Greatest Goalscorers - Latchford
Part 3 of evertonfc.com's special feature.
This season evertonfc.com has launched a special feature profiling some of the club's greatest ever goalscorers.
To date two stars of the 1980s Adrian Heath and Graeme Sharp have relived the glory years but this time we go a little further back to speak to Bob Latchford, the club's third highest scorer of all time.
Sandwiched between the successful team of the 1960s and Everton’s greatest era of the mid-1980s was a Blues side that for the best part of a decade became the nearly men of English football.
Everton came so close on so many occasions to a piece of silverware that would have reflected the undoubted quality of the players that graced the mid to late 1970s.
Spearheading the attack throughout that time was Bob Latchford, a man who contributed 138 goals during his career at Goodison Park.
Everton paid £350,000 for Latchford in 1974, then a British record transfer, a fee that proved to be money well spent.
Latchford started his career at Birmingham City, the club he watched alongside his father as a youngster.
And whilst playing for the club you support as a boy is always special, Latchford admits the Everton aura captivated him just as much during his seven years on Merseyside.
“I look back on my time at Everton with a great fondness. Everton is a club that gets into your blood and it stays with you,” Latchford told evertontv.
“I’m a Birmingham boy born and bred, I stood on the terraces with my father and my brothers through the 50s and 60s and watched Birmingham.
“Our history is there, my soul is there because that’s my home club. But my heart is here with this club and it will never go away,” he revealed.
“It’s a time full of good memories.”
Latchford was Everton’s top scorer in six successive campaigns after arriving from St. Andrews and admits that he had to leave City to further his career.
“Obviously I was a home town boy, but I got to the stage where I thought that I couldn’t go any further with Birmingham so the move came at a good time for me,” he said.
“Probably it was good for Birmingham as well because they needed the money.
“It was like having children, one day they grow up and leave you and do other things and you accept that. A point like that comes to most players,” he revealed.
“It got to the point where I had to go and fulfil myself more.”
Unfortunately for Latchford, ultimate fulfilment was never achieved as a combination of misfortune and the emergence of unlikely heroes at the worst possible time denied Everton on no less than four occasions.
The run of near misses began in the 1974/75 campaign where Everton’s tilt at the league title was blunted by Derby County.
As Latchford recalls it was double defeat to basement boys Carlisle United that handed the league to Dave McKay’s side.
“In the 74/75 season we should have won the league, Derby won it and they came from nowhere,” he said.
“We lost home and away to Carlisle United who were the bottom club and went down. They beat us 3-2 at Goodison after we were 2-0 up and then they hammered us 3-0 at their place.
“Had we of won those games we would have ended up winning the league by one point.
“Even then we went to Leeds over Easter and drew 0-0 which was a good result. After the game people like Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles turned around to us and said ‘you’re going to win the league’ and we dropped points after that and lost games,” added Latchford.
“The first one is crucial and it’s like a snowball effect. It’s getting over the first hurdle and we could never quite do it.”
Next up was the League Cup final of 1977 against Aston Villa. The first two attempts at finding a winner were drawn with Latchford scoring in the latter.
With the teams seemingly impossible to separate a moment of genius would be needed to find a winner. Of all the candidates on the Old Trafford turf that night, Aston Villa defender Chris Nicholl was not near the top of the list.
Latchford said: “In the League Cup against Villa, Chris Nichol, a centre half, picks up the ball about 35-40 yards out and lashes the ball with his left foot into the top corner. You just think, ‘why did you have to do that against us in a cup final?’”
But Everton’s misfortune for the season wasn’t finished, and whilst the frustration at Villa bubbled under the surface somewhat, the manner in which the Blues were denied against fierce rivals Liverpool less than two weeks later still wrangles with any fan old enough to remember it.
Nicholl became an Aston Villa hero, whilst referee Clive Thomas certainly became an Everton villain for his decision to disallow Brian Hamilton’s goal in the FA Cup Semi Final.
With the Merseyside rivals locked at 2-2, Ronnie Goodlass’s cross was chested home by Hamilton and Gordon Lee’s side looked to be on the cusp of a final against Manchester United.
But despite no protest from the Liverpool players it was disallowed by Thomas. There was no offside nor was there a handball and perhaps most annoyingly no explanation from the man himself.
“Nobody knows why Clive Thomas disallowed that goal against in Liverpool. We should have beaten them and had a crack at Manchester United in the final who we’d beaten a month previously at Old Trafford. But we were robbed of a chance to do that,” Latchford recalled.
The replay was won comfortably by Liverpool and Everton were forced to wait another three years to go close to a trophy.
The final close shave of the era came at the dawn of a new decade in the FA Cup Semi Final against West Ham in 1980.
And Latchford, who was to leave Goodison Park just a season later, explains the manner of defeat was similar to the one against Villa three years earlier.
“The semi final against West Ham was the same as against Villa, a Second Division team who we were more than capable of beating,” he said.
“We had Brian Kidd sent off in the first game, and then in the replay Frank Lampard Snr. a full back who rarely got over the half-way line, got into the box and headed the winning goal. It had happened again.”
Another semi final goal had come in vain for Latchford and would go on to leave for Swansea at the end of the next season after a campaign plagued by injuries, the most serious of those being a hamstring problem that kept him out for seven months.
But the Bob Latchford story would not be complete without telling the story of the £10,000 he was awarded in 1978 for scoring 30 league goals in a season.
Not since 1972 and Francis Lee had any player in the top division reached that milestone and the Daily Express offered a prize for anyone who could do so.
As Everton finished third in the First Division, Latchford reached 30 with a brace against Chelsea in a 6-0 rout on the final day of the season.
But what followed doesn’t quite reflect the Roy of the Rovers style nature of the prize.
“The season I scored the 30 goals the Daily Express had put up a prize of £10,000. I duly score the goals but I didn’t get £10,000, £5,000 was split between the PFA and the Football League,” he revealed.
“Then I put £4,000 into the players pool, because I couldn’t have done it without them, so I kept £1,000.”
“Later I got a letter from the Inland Revenue saying that they knew I’d won £10,000 but I hadn’t declared it for tax. We were under the impression it was tax free but the Inland Revenue had a different stance.
“This went on for years, before they taxed me on the £1,000 and I went to court five or six years later and lost and by the time I’d finished I had lost more than I ever got in winnings,” he revealed.
“To this day I wished I had of just given the £5,000 to charity.”
After the 30 goal season the aforementioned injuries restricted Latchford to just a further 23 goals in three seasons.
By the time he played his first game of the 1979/80 season in October the Blues had already lost Martin Dobson and Dave Thomas and Everton struggled, finishing the season fourth from bottom.
In 1981 Latchford moved to Swansea just before Howard Kendall took over and says that although the last three seasons at Goodison Park weren’t easy it was still difficult to move on.
“In the final few years I picked up a lot of injuries, players started to leave Everton like Dave Thomas and Martin Dobson and the rhythm went,” he admitted.
“It all seemed to slightly fall apart, and I look back and think it may have been a reason why my England career didn’t really kick on.
“It was a big wrench, probably even bigger than Birmingham. We were very settled up here, but things weren’t going well. I said to my wife that I had to get out.”
Latchford did go on to have success both with Swansea and Dutch club NAC Breda - but as is so often the case, nothing quite lived up to the time he had on Merseyside.
Speaking to Latchford you get an almost instant feeling that he had a burning desire to achieve more in every aspect of his career.
He was just shy of 300 career goals and that frustrates him, but above all leaving Everton without a medal sticks with him now and will do forever.
For the man who swapped Blue for Blue, the Merseyside shade clearly runs as deeply through the veins as that of the second city.