Everton will host Champions League-chasing Newcastle United this Sunday with the visitors knowing that they need a least a draw to give themselves a chance of playing in Europe’s premier competition next season. What many fail to realise is that this fixture is almost an exact reversal of the same game at Goodison Park in the 2004-05 season.
On 7 May 2005 the Toffees welcomed Newcastle to Goodison hoping for a win that would go a long way to cementing the Blues’ grip on fourth place following a season of unprecedented success. Everton had sold young forward Wayne Rooney to Manchester United at the start of the season (haven’t heard of him since!) and after a 17th-placed finish in 2003-04, were widely tipped for a relegation battle the following season.
This bears a striking resemblance to Newcastle’s shock surge to the summit in 2011-12. Only promoted from the Championship two years ago, the Magpies had settled comfortably back into life in top tier with a 12th-placed finish last season. Powered by the goals of new signings Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse – read Tim Cahill and Marcus Bent for Everton seven years ago – Newcastle have defied the odds to achieve remarkable success and will certainly be playing European football in some form next season.
The Blues will enter tomorrow’s game with little to play for on paper: David Moyes’ men have enjoyed a superb 2012 so far, but are mathematically unable to catch sixth-placed Chelsea and are only playing for the pride that comes with finishing above Merseyside rivals Liverpool. Everton’s nerve-free position ahead of tomorrow’s game mirrors Newcastle’s attitude on that day in 2005 – United were a mid-table side and would eventually finish in 14th.
Despite that lowly league placing, Newcastle still entered Europe via the Intertoto Cup in 2004-05, something Everton could emulate this year by qualifying for the Europa League due to the Cup successes of the teams above them, which could open up a bonus European slot.
Almost seven years ago to the day, Everton went on to beat Newcastle 2-0 in their last home game of the season thanks to goals from David Weir and Tim Cahill, not to mention Magpies forward Shola Ameobi’s red card early in the second half. Ironically, Ameobi, along with veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper is the only survivor of that squad still at the club, while Tony Hibbert, Cahill and James McFadden could all feature against the Magpies again on Sunday.
It should prove to be an entertaining contest between two in-form teams on the season’s last day. Newcastle will be desperate to avoid history repeating itself – their future depends on it.