Acquired by Howard Kendall on a Bosman free transfer, scarcely could Alec Cleland have imagined when he agreed to join Everton in spring 1998 that on completing his transfer the following summer he would immediately be reunited with Walter Smith. The right back’s career had long been entwined with Kendall’s successor: Smith had coached him as a Dundee United youngster and in 1995 signed him when Rangers manager. And so it came to pass that when he turned up for pre-season training with Everton in July 1998, Smith had been installed as Goodison boss.
CLELAND started the 1998/99 season as Everton’s first-choice right back. A solid if somewhat unremarkable player, Cleland was comfortable in possession and going forward as well as a competent defender, always preferring to jockey an opponent out of possession than dive in with a crunching tackle.
But despite their shared past, Smith never seemed entirely convinced by him, eventually preferring to play an assortment of midfielders and centre halvesout of position at right back instead of him. Within months of his arrival he was no more than a squad player and a succession of calf injuries limited his impact in the first years of the new century. Shortly after his contract expired in 2002, Cleland called time on his playing career.