Friday 26 October 2012
One of the biggest rivalries in football is renewed this weekend when Liverpool travel the short distance across Stanley Park to Everton for the 219th Merseyside Derby.
There are few matches on the Barclays Premier League calendar that stir the emotions as much as when blue meets red and, on Sunday, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will experience the passion and the intensity of this unique contest for the first time.
Former midfielder Don Hutchison knows exactly what the match means to the people of Merseyside as he is one of only five players to have played for both clubs in the Barclays Premier League era.
"It's a massive game," Hutchison told premierleague.com: "It's one of the best derbies in the world and it is great to play in. Liverpool is such a special city.
"The Merseyside derby is special because of the history of the two clubs"
"The Merseyside derby is special because of the history of the two clubs. They have both got fantastic history and heritage and they are massive clubs worldwide.
"For the players the build-up to the match is hard because all through the week it is in the press every single day. It’s all that is talked about in the bars and the restaurants - you know how much it means to both sets of fans.
"It's so intense. The players get very nervous but once the game is under way, that’s the best part because you can relax and play your football."
Hutchison played for Liverpool between 1990 and 1994 and after spells at West Ham United and Sheffield United, he moved to Everton in 1998.
In total he played in five Merseyside derbies, two for Liverpool and three for Everton and was on the losing side only once.
In September 1999, Hutchison was part of the Toffees line-up that claimed a famous 1-0 win at Anfield in a match settled by Kevin Campbell’s early goal and which saw three red cards as Francis Jeffers, Sander Westerveld and Steven Gerrard were given their marching orders.
And Hutchison's biggest memory of that contest was how the then manager Walter Smith marked the occasion the following day.
"We normally had a day off after a game but Walter Smith got us in and took us on the team coach into the middle of Liverpool in our Everton tracksuits for a big fry up," he said.
"We went through the middle of town, we had a nice walk and a nice breakfast and it was a really special day.
"It was nice for the supporters at work the next day to see their players walking around the town centre"
"It was pretty amazing. Half the city was cheering us on and it was great for them to see their heroes, if you like, but it wasn’t nice for the red half.
"Walter wanted to do it for the fans and it was nice for the supporters at work the next day to see their players walking around the town centre."
That match is particularly memorable for the blue half of Merseyside because it was the last time Everton won at Anfield in the Barclays Premier League, with Liverpool having had the better of the derby contests both home and away in recent times.
Everton, who will be without suspended midfielder Steven Pienaar on Sunday, have triumphed in only three of the 25 Barclays Premier League contests since then with Liverpool winning 15.
But this season Everton can approach the encounter full of confidence after an impressive start to the campaign. David Moyes’s side are lying in fourth place and have lost one of their opening eight matches in the English top flight.
Liverpool, meanwhile, made a sluggish start and were without a win in their opening five contests. Rodgers' charges look to have turned a corner, however, as they are now unbeaten in three Barclays Premier League outings, while on Thursday night they defeated FC Anji Makhachkala in the UEFA Europa League.
"Everton are the slight favourites," concluded Hutchison. "Pienaar will be a miss as he is part of probably the best left-hand side in English football at the minute.
"But they are at home and are playing the more attractive football. Liverpool are a young side, who like to try to keep the ball, but it’s hard to keep possession in a game like this.
"I know what it is like to play in this derby; it is so frenetic and quick it's difficult to think sometimes. It's easy to say we'll be patient but not in a game that’s 100 miles an hour and with Everton closing them down high up the pitch.
"They will not let Liverpool play so it will be hard for their young players to relax. They might have to go a little bit route one.
"Derbies are full of passion, full of endeavour and the side that plays best on the day normally wins because they are the most relaxed. It's nice to go into it with confidence but they are such one-off games it's hard to look at form. The game is well set-up."
Mar 2012: Liverpool 3-0 Everton
Oct 2011: Everton 0-2 Liverpool
Jan 2011: Liverpool 2-2 Everton
Oct 2010: Everton 2-0 Liverpool
Feb 2010: Liverpool 1-0 Everton
Nov 2009: Everton 0-2 Liverpool
Jan 2009: Liverpool 1-1 Everton
Sep 2008: Everton 0-2 Liverpool
Mar 2008: Liverpool 1-0 Everton
Oct 2007: Everton 1-2 Liverpool
Feb 2007: Liverpool 0-0 Everton
Sep 2006: Everton 3-0 Liverpool