An effervescent, charismatic midfielder with a voracious appetite for the game, Andy King was one of a handful of players to capture Evertonian hearts during the 1970s. In a difficult decade, his goals – notably his decisive strike in the October 1978 derby – helped ease the burden of lying in Liverpool’s shadow, while his impudence and smart skills brought real élan to Everton’s play. Yet King was always more than an outstanding player – he was a character at a time when Everton lacked such figures.
Signed FROM Luton Town in April 1976, King’s £35,000 fee would represent one of the real bargains in Everton’s history. Billy Bingham put him straight into a team charged with gaining four points from the last three games of the 1975/76 season, with a trip to Spain the reward. King made an immediate impression, scoring a memorable double against reigning champions Derby County and securing a 3-1 victory and the holiday.
Slight, adroit and technically gifted, King retained his place at the start of the 1976/77 campaign – severely limiting Bryan Hamilton’s opportunities. Possessing a deft first touch and fine distribution, he could be counted upon to provide the unexpected in a team often lacking a creative cutting edge. And then there were the goals: double figures in all but one of his six full Everton seasons. In an era of extrovert footballers, King was Everton’s livewire, always playing with a smile on his face and infecting his team-mates and the crowd with his enthusiasm. To the Goodison faithful he was an immediate favourite, endearing himself to them with his proclamation that he was an adopted Scouser –
a northerner with a funny accent
His most famous moment came in October 1978 when facing Liverpool in a Goodison derby. Everton had failed to beat Liverpool in 362 weeks – at a time when their neighbours were sweeping all comers in domestic and European competition – and faced the indignity of watching the run pass seven years if they failed to beat them this encounter. There was, however, a sense that the tide was turning in Everton’s favour, and they went into the game still unbeaten.
Goodison was a 53,000 all-ticket sell-out with a banner in Gwladys Street proclaiming ‘Andy is our King’. And so it was to be, with his fierce shot into the top corner of the Park End net the only goal of the afternoon. ‘Micky Pejic played a long, high ball that Martin Dobson nodded down,’ King would recall of the moment that saw him enter Goodison lore. ‘As it fell to me, I saw Graeme Souness showing his foot, so I hit the shot first time with the outside of my boot. It was one of those that commentators call “great goals”.’
By February 1979 Everton were top, after King’s hat-trick brought a 4-1 home victory over Bristol City. But they were unable to sustain the form, winning just four of their last 18 games. King finished top league scorer with 12, but fourth place was to be the closest he ever came again to a First Division title. In the 1979/80 season Everton dropped to 19th place and at the season’s end Gordon Lee, seeking to reshape his team, raised some much- needed cash by selling King to Queens Park Rangers for £425,000.
He spent barely a year at Loftus Road, joining West Bromwich Albion in September 1981, where he was groomed – perhaps unfairly – as Bryan Robson’s replacement. When he struggled to fulfil these lofty expectations he sought a return to Goodison. In summer 1982 Howard Kendall decided to exchange Peter Eastoe for King, who was still aged only 25. Although he started in impressive fashion, with a 25-yard curler against Aston Villa, a persistent knee injury limited his chances. With the blossoming of an outstanding new generation of Everton footballers through the latter half of the 1983/84 season, King found himself an outsider, his opportunities severely restricted. He was a substitute in the Milk Cup Final replay against Liverpool, but played no part in the FA Cup Final win over Watford.
In June 1984 he joined Dutch side SC Cambuur, returning to England within a year with Wolverhampton Wanderers. There followed a brief return to the First Division with Luton Town during the 1985/86 season before King played out his career with Aldershot.
Following his retirement he had short spells in charge of Runcorn and Waterford in the Irish League, before a return to Luton as commercial manager. In 1993 he became manager of Mansfield Town, a position he held for three years. There followed two spells in charge of Swindon Town at the start of the new century and six weeks as manager of Grays Athletic in the Conference in late 2006. King subsequently took up scouting positions with Plymouth Argyle and Colchester United before his appointment in November 2011 as Northampton Town assistant manager.
Reflecting on his famous derby-winning goal, he once said, ‘If I die tomorrow, I’ve done something that millions would give their right arm to have done.’ Trophies might ultimately have proved elusive for King – perhaps cruelly so, given that his career touched a period in which a succession of honours came Everton’s way after many barren years – but he at least brought some smiles at Goodison during hard times.