Words: Daniel Austin
Images: Offside Sports Photography
Despite being put into ‘managed decline’ in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Liverpool was home to two of the greatest football teams in Europe, and nobody understands what the game meant to the city better than Huyton-born Peter Reid. Here, he tells us about his experiences in Merseyside derbies as an Everton midfielder and his first appearance on the ultimate stage with England at the 1986 World Cup.
“We hadn’t beaten Liverpool in a long time going into my first derby. We’d been second best for a while, and they’d battered us at Anfield earlier in the season. In the dressing room, there was an air of confidence, though. We’d just started to turn the corner, and we had momentum. We knew we weren’t going to be overrun. We knew we could get a result.
“I was in midfield against Graeme Souness, which was as tough as it got. If you played tiddlywinks against him, it would have been competitive. I’d had lots of injuries between 21 and 26, so that served as a yardstick for me, playing against a top international like that. Not to be big-headed or blasé about it but you know when you’ve played well in a game, and I held my own against him.
“They were better in the first half and took the lead, but in the second we were pushing for the equaliser. Late on Alan Harper broke in the inside-right position and he got a great connection on his shot. It hit the net, and the Gwladys Street went wild because we were up against our local rivals, a team that was challenging in the league, the FA Cup, and the European Cup. I think there was a sense of relief mainly for Evertonians, but also a belief that they were watching a good side that would improve. I certainly had a feeling in my bones that Liverpool weren’t better than us.
“I had a great view of Sharpy’s winning volley for us at Anfield six months later. There’s a picture of the moment above the bar in my house, signed by him. What a quilt I am! It’s a black-and-white photo, but he’s in the royal blue shirt. That moment is still iconic for me now, and I look at it virtually every day of my life.
“Things were tough in Liverpool in 1984. The city had been decimated by the Tory government, and the people were downtrodden. For the all-Merseyside Milk Cup final, a lot of fans got down to London at great expense, despite being out of work. Football kept going, and when they could afford to go the game, they went, because it was something they could get a release from. That final was a chance for the people of the city to show the world what they were made of. There was extra pride being involved in a game like that.
“There’s always been a divide in attitude between the city and England, because of its make-up. It’s a port city, an immigrant city, the people look after their own, and it has an inner strength born out of what various people have tried to do it over the years.
"I’m of Irish descent, and my grandfather was in the uprising, so I’ve got an affinity with Ireland, but I was born in England, and it’s my country. Pulling on the shirt and looking down at the Three Lions badge is one of the proudest moments of my life.
“My first World Cup game was against Poland at Mexico ‘86. We were far from home, but we were aware that lots of negative press was written about us. The adrenaline was pumping because we knew what the game meant to the whole country. I enjoy pressure, but this was something else.
“We played in Monterrey which is a desert town, so it was about 100 degrees, but there were privets around the stadium. I looked up and saw a Union Jack with HUYTON BOYS ON TOUR emblazoned on it, and I thought, “Someone’s taking the fucking piss here.” I’m playing in Mexico, the most important game of my life, we’re under pressure to get a result… but it was like being back at the King George V playing fields in Huyton. I was laughing as we walked out.
“Gary Lineker had missed three fucking one-on-ones against Oxford United which had cost Everton the league, and he’d had a bad start to the World Cup, but then he came up with the goods and scored a hat-trick to put us through. At full time there was a massive sense of euphoria. We were through, and we wanted to win the next one to show people what we could do.
“I never had a problem with big games. That might be to do with my personality; I’m outgoing. I loved finals and semifinals and the sense that we had to fight to win something. I was afraid of getting beat, but I always looked forward to them.
The advice I’d give to players before big games is dead easy, enjoy it. My first manager Ian Greaves said that to me. He was a Busby Babe; Matt had said it to him. And if it comes from the great Matt Busby, I reckon it’s good advice.”