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How did Everton and Liverpool's football balance of power shift?

BY Bob Waterhouse

30th Jan 2024 Sport

4 min read

How did Everton and Liverpool's football balance of power shift?
Growing up supporting Everton in the 1960s, author Bob Waterhouse examines how the decade saw a shift in power as Liverpool overtook the Toffees as the dominant Merseyside club
In his new book Liverpool Football Club Ruined My Life, Bob Waterhouse looks back at 60 years of supporting Everton in a nostalgic and personal account of the long-standing Merseyside rivalry between the football clubs Everton and Liverpool.
From the 1960s through to the present day, Waterhouse reflects on the ebbs and flows of the power balance and how Liverpool eventually emerged on top, to the author’s dismay. Alongside the football events of the decades of his fandom, Waterhouse also looks back on the major political and global events and eras.  

Everton supreme

FA Cup 1967 Liverpool vs Everton programme cover
“Anfield fans were stunned. Our own supporters were chanting at their most deafening the famous cry which has spurred us on so frequently; 'Ev-er-ton! Ev-er-ton! What’s our name?' They certainly had plenty to crow about. The soccer-crazy city belonged to them—and, of course, Harry Catterick’s men—after our victory over our closest rivals in Merseyside’s very own Cup Final.”
These words were written by 1960s Everton superhero Alex Young after the club’s FA Cup fifth round victory over city rivals Liverpool in 1967. It seemed as if the future belonged to Everton. However, it would belong to Liverpool.

Growing up on Merseyside

When I grew up on Merseyside in the 1960s it was a time of rough parity between the city’s two great football teams. In my school there were equal numbers of Everton and Liverpool fans, in contrast to a recent survey by Everton FC that found there to be twice as many Reds fans in the city now.
In fact, the year I first started supporting the team, 1963, Everton were the top dogs, having just won the league championship.

John Moores

Statues of John and Cecil Moores
They were backed by the Littlewoods pools millionaire John Moores, the Roman Abramovich of his day, giving them the tag of “The Mersey Millionaires”. However, there was a catch in this apparently generous deal; the independent Everton website, Toffeeweb, documented how Moores underwrote club expenditure rather than giving the club money:
"John Moores never put any money into the club apart from his shares purchase. What he did do was provide security for expenditure on players and provide considerable business acumen allied to a ruthless determination to succeed.
"From a financial aspect, all John Moores ever did was guarantee Everton’s overdraft—he never spent a penny on the club, but he did allow Everton to spend plenty under his control and direction—they couldn’t live beyond their means."
This model was based on the continental system and was visionary in its outlook, as official Everton statistician Gavin Buckland described:
"Whether it was intentional or not, Moores gave the impression of wanting to run the club on the lines of the continental giants—Littlewoods underwriting expenditure in the same way that, say, the Agnelli family had used their Fiat fortune to support Juventus. This was taking English football into new territory, and it was a vision that Moores reiterated when he entered the boardroom. 'We want the best players, the best managers, the best trainers, and the best directors.'
"Moores immediately brought his business expertise to bear, making the financial changes required to bring some stability—a loss of £49,504 in 1959/60 becoming a profit of £25,504 in 1960/61."
After resigning as chairman in 1965, and following a later stint in 1972/73, Moores continued to control the largest chunk of shares in the club, although he then took a back-seat role in the club until his death in 1993, when his shares were sold to Liverpool-supporting local businessman Peter Johnson. It’s an ironic fact that, in the long term, the Moores family spent more money on Liverpool FC through John Moores’ nephew David, who eventually became chairman of the club.

Everton’s potential to be the team of the 1970s

Everton's football stadium Goodison Park
Everton’s ground, Goodison Park, in the 1960s was widely regarded as the second best in the country after Wembley. During the 1966 World Cup, as well as hosting champions Brazil for their first-round matches, the ground hosted one of the semi-finals. This financial backing, in addition to Everton’s crowds being the highest in the First Division for 1962/63 and 1963/64, meant they could invest in top footballing talent, such as Alan Ball, man of the match in England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, Tony Kay, Fred Pickering, Ray Wilson (another World Cup winner) and Howard Kendall.
It also allowed them to invest in the most advanced training facility in the First Division, at Bellefield, which helped them to nurture a host of home-grown talent like Colin Harvey, Joe Royle, Tommy Wright, Alan Whittle and Brian Labone. These players were to be the core of their successful teams of the 1960s, culminating in their record points league triumph of 1969/70.
Unfortunately, this team never reached its full potential. I’ll argue that the events of late March 1971 when Everton were knocked out of both the European Cup and the FA Cup in the same week had a devastating psychological effect on the club, which it never recovered from.

Liverpool emerging triumphant

Liverpool fans
As the decade moved on, Liverpool, under the charismatic management of Bill Shankly, emerged as a team on the same level as Everton, and they were more successful in qualifying for European competition. As well as appearing in the European Cup, they played for three successive seasons from 1967 in the old European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
From 1968, for two seasons, Liverpool’s higher relative standing in the league denied Everton a place in the latter competition due to the archaic rule that only one club per city could qualify. This rule also allowed 1969 Fairs Cup winners Newcastle United to qualify for the competition, despite coming tenth in the league, compared to Everton’s fifth the previous season.
This unfortunate rule seemed to presage the future when Liverpool eclipsed Everton, and even in the 1980s, when Everton reached parity with Liverpool, the events at Heysel Stadium in May 1985 were to prevent arguably Everton’s greatest-ever team from proving their worth in the European Cup.
liverpool football club ruined my life
This is an extract from Liverpool Football Club Ruined My Life: Sixty Years of Supporting Everton by Bob Waterhouse, published by Pitch Publishing
Banner photo: A Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton in 2006 (Nigel Wilson)
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