English football underwent a seismic facelift in 1992.
And as 22 clubs broke away from the Football League to form the Premier League, Barry Horne had a ringside seat.
He freely admits he could not have expected England’s top-flight to have mushroomed into the sprawling beast it represents today.
Quite simply, says Horne, “it was the same teams, same grounds and same players… no big deal”.
For Everton, at the outset of the 1992/93 campaign, that meant Goodison Park and a match against Sheffield Wednesday.
The game just happened to be midfielder Horne’s first for Everton following his summer move from Southampton.
However, all the noise before kick-off – certainly from a national perspective – was about a debutant in the opposition.
Chris Waddle was playing his first match for Wednesday after three years in France with Marseille. The England international winger, though, lasted 38 minutes before hobbling off.
Six minutes later Horne blasted the ball into the Park End net. The strike secured Everton a 1-1 draw – Nigel Pearson had opened the scoring for Wednesday – and set the Blues off on a five-match unbeaten start to the campaign.
It is also writ into Everton lore as the Club’s first Premier League goal.
“I remember more about it than I remember about most games I played in,” Horne told evertonfc.com. “I remember the goal quite clearly.
“The ball was played into the box, and then knocked down towards me. I caught hold of it nicely and was delighted it went in.
“More than anything, I remember being very excited about making my competitive Everton debut. Running up the steps and onto the pitch was a fantastic feeling.”
Three days after that match, Everton won 3-0 at Manchester United. Draws with Norwich and Wimbledon then sandwiched a victory over Aston Villa as the Blues got themselves right in the mix at the embryonic Premier League table’s business end.
Ultimately, though, the season drifted and Howard Kendall’s side finished 13th in the division.
The following campaign ended in dramatic, nerve-shredding fashion. And Horne was front and centre on a famous, fraught Goodison afternoon.
He lashed home a stunning goal as Everton completed a comeback win over Wimbledon to secure Premier League survival on the season’s final day.
Horne, though, reflects with no real affection on that balmy day in May 1994, when the Blues executed their great escape.
This, after all, was a player who had expected to go and win his first away match in blue at Manchester United. And a man who would be integral to Everton’s 1995 FA Cup triumph.
“Was beating Manchester United in that first season a big deal?” says Horne.
“As far as I was concerned, I was joining Everton. I was expecting to win football matches.
“I had spent five years at Portsmouth and Southampton in the First Division. We didn’t expect to beat Everton, Liverpool or Manchester United. Now I was at Everton – and I came to Everton because… firstly, I supported them and, secondly, they were a much bigger club.
“It wasn’t a massive surprise that we were winning games at the start of my first season and there was always the expectation we might have the chance of winning a trophy. That is why you want to play for Everton.
“I wouldn’t say the Wimbledon game was a fond memory. It was a relief. It was nice to play a part and be such a significant player in that game.
“Beating Wimbledon to stay up was nothing to be proud of. But the 18 months with Joe Royle and winning the Cup certainly was.
“I have fond memories of all my time with Joe Royle – that is my best memory by some distance.”
And what of Horne’s involvement in the birth of the Premier League – and his take on its subsequent evolution into the world’s most popular football product.
“I was on the management committee of the PFA – and became chairman a couple of years later – so I was involved in the discussions to set up the Premier League,” says Horne.
“As far as the players were concerned, it was no big deal. It was the same teams you were playing, with the same players and at the same grounds.
“It was a commercial decision to change to the Premier League.
“We knew it would take a while for the changes to filter through – and the big changes were yet to come.
“I did not foresee how big it would be, though.
“I remember attending meetings where we discussed the television rights, which went up significantly that year.
“But I do not think anyone involved in setting up the Premier League could have envisaged what it would become today.”
Everton Football Club has released a special commemorative range of clothing to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Goodison Park. To find out more or browse the range, click here.