On This Day: The night Stuart Slater stuck it to the Toffees
It is 28 years to the day since a 21-year-old Academy of Football graduate caught the attention of the football world with the best performance of his young career.
Second Division West Ham United were considered rank outsiders when they hosted top-flight Everton at the Boleyn Ground in the 1991 FA Cup quarter-finals.
However, wing wizard Stuart Slater’s outstanding performance on the left flank, capped by a sensational solo winning goal in the Hammers’ shock 2-1 victory, means his name will forever be part of Claret and Blue folklore.
We may have been underdogs against top-flight Everton but just like all West Ham teams, we could beat anyone on our day
“I netted 18 goals during my 179 appearances for West Ham United but the one I scored in the 1991 FA Cup quarter-final against Everton got most attention,” confirmed the amiable, baby-faced Slater, now 49. “That Monday evening tie was a big occasion because it was the only game played that evening.
“Live on TV, I got so much exposure both that night and in the following morning’s papers.
“There was always a special atmosphere under the Boleyn Ground floodlights because the West Ham fans would go along to unwind after a hard day’s work.
“All they demanded was that we put in a shift, while playing attractive football and we certainly did that.
“We may have been underdogs against top-flight Everton but just like all West Ham teams, we could beat anyone on our day.
“Colin Foster volleyed us ahead in front of 28,162 fans before the break and then I made it 2-0 with a sprint and low 18-yard shot that beat Neville Southall, on the hour.
“Dave Watson’s goal came too late for Everton. Afterwards, Howard Kendall was incredible in his praise, saying that I’d been the difference between the two teams.
“Howard had won everything in football so people sat up and listened to him, when he admitted that Everton just couldn’t handle me that night.”
West Ham went on to the semi-finals, where Tony Gale was infamously sent-off in a 4-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest at Villa Park.
While that result was obviously disappointing, Slater will never forget the evening he graduated from promising youngster to nationwide star.
“The place was absolutely buzzing, they got a goal back but we won 2-1 so I got the winner and we moved onto the semi-finals,” he recalled, correctly.
“Everton were winning everything back then and were the team to beat in that era, so for me to play so well and tear their back four apart, on the TV, was brilliant.”