Ian Rush scored twice (again) as the mighty Reds walked away with the trophy.
That day, Liverpool and Everton fans walked together down Wembley Way singing ‘Merseyside’ and there seemed to be a sense of unity and togetherness between the two.
Yet, 23 years on, the mood between both sets of fans could not be any different. The bitterness has risen up considerably since that sunny London afternoon and in two weeks when we both meet again one day short of the 23rd anniversary of the disaster, a quite fitting event could turn nasty.
Its’ hard to figure out where all of this bitterness and hatred started. Or is it? It is no secret that some of our blue brethren still hold resentment for what happened on that tragic night in Brussels in 1985. But, the resentment doesn’t stem from the fact that 39 innocent people died. The resentment stems from the fact that Everton were denied the chance to compete in the European Cup as English champions in 1986. Denied the chance to take on the giants of Europe, some of Everton’s best players left for the continent despite another league title arriving in 1987.
Throughout the 90’s, there was hardly any mention of Heysel. There never seemed any resentment. It seemed as though the fans of both sets of clubs in that time knew the damage that the slurs of Hillsborough did to the city. However, as the world moved into a new millennium and new managers began to take to the dugout at each club, the bitterness and jealousy rose. Liverpool began to win trophies again, whilst Everton continued to win relegation battles.
Then, Everton looked north of the River Ribble and gave a fairly unknown Scotsman a call. David Moyes was given the managers job and from that moment on, the fairly volatile Evertonian’s began to gather and shout. It was just over 10 years ago that Moyes was unveiled to the waiting press.
When Everton were knocked out of The Champions League at the hands of Villarreal in2005 a new wave of conspiracy theories were written up. When Duncan Ferguson’s header was disallowed by Pierluigi Collina, it ensured that the Toffees were dumped out of the Champions League in the blink of an eye.
But, instead of looking in the mirror and blaming their own failings (for instance, getting outplayed at home), Moyes and co chose to place the blame at the feet of the referee. In an interview with an English radio station, the Everton manager said that Uefa had used ‘Warm Balls’ to stop 5 English sides entering the group stages of that season’s Champions League. And all of this was because Liverpool were European champions that year.
So when both sides meet at Wembley in 2 weeks time, there will be no love lost. Although is it surprising? No, it isn’t. But is the manner of the vitriol surprising? To an extent, yes. In the age of Sky Sports football, greed and jealousy are top of some fans agenda. And even though there were ‘Justice For The 96’ banners when Everton played Manchester United at the same venue in 2009, I’m not expecting the same thing on the 14th of April. Football has changed for the worst, and so has our rivalry with Everton. And I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that it will only get worse.
You can find me on twitter @Robbie_OR or you can also read more of my work at http://ballsoutinpublic.wordpress.com/category/robert/
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