Andy Gray Exclusive
Former striker pens one-off column for evertonfc.com.
A UNIQUE FIXTURE
The Merseyside derby is different. It's different because with other derbies, like Glasgow, Birmingham, the Black Country and even Dundee, you don’t see fans mingling with each other and wearing different colours in the same stand.
The Glasgow derby in particular is born more out of hatred – the fans just have a huge dislike of each other and it comes from history. That hatred is not as severe in the Merseyside derby but, trust me, it’s every bit as important to the Merseyside people.
It’s different from most other derbies in the world because of the way it splits family loyalties.
I was 28 when I joined Everton and I had played in plenty of other derbies, so I kind of knew what it was all about. I’d watched the Merseyside derby over the years with great interest – I was always fascinated by it.
When I played in my first one, I can remember it was everything I thought it would be and more. From then on, I loved every minute of them.
MY DERBY GOAL REGRET
Not scoring in the derby is one of my absolute regrets looking back.
I created the goal for Paul Wilkinson in the 1-0 win at Goodison when we won in my last season, but I never quite got on the scoresheet myself.
It’s something that I would have loved to have done, so I could have experienced what it felt like to score in a Merseyside derby, particularly to score a winner like [Graeme] Sharp and Wilkinson.
But it wasn’t to be and I certainly didn’t care at the time – I wouldn’t have minded if it was a Liverpool own goal as long as we won.
ROM CAN RUN RIOT
Prior to the last day of the transfer window, I actually felt Everton might struggle a little this year because they might not get enough goals.
But the signing of Romelu Lukaku has been a godsend. It was a bit of magic from Roberto Martinez to get him from Chelsea and it’s made an awful lot of difference to Everton’s prospects of success this season.
I think he is definitely a potential matchwinner on Saturday, with the potential to do it on his own, as we’ve already seen him do this season in Everton colours.
I saw him do it many times last season for West Brom as well, when he worked his way to 17 league goals. So, if he can do that for Everton, the Toffees fans will be delighted. Plus, if he can get one at the weekend in the derby then that would be a perfect way to really announce himself.
He’ll definitely be a threat. And I think that’s the key for me this weekend – which defence can cope the best - because I think if Everton can keep [Luis] Suarez and [Daniel] Sturridge quiet then they have got a great chance of winning.
I think both back fours will be having sleepless nights on Friday, just worrying about how they’re going to go and cope with three of the best strikers around at the moment.
THERE FOR THE TAKING
I think we're looking at an open game on Saturday. I think that’s what Liverpool will try to make it. There’s no point in them trying to play the game defensively because their two best players are at the other end of the pitch, and it’s a similar scenario with Everton.
I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a fantastic way to start the weekend and it’ll be a fantastic way to finish the weekend if we can get a victory - and I’m absolutely certain we can.
This might just be the season where a team that you normally wouldn’t fancy could go all the way and win the title or really get themselves in the mix at the top of the table because teams are taking too many points off each other.
There is not a consistent side in the Premier League at the moment. Manchester United won it last year, not by being brilliant, but by being consistent.
So, if a team like Everton or Tottenham can string a few results together, then you never know. Enjoy the game.