Part Sixteen - FA Cup Semi FInals
When it comes to FA Cup semi-finals Liverpool have the upper hand against Everton, having beaten them three times – in 1950, 1971 and 1977, whilst the blues one win came in 1906, a year the Reds could content themselves with the league title instead.
Everyone who has spoken to an Evertonian for more than five minutes will know that everything that has gone wrong for them can be traced back to Clive Thomas in 1977. However in screaming about this it means another incident six years earlier has been largely forgotten, that of the Blues being forced to pack their bags and find somewhere else to stay the night before they faced Liverpool at Old Trafford.
The finger pointing regarding this one began a few weeks before the game, which was scheduled to take place just days after both sides had to play the away second legs of European quarter final ties. On the Tuesday Liverpool had what appeared a straight forward task of defending a 3-0 Fairs Cup lead in Munich, but Everton’s game was on the Wednesday, twice as far away against Panathinaikos and they had only managed a 1-1 draw at home. Already, Everton were unhappy about having less time to prepare than Liverpool did after a much longer journey back.
The fact Everton had to play after Liverpool was not the Reds fault, UEFA rules dictated games were played on Wednesdays but if both sides agreed then they could be switched to the Tuesday. Panathinaikos didn’t want to change, Bayern did so that was that. The biggest conspiracy theorists amongst them though would have pointed to the friendship that had developed between Bill Shankly and Panathinakos legendary manager Ferenc Puskas and the relations that existed between the two clubs. Liverpool allowed the Greeks to use Melwood for training before they played at Goodison, not something that was reciprocated as European teams playing at Anfield usually trained at Southport. As such there was some suspicion amongst the most paranoid that they had refused to play on the Tuesday just to help Liverpool out.
As it was, things turned on their heads Liverpool’s game on the Tuesday was rained off and re-scheduled for the Wednesday evening anyway to even things out. Everton played in Athens in the afternoon, drawing 0-0 to go out on away goals but their game finished before Liverpool’s started so any advantage the Reds had in distance was lost in the time their game ended. Even though they were 3-0 up, they still needed a strong performance to contain a Bayern side who in 1974 would win the first of three successive European Cups.
On return to England Everton went straight to their hotel in Cheshire on the Thursday but Liverpool returned to Merseyside until the Friday. On arrival at what they assumed to be their hotel confusion reigned when it became apparent both sides had been booked in, and neither was happy about the other being there. Having got there first Everton felt they should stay but the hotel management had other ideas. As Liverpool had made their booking several months before, due to them originally being scheduled to play at Old Trafford in the League the next day anyway, the hotel decided that theirs was the booking that should be honoured due to its long standing. Everton got their belongings and hastily sought other lodgings. It’s hard to get the image out of the head of Catterick, Kendall, Harvey and Ball stood outside with their bags waiting for taxis while Clemence, Heighway and Toshack stood laughing at them from the windows.
In the game itself Alan Ball gave Everton a first half lead but second half goals from Alun Evans and Brian Hall took Liverpool to Wembley. It left the Blues disgruntled thanks to their perceived chaos of the preceding days, conveniently overlooking events on the pitch that had saw them play better in the first half and somehow allow Hall, the smallest man on the pitch, to jump almost as high as his marker Kendall’s head to half volley in the winner.