There was a brief, uncomfortable period in the mid-1990s when it looked as though Everton might swap places with their second-tier neighbours, Tranmere Rovers.
Although the systematic mismanagement of Everton had done much to aid their decline, Tranmere’s unlikely ascent owed much to their charismatic manager, John King. In the space of five years he led Tranmere, the club where he had spent the bulk of his managerial and playing career, from the verge of extinction to the precipice of the top flight. Meanwhile, Everton, where he had started out as a player, were in the doldrums.
FORTUNATELY for Evertonians, Tranmere never overtook their Mersey rivals and in 1996, unable to slake the expectations he created, King was ‘moved upstairs’ by the Tranmere board. Not since then have Tranmere come so close to entering English football’s elite.
Without question, King is remembered most for his time at Prenton Park. An astute and gregarious man, he had started out at Everton in the mid-1950s, making his league debut away at Preston in October 1957. A quick and hard wing half,
King perhaps lacked the flourishes that would have seen him prosper at the highest level. After making a smattering of starts in the remainder of the 1957/58 season, he was a regular for stretches of the subsequent two campaigns, but ultimately overshadowed by Brian Harris and Jimmy Gabriel. In July 1960 he joined Bournemouth, but returned north the following February, embarking on his lengthy affair with Tranmere.