In 1977 Aston Villa and Everton played out one of the most epic cup encounters of all time. The 1977 League Cup Final will not always be remembered for scintillating edge of your seat football (not the first two games anyway) but it will most certainly be remembered as a match that started before the Grand National and finished just as the cricket season was getting under way.
On March 12th 1977 Wembley Stadium played host to one of the dullest cup finals in living memory as Aston Villa and Everton played out a 0-0 bore draw in the League Cup Final. What made the result more surprising was that both teams had some of the most exciting striking talent at their disposal. Villa had the soon to be crowned PFA player and young player of the year Andy Gray leading their line, whilst the Toffeemen had lightening quick Duncan McKenzie and big Bob Latchford in their starting XI.
The following Wednesday, the two teams went head to head again in the replay at Hillsborough. The quality of the football was no better than the previous Saturday but at least there were goals. An early own goal by Everton’s Roger Kenyon looked like giving Ron Saunders’s men their passport into Europe but in the dying seconds of normal time, up popped Latchford to take the game into extra-time. The extra 30 minutes provided nothing other than the fact that this game would now go down in the history books as the longest final in British football history.
Due to fixture congestion, the third match would not be played until the middle of April, Old Trafford was chosen as the venue for the historic game. Many observers feared a repeat of the first two mind numbing encounters but how wrong they were as both sides seemed to feel sorry for the British public, producing one the best games in the competitions history.
Latchford put Gordon Lee’s side ahead only for Villa skipper Chris Nicholl, bidding farewell to the club in the summer, to level things up with a 40 yard screamer with just nine minutes remaining. A minute later, Brian Little gave the Midlanders the lead but Mick Lyons made it 2-2 just a couple minutes later in front of delirious Evertonians packed into the Stretford End. 300 minutes of football had been played and still we didn’t know who would lift the trophy as the game went into extra-time for a second time. It seemed like penalties were finally going to have to decide the 17th winner of the competition until in the dying seconds, the talismanic Little rounded off a wonderful campaign on a personal level by nicking the winner for Villa to give them the trophy for the third time.
It was probably for the best that Chris Nicholl only had to climb about eight steps to collect the three handled cup from Lord Westwood as he, along with everyone concerned with this epic encounter, was physically and mentally exhausted.
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