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BATTLE OF BRITAIN.

Byline: NICK HILTON

TWENTY-FIVE years ago tomorrow champions of England, Everton, took on the champions of Scotland, Rangers, in an unofficial British Championship.

Staged in the desert, the Dubai Cup was a curious, but short-lived affair.

NICK HILTON looks back at a competition which failed to capture the imagination then, but is fondly remembered now.

SUPPORTERS of top English football clubs are now familiar with the idea of their teams jetting off around the globe to play pre-season friendlies in grandly-titled tournaments in far-flung outposts of the game each summer.

These matches oil the wheels of big business for wealthy Premier League giants, promoting the brand in markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the USA.

They don''t, as a rule, get in the way of serious competition at home or in Europe during the season proper.

Indeed, the modern trend is for the top clubs to protect the most valued players from the dangers of playing too much football by resting them for FA Cup and League Cup games in an attempt to maximise the team''s performance in the Premier League.

How times have changed in the quarter-century since Everton were champions of England.

Back in 1987, Everton''s status as the number one club in England earned them financial rewards that look like small change now.

Denied entry into European competition by the ban on English clubs that followed the Heysel tragedy of 1985, Everton were open to offers to boost the bank balance by playing extra games in the middle of the season.

As a consequence, the years when Everton''s 1985 European Cup-Winners' Cup winning team should have been pursuing further conquests on the continent, they were reduced to playing more Mickey Mouse matches than at any time in their history, and more than most other clubs. And they usually sent the first team.

This season marks the 25th anniversary of Everton''s participation in the Dubai Champions Cup. The game, against Glasgow Rangersdowned Rangers, was dubbed the unofficial British Championship.

Just in case you''d forgotten, the teams finished level at 2-2 after 90 minutes and the penalty shoot-out that followed was won 8-7 by the Scottish champions. PERHAPS only one Mickey Mouse cup fixture captured the imagination of Everton fans - the unofficial British championship games between Everton and Glasgow Rangers in 1963. Everton won 3-1 at Ibrox in front of 64,006 fans thanks to It was watched by a crowd of 8,000 in a stadium capable of holding at least six times that number. The noisiest spectators were a group of hard-core Rangers fans.

Everton, managed by Colin Harvey and in between First Division engagements against Charlton Atheltic and Derby County, led 2-0 through goals by Dave Watson and Kevin Sheedy and were pegged back by two Ian Durrant strikes in the final 10 minutes.

A few minutes of the action, which was broadcast by the BBC, can be found on You Tube - minus the Rangers equaliser and the shootout.

in '63 goals from Alex Scott, Derek Temple and Alex Young. By the time the Dubai game was staged, the English football authorities had already made moves to fill the gaps in the fixture calendar left by the European ban.

A week later just over 42,000 fans at Goodison saw Everton complete a 4-2 aggregate success following a 1-1 draw in which Alex Young scored the home team''s goal.

The Screen Sport Super Cup was organised by the Football League for the benefit of the six clubs who would have qualified European competition in 1985-86.

Everton and Liverpool topped their respective groups in round-robin games and met in the final over two legs, which, ironically, had to be delayed until the following season because of fixture congestion.

Liverpool won both matches, 3-1 in front of 20,066 fans at Anfield and 4-1 in front of 26,008 at Goodison. Ian Rush scored five goals over the two legs. Everton got over the disappointment of the defeats to beat Liverpool to the First Division title at the end of the 1986-87 campaign.

The Screen Sport Super Cup did not make a return, although the European ban was to last until 1990.

The Full Members Cup, also known under the name of its sponsors Simod (1987 to 1989) and Zenith Data Systems (1989 to 92) lasted longer.

It was originally set up as a competition for the First and Second Division clubs who did not participate in the Super Cup. After season one it was open to First and Second Division (or full member) clubs.

However, not all of the teams invited chose to enter and attendances at the games reflected the public''s apathy. The competition struggled to shake off its popular nickname the 'Foul Members Cup'.

Everton attracted just 7,914 paying customers into Goodison for a Full Members Cup quarter-final against Charlton in March 1987, which they lost on penalties following a 2-2 draw.

They made the final in 1988-89 with Colin Harvey''s team losing 4-3 to Nottingham Forest in front of 46,606 fans at Wembley.

Everton also reached the final in 1990-91, losing 4-1 to Crystal Palace at Wembley in front of a crowd of 52,004.

When Everton played their first game in the competition the following season, just 4,588 fans turned up at Goodison Park to watch a 3-2 win over Oldham Athletic.

In the same season as the Dubai Challenge Cup, Everton welcomed German giants Bayern Munich to Merseyside to play in the Mercantile Credit Football League Centenary Challenge.

Supporters were not engaged however, with just 13,083 watching Graham Sharp (two) and Adrian Heath score the goals in a 3-1 victory.

? THE Dubai Cup began in December 1984 when Celtic took on English champions Liverpool in front of a 15,000 crowd. Owen Archdeacon opened the scoring for the Bhoys early in the second-half but Alan Hansen grabbed a late equaliser.

The match went to penalties and the Reds took the trophy winning 4-2 after Archdeacon and Mo Johnston missed spot-kicks. Liverpool and the Hoops returned in 1989. And again the match went to penalties, this time after John Aldridge had equalised Mark McGhee's opening strike for Celtic. Unlike 1986, though, it was the Celtic players who kept their cool in the desert and they took the trophy 4-2 on penalties.

CAPTION(S):

ON TARGET: Dave Watson (above ) and Kevin Sheedy and (inset) Ian Durrant

ebrate CHAMPIONS: Everton celwinning the title in 1987
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Dec 7, 2012
Words:1076
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