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Old 19th October 2015, 12:00   #1
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Default Howard Kendall: an inspiration as player and manager for Everton

Howard Kendall: an inspiration as player and manager for Everton

Gary Lineker always said the Everton team of 1985-86 was the best he ever played in, and few Evertonians doubt it was the most impressive and stylish since the ones Kendall used to feature in as a player

Paul Wilson
The Guardian
Saturday 17 October 2015 23.50 BST

Howard Kendall, who has died aged 69, will be fondly remembered by an older generation of Everton supporters as a member of the midfield triumvirate that underpinned the attractive, title-winning team of the late 60s, and by younger fans as the clubís most successful manager since.

As one of the last English managers to lead a club to the league title and one of the first to manage abroad, Kendallís reputation ought to extend considerably beyond Merseyside, yet through a mixture of bad luck and bad timing he never quite seemed to get the recognition he deserved.

Famously he was never capped by England, indeed he is often cited as one of the best players never to receive an international call. Alan Ball was a World Cup winner by the time he arrived at Everton in 1966, Colin Harvey was already at the club and Kendall was bought by Harry Catterick a year later from Preston, for whom he had appeared in the 1964 FA Cup final as a 17-year-old.

The fee paid was £85,000, not a great deal less than the £110,000 for Ball which had set a British record, though despite the trio contributing equally to Evertonís success, only the former Blackpool player had a parallel England career. Harvey won a single cap, Kendall none at all, and even in a period when there was an abundance of capable English midfielders playing for clubs in the top flight, the omission was noticeable.

Kendall began in management at Blackburn, early success soon earning him a call back to Goodison, where Everton had lost their way by the early 80s and Liverpool were enjoying an unprecedented period of dominance.

Kendall briefly managed to knock them off their perch, so to speak, with two league titles in 1985 and 1987, an FA Cup in 1984 and European Cup-Winners Cup success in 1985. That remains Evertonís only European trophy, with its memories of a stirring semi-final conquest of Bayern Munich to set up a meeting with Rapid Vienna in the final, though the club and its manager were denied a chance to make progress in the senior European competition when English clubs were banned following the Heysel disaster of 1985.

Everton were directly affected, having been English champions that season, and though 30 goals from Gary Lineker helped ensure a runners-up spot in 1986, the strikerís exploits at the World Cup in Mexico brought him a move to Barcelona after just a single campaign on Merseyside.

Frustrated at not being able to offer European football and therefore attract the best players, Kendall himself quit in 1987 to spend a couple of seasons at Athletic Bilbao.

That seemed an odd choice, for the Basque club had their own restrictions on the type of player who could be signed, though Kendall enjoyed the Spanish lifestyle.

On his return to England his managerial career became more chequered. Kendall would usually manage to give his clubs an early lift, but rarely stayed long enough to repeat the sort of success he had seen at Everton. He did a good job of helping Manchester City and Sheffield United out of the doldrums, but perhaps unwisely left the former when a return to Everton became possible, explaining at the time that City felt like an affair whereas Everton was a marriage.

If so, it was a union of diminishing returns. He found Everton in a relegation battle on his first return in 1990, and resigned three years later after failing to get them beyond mid-table. His third spell as manager at the club was even worse. Everton, in an unhappy period under the chairmanship of Peter Johnson, only avoided relegation on the last day of the 1997-98 season and Kendall departed by mutual consent.

Perhaps Kendall made a few questionable decisions over the course of his career, such as rejecting an offer from his native Newcastle, about to undergo a resurgence, in favour of staying in Spain, where he was eventually sacked. Yet at his best he could be inspired, and he had the precious managerial ability of inspiring others.

Lineker always said the Everton team of 1985-86 was the best he ever played in, and few Evertonians doubt that it was the most impressive and stylish since the ones Kendall used to feature in as a player. Lineker in particular would appreciate that Evertonís purple patch of the mid-80s remains an essentially local memory since these were the last days of top-flight football before the television explosion promoted the English game around the world.

Though not a one-club player or manager Kendall instinctively understood Everton, a special affinity developed over the years, and his love for the club was both respected and returned by supporters. No one at Goodison before kick-off against Manchester United was talking about the visitors, not even the return of Wayne Rooney. It was as if a part of the club itself had been lost, which in a way it had.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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