David Prentice: How the police stoked up a political storm for Everton FC
NOT since Tony Waddington claimed to have been "stabbed in the back" has an Everton v Stoke clash caused such rancour.
That was 34 years ago - when the single-minded Potters boss was furious the FA chose fourth-placed Everton rather than his own fifth placed finishers for English football's last UEFA Cup place.
But the football world was very different back then.
The FA still observed a bizarre "one club per city ruling" in European football.
And Merseyside Police could handle 100,000 crowds without so much as an overtime demand.
In 1977 Everton and Liverpool were both drawn at home in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
They played on the same day, at the same time - and as far as I can recall, both ties passed off without incident.
Monday's Echo carried a news item about a Middlesbrough fan being fined for carrying a knife in his waistband (six buttoned Birmingham Bags meant plenty of room for concealed weapons) but that was a sad indictment of the 70s rather than the Mersey giants both being drawn at home.
I recall the trains from Bank Hall being a little busier, but not the Tokyo style face jams which can be witnessed on Merseyrail today.
And the double-booking wasn't even newsworthy enough for Monday's Echo to carry a snippet from the police praising the fans for their fortitude.
Because back then the bobbies appeared to operate a greatest good of the greatest number policy.
But not any more.
Now we have the madness of 40 political demonstrators inconveniencing close on 40,000 football fans - with Everton Football Club caught in the crossfire.
March 14 was the scheduled date for a BNP march in Liverpool - anticipated number of marchers, around 40.
That was the same date as Everton were due to entertain Stoke City - anticipated number of spectators, around 40,000.
Also on the agenda were a few hundred Huddersfield fans travelling to Prenton Park, and a few thousand Liverpool fans returning to Merseyside from Old Trafford.
But it was the event attracting by far the biggest number of visitors which was asked to switch.
The police originally asked the political party to switch the date, but they refused.
Which is where all sense of reason seems to have broken down.
Everton were told to switch to the Sunday - a decision hardly showing the greatest sensitivity to the greatest number.
Everton, to their credit, grudgingly complied - as did their frustrated fans.
Travelling Evertonians changed their travel arrangements, city-based Blues switched their work shifts and family-men rearranged the babysitters. Then the BNP cancelled their march.
Of course Everton could have simply left their match on the rescheduled Sunday date.
But, showing a desire to accomodate the greatest good of the greatest number, they switched the match back to the Saturday - and even agreed to reimburse fans not happy with the rearranged rearrangement..
The whole thing is a mess - initiated by the non-footballing boys in Blue.