Without question the defining moment of Imre Varadi’s short Everton career was the deciding goal he scored in Everton’s FA Cup fourth round win over Liverpool in January 1981. Liverpool had been wholly been dominant through the 1970s, while Gordon Lee’s managerial reign was in its death throes. The game, nevertheless, attracted all the inevitable fanaticism of a Mersey derby. 54,000 fans paid record receipts to see the Goodison tie and were treated to a rare display of Everton superiority.
Peter Eastoe opened the scoring with a low shot, but it was Varadi with whom the game has become synonymous. His back post half volley into the Liverpool net prompted elation among Evertonians. As he celebrated in front of the Park End, a Liverpool fan, with characteristic graciousness, hurled a meat pie that hit Varadi square on the side of the face. Jimmy Case pulled a goal back for Liverpool, but Varadi’s strike was enough to put Everton into the fifth round.
A lithe, quick-footed striker, who liked to bamboozle defenders with his cavalier feats of dribbling, Varadi, a young Londoner of Hungarian immigrant stock, had been plucked from amateur football by Sheffield United in the late-1970s. After just ten appearances at Bramall Lane, Lee paid £80,000 for him in March 1979. Chances were initially scarce, but after Bob Latchford was struck down by serious injury in November 1980, Varadi got an extended run.
Alas, his chance probably came at the wrong time. Everton were labouring under Lee and struggling without their talisman, Latchford. It was always asking much for a young player to take on such a striking burden and Varadi often struggled, running down blind allies or retaining possession when a simple pass would have sufficed. Everton won just four league games after Latchford’s injury, and at the end of the season, Varadi was an early departure under Lee’s successor, Howard Kendall. His £125,000 move to Newcastle was another stop in a lengthy tour that, by the end of his career in the mid-1990s, would see him turn out for a dozen clubs. Varadi is now a well-known football agent based in Sheffield.
Despite the brevity of his Everton career, Varadi left a lasting impression on at least one young Evertonian. Treated to a diet of televised English football at his Swedish home, because of Varadi the teenage son of a Hungarian immigrant became an Evertonian, for they were the only club with a discernable link to his father’s homeland. His name? Anders Limpar.