March 28th, 1970; Everton vs Chelsea at Goodison Park.
Not the first game of football I ever attended. That honour goes way back to around 1959/60 when my eldest brother took me, as a four-year-old, to Burnden Park. He still swears to this day I had the privilege to see Nat Lofthouse play.
Obviously, I don’t remember that. But I do recall many occasions standing on the Great Lever End supporting the Wanderers before I got the calling that was to become my footballing passion. A calling that has remained my passion to this day and hopefully for many, many more.
Both my brothers had grown up as Bolton fans, avoiding the temptation of becoming just more United fans. Back then City wasn’t a force. While David remained a Trotters fan, George switched allegiances to Everton when Bolton were relegated. At that time Everton was riding high having won the League title in ‘63.
He regaled me with tales of Alex ‘The Golden Vision’ Young, Brian Labone, Alex Scott, Roy Vernon, Fred Pickering and more. Watching the ‘66 cup final victory over Sheffield Wednesday on television – with George in the Wembley crowd – my loins were stirred. This team in Royal Blue looked everything he’d said they were and more.
His match day programmes and rosettes began to adorn my bedroom wall and when he got a new scarf, his old one became mine.
The ‘68 cup final loss to West Brom was a huge shock, Everton were expected to easily dispose of the Baggies, but Jeff Astle thought otherwise. The ‘69 cup semi-final loss to a late Tommy Booth goal for City at Villa Park knocked me sideways. I still hadn’t seen the team that was to become my passion in the flesh.
Season 69/70 dawned and so too did an inexorable Blue march to a magnificent seventh league title. Backstopped by Gordon West, captained by the Last of the Corinthians Brian Labone, spearheaded by Joe Royal. But the artistry, the magic, the power and the glory came from the greatest midfield trio ever. The Holy Trinity of Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and Alan Ball.
I’d seen enough of this glorious team on television. I had to go, but as George hitch-hiked down the East Lancs most games, at 13, our Mum forbade me from joining him.
I waited and saved pocket money. I would get there.
My Goodison Park debut
And so, to March 28th, 1970, and the penultimate home game for Everton with Chelsea the visitors to Goodison Park. Everton was first and Chelsea lay third. It was all set up for a terrific game.
I got the bus from Salford to Manchester Victoria station, I bought my day return ticket and forty minutes later exited Lime Street station.
I had no idea how to get to Goodison. George never went by train so he couldn’t tell me which bus to get.
As rain began to fall, I saw a guy sporting a blue and white scarf, ”scuse me mate, which bus do I need to get to Goodison?”
“Darn’t nar son, Oi’m a Chelsea fan, you tell me,” the cockney voiced reply.
Together, we waited at the line of bus stops outside St.Georges Hall and jumped onto the first one we saw a blue and white scarfed passenger on.
Twenty minutes later, we alighted on County Road and followed the crowds up Nimrod Street. It was my first physical sight of the Grand Old Lady, Goodison Park. I’d been to Burnden and Old Trafford with my United supporting schoolmates, but this felt special. It truly did.
It was raining. The streets were packed with Blues and the old Main Stand was in the process of being replaced. I said goodbye to the Chelsea fan and while he headed off to the Park End while I entered the Gwladys Street End. I bought my programme and a meat pie, and made my way out onto the terracing I was to stand on for years and years to come.
By 2:30 and the ground was already filling. Despite the construction, fans packed their way into the new seats. I’m not sure H&S would allow that these days.
The teams emerged onto the pitch. First and third in the table. Two teams of immense quality, skill and style.
Chelsea under the managership of Dave Sexton lined up… Hughes, Webb, Mulligan, Hollins, Dempsey, Hinton, Cooke, Hudson, Osgood, Hutchinson and Houseman. Household names almost to a man, a team to be taken and reckoned with seriously.
Harry Catterick selected his eleven thus… Gordon West in goal, Sandy Brown at left back, Tommy Wright on the right with Roger Kenyon, deputising for the injured Brian Labone, at centre half between them. Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and John Hurst would play the midfield allowing Alan Ball to push further forward to link with Johnny Morrissey on the left wing and Joe Royle at centre forward. Jimmy Husband was on the right.
As the rain continued to fall, Everton kicked off defending the Gwladys Street End. There was a cacophony of noise from the 58,337 crowd greeting the first whistle.
Royle to Ball, the ball played back to Sandy Brown. The burly no-nonsense Scottish fullback made five yards before launching a long ball forward. Ball had raced into space on the left. The ginger-haired World Cup winning dynamo controlled the ball. He turned and laid it sweetly into the path of the onrushing Kendall who wasted no time in thrashing it past a forlorn and despairing Hughes from the edge of the box.
One – Nil, and just 14 seconds on the clock – Chelsea hadn’t touched the ball !!
Goodison erupted and I could barely contain myself.
Grown men I didn’t know hugged one another, hugged me, jumping up and down, cheering our heads off.
Bedlam… scenes… limbs.
Chelsea restarted as Goodison bayed for blood. It wasn’t long in coming. Inside four minutes it was two-nil as Bally buried the second.
More hugging, jumping, cheering, bedlam, scenes and limbs, and cries of “Champions, Champions” rang, deafeningly, around the ground.
Everton was magnificent, and shortly before the break, Joe Royle bagged the first of a brace for a three-nil half time lead. The third place team in the table had barely had a kick.
Everton, through Royle with his second and substitute Alan Whittle, made it a nap hand 5-0 before the hour mark. Nobody but nobody gave two hoots that Dempsey and Osgood scored two late replies to add a small measure of respectability to a scoreline the visitors quite frankly didn’t deserve.
After the game
Leaving the ground, wet and yet elated, the queues for buses long, I walked – for what would not be the first time – all the way back to Lime Street for the 6 o’clock train back to Manchester.
I got home safe and sound, much to my Mums relief. I basked in the knowledge that I’d found my footballing destiny, and yes, I know it sounds corny, a spiritual home.
As Everton look to build a new, iconic and hopefully 60,000 seat stadium at Bramley Moore Dock on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey for the 22/23 season, I look forward to another ‘first’ Everton game. But irrespective of who the opposition are that day and the result, March 28th, 1970 will never be forgotten.
I’d witnessed the School of Science put on a display of power, precision and nothing short of sheer footballing excellence, truly Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, nothing but the best.
It would and has remained etched no chiselled, indelibly, into my memory.
(originally published on my personal blog – https://andycostigan.wordpress.com )