So difficult were goals to come by in the 1970s that at the start of the 1977-78 season, the Daily Express offered the considerable prize of £10,000 to any player who scored 30 in the First Division.

Even though there were 42 games in a league season then, the 30-goal total had been reached only once in the previous 10 years — by Francis Lee for Manchester City in 1971-72.

Style, refereeing and the rules were in favour of defence, with goalkeepers allowed to pick up back-passes and defenders unpunished for tackles from behind. Scoring 30 goals was quite a feat.

Bob Latchford scored 30 goals in the 1978 season, an almost impossible feat at the time

Bob Latchford scored 30 goals in the 1978 season, an almost impossible feat at the time

Bob Latchford scored 30 goals in the 1978 season, an almost impossible feat at the time

‘It seemed like a big figure, 30,’ says Bob Latchford. ‘Strangely, when you look at the quality of strikers around, you wonder why.’

Latchford was one such centre forward. Signed by Everton from Birmingham City in 1974 for a British record £350,000, Latchford was prolific. He won 12 England caps, scoring five goals.

He had scored 25 league and cup goals in 1976-77, when new manager Gordon Lee led Everton to the League Cup final and FA Cup semi-finals, but Latchford did not set off the next season with 30 in mind.

‘The idea of 30 didn’t creep in until after Christmas, New Year and it was Easter before I thought I could actually do it,’ he says.

Latchford missed Everton’s opening day defeat by Nottingham Forest — the two clubs would be first and second for most of the season — and scored only once in Everton’s first seven games. A couple more followed, then he rattled in four at QPR.

He was supposed to receive a £10,000 bonus for reaching the total, but ended up with £1,000

He was supposed to receive a £10,000 bonus for reaching the total, but ended up with £1,000

He was supposed to receive a £10,000 bonus for reaching the total, but ended up with £1,000

‘I liked QPR,’ he recalls. ‘Always scored against them, home and away.’ A sign of the times was that Latchford was given a crate of whisky for this. He didn’t drink whisky.

There was a hat-trick against Coventry in November and by Christmas, with Everton second, he had 17 goals. Another against Manchester United on Boxing Day made it 18 but Everton lost 6-2 at home and Forest began to ease away.

On February 4, Latchford scored two in a home win over Leicester City to take him to 21. There were 15 games to go: 30 looked possible, a first title since 1970 did not.

But then five matches over six weeks went by without a goal and while Latchford missed two games, he acknowledges: ‘I’d started to put pressure on myself.’

With 10 games left, he was still on 21 goals. Then came a rush of five in four matches. ‘It re-affirmed in my mind that I could do it and the boys in the dressing room began to chat about it.’

It looked like matches were running out, but he scored a glut of goals in the final few games

It looked like matches were running out, but he scored a glut of goals in the final few games

It looked like matches were running out, but he scored a glut of goals in the final few games

With four matches left, he had 27 goals. Ipswich at home brought a penalty. Latchford took it. ‘That was my first penalty-kick as a professional.’

He scored. Now on 28, Everton went to Middlesbrough. They drew 0-0. Then they went to West Bromwich. They lost 3-1. Everton’s scorer was George Telfer.

It meant that on the last day of the season, at home to Chelsea, Latchford had to score twice to win the prize.

There were 40,000 agitated Evertonians inside Goodison Park, but when Everton were 2-0 ahead at half-time, neither goal was scored by Latchford.

Shortly after the interval, it was 3-0. Neil Robinson, possibly the first vegan English footballer, scored the one and only goal of his Everton career.

There were 18 minutes left and Latchford had still not scored. Then Dave Thomas swung in a corner at the Gwladys Street End — ‘and I got on the end of it. I knew then the other would come.’

Latchford scored a penalty at Goodison Park to hit 30 goals and the Everton crowd went wild

Latchford scored a penalty at Goodison Park to hit 30 goals and the Everton crowd went wild

Latchford scored a penalty at Goodison Park to hit 30 goals and the Everton crowd went wild

A calm striker, Latchford, ‘wasn’t panicking, even at 3-0’. He had 29 goals when another Thomas corner was coming his way. This was it. The 30 moment. Then Mick Lyons nipped in to score instead.

‘Goodison produced this roar-cum-groan and I told Mick to eff off back to defence and stay there. “I’m sorry, Latch,” he said. Apologising for scoring!’

Lyons did not heed Latchford. Five minutes later he was back in the Chelsea box making the most of a Micky Droy challenge. The referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Latchford. This was it. His second-ever penalty.

‘I struck it OK, not great, but it went past Peter Bonetti’s right and the place went berserk. It was the 78th minute in 1978 and it was Everton’s centenary year — formed in 1878.

‘The stars were aligned and to top it all, the great man, Dixie Dean, was there, 50 years after his 60 goals.’

After much champagne, Latchford bumped into Dean who congratulated him before adding: ‘Remember, you’re only half as good as me.’

Latchford laughed. Then came a tax demand from the Inland Revenue on the £10,000. He was not laughing then as half of the money had gone to the Professional Footballers’ Association and £4,000 into the players’ pool. Latchford got £1,000. He ended up in court and lost. ‘Yeah, but what a day.’ 

Original Article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-6199139/MATCH-DAY-did-Bob-Latchfords-10-000-goal-bonus-go.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490