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The Merseyside Derby: History of the fixture.

This weekend marks the 243rd edition of the Merseyside Derby, a fixture that is the second most-played in top-flight history (only second to Everton vs Aston Villa) as well as being the most-played derby in top-flight English Football, having been continuously played in the top division since 1962-63 season.

It is a fixture which is steeped in the history of English football and it all started back in 1878, when a team called St Domingo FC was founded by St Domingo Methodist New Connexion Chapel, just off Breckfield Road North in Everton. A year later St Domingo’s FC was renamed to what we now know as Everton.

Everton originally played their games in the southeast corner of Stanley Park until 1884 when Everton was moved into a new ground – Anfield. Anfield was the home of Everton FC between 1884 and 1892.

Due to an increase in rent every year, Everton’s landlord deemed the increase unacceptable, and in 1892 the first purpose-built football stadium was built in England as Everton moved to their home now synonymous with the club, Goodison Park.

The chairman at the time, John Houlding had a huge dispute over Everton losing their original ground Anfield and other issues which led to a fallout with the club’s committee. Following the move to Goodison, Houlding attempted to take over Everton’s name, colours, fixtures, and league position but was denied by the FA. Houlding was forced to form a new football club to play at Anfield, Liverpool FC – who were officially founded in 1892.

Everton and Liverpool first faced each other on 13th October 1894, a game in which the Toffees ran out 3-0 winners at Goodison Park. The clubs were now and have been separated by just a park, with less than a mile separating Goodison Park and Anfield Stadium.

In 1935, the biggest win in this fixture took place, a 6-0 win for Liverpool. The 1950s probably saw the darkest time for both Merseyside clubs as Everton were condemned to their second and most recent relegation in 1951, finishing bottom. Just three seasons they spent out of the top division, and the ultimate irony occurred as when Everton were promoted in 1954, Liverpool went the opposite way and were relegated to the second division.

Almost unbelievably Everton and Liverpool did not play each other in the top division for 8 years as Liverpool’s spell in the second tier dragged on until 1962 when Liverpool were promoted back to the top-flight under Bill Shankly. Everton marked their return to the top-flight by winning the league, but Liverpool followed suit and won the league the year after.

Everton won the league in 1970 however that was the end of any success for a long time for the Toffees and an era of supreme dominance by the Reds. Liverpool dominated the Merseyside scene in football, winning the league five times between 1970 and 1980. The Reds also claimed European glory by winning the European Cup back-to-back in 1977 and 1978.

Everton were left in the shadows really, being largely mediocre in the 1970s, where aside from the title win in 1970, they reached just one cup final in that time, the 1977 League Cup Final, which they lost to Aston Villa.

The 1980s were a time when both clubs stood up and were seen as the best of the best, as Liverpool and Everton started to dominate the English game. Liverpool won another two European cups in 1981 and 1984 and beat Everton in the League Cup Final in 1984.

Everton ended their 14-year trophy drought by winning the 1984 FA Cup, which was the catalyst for them to compete with Liverpool.

They finally ended the league title drought in 1985, in the sweetest way, taking the crown from their fiercest rivals. Everton also added a Cup Winners’ Cup medal to make it an excellent double; they missed the opportunity to make it a treble as they lost the FA Cup Final to Manchester United.

The following season Liverpool hit the ultimate sucker punch, winning the league back off Everton in 1986, beating them narrowly by two points to reclaim the title. Not only did they win the league but also completed the double on Everton’s head. As in the first-ever Merseyside Derby FA Cup Final, Liverpool came from behind to beat Everton 3-1 at Wembley to complete a double and leaving a very good Everton team, with nothing.

Everton reclaimed the title in 1987 to win their ninth and most recent to date. Liverpool went on to win two more in 1988 and 1990 but it was in 1989 when rivalry was put aside, as the Hillsborough Disaster which claimed the lives of 97 fans were honoured by both teams who have always stood in unity for justice for the victims.

This led to an emotional 1989 FA Cup Final as Everton and Liverpool met again in the showpiece event just over a month after the disaster. In an emotion-filled game off the pitch, it was a thriller on the pitch with Liverpool winning 3-2 in extra time.

History was made in the cup final as Stuart McCall became the first player to score two goals in an FA Cup final from the bench, a record that was matched two minutes after his second goal when Ian Rush scored his second from the bench to claim Liverpool’s third and his brace.

They both have failed to live up to their dominance of the eighties as Liverpool have won just one league title since 1990 (2020) and Everton have not won the title since 1987. Liverpool have of course been the more successful club domestically in the Premier League era as Everton have an ongoing trophy drought running back to the 1995 FA Cup success. Often taunted by their neighbours, about their drought.

The Premier League era has seen Liverpool dominate this fixture, winning 27 of the Merseyside derbies to Everton’s 10. Everton have only won four derbies in the league since the turn of the 21st century. Since the Premier League dawned in 1992 this fixture has seen more red cards than any other, with them sharing 22 red cards, for a ‘friendly derby’ as it’s often known – this fixture has seen some mean and woeful tackles.

Everton have an awful record at Anfield winning just three times there in the Premier League era, most recently in 2021. Liverpool have won the last two Anfield derbies 2-0.

Dyche’s men will be hoping there will be a shock on the cards and hoping the Toffees can claim an unlikely win at Anfield. Liverpool are certainly heavy favourites having started the season strong – by half past two on Saturday we will know who will have bragging rights, on Merseyside.

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