I thought I would take a break from my list of top ten Everton players since the end of WW2, and remember an important day in the Blues recent history; 14 April 1984, exactly 36 years ago today.
On this day way back in 1984, Everton faced Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final at Arsenal’s Highbury stadium.
This match was a huge game for the club. The Toffees had been on a great run since the turn of the year, with the beginning of this upturn in form, often being considered a Milk Cup tie at Oxford United in January.
In that game Oxford had deservedly gone ahead and were the better team and it looked like they were going to knock the Blues out of the League Cup, plunging the team into crisis. Then Adrian Heath scored an equaliser following a mishit back-pass. This forced a replay, which the Blues won.
While there will always be debate on which match or matches represented the turning point in the Toffees fortunes, this cup tie was very important. Had Everton been defeated, the pressure on Howard Kendall would have been huge, and it’s difficult to imagine he could have survived.
And this result, together with other crucial league wins, saw the team suddenly find the confidence and form to turn the season around and go all the way to the Milk Cup final to face Liverpool at Wembley.
Everton played really well in the initial 0-0 draw, competing toe to toe against Liverpool and were denied a good shout for a penalty, before losing the replay at Maine Road 1-0.
League form improved too and the Toffees went on an FA Cup run as well, which took them to the semi-final, although they needed three games to beat lowly Gillingham along the way. It was a remarkable turnaround, which few could have predicted at the turn of the year.
So could Everton finally go on and win some silverware and confirm this upturn in fortunes wasn’t just an illusory flash in the pan? If the Blues could win the game and the Cup, it might it prove a springboard to even greater things going forward.
The team to face the Saints was: Southall, Stevens, Mountfield, Ratcliffe, Bailey, Steven, Reid Richardson, Curran, Heath, Gray. Sharp was substitute.
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The game wasn’t a classic, not many cup semi-finals are. And in fact Everton had Neville Southall to thank for another of his outstanding reflex saves at one point, as Southampton competed well and it was very much in the balance as to who would win.
It went to extra-time as neither side could find a breakthrough during the ninety minutes. Eventually and perhaps fittingly, it was Adrian Heath who scored what proved to be the one and only goal of the game and so Everton were going back to Wembley again.
Of course the Blues went on to win that FA Cup final 2-0 against Watford to claim the club’s first trophy for 14 years.
This victory proved to be a launching pad for the tremendous success that the Toffees enjoyed over the next few seasons so it’s certainly a day that all Blues fans should remember well.
And would any of the success that Everton enjoyed in the following campaigns have happened if that semi-final hadn’t been won?