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Der Ball ist Rund

THE draw for the Champions League and UEFA Cup takes place later this week. It will lead to some Evertonians looking back to that disastrous night in Bucharest, which came 40 seasons after our first trip in European competition to Eastern Europe.

The recently published book, Der Ball ist Rund, Everton in Europe 1962-2005 (which is 260 pages long, we may add) has 25 chapters on all the ties Everton have played. The author, Mike Owen, will be selling

the book, price £7.99, outside the church BEFORE the West Ham, Bolton and future home games.

Here are extracts from Chapter 7 on our visit to Hungary in November 1965 to play in the first leg of the second round of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, which was the forerunner of the UEFA Cup:

IT WAS Everton’s first trip behind the Iron Curtain. But what made it a really intriguing prospect was the challenge of playing a Hungarian club. Being drawn in the second round of the Fairs Cup to play Ujpest Dozsa threw up images of the Mighty Magyars, the nickname given to the Hungarian national team that had thrashed England 6-3 in 1953, becoming the first foreign team to beat England at Wembley. A return game had been hastily arranged in Budapest to give England the

opportunity to salvage national pride. Hungary won 7-1. The two defeats led to much hand-wringing and soul-searching among the football pundits of the 1950s who endlessly discussed the Hungarians’s new tactic of the deep-lying centre-forward, the pioneer being Nandor Hidegkuti, which left the two inside forwards – Kocsis and Puskas – as the main thrust of the attack. It was the beginning of the 4-2-4 and 4-4-2 formations and certainly flummoxed England.

However one major factor overlooked at the time was that in both games there was not one Everton player in the England team. A rule of thumb, which became more apparent in 1966, 1970 and 1986, is that England only ever have a prayer when Everton are doing well. But Hungary were blessed with a generation of superbly skilful footballers and the political system at the time was conducive to maximising those talents.

Following the end of the Second World War, many countries in Eastern Europe came under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), run from the Kremlin in the Russian capital Moscow. In keeping with the logic of soviets – workers’ councils – the authorities encouraged team identities to be based less on localities and more on aspects of the workers’ state. Teams named Torpedo were of the car-building and truck industry; Red Star denoted sports clubs of the national army; Lokomotiv were teams of the railway sector. Dynamo was a name usually given to teams of the Interior Ministry or secret

police. One can only imagine what names would have applied to English clubs if the Russians had ever taken over here. Given our post-war dip in fortunes, we may have become Torpedoed Everton….

….It was clear that Everton would need to be at their best in Budapest. So there was some concern when it emerged that Harry Catterick would have to miss the trip due to illness. Left in charge of the team was

the trainer Tommy Eggleston. Of course, today he would have been described as the assistant coach. He took a 15-man squad that comprised the team that started against Blackburn the previous Saturday – with the exception of Jimmy Gabriel who had picked up an injury – plus Sandy Brown, Dennis Stevens, reserve keeper Geoff Barnett, 19-year-old Gerry Glover and 18-year-old Jimmy Husband….

….Ten days earlier Everton coach Ron Lewin had travelled to Hungary to watch Ujpest so the Blues had a good idea of what to expect. The Blues began by getting men behind the ball but the Hungarian

trickery, both on and off the ball, was to be too much. Johnny Morrissey did have a chance in the opening minutes after breaking free but his shot went over the bar. Ujpest had their first clear chance on goal after nine minutes and it fell to Egor Solymosi, a big, strapping wing half with a deft touch and a powerful shot to which he could add a vicious swerve.His shot from outside the box was said to have hit the net while Andy Rankin was still airborne.

The ball control and passing of Ujpest was clearly from the mould of the Magyars. Midway through the first half, Solymosi undid Everton again. He took a free kick from outside the box and hit it low and

hard. It beat Rankin but Tommy Wright was on the line and blocked the shot. However the ball fell to 20-year-old Bene who slotted it home from close range.

It was 2-0 at half-time and the Blues were facing their first heavy defeat in Europe. The Hungarians’ control and passing was a joy to watch but sadly there was only around 5,000 spectators in the ground. From a typical piece of interplay between Bene and Gorocs, Zambo was given the space to put over a cross which struck a blue shirt. The ball fell to the impressive Kuharsky who shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-0. The Hungarians seemed to take their foot off the

pedal after that….

….Fred Pickering had scored against all of the three teams Everton had played in Europe last season, but had not found the Nuremburg net and he was given little leeway in Hungary, although he did win the ball in the air to create chances for Brian Harris and Derek Temple but their efforts were to no avail….

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NSNO Staff

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