Updated: May 11, 2019
Owen Parkes is a writer based in Liverpool. For his first Fans Ales appearance, we asked him to speak to Evertonians about their memories of the Dogs of War, Everton's infamous team of the mid-1990s...
My own experience of Everton started in the days of David Moyes, I’ve seen some decent moments – the odd win here and there, but I wasn’t even a twinkle in my Dads eye the last time Everton won a trophy! That’s painful to write and those Kopites at the back need to stop sniggering.
That last Everton team that left Wembley victorious in a final was Joe Royle's Everton. They beat Manchester United in 1995. As manager, BIG JOE had made a battling, resolute but creative side that achieved domestic cup success as well as an improved situation in the league. They were appropriately named the Dogs of War.
For my Fan Ales debut, I spoke to massive Evertonian Les Roberts and Author Dave Fehily about Royle, his brand of Football, the FA Cup and everything else that made the Dogs of War so special to Evertonians older than me…
Owen - Fan Ales: When I say ‘Dogs of War’, what does it mean to you?
Les: “John Ebbrell, Barry Horne and Joe Parkinson spring to mind quickly, they instrumental in turning our season around in 94/95, taking us from relegation certainties to FA Cup winners! Joe Royle actually coined the phrase ‘Dogs of War’, but it stuck and became something that defined this season, and possibly the whole of Royle's time in charge.”
Dave: “Yeah, Mike Walker (who was manager before Joe) had lost the players and by Autumn and the fans could see that not only had the Vinny Samways experiment had failed, but that Walker basically had few tactical ideas. Nobody complained when he left. Joe was a shot in the arm for the fans. He’d been relatively successful at Oldham and we knew him, he was (and still is) an Everton Legend.
Owen - Fan Ales: Okay, as two match going Blues, what was the difference under Royle compared to the previous manager Mike Walker and how did the FA Cup influence this?
Dave: “Tactically, he got us down the other end by a more direct approach. The Dogs of War literally never stopped working. It was the basis of not only survival but for the cup win.”
Les: “We were dead and buried until Joe Royle came in - Mike Walker was completely out of his depth at Everton, and the team was only going one way. He was given the benefit of the doubt after we dodged relegation on the last day of 93/94, but it was clear he wasn't the right man as we had something like nine points by November, and we were rooted at the bottom of the table. Joe Royle came in, won us the derby and the atmosphere instantly changed. He changed the system, got the players fighting for the team, and wasn't afraid to knock it long to get the best out of Ferguson up front. He also brought Hinchliffe in from the reserves and he was also instrumental too.
Owen - Fan Ales: Was there a point when you thought Everton can win the FA Cup?
Les: When we beat Norwich 5-0 in the fifth round, we really started to believe it was on. By time we were packed into Elland Road for the semi final we were so confident of beating Spurs - we just knew we would. The FA Cup run undoubtedly helped us that season, as it gave us so much momentum. The final at Wembley was a great day and one we all look back on fondly.
FA: Evertonians adore Royle, don’t they?
Les: Yeah, Joe Royle gave us our belief and pride back that season, when we'd previously been an absolute laughing stock. It was a brief respite in a wretched decade, but what Joe Royle did for Everton was nothing short of remarkable - the fella is a true Everton great. A real legend!
Dave: And the seasons that followed saw us play a bit more footy in my opinion. We are all very grateful to Joe. At times the 90s wasn’t pretty for us but he gave us something that we had lost.
Fancy reliving the memories of Everton’s Dogs of War? Looking for a present for an Evertonian in your life? Buy your EFC inspired beers here.