Everton’s holiday double against the Reds

Wednesday, December 27 – 1939
Had anyone six months ago prep healed the time would come when a Christmas gate between Everton and Liverpool would be regarded as satisfactory. If it touched 8,000 spectators, we should like little Audrey, have laughed and laughed and laughed. War has caused a read judgment of values. Today 8,000 gates open up visits of hope to clubs that normally would sniff at anything below 25,000. Everton and Liverpool have done reasonably well from their holiday games.

A gross gate of about £800 from the two friendly matches is a welcome addition to depleted coffers. If either club could rely on a thriller return from each home match neither would grumble. Unfortunately, they can’t. Liverpool and Everton supporters, usually the most loyal of any in the country are not backing up their teams in the Regional competition as anticipated.

By comparison with London team’s attendances here have fallen 50 per cent lower. The mixture of the ex-Third and First Division clubs cannot be the reason, for the Southern regions are in the same boat. It is strange state of affairs when clubs of the standing of the city’s two seniors should be receiving a bigger “cut” from away gates at Third Division grounds than they are getting from their own home matches, but such has sometimes been the case this season.

The seriousness of the position was indicated by a remark made to me by a Liverpool director. In the absence of some improvement in the second half of the season, he hinted that the club might have to consider very seriously the advisability of continuing in war time football. So far the public has failed to responded to the many arguments advanced in favour of Regional football. Or to the undoubted fact that the competition is producing some excellent games.

Maybe the possibility that they may lose the chance of seeing football altogether will bring realisation of the fact that without adequate support no club can keep its door open indefinitely. For the next couple of months both Everton and Liverpool will pad out their Regional programme with alternate friendly fixtures. I hope both classes of games will be sufficiently supported to course the clubs will at least make ends meet at the conclusion of the season. If they do that they will be well satisfied. Neither is anxious so do any more.

Art Of Penalty Taking.
So many penalty kicks are missed these days through the taker’s desire to tear away the back netting that it was a joy to see Matt Busby score Liverpool’s only goal in their second friendly meeting at Goodison Park yesterday. I never did see the necessity for the all-power shot when a nicely placed shot would do just as well. Busby strolled up to the ball as though it was that an ordinary free-kick to be placed to a certain spot, and he put it just where he wanted it, where Ted Sagar was not. Stan Eastham had taken one some minutes before, but he banked on strength and the ball flew straight above Sagar’s head, the goalkeeper making a grand save.

That was the difference. Eastham gave Sagar a chance, Busby give him none. This return game was not nearly so good as the one on Christmas morning. There was not the high standard of football about it. Plenty of endeavour, yes, but little else. For fifteen minutes Liverpool promised a lot with Berry Nieuwenhuys’s hot shooting, but gradually the game became rather dull and “draggy.” Everton scored their first goal through Wally Boyes just before the interval, while at the hour Boyes again beat down the Liverpool defence after Kemp had saved from Bell, and was unable to recover to be ready for the rebound.

Half-Backs Supreme.
Both teams showed changes and perhaps the welter of football which the majority of the players had indulged in over the week-end was responsible for the moderate play. Two men stood out, both half-backs. Busby and Jones did everything known to the football handbook, and when Jackson had to retire with a damaged the Jones then took on two men’s work and did it well.

Herman Van Den Berg had a poor game. George Jackson was his master. George Leadbetter did uncommonly well in the first half, giving Norman Greenhalgh many anxious moments. Cyril Done was blotted out by Tommy Jones, but he need not worry about that, for the Welshman has suffered out many other centre forwards of international reputation. Tom Bush, without producing the skill of Jones kept the Bunny Bell on a light vein.

Worth While.
It was well worth getting up early to see what the city seniors provided in the way of Christmas gifts at Anfield. There has rarely been a more satisfying match from them –in the nature of a stocking full of “goodness” with no variety missed. The goals were good, the general play all through from both sides was excellent, and the finale in which Everton snatched a third and winning goal after being down two-nil, was the rounding-off of a memorable meeting.

While the sides were plainly playing pure football as well as they knew how the game did not warm up to any extent. Willie Fagan juggled with head and feet to score a truly remarkable individual goal, and then when he glided in a Van Den Berg centre in the second half it look as good as over. It was only when Everton scored that they seemed to sense their chances of recovery.

Tommy Lawton, Tom Jones (a penalty) and the young Northwich winger Fred Sweeney added their quote and once again Liverpool had suffered the might of their neighbourly rivals. The match was worth anyone’s money, for Tom Jones’s almost uncanny centre half back play and for characteristic displays by Busby and Tommy Cooper. It was not Cooper’s fault that Everton’s rally succeeded, nor was it Busby’s that the front line did not get goals.

Both “Nivvy” and Van Den Berg were very much below their normal standard, however, and well as Len Carney played, the lack of wing power was too great a handicap. Particularly was this so in view of the fact that Jones had alongside Joe Mercer and Gordon Watson.
(Liverpool Echo, 27-12-1939)

Matt Busby, Liverpool F.C.
Matt Busby Liverpool

Tommy Jones, Everton F.C.


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