This day out really starts on 4th January 1975, with what on the face of it seemed like an easy 3rd round FA Cup Tie against non-league Altringham. Everton were riding high in the first division (I think we were second going into this tie) and had lost very few games all season. A gimme you would have said, however football has a habit of biting you on the bum when you least expect it.
We had a few in the Oak and wandered up to the Old Lady bracing ourselves against a biting wind and sleet. I popped into Taylors Bookies for a quick flutter, but in the days before fancy ACCAs and in play betting you had the choice of win lose or draw! The odds were so short I decided that it wasn’t even worth queuing, a good decision as it turned out.
Considering the weather and the opposition the attendance was pretty substantial, although Altringham filled the Park End enjoying their moment in the spot light. The Blues dominated the first half hour as you would expect as we had virtually our first choice 11 on the pitch, Martin Dobson was absent. Then the unthinkable happened, the minnows scored. The Park End erupted and we applauded – let them have their moment we smugly thought. Things actually got worse pretty quickly – Gary Jones got sent off. To say that the natives were restless at half time is an understatement.
Even with 10 men the second half started with the Blues well on top and in the end, we were rewarded with a penalty, through the mists of time I seem to remember thinking ‘I wouldn’t have given that’ but I could be wrong. Dave Clements converted and we waited for the avalanche. Suffice to say that we left the ground grateful to escape with a draw. The non-league team’s tactics had not been pretty (how they finished with 11 men is one of those footballing mysteries) but they had proved effective.
The draw for the next round took place on the Monday before the replay and it threw up an away tie at Plymouth Argyle. I moaned to my Dad about the length of journey we would have to make he sympathised but no amount of cajoling could persuade him to drive. He told me about a previous Plymouth game in 1954, a year before I was born, it was the last time we had been out of the top flight and we won 8-4, John Willie Parker got 4 and my Dad’s idol Dave Hickson got 2. Apparently, we scored 14 goals in 3 days having beaten Brentford 6-1 earlier in the week.
Altringham elected to switch the replay to Old Trafford and we set off in Dad’s car for the game. Martin Dobson had recovered and in truth made all the difference as we ran out comfortable winners. Big Bob Latchford and Mick Lyons scored in each half and we left the ground happy, only to be attacked by several hundred Man Utd supporters outside. We returned to the car by a circuitous route, to find the wind screen broken and the paint scratched. My Dad was devastated. We crept back up the East Lancs, with freezing January air blowing through car.
The following day the search for tickets and transport began, we had just three weeks to sort everything out. My girlfriend (soon to be my wife) decided that she would like to go, which was always unfortunate even though she was and still is a passionate blue. We had been to several games together; in fact, our first ‘date’ had been Dundee Utd. in a pre-season friendly (I was so romantic back then). But I digress. Tickets were secured reasonably easily; transport was more of a problem. We decided to go by train but unfortunately the club Blue Streak had sold out faster than the match tickets. The RS had drawn Ipswich away on the same day and trains that could be surrendered for football specials were in short supply. Everton had reputedly sold 10,000 tickets. You couldn’t hire a van or car anywhere in Liverpool and with 5 days to go we had started to panic. In the end it was my father-in-law to be who came up trumps – he knew someone in the British Rail ticket office and had managed to get 4 tickets on a special departing Lime Street at 6.30am and dropping of on the way back at Runcorn, South Liverpool and Edge Hill before getting back to Lime Street.
We arrived at Lime Street in plenty of time on Saturday 25th January 1975. Rumours were rife that Bob Latchford had been injured in the previous week’s match (although he had scored twice and completed the game) and hadn’t travelled, according to the Friday night Echo.
Lime Street was awash with blokes carrying more beer than I had ever seen in one place at one time. The 4 of us were concerned that our own paltry supplies might not be enough for the scheduled 7-hour journey. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the RS had 10 trains going to Ipswich, we had 13 going to Plymouth. The train we got on was a state, those of you who travelled to away games on the railways back then will recall the conditions we were expected to endure, this train was definitely at the budget end. The four of us walked virtually the full length of the train before we found one of the really old compartment carriages but at least there was one compartment empty, we claimed it. Two lads joined us just before we left Lime Street remarkably on time.
We had all finished our breakfasts by the time we crossed the Runcorn Bridge, I thankfully fell asleep and woke up somewhere south of Birmingham, the girl friend was sleeping soundly. After a few beers I went to search for a toilet, there wasn’t one and there was no means of getting to another carriage. The BR guy who was on the carriage explained that the carriage we were on was not compatible with other more modern carriages and we couldn’t transfer. He said that we would be stopping in Bristol soon to change drivers and he would give us all time to use the facilities there. So, at Bristol we all got off used the toilets, bought food, morning newspapers and of course replenished the beer supplies. The two lads who had been with us never returned and we were able to spread out. I often wondered what happened to them, did they think we were in Plymouth, did they wind up watching Bristol City or Rovers?
Eventually we approached Plymouth, our BR guy said that we would have to wait about 30 mins as there was a queue of trains waiting to unload. He also said that on the way back it was first come first served and that the last train was leaving a 7.00pm. My recollections of the journey from the station to the ground are sketchy. I don’t think we had a police escort and there wasn’t any trouble. We got into the ground at 2.30pm to find it already rammed. Everton had the whole of one side of the ground and there were pockets of blue and white all around the ground, except in the home end away to our right.
The ground was quite dilapidated, the terracing we were standing on was broad but only the front edge was concreted which meant that if you were standing behind someone who was standing on the edge, you were some 6 inches lower than the person in front of you because of the compacted earth.
The teams were announced and as predicted Bob Latchford was not playing, being replaced by Cliff Marshall, a young scouse black lad who was only the second black player to pull on a blue shirt. There were murmurings amongst the faithful (we weren’t the most accepting of fans back in those days). I was quite excited as I had played against Cliff in a trial for Liverpool Boys at the old Penny Lane ground. It was like a possibles vs probables game, I was left back for the possibles Cliff was right wing for the probables, suffice to say that he danced rings around me, scored a hat trick and set up several others as his team ran out 7-1 winners. I never got the call! The fact that he was now in the Everton first 11 provided me with a little justification for my performance that day.
To say that we were crammed in is a serious understatement, if I tell you that my Dad had an expression ‘my Mars Bar’s like a piece of lino’ you’ll get my drift. There were almost 40,000 in Home Park, our average home attendance at that point was about 35,000 and we were now top of the league!
As the teams came out, we all surged forward as we got back to our places my girlfriend, who was in front of me, turned and said ‘my feet aren’t touching the ground’. She was wedged in tightly between the blokes on either side. I started to ask if they would let her down but she stopped me saying ‘this is the first time I’ve seen the pitch since we got in’.
The atmosphere was fantastic, helped I’ve no doubt by 7 hours of drinking but it was all good natured and by half time I was hoarse. The game had started well with the blues well on top and we scored within 5 minutes Jim Pearson tapping in after their keeper had spilled a long-range shot. My girlfriend’s feet returned to the ground and that was pretty much all the action she witnessed.
Mick Lyons, who was playing up front as a target man, created loads of trouble and scored the second with a shot from the corner of the 18yd box, massive celebrations which seemed to last until half time such was the travelling support’s euphoria.
I don’t know what Bingham said to the team at half time, but we started the second half in second gear sat back and allowed the home side back in. Inevitably they scored on the hour and Bingham’s immediate response was to substitute Cliff Marshall bringing on Mick Bernard. We defended deeper and deeper (just an opinion, but it was this attitude that lost us the championship 3 months later) and almost grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory had it not been for the redoubtable Lyons constant harrying and running. Ten minutes from the end a header from defence by Ken McNaught was chased down by Mr Everton and he slipped the ball home from quite a long way out past the advancing Plymouth keeper. Renewed celebrations on the terraces, as the home team’s heads visibly dropped.
We saw out the final 10 minutes without trouble and duly celebrated wildly at the final whistle, minor pitch invasion. All very good natured. ‘One Micky Lyons, there’s only one Micky Lyons’, we all bellowed as we left the ground. There was a substantial police presence outside the ground but with well over 10,000 blues fans facing a 6–7-hour journey home, the search for alcohol was about to begin in earnest and there were far too few police to keep us all in line.
The four of us slipped away and went to search for an offy. They were all closed as were the pubs. We eventually gave up and spotting an empty chippy, went for our tea. We ordered and were paying when a group of a dozen or so Plymouth fans came in and they were not particularly friendly. One of them grabbed my scarf from around my neck, as I turned to have a go back one of my friends pointed at my girlfriend and shook his head. We grabbed our food and left.
We realised that we hadn’t got a clue where we were. Wandering aimlessly for an hour meant that we were completely lost and it was now 6.30 and we were in danger of missing the last train. We hailed a random taxi, noticed how strangely he looked at us when we asked to go to the station. He turned 2 corners stopped and said ‘that’ll be a quid mate’. We got out sheepishly and wandered into the station in time to get on the last train which predictably was full. As at Lime Street some 13 hours earlier we walked to the front of the train and found a compartment carriage. One of the compartments had a boy and a girl already occupying it and my girlfriend confessed that she was somewhat fed up with all male company and asked the couple if we could join them. They said they were waiting for friends but it was now almost 7.00 and it seemed unlikely that they would meet up. At that moment the train started to move and we settled down for a long alcohol free journey home.
The original occupants of the compartment asked if we had anything to drink, we shook our heads sadly. The lad reached under the seat, pulled out a large holdall and said ‘I think we may need help drinking this’. It was full of Special Brew – the journey home flew by. I remember stopping at Birmingham New Street Station and leaning out of the door window and singing with the rest of the train ‘Arthur Styles is still on contract tra la la la la, lalala’. He had scored an own goal in the 3-0 win at Birmingham the week before and had gone to Birmingham with Howard Kendall (RIP) the year before in the deal that brought Bob Latchford to Goodison.
We stopped at Crewe just after midnight and one of the guards came round and told us that because there were trains coming back from Ipswich with reds fans (they had lost 1-0), we would not be stopping at South Liverpool only at Runcorn and Lime Street. I explained that we lived in South Liverpool and had no money for a taxi from Lime Street at 2am. The guard said he would see what he could do.
To be fair to the man, he came back to see us at Runcorn, he said he had spoken to the driver who had said that he couldn’t stop but that as he was going through South Liverpool he would slow down and we could jump off if we wanted. So that’s what happened, the train crawled into South Liverpool, we said good bye to our new found friends, opened the carriage door and jumped out one after the other. All four of us fell over on top of each other but were just pissing ourselves laughing, at least twenty other rat-arsed blues were doing the same. There was a train load of Liverpool fans on the opposite platform, looking on gobsmacked at what was going on. We just got up asked ‘good game lads’? and went home.
On the Monday we were delighted to get second division Fulham at home in the fifth round but blew it thanks to Dai the Drop and a shocking refereeing performance by your friend and mine Mr Clive Thomas but also by an inspired performance from Alan Mullery. I remember wondering why the hell Fulham played in red and black stripes.
I think that the 1974/75 season is without a doubt the most disappointing in the almost 60 years I have followed Everton. We managed to finish 4th when we lost 2 fewer games than anyone else and 25% of the 8 games we lost were against Carlisle Utd. who were relegated. We only conceded 3 goals on 3 occasions in the league, two of those were against Carlisle. The other was against Sheffield Utd. at Goodison, when we were 2-0 up and cruising at half time, with a wonderful goal from David Smallman, and totally capitulated in the second half allowing the Blades to score 3. The only time we beat a relegated side was a 3-1 home win against Luton. We should have won the league by a distance but thanks to Billy Bingham’s negativity we threw it away. We were top from the middle of January until losing to Luton at the beginning of April.
There was an article in the Times in March saying that Everton will win the league but what will the lack of ambition of the manager do for the reputation of English clubs in the European Cup.
For me, Plymouth was definitely the highlight of an ultimately disappointing season.
Reader Comments (7)
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1 Posted 27/01/2021 at 11:58:39
That was a great reminisce. The standout memory of that Altrincham game is they were the dirtiest bunch of bastards I can recall seeing. They literally kicked lumps out of us and the ref offered no protection. Certainly not to John Connolly who suffered a double leg break in what was a vicious assault. In truth he never recovered from the injury and was shipped out to Birmingham the following season.
I truly believe that the league and cup double was there for the taking that season. To lose 3-2 twice after taking a 2-0 lead (Carlisle and Sheffield Utd) was unforgivable and, as we lost the league by 3 points, effectively cost us the title. Add to that that Fulham actually reached the FA Cup Final only to be beaten by a West Ham team that finished well down the league table and we had beaten and drawn with.
All we needed was a good keeper. We should have bust a gut for Peter Shilton before Brian Clough realised you win nothing without a good un. That was a recurring theme throughout the 70s.
On the flip side, I remember going to Derby in December that season. Derby were on a really good run and they absolutely battered us without scoring, then the floodlights went out with 15 minutes to go and the players were taken off. When the lights were restored and the players returned, it was a different game and we stole a winner with a looping Bob Latchford header. That took us top for the first time and we stayed there until April.
2 Posted 27/01/2021 at 17:21:29
There was further crowd crush at the poxy little station, never designed for 10,000+ football fans.
I was going to mention John Connolly's leg break after a disgusting tackle at Altrincham, that affected our chances of winning the league, but Stephen above beat me to it. But what a season: from the heights of Plymouth, to the depths of despair at home to Fulham, and a name that still gives me the shakes, Viv Busby (who I recall, spent some time with us later as a coach!!). Also, the friendly you refer to, I'm sure it was Dundee (not Utd) but old timers disease may be affecting my judgement. But thanks for reminding me of a magical 24 hours.
3 Posted 28/01/2021 at 17:08:35
4 Posted 28/01/2021 at 23:41:01
On a minor point of accuracy there were only four special trains to Ipswich and nine to Plymouth, thirteen in total.
Playing for Plymouth that day was a winger, Hughie McAuley, who had been at Warwick Bolam school in Bootle. I played against him once in a schools match, me at right back, him at outside left. I think they won 6-1 with him laying on all six goals! Or so it seemed. The only time I got near him was when we shook hands at the end of the game.
5 Posted 29/01/2021 at 00:20:04
But Dave Smallmans goal is one of my all-time goals at Goodison Park, and the aura then of the Old Lady, in those days, was unique.
Away days, in season and preseason, were an adventures and in some cases became stories, and sagas, but Id not change anything for watching Everton, home or away, in the day.
Great tales, and between all TWrs we could write a book...
6 Posted 29/01/2021 at 12:34:19
This was the last year of school for me and a friend. We were regular visitors to Home Park, our nearest professional football team. When the draw came out l was running around like a crazed dog. l must had sent about 20 letters to the Goodison box office, but just couldn't get a ticket for love or money.
I wrote to Plymouth Argyle and couldn't believe my luck when l got two tickets - over the moon was an under statement!
On the day my mate and l caught a train from our home town of Lostwithiel in Cornwall, with my white silk Everton scarf with blue lettering, hidden under my best lumber coat as the train was full of Pilgrims.
The only draw back to all this, was the tickets were in the home stand, the complete opposite to blues supporters. The ground was heaving when we arrived. Plymouth had done quite well around that time dumping bigger sides out of cup competitions and the locals smelt the potential of another scalp!
So what to do when we scored!! Stood there in the home end with the biggest grin on my face, surprised no one noticed? Sadly not like today, you couldn't demonstrated a restrained celebration in the opposition's end.
What l did get to see though, was the fantastic response of all the Toffees celebrating each time we scored, it looked fantastic and l have to say l was flipping jealous not to be involved with it.
Anyway l loved the game and thought l would now be the only blue to have experienced this match still about, but great to know l am in good company, and l still have the ticket stub, brilliant day, great memories.
7 Posted 07/02/2021 at 12:54:40
It was no luxury coach like we had from the late '80s, it was basically a ‘charabanc'. It left on the Friday night around 11 o'clock. The coach rattled down south throughout the night. We grabbed a little kip, lads sleeping in the aisle and up in the luggage racks. I was only 15 so got over the journey quickly, excitement kicked in!
We got to Plymouth around 10 or 11 next morning, so had plenty of time look around (too young to go the alehouse). I remember having a gorgeous pastie for breakfast and then another for lunch!
Inside the ground was chocker, the number of Blues who made the journey was incredible. The result was brilliant of course. Trying to get out the ground after the game was a pain though (literally). At the back of the paddock where we were, there was a ramp (or stairs) down to the exit and it got totally rammed. There was a massive crush and I remember my arm was at the point of breaking when the jam eased. Outside the ground, I remember a park close by and a bit of a ‘kick-off' but nothing major.
Some great aways that season, including Bob Latchford's winner at Derby, but typical of Everton, some downs as well: Luton and Carlisle. I like to remember the better days out though.
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