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Everton: What If... Heysel Had Never Happened?

by Jim Keoghan
21 April 2013 21 Comments

The disaster saw English teams banned from competing in Europe for five years and after Everton had recently won the 1985 first division title, it could have been so different for the Toffees had 39 fans not lost their lives that fateful May day.

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It’s very difficult for an Evertonian to wade into the debate surrounding the Heysel Stadium disaster without sounding bitter. The often touted assertion by blues, that were it not for the European ban which arose after Heysel, Everton would still be a great club can seem a little desperate to some (particularly fans of our esteemed neighbours).

And yet to appreciate the impact Heysel has on the collective Everton psyche, it’s probably necessary to outline just what the club lost during the lifetime of the ban.

There is little doubt that the sides that Howard Kendall put together in the early-to-mid 1980s were the best that Everton have ever produced. The 1985 title-winning side in particular was exemplary, renowned for its flowing movement, speed across the park, creativity and goal scoring. As a result of this and the sides that followed, the mid-1980s became a golden age for Evertonian’s, the kind of era that few clubs ever enjoy and amongst those that do, often only fleetingly.

By the time that British clubs were allowed back into Europe in 1991, Everton’s golden age was gone. The great sides of that era had broken up, the inadequate stewardship of Kendall’s replacement, Colin Harvey, had only yielded mediocrity and the prospect of relegation rather than league success was now more likely for the club.

But was this the fault of the ban? Every football club is constantly at the mercy of any number of variables and to suggest that Everton’s change in fortunes was entirely attributable to Heysel would probably be foolish. As proof, you could point to the amateurishness of the board as a contributory factor, something that has dogged Everton for decades both before and after the ban.

But equally, to deny that the ban had no impact at all would also be wrong. And the reason for this is the effect that European success could have had on the club.

There are two teams in Liverpool, but only one that has a significant international fan base. Everton remain a club rooted in the city, whereas Liverpool have spread their influence around the world like a pandemic (probably the kind that gives you horrible diarrhoea). They’ve been able to do this because of their period of European dominance in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It raised their profile internationally, giving fans of English football around the globe a team to focus on. And despite Liverpool never again reaching those heady heights, the loyalty has persisted, providing the club a vast source of revenue from beyond the confines of the city.

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No-one can know whether Everton would have been able to replicate Liverpool’s success. But when you look at the sides marshalled under Kendall and then compare them to the clubs that we would have potentially faced in Europe, then it’s plausible to suggest that Everton would have been in with a fighting chance.

Look at the finalists from that era; Steaua Bucharest, Porto, Benfica, PSV and Bayern Munich. Although all great sides of the day, each one was capable of being beaten by Everton. It’s not like we’d have been up against Guardiola’s Barcelona. What’s more, Villa and Forest managed to win in Europe a few years before, and these were teams whose quality didn’t come close to Everton’s. We’d also proven our ability to compete on the European stage in 1985 through our capture of the Cup Winners Cup at the first attempt. This was not a team that had shown any evidence of suffering from European jitters.

The ban robbed Everton’s greatest side of both the opportunity to enjoy success in Europe and the chance to build ourselves into an international brand to rival our neighbours across the park. But it also did something more.

Think of the football world before the ban, one characterised by poor commercial management, falling attendances and violence on the terraces. Then compare that to the one that began to emerge in the 1990s, when the ban was eventually lifted. This was a football world awash with money from Sky, a world in which the Premier League was beginning to build itself into a global brand with a global reach and one where the most successful clubs had the opportunity to pull away from the herd.

The club who ultimately made the most of the opportunities presented in the 1990s was Manchester United. Although they were always a big club, United had done f**k-all for decades, aside from win the occasional FA Cup. And yet, it was they who were ultimately best positioned to capitalise on the cash bonanza that has arrived with both the Premiership and the Champions League.

Who’s to say that couldn’t have been Everton instead? Had Europe been available to us then we would have retained our manager rather than losing him to the Spanish. A player like Lineker, arguably one of the best forwards in the world at that point, might have stayed at the club rather than buggering off to Barcelona. We would also have been able to attract the best talent available and perhaps built a squad that could have continued the momentum of the mid-eighties.

As with any counter-factual, there is plenty of supposition evident here. After all, it’s just as possible that Everton would have floundered in Europe or the incompetence of the board would have undermined any success we did enjoy. The problem is we’ll never know.

But that what if… continues to torture us. The actions of a few Liverpudlian gobsh**es and the response of both the Tory government and the football authorities robbed us of the chance of ever putting the club’s greatest ever side to the test. It’s arguably one of the saddest things to ever happen to Everton, which is saying something when you consider that this is the club that signed Ibrahima Bakayoko.

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Mick the Toffee 1:00 pm, 21-Apr-2013

Totally agree, its the never knowing that does your head in....Utd were on the verge of being sold for just £10m a few years earlier, thats how bad they were. They were the main benificiaries of the European ban....they are worth £1.5 billion now.....staggering....it could have been us....or could it ?

coogaah 1:42 pm, 21-Apr-2013

When will you fascist bigots ever wake up to the FACTS? The official reports blamed mayor and police as well as reds fans for Heysel. I went but stayed in london for two nights with friends, on two consecutive nights out in different parts of london we were told the same info...there are going to be several thousands chelsea national front going over to cause a riot in order to get liverpool banned! this was confirmed by chelsea fans!! When over in belgium we witnessed many londoners with their nylon england jumpers (Not footy shirts) staying quiet not singing etc. After the game John Smith, THE most respected chairman in football, was interviewed, he stated that after the game 'fans' came to him shouting, 'we're national front, we started it, and we're proud of it!' British police 'investigated' those allegations BUT, AMAZINGLY, (for british police) they found no evidence! Strange then there were literally thousands of leaflets for NF scum and plenty of video footage that could have been used as evidence but was ignored (NOW THERE'S A SURPRISE!!!) As for u shower of fickle plastics...I wonder how long u would have lasted if you had to battle for the truth re hillsborough. You plastics didn't even have the decency to observe the minutes silence when in semi against spurs. Also wasn't it a load of you plastics that went on the england tour of south america just to abuse black england players!? Keep spouting the usual ill educated diatribe! coogaah...a true football fan!

spanner 1:49 pm, 21-Apr-2013

it was something I was thinking about again only recently, Everton really missed out. Arsenal were stumped by the onset of WW2 and didn't win a title again til 1950 by then they had faded considerably.

Eddie Honda 7:00 pm, 21-Apr-2013

What a pathetic, disgusting article from a fan of a pathetic, disgusting, no-mark, shithouse of a club. Yeah it's all down to Heysel why you've won about 4 trophies in over half a century. Fuck the poor 39 souls, it's all about everton innit. Fuck off you pathetic little success starved woolyback shithouse.

steveiec 9:06 pm, 21-Apr-2013

coogah, that contribution's a wind up surely.......now how does that Evertonian chant go? Oh yeh, 'It's never your fault........... And Eddie...though doth protest too much....Like your club and your flesh eating players, youu've got absolutely no class......

Raz 4:01 pm, 23-Apr-2013

Eddie, how often are those 39 souls remembered by Liverpool FC? As justice for the 96 is right and proper so is remembering the 39. I do not belive Liverpool FC's memory is always so honourable. You cannot accuse Everton of not remembering the 39 dead when Liverpool FC fails to do so to the best of its ability.

Eddie Honda 7:45 am, 24-Apr-2013

Raz, there is a permanent memorial for Heysel at Anfield, but don't let that get in the way of you and your fellow bitters' point scoring over the deaths of 39 fans. The fact is Heysel had absolutely nothing to do with little everton, but you wouldn't know that going off the bitterness and bile regularly spouted over it from horrible little woolyback rats like yourself. If it was any other club you and your fellow shithouses wouldn't give a fuck about the 39 Juventus fans, it's only your extreme bitterness, developed as a result of being in LFC's shadow for the past half century, which has made you 'care' so much.

Raz 9:17 pm, 24-Apr-2013

You're very angry Eddie. I expect you will become angrier still over the next 10 games. Oddly you firstly accuse Evertonians of showing no respect for the 39 and then later go on to say that we do care, but only because Heysel is connected to Liverpool FC. Confusing. Make up your mind Eddie! I'm sure any reasonable human being respects those who died that night and emphasises with their families, just as we do for those of Hillsborough or Boston or 9/11 - any event where numbers of people die in terrible circumstances. But we can do that and talk about other consequences without being disrespectful. It is a nonsense to say Heysel had nothing to do with Everton - the terrible night itself didn't but its repercussions were huge for English football and Everton FC. This article is not even particularly anti Liverpool FC, it's a general 'what if?' piece which focuses on (possibly fanciful, possibly not) potential outcomes for EFC if Heysel hadn't have happened. Regarding the memorial at Anfield - what would you have said if we were having this 'conversation' 3 years ago? It was only then the memorial was built. Best of 'luck' for the rest of the season - you've got a couple of decent games to really sink your teeth into.

STRINGERBELL 3:04 pm, 25-Apr-2013

IT WAS CHELSEA AND FAT SWEET RAFEEE

roids rick 3:11 pm, 25-Apr-2013

eddie, you little no mark virgin. if it was any other football club involved, they would have apologised by now, mouth off like that in turin you vile cunt, you'll soon know what it's like to have a paving slab on yer head.

garl 4:08 pm, 25-Apr-2013

I wouldn't worry too much about what Eddie says,he's the type of turd who needs the success of his football team to make his life worth living as he's got fuck all else going on in it,I believe he used to go on EFC websites offering people out,so watch your back lads and lasses!He's obviously as thick as pigshit which is why he doesn't understand the article.Maybe if he's old enough he'll remember the ceremony LFC had before the opening game of the following season,with Bishops Warlock and Sheppard,it was mocked by and large by a crowd that didn't give a shit then and probably still doesn't now,so fuck 'em,everybody is seeing them for what they really are anyway with their hysterical reaction to the mole rats ban.

Blue Jim 8:16 am, 26-Apr-2013

Always the victims ... NEVER to blame. Classless club. That serial maturbator Eddie will be one of the sad clowns crying over yet more "injustice" concerning Suarez. Serial (not cereal) biter, racist, self confessed diver, head butted a ref in Uruguay, etc - and Ayres and Rodgers back him to the hilt! Unbelievable. What an example to kids. Well, kids like Eddie. You expect to get kicked on a footy pitch - not bitten. Once great club - now a rat's nest of shite. Get on yer bike and fuck off Eddie Honda.

Eddie Honda 9:35 pm, 26-Apr-2013

Hahaha, get on all the little SHITHOUSE woolyback blueshite rats, not one of them from Liverpool, not one of them got the balls to back up the shite they spout on here, and almost certainly not one of them have seen their tiny, NO-MARK club win a trophy. 18 YEARS AND COUNTING, read it and weep shithouses.

Blue Jim 6:39 am, 27-Apr-2013

Everton fans - "Not from Liverpool"! Have you ever analysed your bunch of Juventus killers dick brain? What a joke. I'm surprised they let you out of the straight jacket to use a computer. More used to crayons and padded walls aren't you? If Rat Boy was a paedo - your scummy lot would still back him. Classless morons. Up the dosage on your medication Eddie - and get the nurse to change your nappy - like you, it's full of shit. Always the victims - never to blame.

Eddie Honda 7:23 am, 28-Apr-2013

blue jim, yet another success starved wool dishing out abuse from behind his keyboard. Do one you snivelling little shithouse.

Raz 3:49 pm, 28-Apr-2013

You're a thick twat Eddie.

aussietonian 7:11 am, 9-May-2013

this guy going on about people abusing others from behind the keyboard, thick much???

Neil 10:27 am, 11-Aug-2013

Eddie. You appear to have one point to make. Everton are success starved, haven't won anything in years etc. That is the point of the article. Your anger and abusive language are clear indications that you know your scummy fans did what your cheating team were unable to prevent, ie the supremacy of the better club. So keep the abuse coming, it reveals more about you and your bitter (not our fault) red army.

la vecchia signora 8:54 pm, 14-Oct-2013

I see some of the liverpool fans (eddie honda) are still as spiteful and disgusting as ever.. Thing is, the tribute in anfield is a simple plague, nothing more. They never truly apologized for the deaths that day, all it was "lets be friends etc etc" 14 people served a total of 260 months for 39 deaths, including a 11 year girl, that amounts to about 4 months for every man woman and child killed. It would suit liverpool football club if it was forgotten. they hate to be reminded of the tragedy, and will blame uefa, stadia, and others for it. BUT WE WILL NEVER FORGET!!

Nick fall 1:11 am, 16-Apr-2014

Coogaah, you must be on drugs, the city of pity strikes again,Liverpool fans were the cause of Heysel, at least have the dignity to accept that, everyone world wide must cry at the loss of 96 Liverpool fans and that is correct, but remember when you're at fault, if Liverpool fans hadn't attacked the Juventus fans this would never have happened, show some dignity!!

total douche 1:04 am, 10-Jun-2014

Stop this vitriolic tit for tat crap between efc and lfc fans. Dont forget liverpool done pretty badly out of the european ban even more than everton. Who knows what lfc could have done in the ban years including the extra one just for them. Perhaps they could have won another couple of european cups and uefa cups/cup winners cups. it's all what if's we are talking here so is purely speculative for fun by the way so grow up everyone on both sides of the blue/red divide. Bit harsh all english clubs got punished considering italian fans are notorious hooligans. England managed to tackle that problem somehow but italy have shown over the last 10 yrs they are stuck in the 80,s hooliganwise. Ask leeds fans, man u, lfc or even everton. Many major stabbing incidents from italian ultras from lazio,roma,juve,milan,inter etc etc... some of them fascist. In fact right wing ultras are more in vogue in spain, france and italy as well as russian and ex soviet based teams. Spain and russia seem to have just outdone italy recently in their super racist ultras but not by much!!! Di Canio's nazi salutes with lazios ultras wont easily be forgotten. English teams dont have ultras! We banned those types years ago in the 80's. Uefa have always been biased against english teams due to their unprecedented success in their competitions especially preceding the ban. English teams were untouchable from mid 70's to mid 80's. Everton of 85 were good enough to do well in the European cup if they werent banned. They were every bit as good as forest or villa sides that triumphed but you will never know. Maybe they would have been shite in europe for all we know. Cup winners cup was never as strong as european cup so we cant say, well they already done so well in europe first time round. Liverpool got thoroughly whipped on several occasions in euro comps, but the main one of note was a major thrashing by ajax in the shankly era which convinced bill to change the team tactics dramatically to a possession based game at home, and cagey counter attacking away from home. Bit like most big teams now

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