Everton travelled to AZ Alkmaar’s DSB Stadion in December 2007 with the pressure very much off.
The Blues had already beaten Larissa, Nuremberg and Zenit St Petersburg to guarantee top spot in UEFA Cup Group A and with it a place in the round of 32.
But while there was effectively little to play for as far as David Moyes’ men were concerned, it still turned out to be a memorable night for defender Phil Jagielka…
Thursday 20 December
UEFA Cup, Group A
AZ Alkmaar 2-3 Everton
First and foremost, I remember it being absolutely freezing.
Typically, the support was still exactly what we’d expect from an Everton game in Europe - I just hope all those who travelled over had taken their coats with them!
We also had a few young lads with us in the squad and Jack Rodwell and another midfielder, Bjarni Vidarsson, ended up making their debuts that night.
But, for me, it was also the night I scored my first Everton goal.
Joleon Lescott’s shot was cleared off the line but I managed to nick in and get my head on it. It went in and I promptly followed it up with a rubbish celebration. But then that’s nothing new for me!
It was big moment and I’ve still got the shirt framed and up on the wall at home now.
We’d already won the group but they’d been absolutely flying and had a long unbeaten record at home (31 games - a European record) that had been talked about a lot in the build up to the match.
It ended up being a pretty topsy-turvy night but we got the goals at the right time, and it was what we wanted - to finish the group unbeaten.
We actually got off to a great start because Andy Johnson put us 1-0 up after about a minute, which at least helped our fans temporarily forget about the cold!
But they had a few decent players who would go on to become bigger names. Moussa Dembele, the one who’s now at Tottenham was one, and another, Graziano Pelle, got an equaliser.
My goal came just before half-time but they pegged us back again around the hour mark.
Bjarni and Jack then came off the bench and James Vaughan, another youngster, got the winner with 11 minutes to go.
It was a good win because they’d done well in the league the year before, they were a tough team and, despite having a young side, we’d ended their record at home.
I'd opened my account for the Club and, more importantly, we could start looking forward to the draw and our European adventure carrying on into the new year.
On this day… 20 December 2007
- The then-oldest American World War I veteran died in Ohio aged 109, leaving only two known US soldiers from the conflict still alive.
- The previous year’s X-Factor winner, Leona Lewis, was top of the UK singles chart with ’Bleeding Love’.
- Transformers, starring Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, was the year’s big hit at the box office.
- Rumours suggesting Fabio Capello would take up the vacant England manager’s post would be confirmed the following week.
- The price of milk in the UK had risen to a record high of 42p per pint.