A poignant day in Everton’s history, April 15 will be remembered more for a game they weren’t involved in than the one they were.
Let’s look back at why it holds such significance, as well as two more recent anniversaries:
1989: Hillsborough disaster renders Blues’ semis victory unimportant
On this day 31 years ago, Pat Nevin netted the only goal as Everton beat Norwich City 1-0 at Villa Park to reach the FA Cup final. But that didn’t matter.
For meanwhile, six minutes into the other semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forests at Hillsborough, a human crush in the Leppings Lane end of the ground (occupied by Liverpool supporters), precipitated by the opening of a gate which allowed countless more people to overpopulate the stand, caused the game to be abandoned. The fatality claimed 96 lives, and injured more than 750.
Ever since, Everton have maintained a united front with their neighbours, not least in the 27-year fight for justice for the fans wrongly accused of being culpable. Then-Everton manager Colin Harvey recalled of the day:
“A couple of journalists came into the dressing room after the game looking very sombre.
“It had been a happy dressing room – a few things had filtered through about there being a delay at Hillsborough, but we had no idea about the real situation until the journalists arrived.
“It was such a terrible shock to hear that people had died, although we didn’t know how many.
“We got onto the coach and began to get the full terrible picture about what had happened by listening to the radio. We thought how it could have been the other way round and that there but for the grace of God.
“What we had just achieved went out of our minds completely. What happened transcended football. “It was no longer important – it was irrelevant.”
Indeed, for greater evidence of the remarkable solidarity on show, look no further than Everton’s next home game, which happened to be against Liverpool:
After the Hillsborough disaster, the first game back was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park, the atmosphere at half time was incredible., with @WelsbyElton & Craig Johnston joining both sets of fans in paying tribute to all the victims. pic.twitter.com/2H3QGv55RP— Toffee TV (@ToffeeTVEFC) April 15, 2020
2007: McFadden saves the day with last-gasp wonder goal
| Absolutely sublime from James McFadden #OnThisDay in 2007! #EFC pic.twitter.com/IYCJG9l0aH— Everton (@Everton) April 15, 2019
It’s 13 years ago today that a piece of wizardry from James McFadden saved Everton’s skins against later-relegated Charlton Athletic.
Everton had dominated for much of the Goodison Park clash with the Addicks, but could not break through until Joleon Lescott prodded home from yards out on 81 minutes. That, it seemed, would be that, but Darren Bent found an equaliser in the final minute of normal time. The Blues looked set to settle for a frustrating draw.
Only McFadden had other ideas. First, he picked up a stray ball from just outside the penalty area, looped it over the head of defender Madjid Bougherra, before slotting a sumptuous volley past Scott Carson.
The stunning strike not only moved Everton up one place to fifth, but would rightly go on to win the club’s own goal of the season award that year.
2017: Lukaku breaks the record with eight in a row
⚽️ | Another home game, another victory! #COYB pic.twitter.com/onuhyOrfqD— Everton (@Everton) April 18, 2017
The 3-1 win over Burnley on April 15, 2017 marked the breaking of a number of records; it was Everton’s eighth successive home Premier League win - their best such run, and was also the eighth straight home game in the league in which Romelu Lukaku scored – another club milestone.
It was also the one and only time Phil Jagielka scored for a third successive game in an Everton shirt; after goals against Manchester United and Leicester previously, the centre-half put Everton ahead just after the break with a header from a corner.
A Sam Vokes penalty drew the Clarets level, but with 20 minutes left, Ross Barkley, who had attracted criticism in a particularly scathing article in the Sun that week (leading to the Sun being banned from Goodison), regained Everton’s lead with a strike that deflected in off Ben Mee.
Lukaku then sealed the win shortly after to claim his own personal accolade of eight in a row in the league (and nine in all competitions) at Goodison, as Everton moved to fifth and within six points of Liverpool in fourth.