Bob Latchford

Bob Latchford

Millennium Giant - 1970-79

Bob Latchford was one of the leading goalscorers of his generation - at a time when the dominant force in English football lay on the opposite side of Stanley Park.

But if trophies were out of reach for Evertonians in the 1970s, the very least the long suffering fans needed was a folk hero in the true Royal Blue tradition to allow them to lift their heads in pride.

Bob Latchford became that hero.

He failed to win a single honour during his seven years on Merseyside, but his impact in earning the undying affection of Evertonians, plus his consistently reliable goalscoring record, earned him the 70s selection ahead of men like Andy King, Mike Lyons and, ironically, Howard Kendall who moved in the opposite direction to Birmingham City as part of the deal which lured Latchford to Goodison.

That package was priced at £350,000 - a British transfer record - placing instant pressure on the broad shoulders of a man recognsied as a prolific marksman.

He failed to score on his debut, or even in his next appearance at home to Coventry City.

But when he struck with his left-foot at Leicester City, past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, it sparked a torrent of goals which marked Latchford down as a centre-forward in the Dean, Lawton, Young, Hickson and Royle mould, capable of carrying on the great Everton tradition.

In six successive seasons Latchford topped Everton's club goalscoring charts, but it was the 1977-78 season, when he topped the nation's scoring charts, that Latchford really fired the public imagination.

Concerned by the apparent demise of out and out goalscorers, a national newspaper offered a £10,000 prize to the first man to score 30 League goals in a single season.

The previous man to reach such a daunting total had been Manchester City's Francis Lee - seven years previously - who included a record 13 penalty kicks in his haul.

Stats and Honours
Everton Appearances: 289
Everton Goals: 138
League Cup runner-up 1977
England caps: 12

Aided by the precise crossing skills of Dave Thomas, Latchford reached that total on April 29, 1978.

A last day of the season double against Chelsea secured the prize - with almost perfect timing - just seven days short of the 50th anniversary of Dixie Dean's 60-goal milestone.

His goals that afternoon came from a sharp header, and a penalty kick he had recently been given the responsibility for in a bid to reach the 30-goal target.

A goal poacher supreme, many of Latchford's 138 goals for Everton came from close range.

A deceptively quick sprinter over short distances, the burly six-footer possesed the uncanny ability to hang in the air to meet a cross - never better exemplified than in scoring the winning goal in the 1977 League Cup semi-final at Bolton. But diving headers were his speciality.

LatchThe Latch in action for the Blues

Time after time Latchford would fling himself at the near post to meet a driven cross - and with one flick of his forehead send the ball arrowing into the opposite corner of the net, the goalkeeper completely foxed. The dramatic extra-time equaliser at Elland Road in an FA Cup semi-final against West Ham was typical.

Billy Wright's driven cross carried sufficient power to have flashed across the penalty area before most strikers could have blinked. Latchford, however, plunged to meet the ball with his head and arrowed a perfectly placed header into The Hammers' net.

Typical of Everton and Latchford's fortunes that decade, however, West Ham swept straight back down to the opposite end of the pitch to snatch a scrappy winner.

It was a similar story in the 1977 League Cup Final trilogy. In the only domestic final to go to two replays, Latchford scored a dramatic last minute equaliser in the first replay at Hillsborough, then opened the scoring against Aston Villa in a second replay at Old Trafford. Villa came back to end normal time at 2-2, then scored an injury time extra time winner.

Until the emergence of Graeme Sharp at Goodison, Latchford lay second only to Dixie Dean in the club's all-time goalscoring charts.

It was his successful fulfillment of that goalscoring legacy which gave him such a notable place in the affections of all Evertonians.

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