The £100,000 signing of Paul Holmes in March 1993 epitomised the financial malaise at Goodison in the early-1990s. The previous month, Martin Keown – an England international – had been sold to Arsenal for £2million to balance the books. Holmes, along with a veteran Kenny Sansom acquired on a free, were the only defensive reinforcements the club could afford.
Aged 25, Holmes was something of a lower league journeyman when he joined Everton. Spells with Doncaster Rovers and Torquay United had resulted in a 1992 move to Birmingham City, and he was on the fringes of the Birmingham first team when Howard Kendall made him a surprise £100,000 signing. If his arrival was greeted with puzzlement, optimistic Evertonians looked back to Kendall’s managerial heyday, when plucking unknown gems – such as Kevin Sheedy and Alan Harper – from other reserve teams was something of a habit.
Alas, Holmes had no such polish. Athletic and strong on the overlap, he lacked the talent to cut it at the highest level. The bulk of his appearances came at the start of the near-disastrous 1993-94 season and after losing his place to Matt Jackson barely figured for the first team again. However, his Goodison experience served to reinvigorate his career, and there followed a productive spell with West Bromwich Albion before his return to Torquay at the end of the decade.