WHENEVER Everton and Coventry City meet, as they do tomorrow in what could be Goodison Park's last Premiership game for at least 15 months, chances are that television will re-run a goal which still rivals Keith Houchen's plunge into FA Cup folklore as the most famous in the Sky Blues' history.
It was 1970 and Everton, with Howard Kendall part of their vaunted midfield, were champions. But at Highfield Road they were floored by an exquisitely executed free-kick routine. Willie Carr's "donkey kick" was volleyed in by Ernie Hunt, who had spent an unproductive six months with the Merseyside club two years earlier.
Others with Hunt's dual affinity include defenders Dave Clements, Brian Borrows, Peter Billing, Kenny Sansom and David Jones; midfielder Kevin Richardson, now playing under Jones' management at Southampton; and strikers Mick Ferguson and Bob Latchford, who on the equivalent day two decades ago reached 30 goals for the season in Everton's 6-0 rout of Chelsea.
The late Joe Mercer, a pre-war champion with Everton, served Coventry as general manager and director. Meanwhile, the "ex" factor tomorrow will be represented by the Coventry's former Everton full-back David Burrows. If he does not send his old club down, fatalistic Evertonians may expect Dion Dublin to do so, remembering how the board vetoed Kendall's bid to buy him during his second spell as manager.
Ten things that Everton's fiery Scot Duncan
might be missing
1 His hometown, Stirling, one of Scotland's oldest towns.
2 Braveheart country, where William Wallace won the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 against an occupying English army.
3 The legacy of Robert the Bruce, who defeated another English army at Bannockburn in 1314. Everton will try and try again to secure their Premiership safety tomorrow.
4 Stirling's River Forth. Which is where, at best, Everton will finish from the bottom of the Premiership this season.
5 Stirling's James Kirk gentlemen's outfitters, purveyors of kilts and sporrans. They're clothes, Duncan, but not as we know them.
6 Stirling Castle.
7 The King Street hotel where Robert Burn's defaced a window by writing on it. At Goodison, the writing is mainly on the wall.
8 Distilleries a plenty.
9 The Trossachs.
10 Going down Stirling's Barnton Bar and Bistro for a swift half. But he may soon be going down the First Division for a season of 92 halves.
NAME OF THE GAME
No 34: THE MERRY MILLERS
Rotherham United's nickname was first used in the 1930s. It is believed to derive simply from their ground's name, Millmoor, although there have been suggestions that it had something to do with local flour mills. In recent times the Third Division club's nickname has been shortened to the Millers. "There hasn't exactly been much to be merry about lately," Gerry Somerton, the club historian, said.
ON 9 May 1987, Lincoln City became the first club to be automatically relegated to the Vauxhall Conference after losing 2-0 at Swansea City.
Lincoln's decline had been swift and cruel, having been relegated from the Third Division to the Fourth only the previous season, and having only entered the relegation zone the week prior to their demotion.
Speculation elsewhere that weekend surrounded another relegated side, Aston Villa, who ended the season at the foot of the First Division and were looking for a new manager. The ex-Manchester United man, Ron Atkinson, was the favourite, although Middlesbrough's Bruce Rioch and Wimbledon's Dave Bassett were also in contention. The outsider was Graham Turner, who had steered Wolves to the Fourth Division play-offs. (Another Graham, Taylor, actually ended up getting the job).
Also on that Saturday, 11 years ago to the day, two sides (who have both been troubled recently) were experiencing different fortunes. Manchester City were relegated from the First Division (along with Villa and Leicester) while Everton, who had already secured the First Division title (with Liverpool second), iced their cake with a 3-1 win over Luton.
AS Sheffield United prepare for the first leg of their First Division play-off semi-final against Sunderland tomorrow they can take encouragement from recent history.
Twelve months ago the Blades were beaten at Wembley by David Hopkin's goal for Crystal Palace in the last minute of the First Division play- off final. This year they go back into the play-offs knowing that in three of the last four seasons the team losing in the final have gone on to win promotion a year later. Palace themselves went into last year's final having been denied by Leicester in the closing minutes of extra time 12 months earlier.
In 1994 Leicester beat Derby 2-1 at Wembley, having lost in the previous two play-off finals to Blackburn and Swindon. After their 1994 defeat Derby went on to win automatic promotion a year later.
The only beaten finalists in the last four seasons not to have gone on to win promotion are Reading, who lost 4-3 to Bolton in the 1995 play- off final. Worse was to follow: last month they were relegated to the Second Division.
However, the trend is only a recent one. Just one of the first six beaten First Division play-off finalists went on to win the promotion they were seeking the following year.Reuse content