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v Chelsea

Saturday 30 August K.O. 17:30

1981 - 2002

1981 - 2002
Stories of the Era

After the near treble-winning season, the Blues went into 1985-86 widely regarded as the best team in Europe.

And they added one of the best strikers in the continent to their fearsome line-up.

Leicester-born and bred forward Gary Lineker was brought to Goodison from Filbert Street for a fee of £800,000, which had to be settled by tribunal. Their original offer of half that amount was rebuffed, as the Foxes valued their top scorer at £1.2million - in the close season as Kendall looked to pull away from the chasing pack.

Lineker was brought in as fan's favourite Andy Gray was allowed to leave for Aston Villa, but it would take a few month's for the move to be rubber-stamped by the Blues' faithful.

The fallout from the Heysel Stadium disaster meant that the Blues were denied entry into the European Cup as champions of England, as clubs from the country were given a five-year ban by Uefa.

The Screen Sports Super Cup was a competition set up as an alternative for Everton and other leading clubs in England, with two groups of three teams.

The Club would eventually finish top of their group, beating Norwich City and Manchester United in second and third place.

But the season began in the Charity Shield, as Everton gained revenge over United for their FA Cup final extra-time defeat in May, with Trevor Steven and the fit-again Adrian Heath grabbing the only goals in front of a crowd of 82,000.

The title defence got off to a shaky start, as Lineker and his new team-mates visited his former colleagues and were duly beaten by three goals to one.

That shock reverse was quickly followed by an 'Inchy' brace  against West Brom in a 2-0 win at Goodison, but Coventry City managed to take a point away from Merseyside, before Lineker began to win over any critical Everton fans with the only goal at White Hart Lane on August bank holiday Monday.

A hat-trick and a double from the England hitman in 4-1 and 5-1 wins over Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, gave him six goals from as many games.

The results left the Blues in second-place, two points behind the only team with a 100% league record in the top flight, Manchester United.

But Gary Bannister and John Byrne left them reeling as a trip to Queens Park Rangers ended in a 3-0 defeat and by the end of September, Everton lay 13 points behind United - who had won their opening 10 games.

October saw wins in the aforementioned Screen Sports cup over Norwich and Bournemouth in the second leg of the Milk Cup to complete a 5-2 aggregate victory. They were accompanied by a 2-0 win over Oxford United in the league, but Chelsea inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Blues at Stamford Bridge.

London rivals Watford were thrashed 4-1 at Goodison a week later, but injuries to key players in the spine of the team were harming their chances of catching United at the top, as Peter Reid and Derek Mountfield interrupted their season.

Another player left the Blues' line-up altogether, as left-back John Bailey departed for Newcastle United, as Neil Pointon joined the Club.

But up top, Lineker and Graeme Sharp linked up so well that by Christmas, they had over 30 goals between them.

Four days before Christmas Day, Coventry City were beaten 3-1 at Highfield Road and then on Boxing Day, leaders United were defeated - for the fourth time in five months - by the same score, as Everton began their climb up the table.

The Coventry win began a unbeaten sequence of 18 games in all competitions - 14 of which were victories - lasting until late March. And on February 1, the revitalised Reid scored his only goal of the season to send the Blues top at Goodison.

Luton Town ended that run at Kenilworth Road on March 22, but Everton were top on goal difference over rivals Liverpool with a game in hand.

They bounced straight back from the Hatters defeat to win six of the next seven games - one the FA Cup semi-final win over Sheffield Wednesday at Villa Park and reach their third consecutive FA Cup final, as Wembley began to feel like Everton's second home!

But failure to beat mid-table Nottingham Forest at the City Ground was followed by a shock defeat by Oxford at the Manor Ground and even though Southampton were given a hiding at Goodison, Liverpool's win at Chelsea regained the title for them.

Unfortunately, solace was not to be found at the Twin Towers as the first all Merseyside cup final was won by their rivals across Stanley Park as well.

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