Some of you may remember the ‘Premiership Memories’ column I started a long time ago. I got as far as the 1-0 home loss to Blackburn Rovers after our initial baptism of fire at Arsenal. You can view that entry here. And the first ever entry about the playoff final here.
That was nearly three months ago now. It’s time to continue the journey.
After the Blackburn Rovers game, I found it hard to muster any real enthusiasm for the upcoming Everton game. Our Premiership lives had not started well. After 180 minutes, we’d had one sent off, conceded 3, scored no goals and were pointless. It was very early days and everything about it still felt new and exciting but there was an underlying feeling of nerves coming from the Blues fans.
Our next trip was to Goodison Park on the Wednesday night. Our first ever Premiership midweek night game. I don’t know why I find it so fascinating to mark each and every one of our “First in the Premiership…” moments but I do. I’ll take a lot of those memories, dates, times and everything else to the grave since they’re things that are simply unforgettable, even if I were to try.
The Sunday and Monday were miserable but by the time Tuesday came around, I was up for the game again. The Blues boards were awash with optimism and Everton hadn’t had a good 01/02 season – they finished just seven points above the drop zone. There was a sense of hope that we could nick our first point – maybe even a win, as well as bagging a goal. I became typically ‘me’ the day before the game and began telling everyone that I knew that I had a ‘funny feeling’ about the trip to Goodison. We were going to score, win and dance all night long.
Well, one out of three isn’t bad.
Blues lined up : Vaesen, Tebily, Cunningham, Purse, Grainger, Johnson, Savage, Cisse, Hughes, Horsfield, John. The bench consisted of Bennett, Kenna, Carter, Morrison, Mooney.
It wasn’t an overly attacking side but at that point in time, we just wanted a point and a goal would be a bonus. I think most Bluenoses would’ve taken a 0-0 up at Everton that night and then really been up for the game against Leeds United at St Andrews three days later. Robbie Savage made his debut for Blues.
Everton lined up : Simonsen, Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Naysmith, Gravesen, Tie, Unsworth, Radzinski, Campbell, Rooney.
It was still hard to believe that Rooney was still only sixteen when this game took place. Radzinski was still a threat and this was the season that Thomas Gravesen began to prove that he could actually play. Weir and Stubbs, even then, were looking old and David Unsworth will forever be remembered by the blue half of Birmingham for not wanting to stay in Aston for longer than a week!
As usual I was stuck down in Brum for the game and once again the traveling support did us proud. It’s wonderful to hear them through the speakers on the old wireless when you can’t be there. I’m sure many ‘Noses who aren’t able to go to games feel much closer to the action when the familiar tune comes through.
The problem with writing about memories when you haven’t actually been to the game is that I just have blurs of memories from all the radio commentaries I’ve listened to over the years. I have a few vivid memories from this night that I’ll try and convey here. Whether they were close to reality is something someone else will have to confirm or deny for me.
The first thing I remember is the commentators being drowned out each time Everton went close. It’s the worst thing in the world for radio listeners when the commentary goes and all you can here is 35,000 Scousers going mental about something or other. You have to wait five or so seconds until Tom Ross’s familiar tone comes back to tell us – in his own unique and roundabout way – what’s happened.
That night I remember a lot of not being about to hear much! It’s either my memory playing tricks, Everton being massively on top or the referee having a bad night as far as the home side were concerned and they were giving him stick. Of course, it could also be the diversion tactic… 35,000 Scousers make as much noise as they can so that the other few hundred can nick as many of the visitors cars as they can. When all the car alarms are out of ear-shot, the ground falls silent again and no-one is any the wiser.
I also remember Radzinski’s name being mentioned a LOT that night. I remember that because I don’t recall knowing who he played for internationally. After the game I looked it up and was suprised to find out that he actually plays for Canada. Although, again, my mind could be playing tricks and I’m far too lazy to actually check. Thug-boy also had a quiet game up top and that, for the game, is all that I can actually remember.
The rest is all about feelings.
Half-time it was level and my prediction of Blues winning could still happen. The 0-0, as I said earlier, wouldn’t have been a bad result since, as the saying goes, any Premiership away point is a good point. Five minutes into the second half and Blues were given a golden opportunity. Alan Stubbs brought down John in the area and was subsequently sent off. Stern got up and took the penalty himself and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such elation at scoring a goal before.
First. Ever. Premiership. Goal. Wow!
The Blues fans went through the full repertoire and I must admit that so did I at home! “Count down the minutes with us at home…! It’s a nervy, tense finish in store for us here at Goodison! Can Blues hold on?!” How about shutting up and telling us what’s happening, Tom?! Yes, I realise he can’t shut up AND say what’s going on.
The minutes ticked by and the songs kept coming. My old man and I foolishly got the idea into our heads that Everton wouldn’t score so long as we stood overlooking the radio from as close a distance as possible. We’d also be helping the team defend by turning the volume control to maximum.
92nd minute… Come on Blues, hold on! Hold on! Don’t you dare mess this one up, come on you Blueboys… COME ON!
It wasn’t to be. In a packed Blues penalty area, a deflection or an outstuck leg or a piece of luck was always going to be a factor. David Unsworth struck a shot from just outside the box, it took a deflection before hitting a post, hitting the back of Kenny Cunningham and bobbling into the net. Goodison Park went wild and I just collapsed into a heap, head in hands. I stayed like it for at least 10 minutes and it felt like another playoff defeat.
It was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow and hearing the Everton fans singing their heads off didn’t help. After being so close to a positive “First in the Premiership…” it was hard to stomach and I felt desperate for the ‘Noses that had gone to Liverpool that night.
Still, on the positive, it was a point and we’d scored our first goal. One point out of nine wasn’t great and it was obvious that we’d have to pick it up sooner rather than later. Leeds United were the next visitors… we didn’t have to wait too long for a memory that none of us will ever forget.
I haven’t posted in Premiership Memories for a while. Since the Forss has been subject of many a conversation and article this week I thought it might be nice to post a video of what he used to do and what, many believe, he’s still capable of.
The following video is taken from the popular online video site YouTube. I didn’t create it and I’m not responsible for it. All the goals from this video are from Blues second in the Premiership. We had Mikael Forssell on loan from Chelsea.
The season of the Forss…
Since the fixtures are set to be released in about half an hour, I figured now would be the perfect time to look back and have a smile at one or two of our more famous Premiership wins.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to write 17 or 18 paragraphs to get the message across of just how wonderful those days were. I got Mrs Aff (who’s pretty useful in Photoshop) to rustle up a visual representation instead.
Well, after all… Colchester United, Southend United, Plymouth Argyle. It’s not exactly glam is it, folks?