While the dynamics of our two-man city are different from other cities across the country, the age-old rivalry that caused Merseyside’s colors to change for years was often seen as more trouble than it’s worth.
Transfers through Stanley Park do not happen too often and for good reason.
Twenty years ago today, Nick Barmby scored one of the most controversial – and celebrated – goals in the history of Merseyside Derby.
And some seem almost destined to bring moments onto the field that Hollywood screenwriters would dismiss as too far-fetched.
Football transfers have changed in the modern era, however, as clubs have become sharper and are able to refresh things regularly due to the huge sums of money involved in the game.
But in the summer of 2000, Nick Barmby was Everton’s best player.
Nick Barmby’s transfer from Everton to Liverpool certainly falls into this category.
The last player to move in this direction was Dave Hickson in 1959, and although there had been a number of individuals such as David Johnson, Steve McMahon, Kevin Sheedy, Alan Harper and Gary Ablett who had eventually played for “the others,” none of them had been considered at the height of their powers at the time of their transfers (although in retrospect some Liverpoolers would dispute this with respect to Peter Beardsley after his move to Everton in the summer of 1991).
Although Everton finished twelfth in 1999/2000 after a tame final, they had flirted at times during the campaign with an advance to Europe. After a 4-0 win at West Ham on the last Saturday in February, in which Barmby scored a hat-trick, they finished seventh, just eight points behind neighbors Liverpool and Arsenal, who were battling for the important third place that would have meant qualification for the Champions League at the time.
After arriving from Middlesbrough in October 1996 for a record club fee of £5.75 million, Barmby had established himself as a key figure at Goodison in the difficult final months of Joe Royle’s era, in Howard Kendall’s shattering third term when relegation was averted only on the last day of the 1997/98 season, and then in the stabilisation of the club under Walter Smith.
Just ten days after the 3-2 defeat to Romania, in which England were eliminated from the tournament after the group stage, Barmby, who had served as a substitute in two of the three games Kevin Keegan’s side had played in the Low Countries, expressed what Everton’s chairman Bill Kenwright later called “the six worst words in the English language”: “I want to play for Liverpool.
Hopes were high that Smith’s side would continue to play with a prudent recruitment from the European Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands this summer, but in fact Euro 2000 proved to be the exact opposite.
According to reports, he had held talks with Everton prior to the summer tournament about a new deal that would have made him the club’s highest paid player, and the Blues hierarchy was shocked by the change of course, as managing director Mike Dunford claimed: “We have fulfilled all of Nicky’s wishes in the new contract. But one can say that his re-entry into the English squad has complicated things.
Bill Kenwright made a final offer to convince him to stay with Goodison, but Walter Smith confirmed that the player had his heart set on a move to Anfield.
“With his contract now running for a year, the club is obviously in an uncomfortable position.
“We have made every attempt to keep the player’s services, but after a series of meetings the player has finally indicated that he wants to leave the club.
“After discussions between myself, Bill Kenwright, the player and his agent, Nick Barmby has expressed his desire to leave Everton,” Smith said.