Right back Earl Barrett was one of Joe Royle’s first signings, arriving from Aston Villa for £1.7million in January 1995. Under Royle’s management at Oldham Athletic, Barrett, who had previously languished in Manchester City’s reserves, had briefly risen to the England team, before a £2.5million move to Villa Park in February 1992 made him England’s most expensive defender.
Quick, athletic and a cloying defender, Barrett nevertheless struggled to win over the Goodison crowd. His distribution frequently let him down, while his tendency to stand off a player rather than jump into a tackle was unendearing – no matter how effective it might have been. Moreover, he replaced the popular Matt Jackson, who had done little discernibly wrong. Indeed, right back seemed to be a position with which Royle perpetually struggled, also signing Marc Hottiger, a comical Swiss defender, in December 1996.
Cup-tied at the time of his arrival, Barrett missed Everton’s successful FA Cup run, which was perhaps a blessing given the way that Jackson set up the winner in the final against Manchester United. In the 1995/96 season his presence in the Everton team was brought to an abrupt end when he was injured in October and missed the remainder of the campaign. He returned the following August and as Everton laboured under Royle, Barrett put in the best performances of his Everton career, also deputising as centre back.
Howard Kendall’s arrival as manager in June 1997 stymied Barrett’s Everton career and after a spell on loan at Sheffield United he was free to join Sheffield Wednesday in 1998, where injuries forced his retirement in 2000, aged just 32.