Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Everton travel to Ewood Park on Wednesday, nearly exactly 10 years since they made the same trip but in very different circumstances.
A quick look back at that game made me realise how bad things got for Evertonians in the 90s:
We went into the game just two points above the relegation zone with our opponents, managed by former Blue Brian Kidd, just two worse off. This was a true relegation six-pointer.
Walter Smith's first season in charge will be remembered for it's lack of goals, especially at home, and looking back it is no suprise when you look at the players we had. The team that night contained seven (yes seven) defenders. For those interested they were: John O'Kane, Richard Dunne, David Weir, David Unsworth, Craig Short, Marco Materazzi and Michael Ball.
We fell behind early on when a Jason Wilcox cross was bundled home by Ashley Ward, doom time for the Toffees.
But the Blues showed a spirit sadly lacking during most of that season and fought their way back into the game. A corner wasn't properly cleared and Weir managed to cross to the far post for Bakayoko to nod home a precious equaliser.
20 minutes into the second half, having soaked up some Rovers pressure, Don Hutcihison chested the ball down and played a perfectly weighted through ball to Bakayoko who raced onto it and clamly sidefooted the ball past John Filan into the far corner. With seven defenders on the field we should have held on comfortably, but in true Everton style we were made to bite our nails right through five agonsing minutes of stoppage before the final whistle brought relief to the Everton masses. Bakayoko was the hero and a three crucial points were making their way back to Goodison.
We still had work to do that season though, and by the end of the campaign a certain Mr Kevin Campbell and a fresh faced youngster called Franny Jeffers were the new darlings of the Gwladys Street and Bakayoko found himself on the bench.
The Ivorian, who was ace on Champ Man, got everyone excited when he signed for the Blues the previous October. Even more so when he nearly scored within seconds of his debut against Liverpool. But the stocky striker flattered to decieve and spent most of his sole year at the Blues wandering round the pitch like a lost child. It was no suprise when he was flogged off back to France in the summer.
He will, however, always be remembered for his contribution in this game, which proved so crucial in our battle to stay in the Premier League.