April 2, 1945
Liverpool, Merseyside’s most successful wartime club, are once again left to shoulder the banner of the area in the North War Cup. Upsetting the odds in their tie with Everton, while Wrexham and Crewe Alexandra were taking the “k.o.,” Liverpool now face Manchester City, the side who put paid to the Reds cup ambitions last season.
The first “leg” of the tie will be staged at Anfield next Saturday, and Matt Busby will be here to lead the team.
The pairing of the Reds and City brings back memories of their clash at Anfield last season, which has gone down to history as “the marathon tie.” There were so many extra periods that we all became a little dizzy before Alex Herd won the match for City.
This time we shall conclude the tie at Maine Road, the match clashing with the Scotland v England duel at Hampden Park, so that Liverpool will be without Matt Busby and Billy Liddell for certain, and probably Jim Harley and Willie Fagan as well.
Busby, I can tell you, definitely will captain Scotland, who are thinking seriously of giving the centre-forward position to Liddell. Scotland will also have a new centre-half in John Harris, of Chelsea.
One must spare a spot of sympathy for Everton that they have passed out of the cup so early –the outcome of the luck of the pairing and Liverpool’s great defence –but there is consolation in plenty in the fact that the two games brought in gates of such amazing dimensions.
I anticipated that the total receipts for the games would be about £5,000 I was wrong, for they added up to more than £7,000. The aggregate figures of the two attendances was 91,169 no fewer than 51,512 packing into Goodison on Saturday for the finest club gate of the season. It was also the record attendance for any wartime “Derby” and one of the greatest club crowds of the whole war. And out of the two ties the players received exactly £561. There seems to be something out of proportion there, but May 7 may after all that, for then the clubs meet to talk things over.
After Saturday’s game Mr. William McConnell the Liverpool chairman expressed sorrow that Everton had passed out of the Cup so early but gave thanks for two fine games. Mr. Will Gibbins, the Everton chairman said that the wish of ever Evertonian for Liverpool to go on and win the Cup. And so say all us.
Apart from the usual match discussions the principal topic afterwards was the vacancy on the Everton directorate due to be filled at next annual meeting. There were four possible candidates present at the match, and the “electioneering” has started, make no mistake. However, the Everton club has taken no action and will not do so until nominations have closed – on May 1. The Board will then refer the matter to the shareholders for they contend and rightly, that it is purely a matter for the shareholders, I could give you the four names right away, but in fairness to them and the club, am convinced that it is best for all of we wait until Secretary Mr. Theo Kelly announces the nominees after closing day. And I have a feeling that the candidates as well as the directors and shareholders would much prefer it if in these difficult times and election could be avoided. I think it will be.
Major honours of a pulse-tingling match went to that grand Liverpool defence which stood up to 80 minutes hammering without ever showing a sign of wilting. That Everton failed to get even one goal for all that attacking was due principally to the wonder work of Matt Busby and company and to their own shyness in shooting.
There were so many stars in the game that one anticipated a galaxy of goals, but in a shooting respect, the stars forget to shine. Everton lost partly because there was too much of the “After-You-Cecil, no-after-you Claude” complex when it came to finishing an attack.
The desire of the Blues to make doubly sure by an extra pass played slap-bang into the hands of a Liverpool defence a split second quicker on the ball than the Everton attackers. I am not detracting from the skill of Alf Hobson, Jack Westby, Jeff Gulliver, Laurie Hughes and Harry Kaye – as they were heroes – when I say that it was the master mind of Matt Busby which really co-ordinated the defence into such a formidable “pill-box.”
Busby’s influence in a crisis could be seen time after time, and he regimented his colleagues so cleverly that even if a loophole occurred it was only momentary. It was positional defence brought to a fine art. On top of all that Busby made it his especial duty to back up Laurie Hughes in the effective watching of Tommy Lawton.
Time after time Busby was there to cover Hughes and on many occasions he swept in with a power intervention at Lawton’s expense so that long before the end the game’s leading goal-getter seemed to know that it was his day. That made Lawton make mistakes which would never have been in ordinary circumstances. Lawton’s heart was broken by the brilliance of Busby and Hughes.
There was nothing wrong with Everton’s approach work so persistently built up by Grant and Watson, but when it came to the final touches they lost their way. Hobson made certain that he was first to any cross from the wing and by the time the quick-as-lightning Billy Liddell had slipped through to take the only goal in 73 minutes, Everton’s hopes of survival had evaporated.
Liverpool’s triumph was all the more meritorious because for an hour they played with practically ten men. Berry Nieuwenhuys was injured, and so was merely a passenger on the wing. This so upset the attack that it became a department of individuals rather than a combined body. Liddell remained up with Reg Cumner, but Don Welsh and Jack Campbell came back to throw in their lot with the boys who so resolutely followed the pre-match plan of “hold what we have.” And hold it they did.
It was a quick breakaway that brought the goal. Cumner helping Liddell away, and I think the semi-turned shot rather deceived Burnett. There was nothing wrong with the Everton defence, in fact, Mercer made everything in the air his own, and diligently made great efforts to utilise every clearance in a constructive way. Jackson was grand again, and Greenhalgh had a fine game in a match bringing back all the pre-war thrills and with enthusiasts swarming over the walls into the ground; up the pillars into the stands, and crowding the touching until the police so discreetly enticed them back.
From a football viewpoint some of the choicest work came from Gillick and Stevenson in their adroit ball control, and easy movements to position – one these points move between them and Lawton was as good as anything in the game – while Wainwright and McIntosh were sound in their infiltration although lacking, as did their colleagues, the vital shot. Lawton was troubled with a groin injury, but how he and Gillick missed two or three opportunities must remain a mystery.
Some aver that Liverpool were lucky to pull through, but I do not see any sound judgement in that. Liverpool won because they could do what they set out to do –stop the Everton scoring menace. And the manner of its doing was masterly. Let us talk of Liverpool now being cup favourites, but if they can secure a three or four goal lead over City next Saturday we shall be feeling pretty sanguine.
(Evening Express: April 2, 1944)