by Karl Hofer.
With the arrival of Angel Di Maria at Old Trafford for a British Transfer record of £59.7million, BOBBY rolls back time to 40 years ago when Everton brought in Bob Latchford from Birmingham City for a then record fee of £350,000.
Everton have been blessed with some great number nines through the years – the likes of Dixie Dean, Joe Royle and Dave Hickson to name but three – but for Toffees fans Bob Latchford has a special place in their history and their hearts. After all, according to the famous Everton terrace chant, Bob Latchford could walk on water!
It’s been 40 years since The Latch signed for the Blues, moving from Birmingham City in a £350,000 British transfer record deal that saw another Goodison legend, Howard Kendall, go in the opposite direction, along with Archie Styles.
At Everton, Latchford was the top scorer for six successive seasons. Whilst Latchford would not get his hands on any winners medals during his time at Goodison, his heart and his goals gave Everton fans something to smile about during the mid-to-late 1970s, finding the back of the net 138 times in 289 appearances.
He had some memorable strikes as well, including a diving header (a speciality of The Latch) in a FA Cup semi-final replay against West Ham at Elland Road in 1980 (the Hammers won in extra time) and the winning goal at Bolton which took Everton to the 1977 League Cup final to play Aston Villa.
Latchford bagged a last-minute leveller in the first replay against Villa at Hillsborough, before netting the opening goal in the second replay at Old Trafford (it was the only domestic final to go to two replays).
Villa came back to make it 2-2 at the end of normal time and then won the cup in extra time, leaving Latchford and Everton empty handed once more despite the heroics.
Whilst medals eluded Latchford during his seven years at Goodison he did land a £10,000 prize from the Daily Express for bagging 30 goals in the 1977/78 campaign. The paper put up the money for anyone who could reach 30 league goals – a feat that had last been achieved by Francis Lee seven years previously.
The Latch went into Everton’s final game of the season at a packed Goodison Park needing two goals to reach the magical figure of 30 goals. Chelsea were the visitors and there was little they could do to stop the Toffees that day, they were swept aside in a 6-0 drubbing – with Latchford bagging the fourth and final goals to pocket the £10,000.
Not that he got to enjoy his winnings. In fact, by the time he’d generously donated a sum to the PFA benevolence fund and shared out the rest among team-mates and club staff, he was left with just £192. He still jokes about having to convince the taxman he didn’t actually owe anything.
Everton fell away sharply, from title contenders in 78/79 to a 19th placed finish in 79/80, and another poor finish of 15th a year later, coupled with the continuing success being enjoyed by Everton’s neighbours across the city, led to Gordon Lee’s departure as manager.
That signalled the end for Latchford at Goodison, as in an ironic final twist Latchford was sold to Swansea City by incoming boss Howard Kendall – the very man who had been shipped out to Birmingham when the Latch signed for Everton in 1974.
Latchford netted a hat-trick on his debut for the Swans and went on to spearhead their rise through the divisions, before spells with NAC Breda in Holland, Coventry, Lincoln and Newport County.
He also represented England twelve times, scoring on five occasions.
But, at heart, he was always a blue.
“I might have started at Birmingham,” Latchford once said, “but my soul is at Goodison.”