Liverpool vs Everton needs more home-grown passion, says Terry McDermott

Chris Bascombe
McDermott says there is a dearth of English or Scottish players in the Merseyside derby - Allsport

It is derby week on Merseyside and like a seasoned veteran Terry McDermott is displaying his war wounds.

“You can see it there,” he says, pointing to a scar on his knuckle.

This, he informs, is a souvenir from the great Anfield derby skirmish of 1979 when Everton defender Garry Stanley’s tooth was involved in an unfortunate collision with McDermott’s fist.

The duo took the dubious honour of becoming the first players sent off in the fixture in the 20th century.

“There was a melee. Everyone dived in, punching and pushing. I ended up hitting Garry in the mouth,” says McDermott, who made 329 appearances for Liverpool.

“When we were walking down the stairs we looked each other and said ‘what the f*ck were we doing getting sent off? The two biggest tarts on the pitch.’ Then I asked him where we were going out that night. He was a good mate of mine.

“People would think you hated them because they played for Everton. I didn’t hate them. I just wanted to beat them.”

McDermott lifts the European Cup trophy after winning it with Liverpool in 1978  Credit: Hulton Archive

The modern derby seems tame in comparison, although statistically it remains the filthiest game in English football with more red cards than any other in the Premier League era.

That fact brings chuckle from McDermott as he wonders how many of his peers would survive 90 minutes today.

“The difference now is you can’t f**king tackle,” he says.

“We used to tackle for fun. Mick Lyons, Mick Pejic, Graeme Souness, Ray Kennedy, Jimmy Case. It was blood and thunder. People say now the game is blood and thunder. It’s not.

“You are frightened of making a tackle. Derby games are 100mph and you are bound to be late on a tackle because he was too quick for you or he was too tricky and when it is 100mph you only need a little tap and you are on the floor.”

There is another element missing from the fixture, Liverpool’s home-grown contingent in short supply since Steven Gerrard’s retirement.

“What was different back then was the amount of Liverpool people or English or Scottish people playing in the derby,” says McDermott.

Liverpool's team these days is packed with talent from abroad Credit: Reuters

“It is different now and possibly, possibly, it doesn't mean as much to foreign players. I have no doubt they want to win but have they got that determination to make sure they don't get beat? I don't know. Probably eight or nine of the Liverpool team on Saturday will be foreigners and I'm not saying they don't have the passion, of course they have, but it's different to when you had the likes of Graeme Souness leading your team. He only had to look at me, give me that glare, and I knew I had not done what I was supposed to have done whether it was tracking back or getting forward.

"We had a lot of players like that. Emlyn (Hughes) was vocal, Tommy Smith was very vocal; they were icons who you could rely on for your life. In any big game you wanted them playing for you.

You have to have that bit of passion and I am not criticising the foreign lads for that in any way, but it does make a difference in a derby.”

McDermott’s autobiography ‘Living for the Moment’ was this week launched in Liverpool City Centre’s Shankly Hotel. The title reflects McDermott’s recent health scare. He suffered a minor stroke in January and a story he intended to begin with reminiscence of title and European Cup wins instead starts in Newcastle’s RVI hospital with the chapter ‘Every Day Counts’.

“An experience like this does make you look at life differently,” he says.

“I’m just thinking how long have I got on this earth.”

McDermott has a more profound view of his career now.

“I like Anfield when it is empty,” he says.

“I do the tours of Anfield where you are taking 50 or so people around. You go there and there is no-one but the groundsmen or a few people working. That’s the best time to be there for me. You are sat there thinking, ‘I can’t believe I was running around here once’.

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“A few months ago I was sitting with David Johnson at a match and said ‘can you really believe we ran that pitch, making all those runs?’ I can’t picture myself doing it anymore. It’s so long ago that you forget that you have played on that pitch. Every young Liverpudlians dream is to play for Liverpool and I had that. It hasn’t gone away but when I go pitch side now to do TV I’m in awe of being there, I’m actually thinking myself ‘f**king hell, I used to be on there.’

“I used to go and watch the reserves when Billy Liddell was in the team. So when I get close to that pitch – even when I was at Newcastle and we had those two unbelievable games where we ended up on the wrong end of 4-3 results – it hits me that I played on it for six or seven years. It really is surreal.”

McDermott will be back on Saturday, and while he thinks Everton could end their 18-year winless streak at Anfield he does not believe they can ever match the global stature of his club.

“They will never overtake Liverpool – I'm biased but I do think the Everton stadium plans are brilliant,” he said.

“Everton are a good team but if we had everyone fit and they had everyone back I would back us to beat them.

“I think we have better players than them all around, although they have Lukaku. Coleman, McCarthy and Schneiderlin are going to be big misses for them. The worry for Everton would be if they lost Lukaku for any length of time, then they are going to struggle.

“I honestly thought we would win the league this year. By October, with the way we played, the chances we created and we weren't conceding many goals, and we were good on the eye and beating Arsenal and Chelsea away, drawing at Tottenham, I thought they could do it. Maybe in-depth we haven't got the players.”

For now, the only prediction is McDermott is not expecting any mass brawls. The scars these days are psychological.

“The last thing we wanted was to get beat by Everton and I'm sure the feelings we had then are the same now.”

Terry McDermott - Living For The Moment, RRP £18.99, Trinity Mirror Sport Media. 

Terry MacDermott

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