As Neville Southall’s Goodison career wound down in the mid-1990s, speculation as to who would succeed him seemed to persist for an eternity. Given the high profile names linked to Everton, it was perhaps some surprise when in November 1997 Howard Kendall brought in Thomas Myhre, an unknown from the obscurity of the Norwegian First Division to fill the mantle soon to be left vacant by the great Welshman.
The Norwegian had been tracked by Everton scouts for 18 months, already impressing for the reserve team while on trial at Goodison when Kendall made him an £800,000 signing. The Everton manager had sufficient confidence to put Myhre straight into the team in place of Southall for an away game at Leeds. He impressed immediately against the resurgent Yorkshireman, providing a stirring performance that helped Everton earn a 0-0 draw
Standing six foot three inches tall, the Viking colossus was similar in stature to his illustrious predecessor. He commanded the penalty area with great self assurance and like Southall his agility and reflexes belied his imposing frame. He possessed charisma too, and struck up a great rapport with Everton’s travelling support, who never ceased to be amused by his off the ball antics – from celebrating goals to berating misses. Ironically it was the man he replaced who provided the Norwegian with inspiration long before he came to Goodison. ‘I used to watch English matches on the television back home and Neville was always everybody’s favourite goalkeeper when I was younger,’ Myhre said. ‘Southall is a hero to me.’ Months after Myhre’s arrival Everton’s most decorated player was allowed to leave Goodison after nearly 17 years.
Myhre consolidated his position as Everton’s number one through the 1998/99 season, when he possessed one of the Premier League’s best clean sheet records. Although there were occasional lapses – as witness the late goal he conceded in Everton’s so-called Great Escape against Coventry, when the ball slipped from his grasp and into the net – his overall form saw him linked with a move to Manchester United as Peter Schmeichel’s long term replacement. He also established himself as first choice Norway goalkeeper. However at the end of the season Myhre broke his ankle while on international duty, an injury that saw him lose his place to Paul Gerrard. After a couple of loan spells he finally returned to the Everton team in early 2000. This time his form was less spectacular and an abject display in an FA Cup quarter final against Aston Villa saw him dropped.
This effectively marked the end of Myhre’s Everton career. Walter Smith was obdurate in his refusal to play him again, purportedly to avert triggering an appearance clause in his transfer that would have led to Everton paying Viking Stavanger a further instalment of his fee. The impasse seemed to impair the goalkeeper’s confidence in a series of unsuccessful loan moves. Eventually he joined Besiktas in November 2001 for a knockdown £325,000.
Myhre subsequently blamed Smith for the unsatisfactory end to his Everton career. ‘I felt that I wasn't treated right by Smith,’ he said. ‘You could say that our relationship was full of conflict and very turbulent. This wasn't about money. This was about personal things. There was bad chemistry between us.’