Another autumn evening and another League Cup exit for Everton. The Toffees have a terrible record in this trophy and last night’s defeat at the hands of Chelsea’s second string came as no surprise to many Evertonians who’ve witnessed some shocking performances and defeats in the competition.
Everton’s history in the League Cup could be described, if you were being generous, as patchy. We have reached the final twice - 1977 against Aston Villa and 1984 against Liverpool - both of which ended in defeats after replays. Indeed, Everton have only reached the semi-final on four occasions - in the years above and in 1988 and 2008, where we lost to the two clubs which have proved to be our bogey teams in the tournament. Arsenal and Chelsea have knocked us out of this tournament on five occasions apiece.
The League Cup was introduced in 1960-1961, specifically as a midweek floodlit tournament. Everton reached the quarter final in the first season and set an unwanted precedent by losing to the then third division side Shrewsbury Town. The club then declined to enter the tournament until 1967/1968, when we lost at home to Sunderland.
Fortunes didn’t improve much for the next eight years, as the club failed to progress beyond the fourth round – three of the eight defeats to lower league clubs. The 1976/77 season saw Everton reach the League Cup Final for the first time. On the way they impressively dispatched Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford and after defeating Bolton in the semi-final they faced Aston Villa at Wembley. A dour 0-0 was followed by another draw at Hillsborough as Bob Latchford’s last minute equaliser cancelled out Roger Kenyon’s own goal. The second replay was scheduled for Wednesday April 13th at Old Trafford. Latchford opened the scoring for Everton in the thirty eighth minute and the game stayed like this until the 80th minute when a long range strike from Chris Nicholl beat Everton keeper David Lawson. Villa took the lead two minutes later as Brian Little capitalised on an Everton error full back to slot neatly past Lawson. Villa appeared to be on the way to their third League Cup win when a corner, headed into the danger area by Bryan Hamilton, saw Everton stalwart Mick Lyons head the equaliser and force the game into extra time again. The game looked to be heading for penalties when in the 118th minute an error from the unfortunate Terry Daracott was punished by Little, who slotted calmly from four yards to score the winner. Everton would gain a modicum of revenge seven years later when, en route to the final, they defeated Villa in the semi.
Everton’s history in the League Cup could be described, if you were being generous, as patchy.
The cup run that year saw two historic occasions - the first occurred in January 1984 when Everton faced giant killers Oxford United, who had already knocked out Newcastle and Manchester United at the Manor Ground. Another upset looked likely when Bobby McDonald opened the scoring for Oxford in the 67th minute until an Adrian Heath equaliser from a Kevin Brock back-pass gave Everton a goal they scarcely deserved. The back-pass has gone into Everton folklore as the trigger for the successful run which saw them win four trophies in four seasons under Howard Kendall. The final itself was a momentous occasion, as Everton faced Liverpool at Wembley. Everton were the better team on the day and only some poor refereeing after Alan Hansen clearly hand-balled on the line prevented us from winning. In the end the game was 0-0, and three days later at Maine Road a Graeme Souness shot gave Liverpool the win.
Despite having an excellent side in the mid-eighties, Everton struggled after the 1984 final - indeed the 84/85 season saw Everton knocked out by a late Paul Wilkinson winner for minnows Grimsby Town. The Toffees reached only one semi-final in the next twenty seven years, in which they were easily dispatched by eventual runners-up Arsenal. The years that followed saw grim times at Goodison Park, and the League Cup failed to offer any sanctuary for Everton fans - indeed they failed to go past round four for the best part of twenty years, losing to lower division sides on seven occasions (memorable for the wrong reasons). Defeats came at the hands of Portsmouth at home, York City away and Millwall at Goodison Park – where Everton threw away a two goal lead to give Millwall a 4-2 win. In the 2000/2001 season Everton were beaten at home by Oxford Utd in probably the worst game I have ever witnessed at Goodison Park. Everton lost to a solitary goal from Joey Beauchamp, and the following season we were embarrassed on penalties by Bristol Rovers in a game more famous for sealing the end of Richard Dunne’s Everton career after he was caught laughing on the coach home by Walter Smith and his enforcer Archie Knox.
In 2008 Everton reached their first semi-final in twenty years as they faced Chelsea in a two leg game, losing 2-1 to the Londoners at Stamford Bridge and 1-0 at Goodison Park. Chelsea would eventually lose to Spurs in the final. After a nine year break from lower league humiliation in the League Cup, Everton were once again the victims of a giant killing when they lost on penalties to Brentford in the 2010/2011 season.
For a club like Everton the League Cup now offers the only realistic chance of winning a trophy, yet season after season we struggle. Arguably, the recent blame could be laid at the door of David Moyes who in the last two seasons has picked weakened sides against teams we should have and could have beaten. Wednesday night’s game appeared to highlight this, with Mucha replacing Howard and Heitinga replacing Jagielka - both of whom could have helped us progress into the last eight. After such a poor showing in the competition down the years, Everton fans, desperate for silverware realise the League Cup is winnable; however, I am not so sure David Moyes does.
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