Derby Memories: Kenny’s last stand

For fear of feeling my own age, I was a kid when Liverpool and Everton were ruling the roost in terms of domestic football.  My childhood is littered with memories of cup finals, league run-ins and nothing being a big game bar us and them.  There was a time that I thought they never beat us, ever. 

The first such example in my head is the 1986 cup final, a hazy memory of asking my dad why Grobbelaar was slapping Jim Beglin when they were supposed to be on the same team. Whatever Brucie’s reasons, it worked. Liverpool came from behind to break blue hearts at Wembley.

That period carried on through to the end of the 80s, with Arsenal stepping in towards the end of the decade and the start of the Premier League era in 1992.

Perhaps it was fitting that it’s not just one derby that sticks in my mind, but a series of them. It may well have been the last echoes of those days where it felt like every game was them and all for cups. 

I say a series of them, I have no memory of the first quarter final that went to a goalless draw at Anfield.  The replay though, its aftermath and the devastation of my ten year old self, will remain with me when I’m in the home dribbling down my chin and waiting for the nurse to bring me my soup.

Wednesday 20th February 1991:  Everton 4 – Liverpool 4

Context is key. For whatever reason, I watched that game with some mates who lived down the road.  Six, count them, six brothers. Three reds, three blues. 

The younger lads didn’t get to watch, bedtimes and all that. The three of us in double figures though, all 120 minutes. All eight goals. A feeling of something special tinged with the pain of not beating Everton. I’d thought they couldn’t stop us beating them twice in a week. The only blue left awake was crowing.

As the game started, I remember the nerves that always used to come with watching big games. I had butterflies in my stomach that wouldn’t settle from first whistle to last. 

Wimbledon and Crystal Palace in preceding years had given me the yips enough to be wary of all one off games. But this was Everton. This was the FA Cup. 

I remembered them winning the league and a vague memory of a Rumbelows Cup in there somewhere, but not in the FA Cup. Of course we’d beat them, be still my nervous torso.

I remember thinking that it was 0-0 for a long time, I can’t remember any specific chances, even my memory has its limits. But I remember the sense of it. 

The room’s sole Evertonian was growing in confidence. His brother was slapping him back down time and again, sometimes physically. It felt fast, Southall forever being in the way, but that could have been most derbies.

Then Beardsley scores. Rush runs through and his effort is cleared off the line, Chris (the Evertonian) begins to crow. But the ball drops in the general direction of a player who I only now appreciate with the benefit of hindsight. 

Beardsley, in the centre of the penalty area, half volley. Southall looking sad. Chris’s brother Dean is literally nose-to-nose with him, laughing right in his face. They’re a bit older than me, but I’m used to them winding each other up.

Now is time for a confession, I’m trying to do this without reference or looking back, if there are mistakes it is through sheer bloody minded stubbornness, but I was asked for the moments I remember. This is them.

I remember the butterflies slowing as we finish the half with the lead. Slowing, but still fluttering. Chris and Dean’s mum brings the biscuits in, hoping that if we’re eating we won’t be shouting at each other and her sons may not beat the shit out of one another. She gets about two minutes peace.  We were/are, all gobshites. Sorry Kath.

Everton score early in the second half, by which I think it was almost instant. Chris is dancing. The butterflies are in full flight and there’s more of the bastards than ever. I don’t remember the goal, though I know it was Graham Sharp. 

It was always Graham fucking Sharp. Sharp and Rush are intertwined in this period in my mind. It felt like they always scored. Always.

The joy when Beardsley gets a second though, and what a second. I’ve seen that goal so many times since. Left-footed and shaping away from Southall into the top corner. 

Fit enough to win any game. A shame it didn’t. Nobody is crowing now.  Nobody is saying a word. Not nerves, the other two had been told they’d be in bed if they carried on and I wasn’t sure where I’d end up. My mum wasn’t due back from work for an hour.

I’ve seen the second equaliser a million times too.  Nicol goes to pass back to Grob, not realising that the big old nutter is already there. I’m not having that Grob hasn’t shouted. All poor Steve Nicol manages to do is play the ball through for Sharp to poach.

He levels him as the ball goes in, any modern player would be rolling about for a couple of minutes feigning injury. To Sharp’s eternal credit, he gets straight up and runs back with barely a raised arm. The camera cuts to an image that will be used a lot in the following days.  

Kenny hunched at the entrance to the Goodison dug out, contemplating his options. I think they just wanted to make sure there was no record of Brucie giving Nicol a Beglin. I’ve no proof it happened, but I can imagine. 

Chris’s yelp in the living room jeopardises everyone’s late night.

Rush puts us back ahead, I think it’s late on. It feels final at the time, though that could just be because it’s Rush and now he’s got his goal, we can’t lose.  To me, that’s an article of faith. Rush scores and Liverpool beat Everton. The world keeps turning.

Dean is sniggering under his breath, Chris gives him a quiet dig in the ribs. This was better when it was noisy, I’m going to get lamped in the crossfire.

Cottee scores at about the point I’m thinking of the walk home and my supper. I remember later my dad would lament that Barnes never learned the lesson of the Arsenal game in 1989.  

Apparently he chased a killer goal when all he had to do was stay in the corner. I’m taking his word for it, I don’t remember that bit. Chris is up and bouncing, a drink goes over and even his mum doesn’t have the heart to shut him up. Butterflies are loose, I’m terrified. 

Extra time, and Chris’s shouting has removed the pretence from twins that they’re still asleep upstairs. A pair of the younger four brothers descend the stairs, having sat at the top listening for ages before getting brave. Both blues, for the first time we’re outnumbered.

Barnes gives us the lead for the fourth time, surely that’s that? The butterflies refuse to have it, so does Tony Cottee. In a moment that Chris would re-enact time and again over the next few months, he slots home the fourth equaliser.  

My mum had arrived by now and we’ve a short walk home, its freezing and I can’t wait to get to bed. Chris’s crowing follows me out of the door.  The next morning, it would occur to me that his crowing was because a draw to him was as good as a win. We’d sort it in the second replay.

Only we didn’t. Everton put us out, but it didn’t matter by then, Kenny had resigned. We were walking back from school a couple of days later, one of my mum’s mates was walking with us and told me Kenny had gone. 

I thought she was pulling my leg, walked round the corner and the headline board outside the newsagents simply said “Kenny Quits”. I started crying on the spot, and didn’t until long after tea.  

For all that has been and gone since, Kenny remains the manager I always think of as defining Liverpool. Everton in the cup my definition of a derby.

I can’t remember the second replay, Chris was unbearable for months. Fair play, it was his cup final. Twat. I’ve no doubt he’ll crow on Facebook should things go his way on Monday. Some things never change.

Written by @BigLee01



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