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Alan Irvine

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ToffeeTalk interview with former Everton player and assistant manager Alan Irvine.

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What were the circumstances of leaving Everton as a player?

 

I had played all the games in the Milk Cup run and also all the games up to the semi-final in the FA Cup run. But unfortunately from the January of that year I had a piece of floating bone in the back of my knee.

 

When I played in the Milk Cup Final and then the replay a few days later my knee locked and I had to have an operation. So I didn’t actually leave before the season had ended because I started the pre-season the following season with Everton.

 

Unfortunately it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to start the season in the team and I then had an opportunity put forward to me to move to Crystal Palace on loan. I have a great deal of respect for Steve Coppell as a right-winger and obviously being a right-winger myself I though I could go and learn things there.

 

I was someone who came into football late and I was desperate to make up for lost time. Perhaps I was a little bit impetuous and I should have hung about and waited for my chance but I just felt that I was so desperate to play football that I decided to take the chance to move to Crystal Palace.

 

Do I have regrets? In some ways yes but I was loving the fact that I was playing every week every time that I was available. It was a good decision from that point of view and I continued to watch Everton very closely and was absolutely delighted to see my former team mates and the Club that I liked so much being successful.

 

I felt I made the right decision and I still do now.

 

Would any of the current Everton players challenged for a place in the 1984 side?

 

I think so. There were a lot of very good players in the Everton side in the 1980s but there are really good players in the team now. I always feel that it is very hard to make comparisons because obviously the game has changed.

 

The speed of the game has changed more than anything and there are now more quick players in he game now.

 

I think it is very difficult to say whether players were better in the 80s than they are now or vice versa but the fact is that great players from any era would be great players in any era.

 

Were you surprised to receive the call from David Moyes to take up the Assistant Manager’s post at Goodison Park?

 

I was very surprised because I didn’t know David particularly well. I’d met him at coaching courses and reserve games that he had come to watch up at Newcastle and I got on well with him when I saw him but we weren’t friends and there was no history between us.

 

I was completely taken aback when he made me the offer. Having said that, I was Academy Director at Newcastle but I had been the first team coach effectively under Kenny Dalglish.

 

So I had worked in the Premiership already, I’d been involved with a team which had reached an FA Cup Final and also one that had competed in the Champions League. David would have been aware of that, I’m guessing.

 

They say 'never go back' but did you need much persuading to go back to Everton?

 

Very, very little. It was a club that was dear to my heart, a club that still is. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Everton as a player and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there as Assistant Manager.

 

It’s a great club with a lot of great of people within the club and great supporters so it was a very easy decision to come back.

 

 

What have you learnt from David Moyes as a Manager and how do you feel you were able to help him?

 

I don’t know if I taught David anything and you would need to ask him that. We certainly discussed everything and I think the most important thing about being a Manager, and something that is a real quality with David, is that you leave nothing to chance.

 

You have to be very thorough and make sure that you don’t cut corners. Management is a demanding job but if you work hard and give everything you have got to the job then you have a chance of being successful.

 

David’s success is built first and foremost on a lot of hard work and dedication to the job and of course on top of that there is a lot of talent as well.

 

What are you happiest and least happiest memories at Everton both as a player and a member of the coaching staff?

 

Well I’ve had an awful lot of happy ones, that’s for sure. As a player I would probably say getting through to the final of the FA Cup and playing Aston Villa. That would certainly rank up there and another would be making my début. I also won man-of-the-match that day too, coincidently against Aston Villa again. They were very happy moments.

 

Least happy moments. I actually played very well against Manchester United and we lost to a last minute goal by Lou Macari having dominated the game and looked like the best team. That put us out of the FA Cup and that was a big blow, without a doubt.

 

Any derby match in which we lost was also very bitter pill to swallow. The Milk Cup replay was a huge disappointment. It also turned out to be my last game, as I’ve already explained.

 

As far as being a member of the coaching staff, there have been many highs. Finishing fourth in the league was a massive achievement. Qualifying for Europe again this last season, and the games in Europe were huge highs. Getting results against Manchester United and Liverpool too were massive.

 

In terms of disappointments, finishing 17th in our second season was a major disappointment The Villareal and Steau Bucharest games too were low points for us.

 

How would you rate Everton’s achievements this last season when you compare the budgets of the teams around them?

 

They’ve done terrific. David and the team have done a great job, sadly they were missing key players in the last month or so and that’s definitely had an effect on them.

 

They’ve moved up another level this year, the team has become better. Fifth is the least they deserved and I think it has been terrific season in the UEFA Cup.

 

What David has done with the funds has been fantastic especially considering you can only spend what you have got and I believe the board helped David in every way they could. I’m sure if they could give him more money then they would do.

 

The most important thing is that Everton remain strong as a club and don’t get into massive financial difficulties.

 

How much of a benefit is it to have the youth and first team training together at Finch Farm?

 

It’s a definite benefit. It’s something that isn’t a measure of cutting costs, it’s essential. It was a shame that for most of the time whilst I was there that youth team players trained at a separate location.

 

It meant that if we ever needed to call an extra player over that we couldn’t because it was a 20 minute drive away. Now it’s possible because it simply take someone to run over to a nearby pitch and tell the young lad that he has got the opportunity to train with the first team.

 

It’s also possible to have first team attackers playing against youth team defenders and that’s brilliant in terms of the first team players for their training and it’s also great for the youth team too.

 

I think it’s a great thing that the youth players are training at Finch Farm and it should be like that at every club.

 

Do you believe that the Merseyside derby has become too fierce in local years or does it give the big game an extra edge?

 

I think that there has always been intense rivalry, it’s always been the reds against the blues.

 

The fact is that the Merseyside derby for me was always a great occasion because whilst the fierce rivalry was there, there was never any bother at the games. It’s not an aggressive rivalry, it was intense but always as friendly as you could get.

 

I thought it was amazing when I came down to see a dad walking down with his children and you would see a lad wearing red on one side and another lad wearing blue on the other. You could see Evertonians in the Kop or Liverpudlians in the Gwladys Street End without there being any hint of trouble.

 

Sadly I don’t see it being as good natured now. It would be great if we could get back to that, so that we keep the intense rivalry but it’s in that good natured way that has always been part of the culture as far as I’m concerned.

 

There’s a lot of humour in Liverpool and that was an important part of the derby matches as well.

 

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Thanks to Alan Irvine for answering our questions and also thanks to Adrian Ward and Rob Urbani at Preston North End for arranging the interview.

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Having read that, something comes to mind. I remember a handbag, a goal keeper and a lot of fun and banter.

 

I wonder if something along similar lines could be done in the modern game. it keeps the rivallry and brings fun into the game.

 

I am sure the Reds goalie (whoever they decide to use for a Derby) would appreciate a big pair of foam hands to help him get hold of a ball.

 

Or maybe a tea tray for the Spanish waiter?

 

Oh well just an idle thought. The fun has gone out of the game too much to bring it back.

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