to winning the League Title in 1970, fifteen points ahead of fifth placed Liverpool. As Shankly endured a barren period of seven years without an honour it seemed that the balance of power on Merseyside was about to change.

The encounter of 1967 between Everton and Liverpool still holds the record for the highest attendance for any F.A. Cup tie outside of Wembley and this is likely never to be surpassed. Yet as the decline in the prestige and status of the F.A. Cup as a competition continues inexorably, one cannot help but feel a massive sense of nostalgia and longing for the days when over 200,000 supporters were prepared to queue for over thirty- six hours outside a ground to secure tickets for a cup tie. As Sixties siren Mary Hopkins once sang: “Those were the days my friend, I’d thought they’d never end.”

Paul Mc Parlan
[email protected]

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