Sunday 22 September 2019

Everton not just facing their rivals, but weight of history

Burnley and Republic of Ireland defender Kevin Long tackles Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha during yesterday’s Premier League match at Selhurst Park, which the home side won 2-0. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters
Burnley and Republic of Ireland defender Kevin Long tackles Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha during yesterday’s Premier League match at Selhurst Park, which the home side won 2-0. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters

Chris Bascombe

On the surface, Marco Silva is seeking to reverse one of the most unfathomable derby-day records. Everton have one Anfield win in 19 years. They have won three in the past 35 visits.

In 49 Merseyside derbies - home and away - Everton have tasted victory six times. Not since Kevin Campbell scored at the Kop end in February 1999 have Evertonians jigged back across Stanley Park.

Four managers - David Moyes, Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce - tried to replicate Walter Smith's last success. There have been several close encounters, Everton earning 10 Anfield draws over this period, but the missing link between an honourable point and celebrated victories has been elusive.

Look deeper and this is no modern irregularity. Everton's mid-eighties revival was confirmed by Graeme Sharpe's Anfield volley in 1984, a goal that ended a 14-year winless streak in the stadium.

Everton also celebrated in front of the Kop in 1986 and 1987. A nine-match unbeaten streak against Roy Evans's Liverpool between 1994 and 1999 included an Anfield triumph for Joe Royle's famed "Dogs of War".

With Campbell's winner, that's been it since 1970 - five Anfield victories in 53 attempts across 48 years.

Perplexing? Perhaps. But it says more about the division between the established romantic perception of the Merseyside derby as a great leveller and the reality. Contrary to the cliché, the form book has rarely flown through the window, odds generally favouring Liverpool at Anfield, regardless of opposition. The different flavour of a derby has made little impact.

For Moyes, who understands better than anyone the challenge facing Silva this weekend and beyond, the financial capacities of both clubs cannot be divorced from the more recent history of the fixture.

"It needs to be put into perspective," says Moyes. "When I took over at Everton, the challenge for us was to try to go toe-to-toe with a club having success in Europe and sometimes competing for the Premier League.

"Over the years, the level of budget we had compared to Liverpool made a massive difference. By the end, we had not only got level with them, but finished above them in consecutive years. That was where we wanted to be. There were not many years in the previous 20 when Everton had done that and we did it three times during my reign. That mattered more than an individual result.

"Looking at the one-off games does not do some of those Everton teams justice. We always understood how important it was for Everton to beat Liverpool and we did everything we could to beat them. We had some success at Goodison. I remember Lee Carsley's winner the year we finished in the Champions League places, Andy Johnson scoring a hat-trick and Dan Gosling scoring the winning goal to get us through in the FA Cup. They were always tight, tough games and we had some good draws at Anfield.

"But. ultimately, we were working to the point where our main ambition was to finish above them and as high as we could in the Premier League. We achieved that. The derby mattered, but if you asked me whether I wanted to have more points at the end of the season, I would always have taken that to matter more than a one-off game."

The success of Royle's team - who won three derbies in three years in the mid-nineties (one at Anfield) came when Liverpool were considered easier to bully, especially in midfield and defence. By the turn of the millennium, outmuscling Liverpool had become more difficult.

"They had Gerrard and Carragher," said Moyes. "They knew what the game meant. It made a massive difference to them. We had great players and we could play. But during that period they also had at lot of expensive players who could make a big difference like Alonso, Mascherano and Torres. That team was as good as the one they have now. It was tough for any team going to Anfield.

"Some folk said we never attacked enough, but for us it was always about finding a way to win at a tough venue. While you would always go there looking for a win, you would never come away from Anfield with a draw and not think it was a good result. It would be a good result for Everton (today). A draw at Anfield would be good for any side, whether it is Man City, Manchester United or Chelsea.

"When you go to those kind of venues, especially, you need a few things to go for you. It is easy to look through the records, but how many away teams do have a great record at Anfield?"

Last season, Everton took a point in both Premier League derbies. Allardyce was still accused by his own supporters of being overly negative.

"Only one team was trying to win," suggested Jurgen Klopp. Silva heads to Anfield to rewrite a painful history.


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