Initially considered a journeyman on his £500,000 arrival on the eve of the 1992/93 season, few Evertonians could have envisaged then the importance Paul Rideout would have on the club’s destiny over the following few years. In August 1992, the 28 year-old, who had had relatively short spells with Swindon Town, Aston Villa, Southampton, Notts County, Glasgow Rangers and the Italian team, Bari was not the sort of player most fans hoped they would get.
Indeed the start of Rideout’s Goodison career was punctuated by niggling injuries and inconsistency. He struggled to form a partnership with either Tony Cottee or Peter Beardsley and bore heavy criticism from a crowd frustrated at Everton’s decline.
With the sale of Beardsley in summer 1993, he and Cottee were left to sink or swim as a partnership. Although they impressed only in flourishes as Everton escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth, Rideout’s contribution should not be understated as Cottee enjoyed his most prolific league campaign at Goodison. Hard working and with good ball control, he compensated for a conspicuous lack of pace with good reading of the game. Never a particularly clinical finisher, he possessed the knack – shared by all good centre forwards – of being in the right place at the right time. He was capable in the air too, without ever being imperious. Cottee, who had played alongside such illustrious names as Graeme Sharp and Peter Beardsley, later cited Rideout as his favourite forward partner.
Mike Walker, however, broke up this burgeoning partnership, selling Cottee in August 1994. After four goals in the opening six games of the 1994/95 season, Rideout was also dropped by Walker and, unhappy at his treatment, demanded a transfer. Transfer rumours came to nothing before Walker’s sacking six weeks later.
Restored to the squad for Joe Royle’s first game in charge against Liverpool, Rideout was introduced as a half time substitute with the scores goalless. He seemed to add new balance and fresh impetus to the Everton attack. Just minutes after coming on he struck the inside of the Liverpool post – a mere warning shot. After Duncan Ferguson gave Everton the lead, Rideout added a second to seal a famous win. Thereafter galvanised, he was restored to the Everton attack, partnering either Ferguson or Graham Stuart to great effect. Although his contribution was often overlooked because of the controversial and charismatic Ferguson, it was Rideout who finished Everton’s top league scorer; his 14 league goals included the one that secured Premier League survival against Ipswich Town in May.
The crowning moment of Rideout’s career came eleven days later – 20 May, 1995 – in the FA Cup Final. Leading the Everton forward line, after injury precluded Duncan Ferguson’s involvement, in the thirtieth minute he provided the game’s decisive moment. A break, initiated by Anders Limpar on the Everton right, saw Matt Jackson cut into the Manchester United penalty area and square the ball to Stuart. When his shot crashed down off the United, Rideout held off Denis Irwin’s challenge to head into the empty goal – the ball seeming to take an eternity to lift the net. Rideout later told this author that it was a difficult header to place, because the pace of the ball had diminished in the rebound. At first, he said, he wasn’t even sure he had scored and had to check before embarking on his celebration.
The goal hero withdrew because of injury on 51 minutes and watched the rest of the game from the Everton bench. When victory was secured, he said: ‘This has been the biggest moment of my career. I can’t tell you the feelings we had on the final whistle! It was nerve racking because we were hanging on to 1-0 and it seemed like an age before the final whistle blew.’
His efforts were rewarded that summer with a new three year contract. Persistent speculation linked Everton with new striking talent throughout the summer, but it was Rideout, his 31st birthday on the eve of the 1995/96 season, who partnered Ferguson on the opening day. He held his own until a sickening head injury against Sheffield Wednesday saw him lose his place. Thereafter, he was called upon mostly as a squad player, but his diminishing pace limited his impression.
Towards the end of the 1996/97 season, Rideout agreed a personally lucrative move to Huang Dao Vanguards in the Chinese league. But his time at Everton was not yet over. After Joe Royle’s departure in March 1997, caretaker manager, Dave Watson, recalled Rideout from the Far East to boost his injury depleted squad. Thrust into an unfamiliar defensive midfield role, he performed magnificently. His final appearance in an Everton shirt in a 1-0 win over Tottenham, which allayed most relegation concerns, was also, possibly, his best. Rideout controlled the midfield as Everton held on to a spirited and crucial lead.
Rideout returned to China and there followed a spell in the MLS with Kansas City Wizards before a second term in China with Shenzhen Jianlibao. In 2000 Rideout, now aged 36, joined Tranmere Rovers for a fruitful spell. With his new team he returned to Goodison for an FA Cup Fourth Round tie in January 2001, playing an important part in Tranmere’s 3-0 humiliation of Everton.
After retiring in May 2002, Rideout returned to Kansas, where he runs Wizards extensive youth academy.