More than thirty years after leaving Everton Bryan Hamilton’s name still conjures memories of one of the most bitter moments in the club’s history. On 23 April 1977 Everton met Liverpool in the FA Cup semi final at Maine Road. Late in the game and with the scores balanced at 2-2 Ronnie Goodlass cut in from the byline and played a centre for Hamilton, who deflected the ball into the Liverpool net. While the Evertonians celebrated wildly and Liverpool players contemplated the inevitability of defeat, the referee, Clive Thomas, inexplicably disallowed the goal. The game ended a draw and Liverpool, with a certain inevitability, won the replay 3-0. Everton’s seven year-long search for a trophy would extend for a further seven years.
Why did Thomas disallow the goal? Even today, no one really knows. During the match he told Ken McNaught that Hamilton had, ‘obviously handled the ball.’ But afterwards all he would say was that there had been, ‘an infringement of the rules of the Football Association.’ The following Monday Thomas said that Hamilton was offside, despite failing to flag. Video replays show that Thomas was twenty-five yards behind play -- although he still refuses to admit he made a mistake. He later told the authors of A Celebration of the Merseyside Derby: ‘From the angle of the cross there was no way Bryan Hamilton could have controlled the ball without the use of his arm. In no way could I say that from behind I could have seen the ball make contact with his hand or his arm. But I was 100% certain that he couldn’t have controlled it any other way. So I disallowed it. For handball.’
Hamilton had been a £40,000 signing from Ipswich Town in November 1975, where he carried a reputation as a goal-scoring midfielder. At Goodison, however, the Northern Ireland midfielder failed to live up to this reputation, although no one faulted his effort. Although he worked tirelessly down the right side of midfield, Hamilton never became a regular and already into his thirties he was sold to Millwall for £25,000 in the summer of 1977. After a spell with Swindon Town he turned to management, embarking on a lengthy and varied career, which he combined with extensive media work, providing one of the game’s most articulate and distinguished voices.