Everton v Liverpool 1986: When The FA Cup Really Mattered

The first final to feature the two Merseyside giants provided one of the most gripping games in FA Cup history.
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The first final to feature the two Merseyside giants provided one of the most gripping games in FA Cup history.

The latest extract from Matthew Eastley's fantastic FA Cup book 'FROM RICKY VILLA TO DAVE BEASANT When the FA Cup Really Mattered, Volume 3 - The 1980s' recalls how Everton ushered in a new era with victory over Watford.

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Football can do strange things to even the most rational person and most of us have a bizarre relationship with the game. The psychology is both complex and straightforwardly primeval. When your deadliest rival destroys your season, the pain and bitterness verges on the unspeakable. Which brings us to 1986 and the first ever all Merseyside Final. As Everton fan Fran Hickey says: “If you want me to talk about 1986 I will expect a contribution to the cost of my therapy bill. I've only just finished treatment.........”

The 105th FA Cup Final was the first to feature the two great giants of Merseyside. There were a number of occasions when a Cup Final showdown between them looked on the cards before, in 1986, to the delight of some and the horror of others, it finally happened.

Liverpool fan, Colin Barden, was born in 1968 and had his footballing imagination fired by the FA Cup Final: “It got me into football, simple as that.” he says. “I watched the 1974 final and was blown away.”

Twelve years later, aged 18, Colin found himself making the trip from Dunstable to Wembley: “Everyone was mixing together,” he says, “because it was all about the city of Liverpool. Some games you can sense a bad atmosphere but this wasn't like that at all. It was a massive occasion though and a huge amount was at stake.”

Inside, Wembley was full to bursting. The teams came out led by Howard Kendall in a suit and Kenny Dalglish kitted out ready to play.

Twenty-seven minutes had elapsed when Gary Lineker beat Alan Hansen in a foot race to score past Bruce Grobbelaar to send the Evertonians doolally.

Colin said: “We were absolutely aghast and everyone around me was thinking ‘oh, no, we can’t lose this of all games.”

In the second half, Molby began emerging from the shell imposed on him thus far by Reid and Bracewell and, from that point on, became irresistible. Everton’s right back Stevens played a poor pass up the flank which was easily cut out by Whelan who checked and found Molby. His pass was a classic defence-splitter and he teased the ball into the path of Rush who took it past Southall and guided it into the empty net. It was classic Liverpool and classic Rush.

The Liverpool fans went crazy. Colin Barden says: “We’d been under a lot of pressure but then scored this great equaliser. I wouldn’t say Everton collapsed but at that point the momentum changed.”

Suddenly, it’s the Liverpool fans who were making all the noise. To the ubiquitous Sousa ‘ere we go, ere we go’ tune, the fans in red sang: “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool.

Just after the hour mark, Rush found Molby, creating menace again in that inside left position. The Dane fired the ball across the six-yard box and into the path of Craig Johnston. The corkscrew-haired Australian met it side-footed and expertly guided it past Southall.

As sunshine bathed the famous old stadium, Liverpool just needed to hang on and become the fifth team to do the Double and only the third in the twentieth century.

But they had been saving the best until last. On 83 minutes, Whelan floated a gorgeous ball above Peter Reid to Rush. The brilliant Welshman controlled it, composed himself and fired the ball home, hitting over a camera positioned in the back of the net. It was the goal that ensured the Double was going to Anfield. By anyone’s standards, it was a superbly crafted goal as Colin Barden recalls: “You really have to appreciate that third goal and how it was built up from the back. It has never really gone down as a great FA Cup Final goal but it was excellent, really well worked. Rushie touched it on the half way line with his back to the goal and the next minute he’s eight yards out and finishing brilliantly.”

Shortly afterwards, referee Alan Robinson blew his whistle and it was all over.

Colin remembers feeling highly emotional: “I felt as if I’d fulfilled all my football dreams and I was only 18,” he says. “I’d grown up watching the Cup and my mind went back to that 1974 FA Cup Final when I’d fallen for both Liverpool and the competition itself. Dreams of Cup victory had stayed with me all that time and now we’d finally won it.”

On the other hand, Everton fan Fran Hickey was sick to the pit of his stomach: “It was super exciting when we took the lead but then, typically, threw it away following that Gary Stevens error. Then there was a brilliant save by Grobbelaar followed by Johnston’s goal. It was sickening. We were pressing and got hit again. I felt like throwing up and our family dinner in a London restaurant that night was very muted.”

Fran still feels ill at the mere mention of 1986:

“It was terrible,” he says, “I can’t compare it to a death in the family as that would be silly but I felt physically sick, couldn’t eat for days or even watch football for ages. I found myself reliving imaginary arguments with Reds who I had been to school with. I imagined they were laughing at me even though I had long left school.

“I have virtually no Liverpool fans in my circle of friends,” he says, “so I could sulk in private back but it was absolutely terrible to know we had thrown away the Double in the space of a week to what, in my opinion, was the worst Liverpool side for years.”

Colin Barden is now 47 and still lives in Dunstable. He looks back on a time when winning the FA Cup was as good as winning the championship: “The league was the day-to-day stuff, the bread and butter I suppose but the FA Cup was where the magic was. The FA Cup was really special and especially the Final. Everyone sat down and watched it, even if they didn’t like football particularly. It was the pinnacle of British sport.”