Mersey battle: Everton's Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is tackled by Steven Gerrard of Liverpool during last year's derby at Goodison Park

The players couldn't stop talking about it. It was a desperate situation for them to be in. In fact, for a club of that class, it was a shameful situation to be in. Some had even been wondering about the effect it was having on the boss. One leading squad-member went so far as insisting: "To be fair to the manager he hasn't lost his calmness under pressure. He's known our form was just around the corner."

And it was. Everton promptly went and became the first team to win at Birmingham in a year and thereby climbed off the bottom.

Because the scenario painted above doesn't come from anyone in the Liverpool dressing-room but by their closest rivals' captain, Phil Neville. And that's "closest" in a sense a little more ominous than mere geography. As Neville added after the victory at St Andrews, "being bottom of the league for a club like Everton is embarrassing and it's been talked about by the players every minute of every day this week." There was something more encouraging to talk about after the match though. Like the fact their victory had actually propelled Everton out of the relegation zone and pulled Liverpool into it. The news gave Moyes's players another lift. Even if it was dependent on goal difference.

That atrocious start to the season by Liverpool – both on and off the pitch – has allayed a lot of the supporters' more regular neuroses. It also overshadowed Everton's troubles. But now that the Anfield ownership saga has been resolved and Moyes has finally picked up a bit of momentum, the Kop can get back to more common concerns: like outdoing Everton.

Everton don't just go into today's match at Goodison Park as the more favoured team for the first time in arguably four decades. There also remains open the at-least-fair prospect that they could overtake Liverpool for a prolonged spell for the first time in that long period. Indeed, to properly illustrate just how much of a shift that would be you've got to back five decades. Bill Shankly's appointment in 1959 didn't just radically alter things for Liverpool. He would get the team to the stage where there was some truth to his line "There are only two teams in Liverpool. Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

Sure, there were isolated occasions when Everton ruled the city as in 1970 or 2004 but, for the most part, even the title wins of 1985 and 1987 were really just punctuation marks in long spells of red dominance.

Indeed, from the moment Shankly began his second season as a First Division-manager in 1963-64, the rivalry has broadly followed this timeline. From 1964-70, both clubs challenging, Liverpool edging ahead. From 1971-81, Liverpool top dogs, Everton in the dog house. From 1981-90, Everton princes but Liverpool kings. From 1990-2001, Liverpool threatened by mediocrity, Everton by relegation. And from 2001-10, looking at each other from opposites of the Big Four glass ceiling.

Now, for probably the first time in five decades, Everton look on a surer footing. Even accounting for the new ownership – but also because of it, since so few details have been released by NESV – Liverpool are in uncertain times. The exact details of the economics are still ambiguous. And part of the argument that Everton could overtake Liverpool is that Moyes has shown he can make the most of a relatively modest budget. The Liverpool that want to remain a Champions League club haven't. Under Hicks and Gillett, the club's transfer net spend dropped from a Big Four £66m to an Everton-level £29m. And that has coincided with a stark decline. Roy Hodgson's poor start has only sharpened the perception.

But Moyes will be aware that is all it may be: a perception. His club are as guilty of false starts themselves. A fair few of them. After last season's sensational finish and Alex Ferguson's talk of Everton potentially breaking the Big Four and staying there, there had been justified optimism going into this campaign… only for the same old trouble to hit them early on again.

In fact, this has been Everton's worst start since 2005-06 when they finished 11th. But there's a big difference. Unlike Liverpool or that season, they haven't actually been playing badly. Everton have dominated the majority of games they've dropped points in. An apt example was the draw away to Fulham, where only a miraculous late Mark Schwarzer save prevented the win. For the most part, they've combined the combative edge that marked Moyes' early days at the club with a fluidity he's added in recent years. The only thing that's been missing has been the finishing touch and, as such, the points. And it's only been emphasised by the four blanks they've drawn in seven.

The cause has been Tim Cahill's struggle with a niggle, Jermaine Beckford's adjustment to life in the Premier League and the injuries suffered by both Victor Anichebe, Aiyegbeni Yakubu and – all too typically – Louis Saha. It's an unfortunately position-specific spate for a club who actually sacked their physio over the summer because of the extent of their injury lists in the last two seasons.

At the least, Yakubu and Cahill come back today fully fit and with them returns Everton's confidence. They're likely to be supplied from the right by Ireland's most recent revelation and the club's spiritual successor to Trevor Steven, Seamus Coleman. Should he start, this will be his first Merseyside derby. It's also Hodgson's, something that adds another dynamic to an already taut derby. Given the nature of the new Liverpool manager's training methods and his own false start at Fulham, it's much too early to argue he's out of his depth as many supporters have done. The team does need to pick up its own momentum soon though. That will be helped by "the cloud lifting from this football club" as Hodgson put it about the new ownership deal on Friday. The old cliché about form going out the window in these kind of games could have an effect too. Although that's perhaps just as much to do with the fact certain managers prefer playing against each other. Moyes – just like Ferguson – appeared to have the sign over Benitez in the latter's first few seasons. Then the Spaniard figured him out and Everton are now waiting four years for a league win over Liverpool. It's going to be interesting to see how Moyes and Hodgson interact.

Not as interesting, however, as the fact it's late October and Everton see Liverpool as a good match in which to get their first home win of the season. Times have certainly changed.

Premier League: Everton v Liverpool, Goodison Park, 1.30, Live, Sky Sports 1, 1.00

Blue to the skies: Everton's record of finishing ahead of their Merseyside rivals

Everton have only finished above Liverpool in the league six times since Bill Shankly got the latter promoted in 1961-'62.


Tim Cahill replaces Wayne Rooney in Everton's attack and spearheads a superb start that sees them take the fourth Champions League place. That's also down to Liverpool's erratic form during Rafa Benitez's first season. They lose 14 league games and finish fifth but win the Champions League.


Everton go top of the table in February, just ahead of champions Liverpool on goal difference. Seven wins in a row from the start of March proves enough to ease to the title by a margin of nine points. Runners-up Liverpool fail to win a trophy.


Everton's finely-balanced midfield of Trevor Steven, Paul Bracewell, Peter Reid and Kevin Sheedy helps them to win the league by a then-record points total of 90 points. They also claim the Cup Winners' Cup and just miss out on a treble by losing the FA Cup final to Manchester United. Liverpool rise from the relegation zone in October to second but fail to win a trophy for the first time in 10 years.


The 'holy trinity' of Howard Kendall, Alan Ball and Colin Harvey see Everton sweep to the title. With Brian Labone brilliant at the back, they clear Leeds by nine points (when it was just two for a win) and lose five games in a 42-match season. Liverpool finish a distant fifth.


Everton are between championship-winning teams and finish fourth behind Matt Busby's Manchester United, who claim their first league title after the Munich air disaster. Liverpool reach seventh but there are signs the sands are shifting as Shankly's side beat Leeds in the FA Cup final to add to the previous season's league title.


A season of firsts. Everton win their first league title under manager Harry Catterick and their first since the second world war. Roy Vernon and Alex Young both score over 20 goals each up front to deliver it ahead of Tottenham. Liverpool's first season in the First Division under Shankly sees them finish a respectable eighth.

False starts

Everton have usually been slow starters under David Moyes, particularly in the last few seasons as the table shows.

Season 2002-03 P 7 W 2 D 2 Pts 3 Final 8 Pos 7th

2003-04 7 2 2 3 8 17th

2004-05 7 5 1 1 16 4th

2005-06 7 1 0 6 3 11th

2006-07 7 3 4 0 13 6th

2007-08 7 3 1 3 10 5th

2008-09 7 2 2 3 8 5th

2009-10 7 3 1 3 10 8th

2010-11 7 1 3 3 6 –