26. Jan, 2022


Evertonians are born not manufactured, it is a phrase enshrined in Goodison Park mythology. For every Dixie Dean lies a rogue chairman like Peter Johnson for every Howard Kendell there is a Raffa Beneitez.

Johnson like Benitez was doomed once he declared his love for the lot across Stanley Park. He made his fortune in food hampers, but no culinary feast was ever going to pacify the Gwladys Street End. In fairness to Benitez he didn't appoint Mike Walker or attempt to banish the Z Cars theme.

The Spaniard will however reflect on the last time Everton occupied a perilous position during the festive season. On New Years Eve 1983 the Toffees were held to a 0-0 draw by Coventry City. A paltry crowd of 13,659 braved the cold. The result saw the home side drop to 18th in the table. Everton faced relegation to the Second Division for the first time in 30 years. The hardy souls who endured the Sky Blues stalemate vented their anger on one man, manager Howard Kendall.

The fact that Kendall was already a Everton legend carried no weight. Born in the North East, Kendall was a skillful midfielder for Preston North End. As a 17 year old he played for the Lillywhites in the 1964 FA Cup Final. Although Second Division Preston were beaten by West Ham, Kendall made history. At the time he was the youngest player to play in an FA Cup Final. Inevitably First Division clubs were soon interested in signing the the Deepdale prodigee. In 1967 Kendall signed for Everton, although he easily could have been plying his trade across the city, he rejected the advances of Liverpool before donning the royal blue shirt.

It looked a wise decision 3 years later. Everton were crowned champions of England in 1970, a fine team included Gordon West in goal, Brian Labone at the back and Joe Royle up front. But it was Kendall's midfield partnership with Alan Ball and Colin Harvey which proved the catalyst for success. Christened the Holy Trinity by adoring Evertonians the trio carved their niche in Toffees history.

Kendall departed in 1974, after winding down his playing career he became Blackburn Rovers manager in 1978. He transformed fortunes at Ewood Park, taking Rovers from the Third Division to the brink of the First Division. Again Kendall could not resist the lure of Goodison, once again swapping Lancashire for Merseyside in the Summer of 1980. The new Everton manager quickly made his intentions clear. A raft of new signings put pen to paper. The new faces included goalkeeper Neville Southall, midfielder Mickey Thomas and striker Mick Ferguson. Expectent Evertonians dubbed the group 'The Magnificent 7'. Sadly only Southall proved to be magnificent as the Toffees still struggled to make their mark. They finished 7th in 1980/81 and 8th the following season.

In 1983 they reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals, despite playing well the Blues lost to Manchester United. Any progress quickly evaporated, As 1984 dawned Kendall's job was in real jeopardy, most of the fans wanted him out, Kendall described how he saw the words KENDALL OUT dawbed on a wall outside Goodison. He must have been tempted to seek refuge in the nearby St Luke's Church. a venue that could once be viewed from visiting TV cameras to the stadium. That ended when an electronic scoreboard was installed. Divine intervention did arrive in unexpected form. Andy Gray arrived from Wolves in the Autumn, the Scottish striker was plagued by injuries, he later admitted that he 'misplaced negative medical records' on route to his medical. Those records may have stopped the transfer and altered the course of Everton history.

Gray soon recaptured his Aston Villa form, the days when the Glasweigan topped the First Division scoring charts. Results gradually improved but Howard Kendall's future remained in the balance. In January Everton visited Stoke City in the FA Cup 3rd Round. Seeking to inspire the troops Kendall flung open the dressing room door. Hoards of Evertonians were in full voice on The Victoria Ground terraces and could be heard by the manager., His team talk consisted of 4 words "DO IT FOR THEM." gesturing towards the open door. It did the trick, the Toffees won 2-0 and embarked on the road to Wembley.

Luck also played a part. The Blues were also still involved in the League Cup. In the Quarter Final they were handed a tricky away tie at Third Division Oxford United, the Us were top of the league and had already knocked Manchester United out of the cup. It looked as though Everton would be their next victims when Bobby McDonald gave the home side the lead. With ten minutes left Oxford midfielder Kevin Brock attempted to pass the ball back to goalkeeper Steve Hardwick. The under hit back pass was intercepted by Adrian Heath. Heath promptly rounded Hardwick and made it 1-1 (pictured above). Everton made no mistake at Goodison, winning the replay 4-1. The Brock back pass has gone down in Toffees folklore. Defeat at The Manor Ground might have seen Kendall sacked. What happened next was staggering, as the relegation battlers were transformed into one of the finest teams in Europe.

Buoyed by the reprieve Everton finished 7th in the First Division and reached the League Cup Final, they faced Liverpool at Wembley, the first all Merseyside cup final. After a dour 0-0 draw the two sides replayed at Maine Road. A Greame Souness strike settled the game in the Reds favour. But Everton went one step further in the FA Cup. The Toffees pitted their wits against Watford in the final. Graham Taylor's Hornets made the better start as John Barnes and Les Taylor missed chances. But the Blues made the breakthrough on 38 minutes. Gary Stevens miss hit shot fell at the feet of Greame Sharp. Sharp did not hesitate and fired home. The deal was sealed in controversial circumstances. In the 54th minute Trevor Steven collected the ball on the right. The winger's cross was about to be caught by Watford goalkeeper Steve Sherwood when Gray beat Sherwood to the punch and headed home. Watford were furious claiming Gray had fouled the goalkeeper before making it 2-0. However, the goal stood and Everton cruised to victory. The FA Cup was the clubs first major trophy in 14 years. Little wonder Kendall beamed as captain Kevin Ratcliffe lifted the cup.

With the trophy drought ended the Toffees pushed on. After losing the first two games of the 1984/85 season the Blues lost just once in 13 games. Manchester United were hammered 5-0 at Goodison, but October's victory at Anfield was the standout result. Liverpool's home ground had been a graveyard for Everton, they had not won there since 1970. In fairness most teams left Anfield empty handed. Greame Sharp scored the winner, a goal fit to win any game. Gary Stevens long pass found Sharpe 30 yards from goal. The striker let the ball bounce before unleashing a volley that sped past Bruce Grobbelaar and into the top corner of the net. Jubilant Evertonians spilled on to the pitch, a scene repeated on the final whistle. What a day! Victory in a Merseyside derby against the best team in Europe.

That result installed belief and Everton ran away with the title finishing 13 points clear of Liverpool. The Blues were now a wonderful side. Southall had matured into one of the best goalkeepers in the World, the classey Ratcliffe marshalled a water tight defence consisting Gary Stevens. Derek Mountfield and John Bailey. The tireless running of Peter Reid complimenting the subtle midfield skills of Kevin Sheedy, Paul Bracewell and Trevor Steven. While up front Kendall could perm two from three. As Gray, Sharp and Heath filled their boots. Andy Gray did that to devastating effect on Easter Saturday 1985. He scored two marvelous diving headers as Sunderland were thrashed 4-1 at Goodison. Trevor Steven's 4th goal is also worth a look on Youtube.

The Toffees were also making their mark in Europe, Kendall's men reached the Semi Final of The European Cup Winners Cup. Everton faced German giants Bayern Munich in the two legged tie. Hopes were high when they drew 0-0 in Munich. But things looked grim when Bayern took the lead on Merseyside. Roared on by a crowd of 49,476 Everton responded in magnificent style
Second half goals from Sharp, Gray and Steven completed a 3-1 aggregate win. Goodison Park has witnessed some great nights but could anything top this? They then beat Rapid Vienna 3-1 in the final with Gray, Steven and Sheedy on the scoresheet. A unique treble looked on the cards when Kendall's men reached the FA Cup Final. The Cup Winners Cup Final was held in the Dutch City of Rotterdam, four days later the treble chasers took on Manchester United at Wembley. A clearly jaded Everton struggled to reproduce their best form, even when United were reduced to 10 men following Kevin Moran's sending off. Indeed it only served to inspire the underdogs who grew in confidence. United grabbing an extra time winner courtesy of Norman Whiteside's sublime strike

This was to prove Andy Gray's swansong in a blue shirt. In the Summer of 1985 the Scot was sold to old club Aston Villa. He was replaced by Leicester City's Gary Lineker, the England striker had a magnificent season scoring 40 goals. Despite this the 1985/86 was a major disappointment. They were runners up to Liverpool in the League after squandering a commanding lead. Insult was added to injury when their neighbours beat them in the FA Cup Final.

Everton took revenge, regaining the title in 1987. However, Kendall was growing frustrated. In 1985 39 fans were killed before the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus. UEFA, the governing body took a hard line. English clubs were banned from all European competitions for 3 years. Everton were therefore twice denied the opportunity to compete in the European Cup, a trophy they had a great chance of winning. This still rankles with Evertonians today. Understandably Kendall wanted to prove himself amongst the Continent's elite and accepted an offer to manage Spanish club Althletic Bilbao.

That was 34 years and many managers ago, since then one of the biggest clubs in Britain have won 1 trophy. Joe Royle leading them to FA Cup glory in 1995. Howard Kendall twice returned but failed to bring back the good times. Mike Walker was a disaster and nearly took Everton down. David Moyes returned them to the upper echelons of The Premier League in the early 00s but failed to deliver silverware. More recently big names bosses, Ronald Koeman, Roberto Martinez, Sam Allardyce, Carlo Ancelotti and Benitez all flopped. How they needed a Andy Gray or even a modern day Kevin Brock.