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On This Day in Everton History: May 15th | Delight in Rotterdam

35 years ago today, one of the Blues’ finest hours arrived in the Netherlands

The Everton team pose for a photograph
Everton beat Rapid Vienna to win the European Cup Winner’s Cup on this day in 1985

Today marks 35 years since that unforgettable night in Rotterdam, Netherlands, when Howard Kendall led Everton to European Cup Winner’s Cup glory as the Blues outclassed Rapid Vienna in the final.

Fresh from romping to the First Division title - a league they would go on to win by gaping 13-point margin - Everton travelled to Holland with an unprecedented treble still firmly in their sights; after this excursion, there was the small matter of an FA Cup final with Manchester United three days later.

Far-fetched as it may seem for the younger generation of Evertonians, who treasure memories like semi-final and rare derby wins as the pinnacle of their supporting lives, this was an era when the Blues looked like genuine world-beaters.

Andy Gray of Everton
Andy Gray was on target on that night in Rotterdam

Neville Southall was in his prime between the sticks. Kevin Ratcliffe, who made no less than 61 appearances that year, marshalled the defence supremely. Six players managed to net double figures, too, including 30-goal man Graeme Sharp and the talismanic Andy Gray. Truly, Everton were a force to be reckoned with.

From ending 1983 in 16th, to the sharp upturn in form in 1984 culminating in the FA Cup final win over Watford, to the 28-game unbeaten run in 1984-85 in all competitions, Kendall had overseen some transformation at Goodison Park. And after clinching the title with ease a week earlier, this was the icing on the cake.

In truth, Rapid Vienna seemed inferior to Everton’s semi-final opponents, Bayern Munich, and did not even win the Austrian Bundesliga that year. But speaking to evertontv in 2003, Kendall recalled how he reiterated the need to take their adversaries lightly:

“I had seen Rapid Vienna and was very confident we would win, but I didn’t want to pass any over-confidence to the players because anything can happen in a final.

“We were determined to go all the way in the competition. To be manager for the club’s first European trophy is special and the occasion was absolutely unbelievable.

“The stadium was a sea of blue, and when Kevin Ratcliffe lifted the trophy that was number two [for the season].”

Indeed, Everton may have deserved their victory, but it certainly took its time arriving. Not until 57 minutes, after Kevin Sheedy and Paul Bracewell had came mightily close and Andy Gray had a goal ruled out for offside, did the dominant Blues break the deadlock.

A misjudged back-pass from Peter Hristic sold goalkeeper Michael Konsel short, allowing Sharp to round Konsel from a tight angle, before squaring to Gray to tap into an empty net and send the blue sea in Rotterdam into raptures.

And soon after a magnificent piece of skill from Trevor Steven forced an incredible save from Konsel, the winger made amends by doubling Everton’s lead, firing home at the back post from a corner which drifted all the way through the penalty area.

The Austrians halved the deficit with five minutes left through Hans Frankl, but their joy was short-lived; 60 seconds later, Everton were back ahead by two as Sheedy slotted perfectly into the roof of the net.

And that would be it; one of Everton’s finest hours etched into history forever. The Blues may have been sent back to earth three days later with the FA Cup final defeat to United, and Evertonians might forever ponder what might have been if not for the European ban on English clubs following the 1985 Heysel disaster, but they will always have this night to remember. When for once, Everton looked like one of the best teams in the world.