FA Cup: ‘The atmosphere was incredible. Imre Varadi was hit square in the face by a pie’

A former Everton captain reminisces on past FA Cup ties between his club and Liverpool

My first experience of a Merseyside derby was also my first win over Liverpool – the FA Cup fourth round tie of January 1981 – but it is remembered for different reasons. We won 2-1 with Imre Varadi scoring our second goal and he celebrated by running straight over to the paddock at Goodison Park where the Evertonians would usually be. He didn't realise that, because it was an FA Cup tie and Liverpool had been given more tickets than usual, the paddock had been given over to their fans.

He ran over to celebrate with who he thought were the Everton supporters, clenched his fists in front of the Liverpool supporters, and the next thing we know he's been hit square in the face by a pie. Imagine the outcry if that happened now. It was funny at the time, though. The atmosphere was incredible. There were 54,000 inside Goodison and it was a great win for us and Gordon Lee, our manager.

In the first half I'd caught Kenny Dalglish inside the box. I got away with it, but he didn't and had to be replaced by Jimmy Case at half time. It was Case who scored Liverpool's consolation.

My tackle on Kenny was nothing out of the ordinary back then. It would be now. You gave a bit and you took a bit, especially in a derby, and the games were fierce because the tackling was allowed to be fierce. They were horrible games to play in, but there was a close connection between the clubs and what the derby meant to everyone in the city.

A few seasons later we were playing each other in cup finals and for league titles, and we had Peter Reid, who was a red, in our midfield, and they had Steve McMahon, who was a blue, in their side. The local connection is important, which is why Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher epitomised what the derby meant to Liverpool for so many years and why it's nice to see Jonjoe Kenny and Tom Davies coming through now at Everton.


Another tie that stands out in the FA Cup is the 4-4 in 1991. Obviously we never realised it at the time but when you look back now that game signalled a massive turnaround in Liverpool’s long-term fortunes. Kenny resigned as Liverpool manager within 48 hours, and we went on to win the second replay.

Maybe Kenny’s resignation had an impact on Liverpool in the second replay, which was the fourth time we’d played each other in less than three weeks, although it didn’t feel that way. We had to come from behind four times in the 4-4 and had to work just as hard to win the next game 1-0.

Unfortunately it didn’t materialise into something bigger because we lost to West Ham in the quarter-finals. It felt like such a waste to go out after putting such a big effort into winning the derby.

On a personal level one thing I remember well about the 4-4 is Howard Kendall deciding to change things around and going to three at the back with a sweeper. I thought it wasn't a bad idea as I could sweep having played that role before with Everton and Wales, but he put me as a marker on the left-hand side.

Howard wanted to give us some balance and he gave Martin Keown a free role. The worst thing you could do was give Martin Keown a free role. He was probably one of the best markers in the game, think of all the man-marking jobs he did brilliantly for Arsenal, but you didn't want to give him too much to think about.

Mark people

I wasn’t sure about that decision, I thought: ‘Does he know how to mark space when he likes to mark people?’ but to be fair I was the one at fault for the first goal.

I felt uncomfortable and I wasn't too happy with Howard. He was asking me to mark Peter Beardsley, who would drop deep and end up on the right wing. I wasn't happy going out there when I knew the danger was behind me, but Howard wanted me to follow Beardsley. I thought we got away with it on the night. Tactically, yes it was good, but I thought we had the wrong people in the wrong positions.

For the second replay he asked me to be sweeper but I’d seen my arse by then and played where I did in the 4-4. I told Howard I’d stay where I was, and he didn’t have a problem with that to be honest because he was quite happy with Martin at sweeper.

As good a spectacle as the 4-4 was, and while it’s a game that people always remember, it wasn’t a great match in which to be a defender. I certainly didn’t go back into the dressing room thinking I’d played well after conceding four goals. It was just relief.

Third round

Hopefully Friday will have the same outcome as that tie, although for me it has come too soon. I would have liked them to play each other deeper in the competition, but one benefit of the draw is that it has restored a buzz to the third round.

That feeling of the FA Cup third round representing the start of something new and important has been lost, but with a few thousand more Evertonians inside Anfield, and given what happened when they met the other week , I don’t think that feeling will be missing on Friday.

– Guardian

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