Recent anniversaries recall glory days and club legends

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesWednesday marks the seven year anniversary of the passing of Everton legend Brian Labon who died at age 66.

Constantly smashing against the proverbial glass ceiling, there is a sense of frustration among Everton supporters when a season approaches the closing stretch. Stuck on the European periphery, year after year, there is a prevailing sense of what might have been. The occasional cup run lifts fans, but the 2009 FA Cup final is the only time Everton have troubled their 18-year trophy drought.

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Unfortunately, recent generations are yet to witness a truly successful Everton side. Any supporter growing up in the 1990s has seen a club closer to relegation than silverware; two final day survivals are the grim highlights with the 1995 FA Cup victory providing the only recent relief.

With this campaign set to join the list of near misses, recent anniversaries allow fans to hark back to the heady successes of the 60s and 80s. As Bayern Munich destroyed Barcelona yesterday, Everton fans could gleefully recall their team doing likewise to Bayern in the 1980s. On 24th April 1985, after a hard-fought goalless draw in the Olympic Stadium, Everton welcomed the German giants to Goodison for the European Cup Winners Cup semifinal.

Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Everton were 45 minutes away from defeat. Backed by the raucous majority of the 49,476 inside Goodison -- the gate almost 20,000 up on the previous home league game -- Howard Kendall gave the simplest and most effective team talk of his managerial career.

Attacking the Gwladys Street in the second half, Kendall offered one instruction, "Get the ball into their box and the Gwladys Street will suck the ball into the net"; and they did, three times. Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray turned the tie around and a smart Trevor Steven goal sealed a place in the final. The rest, as they say, is history. Everton beat Rapid Vienna 3-1 in Rotterdam to secure the trophy.

Fast-forward 21 years and April 24th marks another anniversary. Sadly, on this day in 2006, club legend Brian Labone passed away aged 66. A one-club man, Labone made 504 appearances -- the most by an outfield player in Everton history. Only legendary goalkeeper Neville Southall boasts more appearances for the Blues.

Dubbed 'the last of the Corinthians' by former manager Harry Catterick, Labone captained Everton to FA Cup success in 1966 and a league title in 1970, thereby securing his legendary status; a status further cemented when echoing his most famous sentiment, "Don't forget lads -- one Evertonian is worth 20 Liverpudlians".

Joining from school, the defender was Everton through and through. This was best emphasised during an interview. When asked what Everton meant to him, Labone simply replied "everything", before welling up with tears and asking the cameraman to halt filming.

Similarly, tomorrow marks another sombre anniversary, as 25th April marks the six years since the death of Alan Ball; Ball passed away on 25th April 2007 at the age of 61. Joining Everton in August 1966, the flame haired midfielder formed a formidable partnership with Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall; the trio became known as 'the Holy Trinity'.

Players often talk about the affect Everton had on them and Ball was no different. Outlining his abiding Everton memory, Ball said, "I remember being completely overwhelmed with emotion on one particular Saturday when I got two goals against Liverpool. I was running back to the centre-circle after I scored the second one and pure elation welled up inside me. I remember thinking: 'I just love this place -- I want this forever.' Once Everton has touched you, nothing will be the same."

Despite his wish to remain at Everton, the midfielder spent less than six years at the club. Wanting nothing more than to stay at his adopted home, a reluctant Ball joined Arsenal in December 1971. Although wearing white boots at a time when few dared, the trendsetter allowed his football to do the talking and those who saw him play are sure to recall one of the finest midfielders in Everton history.

Recalling the finest moments from yesteryear, the onus is on the current crop to provide similar memories for this and future generations. As the rebuilding process continues over the summer, fans in need of a lift can always pass the time with recollections from the glory days. After all, once upon a time, there was certainly enough of them.

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