‘When Skies are Gray’ – Everton at Leicester in 1985 by Francis Hickey

Supporters of a certain age will remember Steve Lynex’s well-taken goal at Filbert Street on 23rd February 1985, in a match featuring numerous future teammates and TV pundits. On a cold afternoon, it sent an icy blast through Evertonian hearts. It was also the day on which an Everton legend grabbed the iconic number nine shirt for the first time since September, to change his goal scoring fortunes and steer the Blues towards glory.

Everton’s squad depth was being tested by a season-ending injury to top scorer Adrian Heath and the absence of striker Graeme Sharp, injured in the FA Cup against non-league Telford Utd the week before. At Leicester, Trevor Steven moved from midfield to partner Andy Gray in attack. The Scottish international was playing well but struggling for goals with only one in his previous 16 outings.

Leicester’s strike force included Gary Lineker, Alan Smith and unsung hero Lynex who was a tricky supplier of crosses on which the attackers thrived. Despite the Foxes’ FA Cup elimination by lower-league Millwall, the game would be a severe test of Howard Kendall’s men who had three trophies in their sights.

Leicester started brightly. An excellent opportunity fell to Lineker supplied by Lynex with a trademark run behind the left-back and an early ball into space. Only a block by Neville Southall saved the Toffees from conceding.

Everton, however, began to show the resilience of champions. Their second half improvement created a breakthrough. A Sheedy cross, unusually from the right, fell into the path of Gray for a typically brave close-range header (followed by nearly knocking himself out on the goalpost as he wheeled away in celebration) The number nine jersey had done the trick.

“Foxes Never Quit” is a Leicester principle and they equalised through Lynex’s 13th strike of the season as he rounded Southall and finished with the aplomb of his international teammate, Lineker. Nine minutes left. Was this a famous Leicester fight back or would Everton find another gear?

The answer came immediately as a flowing move saw Gray run on to Steven’s header to fire home from 18 yards. Everton held on to win without showing their best form – but they had established their title-winning credentials. Gray’s goals were the catalyst for a run that included a hat trick versus Fortuna Sittard plus vital strikes against Spurs, Bayern Munich and, of course, Rapid Vienna.

Gray, Lineker, Smith and Mark Bright moved on to pastures new and, later, media careers. Lynex stayed with Leicester until 1987, highly appreciated for the part he played in the 156 goals scored by the Lineker-Smith-Lynex trio between August 1982 and May 1985. His overall record was 60 goals from 240 appearances and a Foxes Player of the Year award for 1983-84.

Gray left Everton that summer, following Lineker’s arrival, but his place in Everton’s history was assured. His goals that day gave momentum to a 28-match unbeaten run on which our eighth title was built, and took us to finals at Rotterdam and Wembley.

By Lyndon Lloyd

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