Howard Kendall’s Everton: How the post-Heysel ban broke a team
- Category: Sport
During the mid to late 1980s, the city of Liverpool was the centre of Football World in England. While the red part of the city (Liverpool FC) had been dominating at home and abroad for over a decade, the ascent of the blue part (Everton) came as a surprise. Under the stewardship of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan, players like Keegan, Souness, Dalglish, Neal, Case, and Toshack swept all domestic and most European opposition aside and won countless trophies.
On the other hand Everton was a mere modest side with only consistent goal scorer Bob Latchford to lean on. The Everton hierarchy decided to replace Manager Gordon Lee at May 1981 after a dismal season. As replacement they chose former player Howard Kendall.
Kendall would make a number of signings in the next few seasons that would transform an average side into one of the best in Europe. When he took over, Welsh defender Kevin Ratcliffe was already part of the squad. He would go on to become the defensive rock of this Everton team and would not only be captaining the club but the Welsh National team as well. Scottish forward Graeme Sharp and English midfielder Kevin Richardson were also already on board. Kendall’s most two important signings in the summer of 1981 were Welsh goalkeeper Neville Southall from Bury and forward Adrian Heath from Stoke City, as well as promoting Gary Michael Stevens from the youth ranks. That first season (1981/82) the team finished in eighth place.
For the next season Kendall made further key signings, midfielder Peter Reid was signed from Bolton. Derek Mountfield was signed from Tranmere Rovers. From neighbours Liverpool, David Johnson arrived as well as Republic of Ireland winger Kevin Sheedy, who had been unable to make the first team there. That season Everton had once again an average season and finished seventh. The next season (1983/84) would turn out to be a critical season.
Kendall as a utility player signed Alan Harper, another Liverpool product who had failed to make the first team. Midfielder and future England international Trevor Steven was signed from Burnley. Most importantly Scottish forward Andy Gray would arrive from Wolves. For part of that season, Everton were struggling in the League and Kendall was nearly sacked. However, results improved and Everton moved up the table to finish yet again at seventh place.
It was in the Cup competitions that Everton shone. They reached the League Cup Final but lost to neighbours Liverpool. In the FA Cup, Everton reached the Final and defeated the Elton John backed Watford by 2 to 0.This was Everton’s first title of any kind since winning the League title in 1970. This victory earned Everton entry into the Cup Winners Cup for the following season. The Charity Shield for the following season (1984/85) would be an all Merseyside affair as Liverpool were the defending league Champions.
There would be more Merseyside derbies for the rest of the decade, as the teams would meet each other in FA Cup Finals. Everton won this 1984 edition of the Charity Shield and this gave them the momentum needed to mount a title challenge. To strengthen the midfield, Paul Bracewell was signed from Sunderland, along with Ian Atkins. Birmingham City defender Pat van den Hauwe was signed to partner up Ratcliffe and Stevens. The squad for this memorable (1984/85) season was now complete.
Welsh National team Goalkeeper Neville Southall, who would go on to serve Everton well into the next decade, was awarded the Football Writers’ Player of the Year Award. He would go on to be the last remaining member of this generation. The back line consisted of new England international fullback Gary Michael Stevens, Welsh national teammates Kevin Ratcliffe and Pat van den Hauwe and Derek Mountfield. The midfield consisted of English internationals Trevor Steven, Peter Reid and Paul Bracewell.
Republic of Ireland winger Kevin Sheedy occupied the left flank with Steven on the right. Reid and Bracewell, with Kevin Richardson on stand-by, did the engine work. Peter Reid was awarded the Players’ Player of the Year award for the season. The strike force consisted of Andy Gray, Graeme Sharp and Adrian Heath. although a mid season injury took Heath out of action. Most of these players earned International caps that season due to their performances in this 1984/85 season.
Everton won the League title in convincing fashion (96 points) with Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United far behind. In the Cup Winners Cup, they had easy passage in the early rounds and then defeated the mighty Bayern Munich in the semifinals. They went on to defeat Austria’s Rapid Vienna with relative ease in the Final. All that was left was to win the FA Cup Final and Everton would have achieved an historic treble. However, Everton lost that match to rivals Manchester United 0 to 1, the only blemish in an otherwise brilliant and flawless season. Unfortunately for Everton, the Heysel disaster took place and all English clubs were banned from European Competition indefinitely. This deprived Everton entry into the Champions Cup and the chance to tackle Europe’s other Champions. In those days, English clubs were consistent winners of this Tournament, so chances are they potentially could have won.
Veteran Andy Gray departed in the off-season to rejoin his former club Aston Villa. As replacement Everton signed Leicester City and new England international striker Gary Lineker. Neil Pointon also joined from Scunthorpe United. The following season (1985/86) with no European distraction, Everton would concentrate only on domestic football. With the backbone of the team intact and Gary Lineker leading at the front and scoring freely, they would finish as runners-up, narrowly losing the title to Merseyside archrivals Liverpool now managed by Kenny Dalglish. The two teams were also paired in the FA Cup Final and despite scoring first through Lineker; Liverpool captured the double by scoring three unanswered goals. In the off season, Gary Lineker’s top goal scoring exploits during the Mexico World Cup had made him a very in demand player. Spanish giants Barcelona under English Manager Terry Venables acquired him. The losses of the Title, FA Cup and Lineker were setbacks that might have weakened many teams, but Everton still had the majority of the 1985 title winners.
Howard Kendall’s most important signing was in defence when England International David Watson joined from Norwich City. Other signings included Paul Power from Manchester City, Kevin Langley from Wigan and Neil Adams from Stoke. Ian Snodin and Wayne Clarke joined during the season from Leeds and Birmingham City respectively. Though not as brilliant as their 1985 title run, this 1986/87 squad regained the League Title with a late push, after being as much as nine points adrift of Liverpool at one point. With the European ban still in effect, Everton were deprived of a second Champions Cup appearance.
This led Manager Howard Kendall to leave the English League for the Spanish La Liga by joining the Basques of Athletic Bilbao. This was the end of an era as Kendall’s squad slowly crumbled. Kendall’s assistant and former Everton player Colin Harvey was appointed as new Everton Manager. His first season (1987/88) was satisfactory as Everton finished fourth.
At the conclusion of that season International fullback Gary Michael Stevens joined big spenders Glasgow Rangers. Despite the big money purchase of striker Tony Cottee from West Ham United, Everton became essentially an average side. They did reach the 1989 FA Cup Final, once again vs. Liverpool and lost dramatically (once again) 2 to 3. At the conclusion of that season, Everton were further weakened by the departure of Trevor Steven, who joined his former teammate Stevens at Glasgow Rangers. With Everton languishing in the League, Colin Harvey was sacked and Kendall returned to Everton in November 1990. He remained for three seasons until 1993, but results did not improve, as Everton were still no better than an average team.
Kendall returned for a third time to Everton for the 1997/98 season with no success. Had the Heysel ban not occurred, this Everton team might have shone at the top level for many years, as they would have been able to hang on to prized assets as well as keeping their Manager. For a period of 4-5 years Liverpool was the Capital of English Football, which could have been the Capital of European Football, had hooligans not robbed a generation of possible European glory.
© Words - Shahan Petrossian