An £875,000 signing from Bradford City in the summer of 1988, Stuart McCall was earmarked as one of the cornerstones of Colin Harvey’s Goodison rebuilding programme. Unfortunately, like many of the Everton manager’s acquisitions, his talent did not match that of his illustrious predecessor - in McCall’s case, Peter Reid – and his Goodison career must be considered one of comparative failure.
The Yorkshire born son of Scottish winger, Andy McCall - who played on the opposite flank to Stanley Matthews at Blackpool in the 1940s – Stuart McCall made his name as an energetic midfielder at Bradford City and was a key part of the club’s mid-1980s revival. Signed by Harvey, he quickly earned comparisons to Tony Kay and Alan Ball – as much for his diminutive stature, flame red hair and lung-busting energy levels as anything else – but struggled to make the desired impact in a transitional Everton team. There was little faulting his effort and he never stopped running, but he frustrated fans by appearing rushed and reckless in his passing. And yet there remained a perpetual sense that if he properly channelled his energy and gained some composure he could emerge as a leading light in an Everton revival.
His finest moments came in the 1989 FA Cup Final, when called upon as a substitute for Paul Bracewell. With Everton trailing 1-0, in the final minute McCall stabbed home from close range to bring extra time. When Everton fell behind again, McCall was on hand to make it 2-2 with a fabulous dipping volley from the edge of the penalty area that brought raptures from Evertonians, before Ian Rush ultimately ensured the day ended in disappointment.
He was a regular through the following two seasons and yet there remained a sense that he was never quite indispensable. Nevertheless it was still something of a surprise when, in August 1991, Howard Kendall accepted a £1.2 million bid from Glasgow Rangers.
Better suited to the Scottish game, he was a key figure in Rangers’ domination of Scottish football through the decade. Given a free transfer in 1998, he rejoined Bradford City, captaining them to the Premier League in his first season back. In 2002 he joined Sheffield United and continued playing until just short of his 41st birthday.
McCall won youth caps for England, and under-21 caps for Scotland, before earning the first of 40 caps for his adopted country in 1990.
An articulate man and strong personality, McCall had long combined his playing duties with coaching and was a popular choice to succeed Colin Todd as Bradford manager in 2007.