Young And Vernon - The Lethal Duo
They were the curse of defenders up and down the land, the double act which fired Everton to championship glory in 1962/63.
Roy Vernon and Alex ‘The Golden Vision’ Young were the most feared strikeforce of that era. Individually they were prolific and together devastating.
Everton netted 84 goals en route to Division One glory and 46 - over half - were scored by the deadly duo.
They were described as the ‘perfect blend’ by teammate Derek Temple; Young, a powerful marksman with a commanding aerial presence, Vernon a natural finisher possessing a lightning-quick turn of pace.
“They kept opposition teams on their toes,” hailed Temple, fondly recalling the way in which the tightest of defences crumbled in the face of Everton’s formidable forward line.
“They were both great on the ball and had great control. They would play one-twos and they would always make it look as though they were going to give it to one another and then go the other way.
“Alex played more as a centre-forward and he was probably a better all-round player in my opinion. He had this great timing when he went up for the ball and then he was a fine header of the ball too.
“Roy's strength was his speed and his finishing. He had a tremendous shot with either foot and because he was so quick, if he saw an opening, he'd be through it and baring down on goal.
“In the box, Roy could wrong-foot a player too. I wasn't playing but I remember watching him in a game against Blackpool. Tony Waiters was in goal, an England international. The ball came across the six-yard box and Roy dummied Waiters, sent him diving towards one corner and then just pushed the ball towards the other. I'd never seen that before, I thought it was fantastic.”
To put Vernon and Young’s achievement into a modern context, since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, only Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton [49 goals] have scored more as a partnership in a championship-winning team.
Vernon and Young’s tally eclipses Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke’s 39-goal haul for Manchester United in 1999/00, along with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka’s 40-goal feat in Chelsea colours during 2009/10.
There were only 11 league games during the campaign in which neither Vernon nor Young scored and, from the 24 Division One victories that term, only the 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in September didn’t see at least one of the awesome pairing on the scoresheet.
But while the old football adage states that teams are only as good as their goalscorers, to say that would represent an injustice to the other members of Harry Catterick’s disciplined side.
As sure as the Vernon-Young combination was guaranteeing goals week in and week out, the ice-cool duo still needed to have players who would do the ‘dirty work’.
Step forward Dennis Stevens, the man credited by his teammates as the player who added steel to the style.
“Dennis was bought not as an inside forward but more like a workhorse,” recalled Tony Kay, who joined from Sheffield Wednesday midway through the season. “He was part of the engine room in midfield to compliment all the skilful players we had.
“You needed someone who could go away from home as well as playing at Goodison, who could go and put a shift in, get the ball and give it to the flair players. It was a job Dennis did extremely well.”
The same view is shared by Mick Meagan, who reminiscences about the industrious way in which Stevens used to go about his business.
“The wonderful thing about the team was that there were about four different types of player,” explained the former Republic of Ireland international. “Dennis Stevens, for example, was a hard worker - he'd be up and down.
“That was great for Roy and Alex Young. They didn't have to worry about tracking back because Dennis was doing that for them.”
Unleashed by Stevens, for much of the 1962/63 season there was no clear favourite between Young and Vernon as to who would actually finish as the Club’s top scorer.
As the months ticked by the pair were virtually neck-and-neck, hitting the target frequently.
Heading into the final game of the season – a home fixture against Fulham – only one goal separated the two; a brace against West Bromwich Albion a week earlier having given Young 22 to his name, with Vernon boasting 21.
Jimmy Greaves’ phenomenal tally of 37 goals for Tottenham had ensured the England international would finish as Division One’s most prolific marksman but the title of Everton’s top striker was still up for grabs.
As it unfolded, a stunning hat-trick from skipper Vernon in the 4-1 victory over the Cottagers saw him claim the prize as the Blues sealed the title in convincing manner.
Everton finished a league season unbeaten at home for the first time in their history, with Vernon and Young’s contribution of 46 goals ensuring a highest ever points tally of 61.
Vernon, who passed away at the age 56 in 1993, offered two more years of service to Everton before winding down his career at Stoke City. His final Everton stats read 111 goals in 201 games – a ratio better than one strike every two games.
Young remained an Evertonian until 1968 before joining Glentoran and, later, Stockport County. In acknowledgement of playing a mammoth 270 games – which reaped 87 goals – the Scot was granted a testimonial by Everton in 2001, the game against Espanyol attracting over 20,000 fans.
Now aged 76, Young recently attended the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1962/63 success at Goodison against Fulham in April, where he was joined by Meagan, Temple, Kay and Billy Bingham.
Two true Club legends, the achievements of Alex Young and Roy Vernon a half century ago will forever guarantee their place in the tomes of Everton history.