Should Everton unleash the DOGS OF WAR to save their season?

Should Everton unleash the DOGS OF WAR? Joe Royle’s famous battle cry saved the Toffees from relegation in 1995 (and won them an FA Cup), but Frank Lampard may have left it too late to turn to the dark arts as he looks to avoid the drop

  • Everton’s fighting spirit came close to earning them points away at Liverpool
  • Their battling qualities drew comparisons with the club’s famous ‘Dogs of War’
  • Joe Royle transformed the Toffees into a fierce, snarling team during the 1990s
  • But a former member of that side, Earl Barret, tells Sportsmail, it is not just about the battle, the players do have to stick together, but must be ready to play 

Everton’s ‘Dogs of War’ are confident the Toffees will have enough to stay in the Premier League this season, if they can play without fear and stick together.

It is late in the day, but Everton’s fighting spirit re-emerged in the Merseyside derby and they will need more of the same if they are to survive in the Premier League, starting today against Chelsea.

Earl Barrett, who helped steer Everton to safety in 1995 as part of Joe Royle’s famous ‘Dogs of War’ team, has told Sportsmail he believes that resolve, coupled with talented players, will see them home.

Earl Barrett was part of Everton’s Dogs of War side that ruffled feathers, won the FA Cup and survived a serious relegation threat in the 1994-95 season by fighting for everything

Should Frank Lampard invoke the spirit of Joe Royle’s team and unleash the Dogs of War?

Manager Frank Lampard had to change something ahead of his trip to Anfield last week and the question now is, will he stick with the same approach?


Chelsea (h)

Leicester City (a)

Watford (a)

Brentford (h)

Crystal Palace (h)

Arsenal  (a)

Lampard has tried to play on the front foot since he took over at Goodison Park, but his record is even worse than Rafa Benitez. 

The Spaniard mustered 0.95 points per game from his 20 matches in charge this season.

With just 0.83 points per game, Lampard’s Everton will struggle to a total of 36 points unless there is improvement, which with Leeds and Burnley on good runs, may not be enough.

At Liverpool, the Blues played Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan and Alex Iwobi in the middle of the park, sat in, broke the game up, provoked the opposition, but then countered with speed. If they had been more precise in the final third, they may even have sprung an upset.

At least it was a dogged display before Liverpool overcame them in the second half.

‘What you saw was spirit among the group,’ said Lampard after the game. ‘Evertonians can look at that and can see the group are fighting.’

Everton showed spirit in their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, and put in a dogged display

Abdoulaye Doucouré, Allan and Alex Iwobi packed the midfield to frustrate Liverpool

The Liverpool game, which ended in a 2-0 defeat, could just be a blueprint for survival, and earn valuable points against stronger opposition, like Chelsea, and away from home, where they have been particularly poor.

Everton sit rock bottom of the Premier League form table for away fixtures. They have lost the last seven on the road and have not picked up a point since mid-December, at Stamford Bridge.

The Toffees still have to travel to Leicester City, Watford and Arsenal, a daunting prospect on the final day of the season.

So, is it time to unleash ‘the dogs of war’ again?

Joe Royle realised Everton were a ‘soft touch’ in 1994-95 season, something he addressed

The phrase is evocative for Evertonians, but fans are divided.


Manager Joe Royle created Everton’s ‘Dogs of War’ team, a term he later came to regret.

But his influence on a team that was rock bottom of the Premier League when he took over was remarkable.

‘If you look at our form from our first game against Liverpool in the November, we then won at Chelsea and beat Leeds,’ Royle told Sky Sports in 2020.

‘We still weren’t out of it but we were on the fringes of getting away from trouble, as it was the season when there was going to be four teams relegated. But our projected form from that moment on meant we would’ve finished sixth or seventh. We really did come from nowhere to somewhere in a big way.

‘The first thing I did when Willie Donachie [his assistant manager] and myself went in there was work on the defending. We’d both taken away an armful of VHS tapes and we both came up with the same thing the next day – ‘soft touch’. So we were determined to make us hard to beat first and foremost.’

Everton secured their top-flight status with five days of the season remaining – a 1-0 win at Ipswich 

Former boss Royle invoked the ‘dogs of war’ mantra in 1994-95, when he took over a team that looked doomed to relegation. Everton had avoided the drop in the previous campaign on the last day of the season, under ex-Norwich City boss, Mike Walker.

But it only got worse the following season. Everton were stranded at the bottom of the Premier League with just eight points from 14 games. 

Royle and assistant manager, Willie Donachie, studied scores of VHS video tapes when they took over in late November 1994 and quickly realised Everton were a ‘soft touch’. That had to change.

He filled the midfield with Welsh international Barry Horne, who could put in a tackle that would make even the spectators’ eyes water, John Ebbrell and Joe Parkinson.

The dogs were loose – and wreaked havoc. Royle’s Everton won their first three games, scalping Liverpool 2-0 at Goodison, before beating Chelsea 1-0 in London and Leeds United 3-0 on Merseyside.

They became synonymous with a battling mentality, epitomised by club legend, Horne, who went on to win the Player of the Year award.

Everton immediately went five unbeaten under Royle (and lost only six games between November and the end of the season, winning the FA Cup, beating Manchester United 1-0 in the final).

What the Toffees would give for five unbeaten, now? That would probably secure top-flight survival. But do they have it in them?

‘Last time we were in this position you knew that Joe’s ‘dogs of war’ could do it,’ said Justin Jones, a fan for 40 years, on Twitter.

‘Which Dogs of War do you identify in this current Everton squad?’ asked another fan, who goes by the Twitter handle, StevieToffee.

Joe Royle took over as Everton manager in November 1994 and went five games unbeaten

In Royle’s first game in charge, Duncan Ferguson scored in a 2-0 win over Liverpool

Sportsmail turned to Earl ‘the Pearl’ Barrett, to answer that question.

A right back, who Royle brought in from his former club, Oldham Athletic, in January 1995, Barrett was ever present in the successful second half of the season.

‘We were very tight as a group and not just the 11 players on the field, it was 16 to 18 players,’ Barrett told Sportsmail from his home in Texas, where he is now coaching U19 and U17 teams in the MLS for Rise FC.

‘We were so supportive of each other, it was great. Our way of playing was to be really tough and hard and literally fight for the ball and then try to play, but you had to win the battle first.

‘It might be that we played for 85 minutes and it was just a fight, but in the last five minutes we had won the battle and we played a bit and a got a goal.’

Barrett says the ‘Dogs of War’ team would fight relentlessly to win the battle, but always be ready to play when the opportunity presented itself. Pictured – Joe Parkinson and Paul Ince in the 1995 FA Cup Final, which Everton won against Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley

Barrett said the key thing then and now is to combine battling qualities with a determination to play ‘quick, sharp, accurate’ football, whenever the opportunity presents itself. It is not enough to just fight.

In his team, he says, they were always ready to play and Duncan Ferguson, Paul Rideout and Daniel Amokachi, provided the firepower.

‘These days, you cannot be a bunch of fighters and hope to win. ‘Dogs of War’ might be a headline, and they have to have that mentality, but it is also a great squad of players.

‘If I was in that dressing room, I would be thinking we have got some good players here, let’s get it on.’

The former Everton player admires Seamus Coleman for his leadership in the current side

Barrett says he can see characters in Everton squad, who can help the club through the next six games. He picks Seamus Coleman for his leadership, Richarlison for his quality in front of goal, and Anthony Gordon, for his fearlessness, despite his youth.

He also thinks Doucouré, Jordan Pickford and Fabian Delph are the sort of characters who can turn it around for the Toffees.

‘The mixture of strength, attitude and skill is there,’ said Barrett. ‘I believe in their ability. They will get out of this.’

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