Few men can claim the length or distinction of association with Everton Football Club as Howard Kendall, who, over a period spanning more than three decades and totalling some 18 years, claimed three league titles, an FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
As a midfielder in the 1960s and 1970s he was part, with Colin Harvey and Alan Ball, of the famed ‘Holy Trinity’, which drove Everton to title success in 1970 and thrilled football purists of all hues. As manager, he served Everton over three spells through the 1980s and 1990s, masterminding the unprecedented successes of the mid-1980s. Such glories were to elude him later in his career, perhaps clouding some judgements. But after electing to leave following the club’s ninth title win in 1987, Kendall realised that he could never escape Everton. He might share love affairs with other clubs, but Goodison was in his blood – it was his ‘marriage’, he famously quipped, and when Everton called he returned and did his best.
A son of the Northeast, Kendall started his career at Preston North End, first attracting national prominence in May 1964 when, aged 17 years, 345 days, he became the youngest player to turn out in an FA Cup Final.
Twice Preston held the lead, only to lose 3-2 to a last minute goal. Playing in the Second Division, the young wing half continued to attract positive notices.
A creative wing half, he was a strong and precise tackler who, it was soon quite obvious, was head and shoulders above the rest of his team-mates. Frustrated at Preston’s inability to break out of the Second Division, Kendall became restless. For a long time, Liverpool looked the most likely destination for the young player, with Bill Shankly making frequent visits to his former club to scout Kendall. A bid in October 1966 was rejected, and the rumours persisted for so long that the Preston crowd took to chanting, ‘Stay away, Shankly.’
In March 1967, Kendall’s long-rumoured move to Merseyside finally came. When the Liverpool Echo carried the headline ‘Kendall Signs’ scores of expectant Liverpudlians bought the newspaper – only to discover that their target had joined Everton for £80,000. To Shankly’s fury, the Anfield board failed to back their manager with the funds (causing Shankly to offer a letter of resignation, which remained unretracted in a cabinet in the club secretary’s office for years), leaving Kendall with a choice between Everton and Stoke. When he and his father discussed a move with Stoke manager Tony Waddington and Alan Ball senior, a member of Stoke’s coaching staff, Kendall senior asked Ball, ‘If Stoke is the right move for my lad, why didn’t your boy come here?’ From that moment Kendall knew that he would become an Everton player.
The start of Kendall’s 30-year-long association with Everton was nevertheless undermined by injury, limiting him to just four appearances in the final months of the 1966/67 season. But in the 1967/68 season he established himself in place of Jimmy Gabriel in a side that brimmed with potential. Since winning the 1966 FA Cup, Catterick had reconfigured his team into one that oozed youth and panache. Kendall, along with his other new additions – Alan Ball, John Hurst and Joe Royle – were all in their early twenties or younger. So too were Colin Harvey and Tommy Wright, veterans of the cup win.
The renaissance was born in the Everton midfield. Starting in five-aside matches in Bellefield’s gym, a unique understanding developed between Kendall, Harvey and Ball. 'Sometimes I wished we could have got the games televised,’ Catterick later said of the training sessions. ‘It was absolute magic.' It did not take long for this to be transferred onto the Goodison pitch. Each man complemented the others perfectly: Ball the firebrand was offset by the cool panache of Harvey; what Harvey lacked in bite or aggression Kendall made up; if Kendall was occasionally lacking in goals, it was compensated by Ball’s incredible strike rate – 51 league goals in his first three seasons at Goodison, including 20 from 34 games in the 1967/68 campaign. ‘As three players we hardly ever needed any coaching,’ recalled Ball. ‘We could find each other in the dark.’ If Kendall did not immediately win over Evertonians, some still mourning the departure of Jimmy Gabriel, in February 1968 he secured his place in blue hearts by scoring the only goal in the Goodison derby. ‘I see the best two teams in Liverpool won today,’ said Catterick afterwards, recycling the old Shankly jibe and goading his rival who he knew to be still smarting from the previous spring’s transfer. ‘Without a doubt: Everton’s Kendall was man of the match,’ recorded the Daily Post. ‘Whether he was creating opportunities, forcing his attentions on the Liverpool defence or breaking up attacks he hardly put a foot wrong. It was almost as if he was setting out to show what a player Liverpool missed when he decided to go to Everton.’
In May 1968, Kendall returned to Wembley for the FA Cup Final, against West Bromwich Albion – but again left empty-handed. It was his last visit there as a player, for although he would be called up to several England squads, he would never play a full international, causing many observers to dub him the finest English player never to play for his country.
For the next two seasons, Gwladys Street’s Holy Trinity reigned supreme, thrilling Goodison with some of the finest football the old stadium has ever seen. There is a school of thought that the brand of football played in the 1968/69 season was purer, more uninhibited than that which ultimately won the league title the following year. Certainly, it was no coincidence that Everton’s 1968/69 title challenge waned when an injury suffered in a 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers on 1 February kept Kendall out for most of the remainder of the season. The following year the three were finally reunited for the run-in after injuries and a suspension served by Ball. Everton embarked on an eight-game unbeaten streak and the title came to Goodison for the seventh time.
According to Colin Harvey, their midfield partnership ‘was all very instinctive – not something we worked on in training. Our games complemented each other. Alan liked to push forward in support of Joe Royle while myself and Howard were more defensively minded.’
AND YET AFTER shining so brightly, Everton began to fail. The trio played more games together in 1970/71 than they had a year earlier – but finished only 14th. In December 1971 Ball was sold to Arsenal in a move that shocked Evertonians.
Over the following few seasons of flux, Kendall was one of the few positives in Catterick’s waning team. Injured early in September 1973, he missed many of the opening stages of Billy Bingham’s managerial reign and when, in February 1974, the Everton manager sought to make Bob Latchford a British record signing, he deemed Kendall expendable, selling him to Birmingham as a makeweight in the £300,000 deal.
At St Andrews he performed admirably for 115 games before moving to Stoke City during summer 1977. Now aged 31, he also took on coaching responsibilities and played a pivotal role in the club’s return to the First Division in 1979. But rather than make a playing return at the top level, in June that year he joined Blackburn Rovers who had just sacked their manager John Pickering, having been relegated to the Third Division.
In his debut season as manager – 1979/80 – Kendall immediately won promotion back to the Second Division. The following year Rovers finished fourth, missing out on promotion only on goal difference to Swansea City.
Kendall’s rise at Blackburn did not go unnoticed at his former club. When Gordon Lee was sacked at the end of the 1980/81 season, Kendall, who had already rejected the Crystal Palace manager’s job, was appointed Everton boss.
Seven years had passed since his unceremonious departure to Birmingham and much had changed at Goodison: average attendances were down by a third; the Moores millions had dried up; and Everton, once considered perennial title contenders, were merely treading water at the wrong end of the First Division.
Nothing has happened here since 1970,’ Kendall announced on his return. ‘And it will take a bit of time to put it right. But we are geared to win trophies and that is what we aim to do.
But despite the limited resources available to him, expectations remained incredibly high. As one newspaper put it, ‘They’re not asking much from Howard Kendall – only a three minute mile, a century before lunch and a successful assault on Everest.’
From Blackburn he brought Mick Heaton as his assistant manager and over the summer of 1981 engaged in a frenzy of buying and selling. Bob Latchford and John Gidman were high-profile departures, and Kendall memorably brought in seven close-season signings: Alan Ainscow, Jim Arnold, Alan Biley, Mick Ferguson, Neville Southall, Mickey Thomas and Mike Walsh.
Over the course of the 1981/82 season the majority of these new players would make little or no impact as Kendall tried to rebuild. Asa Hartford joined the exodus, and after the new manager failed in a British record bid to sign West Bromwich Albion’s Bryan Robson in the autumn, he broke the Everton transfer record to sign Stoke City’s Adrian Heath in January 1992. On four occasions, Kendall called upon himself as a midfield stand-in – the final outings in a 600-appearance playing career.
In a season of transition, Everton finished 1981/82 eighth. From the perspective of time this can be considered progress. Several outstanding young players – Kevin Ratcliffe, Kevin Richardson, Gary Stevens and Graeme Sharp – were given extended first-team runs, and although his transfers were more miss than hit, Kendall nevertheless made two inspired signings in Heath and Southall. Each of these young players would play crucial parts in the success that was to follow.
IN SUMMER 1982, Kendall adopted less of a scattergun approach in the transfer market. Old-boys Andy King and David Johnson made returns, and Kendall brought in a couple of young unknowns: the Liverpool reserve midfielder Kevin Sheedy and Tranmere’s lanky centre back Derek Mountfield. The former was thrust straight into the first team as Everton showed promise in the first stages of the season, opening their Goodison campaign with a 5-0 win over newly crowned European Champions Aston Villa.
But on 6 November 1982, any progress made under Kendall seemed to grind to an abrupt halt. Facing Liverpool in the Goodison derby, Kendall drafted in his former Blackburn captain centre back Glenn Keeley, who he had signed on loan, for his debut. It would be an unmitigated disaster. Keeley was sent off on the half-hour mark for tussling with Kenny Dalglish. Already a goal behind, it left Everton with a hopeless task, but scarcely could anybody have imagined the ease with which Liverpool cut through them. Ian Rush scored four times, Mark Lawrenson grabbed the middle goal. Everton were humiliated. ‘People have gone overboard about the game,’ said Kendall, attempting to rationalise in the days after the debacle.‘We were beaten by a very good side and we only had ten men for most of the time. Any side is going to have to do it all against Liverpool.’ But Kendall’s honeymoon was at an end.
The defeat marked a watershed of sorts. Gary Stevens reclaimed his right back shirt from Brian Borrows. Neville Southall was dropped and loaned to Port Vale – but returned by the season’s end, a tougher and more complete player. Billy Wright would soon be phased out from the first team, and Kevin Ratcliffe, hitherto misused as a left back, made a triumphant return in central defence. And the defeat added to the sense that Everton’s midfield needed hardening: six weeks later, Everton’s overdraft was stretched to breaking point to acquire Bolton midfielder Peter Reid. Although his initial impact would be limited by injuries, Kendall later described him as ‘Everton’s most important signing since the war’.
Things picked up: six wins in the final eight games of the season saw Everton finish seventh, and they could be considered unfortunate to have been knocked out in an FA Cup quarter-final. Yet Merseyside was gripped with mass unemployment and economic recession. Average attendances stood at barely 20,000 – the lowest since the First World War – impacting on Everton’s effectiveness in the transfer market.
During summer 1983 Kendall was able to add just Trevor Steven and Alan Harper – a discarded Liverpool reserve – to his promising squad, while Steve McMahon, one of the best players at the club, was sold to Aston Villa, having failed to agree a new contract.
As 1983/84 began, Goodison was a grim place, and Kendall was on the edge. Attendances dropped below 20,000. Goals were hard to come by – just 11 in the league before New Year. An action group set up by the fans distributed leaflets before home games calling for Kendall’s sacking. A spokesman for the group announced: ‘We believe something drastic needs to be done because we fear for this great club’s Division One future. We have tremendous respect for Howard Kendall as a past player, but we do not rate him highly as manager of Everton. He has been quoted as saying that he thinks the team is on the right lines. If that’s the case I’d hate to see what the wrong lines are.’ Philip Carter delivered a vote of confidence in the manager, but the fan protests continued. One day, Kendall returned home from training to find his garage daubed with graffiti calling on him to resign.
Kendall persisted. He changed his backroom team, promoting Colin Harvey – previously youth team manager – to his assistant. In an attempt to end the goal drought, he signed Wolves’ Andy Gray in November. Peter Reid returned from long-term injury, Derek Mountfield was promoted to the first team and Kevin Ratcliffe was made captain.
THE GREEN shoots of recovery did not show until January 1984, however, when there were a couple of turning points that have subsequently entered Goodison lore. The first came on 6 January, when Everton faced Stoke City in an FA Cup third round tie. Evertonians colonised the Victoria Ground and Kendall’s team talk became legendary. With the pre-match noise from visiting fans deafening, Kendall opened every window of the dressing room. ‘Just listen to that,’ he said. ‘Are you going to let them down?’ Everton won 2-0. Twelve days later, they faced Oxford United in a Milk Cup semi-final. Trailing 1-0 until the closing stages of the match, Kevin Brock’s famous back-pass let in Adrian Heath, who equalised to set up a replay. Everton won that match 4-1, and Kendall never looked back.
The turnaround in a team that at Christmas had looked set for a relegation battle was remarkable. Eleven league goals in the first half of the season became 44 by the season’s end as Everton once more finished seventh. They reached the Milk Cup Final, losing to Liverpool after a replay. Seven weeks later Everton returned to Wembley to face Watford in the FA Cup Final. Everton won 2-0 and Kendall, who six months earlier had been vilified by sections of the Everton support, was a hero once more.
That summer he added Sunderland’s promising young midfielder Paul Bracewell to his squad, but remained loyal to the youthful side that had brought him such great success in the first half of 1984. By November Everton were top after a run of results that included a 5-0 demolition of Manchester United and an Anfield derby win, sealed by Graeme Sharp’s awesome volley. It was only Everton’s third win over Liverpool since Kendall’s playing days. Everton, reported The Times, had ‘completed the transformation from an ordinary team to a formidable one’.
Although Everton briefly ceded top spot over Christmas, it would soon be reclaimed. From Boxing Day until the beginning of May, when the league title was won, Everton went on a 17-match unbeaten streak, winning 15 and drawing just twice. Never before had a title been won in such a fashion: Everton amassed a record 90 points (surpassed in 1994 by Manchester United), which would surely have been closer to 100 had Kendall not been forced, due to the fatigue of his senior professionals, to play youngsters in the last four games of the season. The tally of 88 goals had not been reached by any top-flight club for 17 years. He led Everton to a second consecutive FA Cup Final, which was lost to Manchester United. In his first European campaign, Kendall led Everton to success in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final. For these achievements, Kendall was named Bell’s Manager of the Year. In 18 months Howard Kendall had dragged a team from the depths to being the best in the world – a fact acknowledged by World Soccer magazine, who named Everton ‘World Team of the Year’. With the exception of Adrian Heath, he made no big-money signings and made optimum use of his youth players, astute bargains and veterans. They played in a manner and spirit befitting the finest traditions of the School of Science and after sitting for so long in the shadow cast by Liverpool had come marching out of it.
In Harry Catterick, Kendall had once come under the charge of one of the most ruthless managers in the game. While the model of affability himself, he was sometimes also prone to making decisions that flew in the face of supporter opinion. Early in the 1984/85 season, he had replaced the popular John Bailey with Birmingham City’s grizzled hard man, Pat Van Den Hauwe. And as he plotted his retention of the league title, so he made another hard choice, selling Andy Gray, who had become a crowd idol. In his place he bought Gary Lineker for a club record £800,000.
LINEKER WAS A huge success, scoring 40 goals in all competitions. For much of the 1985/86 season, spearheaded by Lineker’s goals, Everton looked set to retain the title, also reaching the FA Cup Final for the third year running. But at the last they ran out of steam: the title was conceded to Liverpool after a devastating defeat to Oxford United with just three games remaining; Liverpool then completed the double, overcoming a 1-0 half-time FA Cup Final deficit.
PERHAPS more cruelly, Liverpool had also deprived Everton of the opportunity of competing in the European Cup after their supporters’ murderous behaviour prior to the previous season’s final led to the deaths of 39 Juventus fans at Belgium’s Heysel Stadium. English clubs were given an indefinite European ban, and while Kendall nobly took the line that he did not want to discuss the merits of its fairness because so many had died, he later admitted:
The ban came as a massive body blow to Everton Football Club. We had won the league and with it the right to contest what is arguably the most sought after piece of silverware in world football. I had been so looking forward to seeing the cream of Europe play at Goodison Park in front of one of British football’s most knowledgeable crowds.
There remained a sense that the Heysel ban left Kendall with unfinished business to conduct – that he needed to prove himself in Europe. Obviously this ambition could no longer be realised at Everton and so speculation started to link him with jobs in Europe and, in particular, Spain.
The Heysel ban would see English clubs lose their best players to European and even Scottish rivals as they sought European competition. Among the first to leave was Lineker, who Kendall sold to Barcelona in July 1986 for £2.2million. Lineker later claimed that he never wanted away from Everton: could it have been that Kendall thought he might be reunited with his supreme goalscorer at the Nou Camp?
Certainly, as the 1986/87 season kicked off there was some truth behind the rumours linking Kendall with the Barcelona job. The Catalan giants approached Kendall at the start of the season, when it emerged that its incumbent manager Terry Venables may be leaving. Kendall met club president Jose Lluís Núñez and chief executive Joan Gaspart at London’s Connaught Hotel, even signing a provisional contract. In the event Venables signed for a further year (against his better judgement, as he later admitted) and Kendall’s deal fell through. Despite Kendall’s obvious disappointment the idea of managing abroad had been firmly implanted in his head. It was ‘a longing which burned deep inside of me and one which I knew I had to get out of my system’.
Everton’s 1986/87 title win arguably represented the apex of Kendall’s managerial skills, for the odds were insurmountably stacked against him. Not only had he lost Lineker to Barcelona, but Paul Bracewell and Derek Mountfield had succumbed to long-term injuries. Neville Southall and Peter Reid both missed the start of the season to injury too.
At the start of the campaign, Kendall added the Norwich City captain Dave Watson, a £900,000 record signing, and Manchester City’s 33-year-old captain, Paul Power, for £65,000. If his arrival prompted incredulity, he soon assuaged doubters, filling in a number of roles throughout the team with distinction. Kendall improvised and patched up his squad, adding further inspired signings in Ian Snodin and Wayne Clarke at crucial points in the season as Everton lifted their ninth league title.
Kendall had now eclipsed Harry Catterick to become Everton’s most successful manager. But rather than build an empire, as successive Liverpool managers had done, he sought fresh challenges. In April 1987, as Everton stood on the brink of the championship, Kendall met with a representative from a second Spanish club. Athletico Bilbao, the representatives of Spain’s Basque capital, were the unlikely team that had managed to capture his imagination. Like Yorkshire Cricket Club, they had a strictly adhered to policy of only using indigenous players. Normally considered La Liga underachievers, under the management of Javier Clemente, their all-Basque teams had won La Liga twice in the early 1980s, and their representative, Fernando Ochoa, managed to sell the club to Kendall. Despite the efforts of the Everton board – Kendall was offered and turned down a contract that would have made him the highest paid manager in England – he would not stay at Goodison.
On 19 June 1987, after feverish speculation, he revealed his departure to a press conference held at Goodison Park. ‘After six years something inside you says go out and start again,’ he said. ‘There are many aspects to management in England and I felt that I just could not devote enough of my time to the aspects of my job I find important. I am at the stage where I do not want to spend my life sitting behind a desk.’ Philip Carter, also making reference to Lineker’s transfer a year earlier, rued his departure. ‘Spain has had its fair share as far as Everton are concerned.’ He added, ‘It is a problem for English football.’
Kendall was a moderate success in Spain, taking Bilbao to fourth and seventh in La Liga in his two full seasons at San Marmes, but was sacked in November 1989 after a poor run of results. A month later he returned to England as Manchester City manager, where he surrounded himself with former Everton players. When Everton met Manchester City in April 1990, of the 25 players to take part, 19 appeared for Everton at some time in their career.
Kendall’s spell at Maine Road lasted just eleven months. The sacking of Colin Harvey in November 1990 created a vacancy that he could just not resist. While Manchester City had been a ‘love affair’, said Kendall as he was unveiled for his second spell in charge, Everton was like a ‘marriage’.
He inherited a team in a state of turmoil. Several mid-80s stalwarts – Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven, Peter Reid – had already departed, and others, such as Graeme Sharp, Kevin Sheedy and Kevin Ratcliffe, were past their best. Big-money signings, such as Tony Cottee, had failed to deliver. Everton were rooted at the foot of the First Division and the squad was beset by bitter divisions between Kendall’s old players and Harvey’s signings. A night out in a Chinese restaurant to boost team morale ended in a well-publicised punch-up between Kevin Sheedy and Martin Keown.
KENDALL steadied the ship, leading Everton to ninth and respectability. In these first 12 months back at Goodison there was a frenzy of transfer activity. Sharp was the most notable departure, but Sheedy and Ratcliffe were also marginalised to the point of exclusion. Promising Harvey signings, such as Mike Newell and Stuart McCall, were sold on at a profit, while the dead wood – such as Mike Milligan and Neil McDonald – were also moved on. Kendall brought in Peter Beardsley, Maurice Johnston and Mark Ward each for in excess of £1million, but despite some good football, his team lacked edge or imagination and finished the 1991/92 season 12th.
As had happened a decade earlier, in the midst of an economic recession Everton were struck hard. Average attendances threatened to drop below the 20,000 mark and there was no investment in the team. Less than two years after Kendall’s return, Everton were stagnating. Limited transfer funds in summer 1992 saw only the arrivals of Barry Horne and Paul Rideout – both of whom would make crucial contributions to Everton’s history, but who at the time left fans underwhelmed.
After another disappointing season in 1992/93, Everton finished thirteenth. Kendall seemed to be running out of ideas. Mid-season, his best player, Martin Keown, was sold to Arsenal, ostensibly to fund the signing of a target man. More money was raised with the sale of Peter Beardsley to Newcastle that summer. But, Graham Stuart aside, much-needed reinforcements never came. A promising start to the 1993/94 season was soon undermined by the perilously thin squad. Three consecutive wins in the opening week of the campaign were followed by three straight defeats; a 2-0 derby win in September was followed a week later by a 5-1 home thrashing by Norwich City.
On 4 December 1993, Everton faced Southampton at Goodison in front of just 13,667 – the lowest league attendance in a decade. Everton won thanks to a solitary Tony Cottee goal, but if there was any sense that another corner had maybe been turned Kendall soon confounded it, announcing his resignation after the game. It emerged later that a move for Manchester United’s Dion Dublin had been vetoed by the board and he felt his position undermined.
Considered among the brightest managerial talents in the English game at the time of his return to Goodison, Kendall’s career, like Everton, had by 1993 gone into decline. With no managerial opportunities in England, in 1994 Kendall ventured to Greece for a brief, unsuccessful spell in charge of Xanthi.
In January 1995 he returned to England as manager of Notts County, then of Division One and facing a relegation battle. Kendall made a big impact, leading them to victory in the Anglo-Italian Cup Final and seemingly bringing them clear of relegation. But in April he spectacularly fell out with his chairman and was sacked. County’s form nose-dived and they were relegated a month later.
In December 1995, Kendall was appointed manager of Sheffield United, also in Division One and facing a relegation battle. This time he avoided relegation, and in 1996/97 led them to the play-off final, which they lost to Crystal Palace. It represented a renaissance of sorts and brought him to the attention of new Everton chairman Peter Johnson, in the midst of an excruciating three-month-long search to bring a ‘world class’ manager to Goodison following Joe Royle’s departure. When that descended into high farce, after Andy Gray’s belated withdrawal from the running, Johnson offered the job to the only man who would still take it – Kendall.
EVERTON’S 1997/98 season represented the worst Goodison campaign in living memory. Everton, by rights, should have been relegated, and owed their salvation not to themselves, but the failure of Bolton Wanderers to overtake them at the last. Who was to blame for this mess? In truth it lies somewhere between Johnson, who failed to provide adequate transfer funds, leaving Kendall to horse-trade in the bargain basement; the players, who were often inadequate, lacking spirit or pride in their shirts; and Kendall himself.
In fairness, there were a couple of bright spots amid this tale of football carnage. There was a wonderful derby win in October, inspired by the impetuous dreadlocked teenager, Danny Cadamarteri. The signings of Don Hutchison and Thomas Myhre rekindled memories of Kendall’s eye for a bargain or young unknown. But what of the rest of his acquisitions? John Spencer, a £1.5million striker who never scored a goal? Danny Williamson, a bog-standard midfielder, traded for David Unsworth plus £1million. Graham Stuart, an underrated hero, swapped for Carl Tiler and Mitch Ward, who – like Tony Thomas, bought from Tranmere – may have been good enough in a lower league, but were patently inadequate for the Premiership.
Amid Everton’s slide to the foot of the table, there were rumours of unrest, indiscipline and rancour. Twice player unhappiness with the manager boiled over into outright mutiny. After a 4-1 League Cup hammering at Coventry, the players refused Kendall’s orders to warm down, which then descended into a messy on-the-field argument between manager and team. Then in January, Gary Speed, who has succeded Dave Watson as captain, apparently refused to travel to an away fixture at West Ham. Promptly fined and transferred to Newcastle, with secrecy clauses inserted into his contract, the truth about what actually caused Speed to leave has never fully come to light.
IT WOULD be difficult to credit anything but luck to Everton’s dramatic escape from relegation in May 1998. Yet irrespective of Kendall’s blame in this unholy mess, history decreed that he deserved better treatment by the club at the season’s end. Yet for several week, his head lay in the hangman's noose, as Peter Johnson publicly procrastinated over his sacking before finally putting him out of his misery. He then used his position as chairman to publicly berate Kendall. Some of the criticism was justified, but its manner was crass and undignified and Kendall’s earlier contribution to the club demanded more respect.
THERE FOLLOWED, during the 1998/99 season, a brief spell in charge of the Greek side Ethnikos Pireaus, but this proved unsuccessful. Kendall returned to England, at the age of 52 his professional career essentially over. In later years he wrote a column for the Liverpool Echo and remained a regular visitor to Goodison Park.
But where, exactly, do Howard Kendall’s achievements as player and manager place him among the pantheon of Everton greats?
As a player he distinguished himself, playing in good teams and bad, with grace, élan and passion. He was a key component of the 1969/70 Championship team, and one of the few positive forces in the teams that subsequently laboured in Harry Catterick’s last days. Taken as a whole with the rest of Gwladys Street’s Holy Trinity, the fame and plaudits earned by the triumvirate have no post-war comparison.
As manager there is no disputing Kendall’s achievements in the 1980s, when he assembled a team on a shoestring that for three years ruled England and wowed the world. Who is to say what might have happened had it not been for the grotesque injustices imposed by the post-Heysel ban? But at the same time these staggering achievements must be tempered by the reality that Kendall could have built a Goodison dynasty, but passed on the opportunity to do so in favour of personal ambition. Moreover, his difficult second spell as manager tarnishes his record, while his controversial third period as Everton boss is a blemish.
But taking all this aside, Kendall remains a giant in the history of Everton Football Club. When everything he did over his seven years as player and 11 years as manager is totted up and combined, his achievements and importance to the club’s history lies, perhaps, second only to Dixie Dean. Given that Dean lies among football’s immortals, can there be higher praise than that?