Everton’s only success in Europe came on 15 May 1985 at the De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam. Everton’s passage to the final could have faltered at the first hurdle with a two-legged affair with the Irish part-timers University College Dublin providing the opposition. Graeme Sharp, Everton’s saviour that night with the winning goal, once said that it was the trickiest tie of all the rounds to the final, stating that Everton could so easily have been knocked out, with the woodwork saving Everton. Had the ball gone in UCD would have had a priceless away goal. With Inter Bratislava, Fortuna Sittard, and the giants Bayern Munich failing to stop Everton in their tracks to Rotterdam from September to May.
I have always been fascinated about what the opposition, with their green and white army from the Austrian capital of Vienna, thought of Everton, and that final in May. Having made several attempts to speak with the stars from Rapid, I was fortunate to gather the thoughts of one player; the goalkeeper Michael Konsel.
Nicknamed ‘The Panther’ and born in Vienna, Michael made an incredible 395 appearances for the green and whites of Rapid, adding 43 International caps to that. Thirty four years on, I was intrigued to hear the views from the Rapid camp on Everton and asked Michael to talk me through Rapid’s path to the Final.
“In reaching Rotterdam, we dispatched of Besiktas quite comfortably winning 5-2 on aggregate”. Michael didn’t play in the next round, being replaced by Herbert Feurer missing a highly controversial tie against Celtic in which Rapid won the first leg 3-1 at home.
In the return leg in Glasgow there were some crowd incidents and UEFA ruled that the game, which Celtic won 3-0, should be replayed at Manchester United’s Old Trafford. Rapid won another very heated game 1-0 in Manchester, in which Michael’s replacement was attacked on the pitch, by two Celtic supporters.
Michael continued, “The next round saw another tough tie with Dynamo Dresden. Having lost the first leg 3-0 away from home, we won handsomely 5-0 at our Gerhard Hanappi Stadium. We faced Dynamo Moscow in the semi-final to fulfil a dream of playing at such a big event.
I then asked Michael, given the choice of Everton or Bayern Munich in the semi-final, which team would he have preferred? “Bayern would have been favourites to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup that season I guess, but Everton were doing very well in their league. For me, it was irrelevant who we played in the final, and certainly a dream to be involved in such a high-profile match.
The game itself, I remember having goose bumps before we got out onto the pitch and the atmosphere inside the stadium was fantastic with great support from the fans of Everton.
Our coach Otto Baric gave us his team talk before the game, and we were well prepared as we would be for any game. I always believed before the game was played that we could win. You have to believe, don’t you? Of course, I wanted to win, but as it proved over the 90 minutes, Everton were too strong. The atmosphere inside the De Kuip stadium was fantastic from both sets of supporters. It was amazing how many Everton fans made the journey over from England, but the Rapid fans also played their part despite being outnumbered.
The Everton team was a quality side and in particular Neville Southall, Gary Stevens, Andy Gray and Kevin Sheedy were the main players that caught my eye. We did an awful lot of preparation on Everton before we played them in the final and thought we adapted pretty well. Everton were too strong for us on the night, and at the same time, we were very under par, and that’s not taking anything away from Everton, their victory was fully deserved. We had a slight chance, or I thought we did with a late goal from our main striker Hans Krankl, but within moments, Everton increased their lead further which killed the game dead. Everton were sensational.
It was a real shame that Everton were not allowed perform their greatness at the next level in the European Cup the following season due to the English clubs being banned from the competition as a result of difficult circumstances at the Heysel Stadium between Liverpool and Juventus. I do feel though that Everton would have had a great opportunity to maybe have won it, but who knows”.