By Vince Cooper
In 1966 football belonged to England. And English football belonged to Merseyside. The country hosted the World Cup for the first – and still only – time, and kept the trophy with that heart-stopping win over West Germany at Wembley. And on the domestic front 1965-66 was all about the city in the North-West. Despite Time magazine dubbing London as ‘swinging’ it was Liverpool that held sway when it came to football matters with the team from Anfield claiming the league title for the second time in three seasons whilst Everton, their rivals from across Stanley Park, captured the F.A. Cup. In fact the city was a single game from completing an even more memorable treble with Bill Shankly’s men missing out on European glory after an extra-time defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Cup Winners Cup Final in Glasgow.
In the charts Merseyside ruled too. The Beatles completed their final U.S. tour and, despite plenty of controversy over John Lennon’s quote that the band were ‘More popular than Jesus’ , were busy cementing their position as the most popular band in the world with the release of Revolver. The album, released in July 1966 and featuring ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Taxman’, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘Good Day Sunshine among its 14 tracks, reached Number One in both the United Kingdom and in America and is widely regarded as perhaps their greatest ever.
Liverpool in all red, in black and white
The start of the season saw Liverpool donning their now-famed all red kit for the first time in league action. The team had switched to red shorts the season before, first wearing them in a European Cup success over Anderlecht. But although this was claimed by many to be the first time they wore all-red the socks in that kit were in fact white with red tops. In the return leg the socks were all red but by the time they were back in League action the Anfield club had reverted to white shorts (possibly because League rules forbade kit changes during the season). The all red kit was used in F.A. Cup action for the run to Wembley, and victory, but the league switch didn’t happen until the start of the 65-66 campaign.
A Charity Shield plaque
Liverpool’s season began with a trip to Old Trafford to take on champions Manchester United for the Charity Shield. Twice United took the lead, through George Best and David Herd and twice the Reds hit back first through Willie Stevenson and then with Ron Yeats scoring with five minutes remaining to give them a share of the trophy (no penalty shootouts in those days).
The line-up that day was: Tommy Lawrence, Chris Lawler, Gerry Byrne, Gordon Milne, Ron Yeats, Willie Stevenson, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Tommy Smith, Geoff Strong. And those 11, along with Peter Thompson, were pretty much it for the season as Shankly managed to keep a fit and settled side.
The league season started with a comfortable 3-1 win at Leicester, Hunt scoring twice and Strong grabbing the third, but then came a single point from a pair of games with Sheffield United. The Blades inflicted a solitary goal defeat, courtesy of Mick Jones, on Shankly’s men at Anfield (one of only two home losses in the season) and the teams then fought out a goalless draw at Bramall Lane. Three consecutive wins and ten goals (six for Hunt) followed against Blackpool, West Ham and Fulham as the Reds got into their stride.
Next up came a home draw with West Ham and then defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, a result which saw Shankly’s team fall to 8th in the table, although only three points adrift of leaders West Bromwich Albion having played a game less.
The Liverpool Echo on derby day
On September 25 the first Merseyside derby of the season took place. 53,777 crammed into Anfield to see the 93rd meeting between the teams and it was Liverpool fans who went home ecstatic after a 5-0 hammering, the goals coming from Hunt (2), Smith, Stevenson and Thompson. After the match Everton chairman John Moore conceded to Liverpool boss Shankly; ‘You were far too good for us today’. The Toffees lost Brian Labone to injury at half-time when only a goal in arrears but in truth they had led a charmed life defensively in the first period and were fortunate not to enter the break trailing by more.
Roger Hunt – A brace in the derby
After the derby, Shankly and his men travelled to Turin where they suffered a single-goal defeat to Juventus in their Cup Winners Cup a deficit they would overturn when beating the Italians 2-0 at Anfield a fortnight later.
Next up in the league Aston Villa were dispatched at Anfield 3-1, a result that moved Liverpool up to second in the table. But this was followed by two defeats in three with losses at Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion sandwiching a home victory over Newcastle United.
The loss at The Hawthorns left Liverpool down in 7th, but still only three points away from pacesetters with Leeds United having taken over at the top.
After the Hawthorns defeat Shankly’s men went on a tear. They won seven of their next nine, drawing the other two with 23 goals scored and just five conceded, and also made further European progress winning both legs against Standard Liege to reach the last eight.
By the time Leeds visited Anfield on December 27th, Liverpool were two points clear of Burnley at the head of the table although the visitors lurked seven points behind having played four games less.
The fixture was the first of a double-header with the teams reconvening at Elland Road the following day. In front of an Anfield crowd of 53,430 the Reds suffered their second home loss, beaten by the combination of a Peter Lorimer goal and a fine performance by Gary Sprake. The following day Shankly fielded the same XI at Elland Road and 49,192 saw a Gordon Milne goal separate the sides as Liverpool gained their revenge.
New Years Day saw another massive game when champions Manchester United visited Anfield. Denis Law gave the visitors a 2nd minute lead but Tommy Smith equalised five minutes before half-time and Gordon Milne grabbed a late winner.
Gordon Milne. Big late winner against the champs
Still Liverpool’s lead over closest challengers Burnley was a mere two points, and the Turf Moor men had a game in hand with Leeds a further five points adrift but having played four games less.
A win at Arsenal was followed by a home draw against West Bromwich Albion and then the FA Cup holders were dumped out of the competition at Anfield by Chelsea. But that defeat seemed to galvanise Shankly’s men and they then won four league games in a row, scoring 13 times and conceding only two so that by the time they travelled to bottom-of-the-table Fulham on February 26, the lead had stretched to nine points. A shock 2-0 defeat with Steve Earle grabbing both goals for the relegation-haunted West Londoners did little to halt the charge as their closest challengers were also dropping points.
Next came the Cup Winners Cup quarter-final with Liverpool drawn to play Honved. After a goalless draw in Budapest the Reds beat their Hungarian opponents 2-0 at Anfield a week later with goals from Chris Lawler and Ian St John.
Then it was back to domestic action as the Reds cemented their place at the head of the table with four wins and three draws in their next seven matches. Among these was a goalless draw in front of 62,537 fans in the return fixture with their city rivals at Goodison Park, in truth a disappointing game that ended with boos from both sets of fans. However the draw suited Shankly’s men who ended the day eight points clear of nearest rivals Leeds who had played three games less.
The ‘British Championship’
Liverpool continued their inexorable march to the title and by the time their Cup Winners Cup semi-final battle with Celtic came around the title was virtually sewn up. The match-up was termed the ‘Battle of Britain’ and the first leg in Glasgow saw Shankly’s team escape with a single goal defeat in front of 76,446 fans. The winning margin could have been much larger but a combination of luck, some poor misses and desperate defending kept Liverpool in the tie.
The return at Anfield, just five days later, saw Liverpool turn things around, winning 2-0 with a pair of goals inside six second- half minutes from Tommy Smith and Geoff Strong. Strong had been pushed into a more advanced role due to the absence through injury of Roger Hunt and was injured himself but managed to carry on, and grab the glory.
But the match was mired in controversy as Celtic thought they had scored a crucial goal through Bobby Lennox in the last minute only to see the effort ruled out by the Belgian referee for offside. A mass pitch invasion amid bottle-throwing followed the decision and the final minute was played out with police patrolling the touchline. Afterwards Celtic fans and the Scottish press called the result ‘floodlit robbery’ but in truth the Reds were the better team on the night and narrowly deserved to progress.
Victory Lap for the Reds
The title was sewn up when a pair of Hunt goals led to a 2-1 home win over Chelsea on April 30 and Shankly turned his attention to a return trip to Glasgow five days later and an encounter with Borussia Dortmund in Liverpool’s first-ever European Final.
Borussia, who could boast a front five made up entirely of German internationals as well as the national team goalkeeper, Hans Tilkowski, had seen off holders West Ham United to reach the final and were certainly a force to be reckoned with. For Liverpool, Geoff Strong was missing through injury and Roger Hunt was a doubt right up until game time.
With the rain pouring and the match being shown live on television, the attendance was a disappointing 41,657 in a Hampden stadium where capacity was 140,000. Many among the Glaswegian neutrals were cheering for the Germans, having not forgiven Liverpool for the controversial win over Celtic in the semi.
The first half was predictably cagey with both side showing their opponents plenty of respect. After the break Liverpool started to gain the upper hand and it was something of a surprise when Borussia went in front. The normally reliable Milne lost possession and the resulting counter attack resulted in a one-two between Emmerich and Held which in turn resulted in Held smashing the ball past Tommy Lawrence.
Liverpool equalised when Peter Thompson beat three men and delivered a cross which, with the Borussia players claiming the ball had gone out, found Hunt who hammered home. The German players complained en-masse to the French referee but to no avail. The scores were level and a pitch invasion by gleeful Reds fans followed.
In the final minute of normal time Hunt had a chance to win it for the Reds after latching onto Callaghan’s through ball. However he took one touch too many and overran it. “Thinking back I should have hit it first time, but I did what I thought was the right thing at the time” Hunt would later say.
As the game moved into extra-time it was Liverpool who seemed the more likely winners. However Borussia had one chance and it was all they needed. The Reds had been vulnerable to balls through the centre all evening and this became more pronounced when Yeats was injured in the second half. Another long ball saw Lawrence rush out to save bravely at the feet of Held but the ball rebounded to Reinhard Libuda who lobbed over the stranded ‘keeper and toward an empty net. Yeats dashed back to try to clear but succeeded only in helping the ball back into the net after it rebounded off the crossbar.
Siggi Held scores for Borussia Dortmund
There was no way back for Liverpool and Borussia took the cup back to Germany denying the Anfield men an historic double.
If they could have chosen one trophy to win at the start of the season though it was the 1st Division title, and in that respect Shankly’s men achieved their goal finishing six points clear of closest challengers Leeds United to take the title for a record seventh time. They had won the title two years prior and the FA Cup the previous season and this title win confirmed the club’s position at the pinnacle of English football.
Perhaps one of the chief reasons for the team’s dominance was their ability to keep a settled team. Five players – Gerry Byrne, Ian Callaghan, Tommy Lawrence, Tommy Smith and Ron Yeats – appeared in every league game whilst Ian St John and Willie Stevenson missed just one with Chris Lawler and Peter Thompson missing two. In fact, outside of the 12 players mentioned at the start of the article there were just six league appearances, five by Alf Arrowsmith and one by Bobby Graham. Roger Hunt comfortably topped the goalscoring charts with a total of 32 in all competitions.
Whilst Everton never came close to challenging their rivals from across Stanley Park in the title race, and were eliminated in the 2nd Round of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup by Ujpest Dozsa, the Goodison Park men made amends in the FA Cup.
It was a troubled early part of the season for the team from the blue half of Merseyside. A week before to embarking on their cup campaign the Toffees suffered a 2-0 defeat against an Alan Ball-inspired Blackpool and boss Catterick incurred the ire of many supporters when replacing fan favourite Alex Young with youngster Joe Royle whilst Geoff Barnett started in goal ahead of established number one Gordon West.
When the Toffees started on their road to Wembley Catterick reverted to his favoured line up and Young was amongst the scorers in an eventually comfortable 3-0 victory over fellow top flight team Sunderland (it was 1-0 until two late strikes gave Everton’s dominance the scoreline it deserved) with Fred Pickering and Derek Temple getting the others, a scoreline which would become familiar.
Pickering scores at Bedford
The 4th round brought a trip to Southern leaguers Bedford Town where a record crowd of 18,407 saw Everton record another 3-0 win. This time the goals came from Temple who bagged a brace, both by crosses from Alex Scott, and a header from Pickering.
The last 16 clash brought 2nd Division Coventry City to Goodison and it proved to be another straightforward 3-0 win. Again it was Temple, Pickering and Young who provided the goals whilst Brian Labone marshalled a defence which was to make it to the final without conceding a goal although their task was made easier here by Coventry deploying Ray Pointer, their most potent attacking threat, in defence.
Things got markedly tougher for the Toffees in a quarter-final encounter with Manchester City who were topping the second Division at the time and were to finish the campaign as champs. A crowd of 63,034 packed into Maine Road to see the teams (with Everton missing the injured Fred Pickering and Jimmy Gabriel) fight out a goalless draw. The replay three days later at Goodison drew another massive crowd, this time 60,349. Pickering returned in attack but again it finished with neither side able to find the net, even after extra time.
A week later the teams met again at neutral venue Molineux and City started well on top. But Catterick’s team again defended well and scored two counter-attacking goals, Pickering and Temple doing the damage in a 2-0 win.
Having seen off the sky blue half of Manchester in the last eight, Everton were paired with the red half to battle it out for a visit to the Twin Towers. United has been challenging near the top of the table but things were starting to unravel and they had been knocked out of the European Cup by Partizan Belgrade. To add to their woes, star man George Best was out through injury. Everton came into the game on the back of a 4-1 drubbing by Leeds where they were fined £2,000 and censured for fielding a weakened team.
With Pickering’s knee again giving cause for concern and with John Morrissey unwell, Catterick gave Mike Trebilcock a rare opportunity up front. Signed from Plymouth Argyle for £23,000 the previous summer, the Cornishman had himself been beset by injuries and had doubled his goal tally for the season to two with the consolation in the 4-1 defeat to Leeds. Even though Pickering felt he had done enough to prove his fitness the manager refused to take the risk, especially as this was before substitutions were allowed.
Colin Harvey’s semi-final winner
The two misfiring teams fought out a dour battle in the Burnden Park mud. Inspired by Labone, Everton contained a United attack which sorely missed Best and which had Denis Law below par. At the other end Temple set up Colin Harvey to score the vital breakthrough goal in the 79th minute. Young went close to doubling the lead when hitting Harry Gregg’s post.
Law almost grabbed an equaliser for United in the dying seconds but Harvey’s goal proved enough to send The Toffees to Wembley for the first time since 1933 when it was Dixie Dean leading them to glory.
Everton’s opponents at Wembley were Sheffield Wednesday, who were having a tough time in league action and would finish the campaign just three points clear of relegation. The Cup, as often happens with under-achieving teams, brought out the best in the Yorkshiremen.
Wednesday were drawn away in every round and managed to see off Reading, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers, all at the first time of asking, to set up a last-four clash with Chelsea.
The Londoners went into the game at Villa Park as clear favourites but goals from Graham Pugh and former Chelsea man Jim McCalliog earned Alan Brown’s men a visit to the Twin Towers.
Muhammed Ali trains – and spars with Everton fans
The Final was played on 14 May 1966, under two months before the start of the World Cup. A week after, Muhammed Ali would fight Henry Cooper at Highbury for the World Heavyweight title and Ali was watched by Everton fans as he trained in Hyde Park, whilst it was reported that Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney were among the fans at Wembley.
Wembley Way on Cup Final day
Everton’s form had deteriorated further after their semi-final success, with failure to win any of their three matches or even score a goal. Catterick;s main selection dilemma was up front and he decided to stick with Trebilcock rather thank risk Pickering’s fitness.
Mike Trebilcock – final choice
Wednesday started fast and after just four minutes McCalliog volleyed home a shot which was deflected by Ray Wilson, wrong-footing Gordon West to give them the lead. Alex Young, Everton’s ‘Golden Vision’, had an effort disallowed for offside by referee Jack Taylor. McCalliog saw a goal-bound effort blocked later in the first period and Wednesday turned around at half-time we’ll worthy of their one-goal lead.
Jim McCalliog celebrates his opener for Sheffield Wednesday
With 12 minutes gone in the second half Wednesday attacked again and the ball fell to David Ford inside the area after West had parried a John Fantham shot. Ford smashed it home to double the Owls’ advantage and seemingly put the cup out of Everton’s reach. Enter Trebilcock; there was half an hour remaining when he got his team back to within a goal and five minutes later he smashed home the equaliser after Brian Labone headed down an Alex Scott free-kick.
Run Eddie Run!
That equaliser saw a one-man pitch invasion as Evertonian Eddie Cavanagh was chased almost the full length of the pitch by a policeman, shedding his jacket along the way until he was brought crashing to earth by a rugby-tackle just as he approached the Toffees penalty area. Cavanagh was led away by police with skipper Labone and West pleading for mercy and Brian Harris donning a policeman’s hat.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock Wednesday centre-half Gerry Young slipped and failed to cut out a through-ball. Derek Temple raced onto it and slotted past a despairing dive from Ron Springett to complete an amazing turnaround and give Everton their first FA cup win since that Dean-led triumph way back in 1933.
Trebilcock and Temple with the Cup
Once the domestic season had ended there was the little matter of England’s hosting of the World Cup. Liverpool and Everton were both represented in the England squad. The Anfield men had Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan and Gerry Byrne in the squad whilst Ray Wilson was the lone representative from the blue half.
A disconsolate Pele leaves Goodison Park
Goodison Park was also one of the stadiums chosen to host matches and locals enjoyed a group which included Brazil. It proved to be a disappointing tournament for the holders and after scoring in the opener a disconsolate Pele limped off injured in his team’s 3-1 defeat to Portugal which ensured their elimination.
Eusebio gives an in-game interview during the quarter-final clash with North Korea
Meanwhile, Eusebio and Portugal romped through the group and returned for their quarter-final where they came back from a three goal deficit to see off North Korea 5-3, Eusebio bagging four. Goodison was also the venue for one of the semi-finals, and that game should have been England v Portugal. But a late switch by the F.A enabled Alf Ramsey’s team to continue using Wembley as their ‘home’, and brought the West Germany v Soviet Union tie to Merseyside.
The decision to switch the matches was termed ‘the greatest betrayal in sporting history’ by locals who demonstrated during the semi they did get to see which was played out in front of a crowd of 43,921 – Goodison’s lowest attendance of the tournament and which saw West Germany eliminate the Soviet Union. So, whilst they missed out on England, Liverpudlians did get to see Pele, Eusebio, Franz Bechenbauer and Lev Yashin in action.
Liverpudlians were denied the opportunity to see their local heroes play their part in seeing off Portugal as Hunt and Wilson, along with soon-to-be Everton star Alan Ball, who joined the club from Blackpool for a British record £110,000 fee shortly after the tournament, played a full part in England’s march to glory.
On Saturday August 13, Everton met Liverpool at Goodison to contest the Charity Shield.
A crowd of 63,329 were treated to a lap of honour with the Championship, FA Cup and World Cup (carried by Ball, Hunt and Wilson) all paraded. Both teams were almost at full strength (the exception being the inclusion of Gerry Glover in the Everton line-up, one of only three appearances he made for the club). Roger Hunt got the only goal of the game in the ninth minute.
Roger Hunt and Ray Wilson parade the Jules Rimet trophy
Later in August The Beatles would play their final concert in Candelstick Park, San Francisco and this seemed to bring about an end to Liverpool’s year of dominance. In the 1966-67 season Manchester United regained the title with Tottenham Hotspur claiming the FA Cup in a London-derby win over Chelsea. The Celtic team Liverpool had overcome in the previous year’s Cup Winners Cup took Europe by storm with European Cup success while Liverpool fell in the 2nd round to Ajax and their new star Johan Cruyff. Everton’s Cup Winners Cup quest also came to an end in the 2nd round with Spanish side Real Zaragoza proving too strong. In the intervening years both teams have, of course, enjoyed great successes both domestically and on the continent. But for Merseyside, there has never quite been another season like 1965-66.
Will it ever happen again? Liverpool are again approaching the pinnacle and Everton, with their new-found wealth, at least have the look of a typical cup team. But those two meeting for the Community Shield with England having won the World Cup? Now that’s a dream.