Blessed With Balance
It is something of a footballing cliché that 11 great players don’t always make a great team.
Broadcaster John Keith watched Harry Catterick’s Everton romp to title success in 1962/63 and witnessed, as far as he was concerned, the blending of a peerless assortment of stars into one of the finest sides ever to walk out at Goodison Park.
Blessed with players who would dutifully and unselfishly commit to their given role, Catterick’s side outfought and outplayed their rivals on the road to earning the Club its first – and perhaps most significant - English crown of the post-war era.
Having endured relegation for only the second time in 1951, doubts had set in. Supporters wanted to know if Everton could ever re-establish themselves as the dominant force they had been pre-1939, in the early decades of the game and the golden years of Dixie Dean.
Having heaved themselves back into the First Division in 1954, spirits lifted. Yet four seasons of mediocrity followed and in 1961 the Club turned to Catterick, though only after chairman John Moores had ruthlessly dispensed of predecessor Johnny Carey in the back of a London taxi cab.
The move, however, proved wise. It was Catterick, Everton’s former defender, who would expertly assemble the elements and ensure the greatest Toffees successes were not those of the past but instead landmarks of the future.
“When Everton won the title in 1962/63, the team's balance was one of its secrets,” remembers Keith. “It really was a wonderful ‘team’. There's always a dispute whether that team, the 69/70 team or the mid-80s team were the best.
“They were all great sides. The 62/63 team had Billy Bingham and Alex Scott on the wing, Derek Temple too. They were all international wingers - Irish, Scottish and English. Alex Scott and Billy sort of rotated and I think they played about half the games each that season. And, of course, Alex Young was in there too.
“Brian Labone, what can you say about him? He was just a wonderful, commanding centre-half who could really play football as well.
“There were also players who were quite direct. Temple played all across the front line during his Everton career, including centre forward. So he could roam all across the field, play down either side or down the middle.
“So the team was versatile in itself, it was adaptable and it could change to combat certain situations at will.”
An integral part of Catterick’s creation, defender Mick Meagan agrees.
“The wonderful thing about the team was that there were about four different types of player,” he says. “Dennis Stevens, for example, was a hard worker. He'd be up and down, and that was great for Roy Vernon and Alex Young.
“They never had to worry about tracking back because Dennis was doing that for them. We weren't all alike, we were so different. And that was key.”
Driven to succeed, Catterick’s irrepressible unit sat out one of the coldest winters in history warmed by the knowledge that title glory remained well within their grasp.
Seven weeks the Blues went without a league fixture due to the cold, normal service eventually resuming in mid-February.
A mixed March was followed up by an unbeaten April before wins over Bolton and West Bromwich Albion cemented the Club’s seat at the top of the First Division table.
It meant victory against Fulham on Saturday 11 May would end over two decades of hurt and reservation and give Everton the status of league champions for the sixth time in their history.
It duly arrived, Vernon bagging a hat-trick to propel his side on their way to an unforgettable 4-1 win.
“The title hadn't been seen on Merseyside since the first season after the war when Liverpool won it, having taken it off Everton, the last champions before the war,” says Keith. “So it was a long wait and certainly Everton fans were excited by it.
“There was a joyful, fantastic atmosphere I remember, and it was a wonderful display to defeat Fulham and secure the trophy. It was just a tremendous achievement to end all those blank and baron years.
“Everton had been down in the old Second Division since they'd last been crowned league champions, so you can imagine the great flood of celebration and relief in a way.
“Personally, I wouldn't like to say which was the best of Everton’s three title winning teams because they were all fantastic. But you have to say that 1962/63 team was the one that broke the barrier and brought the title back to Everton in modern times.
“And for that, they deserve every credit.”