Touted as a long term replacement for an aging Dave Watson, Craig Short was signed from Derby County for £2.75 million and the services of Gary Rowett following Everton’s 1995 FA Cup win. The tall centre half had once been the most expensive defender in English football, and had played at every level in league football, having joined Scarborough from non-league Pickering in 1987, shortly after their promotion to the Fourth Division.
Although Short had played just a solitary top flight season, with Notts County in 1991/92, he subsequently captained Derby County, and Joe Royle’s long pursuit of the defender suggested he was a player with sufficient stature to inherit Watson’s central defensive berth and maybe even his captaincy. Royle introduced Short gradually over the opening months of the 1995/96 season and by the middle of the campaign he had ousted Gary Ablett.
Tall, yet mobile for such a big player, Short was a fine header of the ball and an expert at the last ditch tackle. He was composed in possession and Royle encouraged his forward runs with the ball. One such excursion in the October 1997 derby set up Danny Cadamarteri’s memorable goal.
And yet Short never really convinced in an Everton shirt. He was horribly prone to getting caught out of position and his concentration sometimes lapsed at crucial moments. At 27 he was a late arrival to regular top flight football and sometimes his lack of experience at the highest level was exposed. At other times he looked a fine player, but not near the calibre of Dave Watson on a weekly basis.
Short was never guaranteed first team selection and after the arrival of Walter Smith in 1998, he fell behind such players as Richard Dunne and Marco Materazzi in the Goodison pecking order. With his contract running down he looked a likely departure, lest he leave for nothing on a Bosman transfer. But after rejecting a move to Nottingham Forest, he returned for the run in to the 1998/99 season and at the campaign’s end signed a new three year deal.
It was some surprise then, that before the opening of the 1999/2000 season Short was offloaded to Blackburn Rovers for £2million. The new contract had inflated his price and smacked of sharp practice from the Everton management; certainly, it was no way to repay the defender’s loyalty.
Short retired at the end of the 2004/05 season to run a sailing school in the Lake District, but was tempted out of retirement to join Sheffield United, who had just been promoted to the Premier League. He retired again two years later, but in a strange twist in 2008 was persuaded to join Ferencváros in the Hungarian league as a player coach. He later had short spells in charge of the same club, and also Notts County before returning to Derby County as head of player recruitment.