Skip to Main Content
Members:   Log In  |  Sign Up

1985; What If?

By Tony Christian :  20/07/2010 :  Comments (29) :
I recently watched footage of an old Sportsnight interview from 1985 in which it was put to Howard Kendall that his current Everton team was similar in style and substance to the 'great' Liverpool teams of the seventies. Kendall smiled and replied , "If you come back and tell me that in five years time then I would be a very happy man."

Sadly we are all too familiar with the events that followed and that has made me sit back and wonder what would have really occured if the Heysel Stadium disaster had not have happened?

Of course nobody can truly tell you what would or would not have happened if Everton had been allowed to compete in the 1985-86 European Cup, but one thing's for sure is that for too long we have all been guilty of holding on to this myth that we would have 'definitely' been crowned champions of Europe. Let me explain why.

As English Football League Champions, Everton would have almost certainly played either Rabat Ajax of Malta or Omonia Nicosia of Cyprus in Round 1 of the European Cup. This comes from the fact that Anderlecht were given a Uefa bye following the European ban to English clubs which meant that the two unseeded clubs mentioned faced each other in the first round.

The result of this would have been that Everton would have almost certainly progressed to meet Anderlecht themselves in Round 2 and, on dispatching them (which in itself would have been no easy feat), we would have then gone on to meet Bayern Munich in the quarter finals, Steau Bucharest in the semis and either Barcelona, Juventus or Liverpool in the Final. Not exactly child's play you will agree.

Of course, a Lineker inspired Everton may well have lifted the European Cup at Seville's Estadio Ramon Sanchez the 7 May 1986... but a combination of poor team investment (a story in itself) and the fact that many key players ultimately succumbed to career ending injuries would have resulted in Everton's success being just what it was ? a mere flash-in-the-pan.

The fact remains that, for too long, we have held on to this myth that, if it wasn't for the events at Heysel, then Howard Kendall would have almost certainly achieved the dynasty that the Sportsnight interviewer orginally suggested back in 1985. However, in reality, the only dynasty that was created was the one that exists in our minds, and without Heysel, we wouldn't even have that.

Incidentally, the whole Sportsnight interview with Howard Kendall is available via and well worth viewing.

Reader Comments

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer

Gareth Humphreys
1   Posted 20/07/2010 at 14:52:59

Report abuse

The truth is, Tony, that no-one knows. The whole right-hand side of the team moved to Glasgow for European Football and European Football alone.

What is beyond doubt is that everyone was on a level playing field at the time of the ban and we were Champions.
We let it slip ? no-one else.

Dave Lynch
2   Posted 20/07/2010 at 15:01:27

Report abuse

Fact! We where brilliant.

Fact! Kendall would have strengthened the side.

Fact! We where denied the chance to find out the facts.
Stewart Oakes
3   Posted 20/07/2010 at 15:25:42

Report abuse

Don't forget, Tony, it wasn't just 1 year of European Football that we lost, but a minimum of 3 more seasons (2 European Cups and 1 Uefa Cup) which would have given us 4 years on the run in Europe. How could we not have come out of that a better stronger team?
Stewart Oakes
4   Posted 20/07/2010 at 15:35:12

Report abuse

Sorry, made a mistake there, it would have been the Cup Winners Cup not the Uefa Cup.
James Mullarkey
5   Posted 20/07/2010 at 15:30:45

Report abuse

I think most of us live under an illusion and completely miss the point.

We may have been involved in the European Cup for years as we would have had a good chance of winning the 1st Division on many more occasions. When we got banned from Europe, it was a sickener for all associated with the Club but what the management didn't do was have a long-term plan to remain at the top of the English pile and still be there when the ban was lifted.

I am sorry to say that Kendall must take a big responsibility for that. When he left, he said that he had achieved everything he could. That's nonsense. I would have took a walk over to Anfield and had a look in their trophy cabinet and if I were a true Evertonian as Kendall has always claimed, I have stayed determined to make us the greatest and at least try to win as many cups as we could. Instead he left and deserted us. I can imagine the response but Kendall is the one who is majorly responsible and is no hero in my eyes.

Andy Crooks
6   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:08:42

Report abuse

I think sometimes "what if" is fine. I have certainly thrown it in the face of a few reds over the years.
David S Shaw
7   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:09:33

Report abuse

I know what you're saying James but it was Kendall who give us that success. If he didn't become manager then we wouldn't have had any success.

Anyway, lets say that we did go on to have success, what would have happened? Loads of sadarse Reds from Devon being sadarse Blues from Devon.
James Mullarkey
8   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:16:50

Report abuse

Take your point, David; Kendall did get us there and he did get loads of stick in his early days from the fans... so, if you look at it like that, loyalty works both ways. It's sad though having got into a position like that to let it slip. As Gareth says, it's only our own fault.
Phil Paulson
9   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:12:16

Report abuse

We certainly would have been strong challengers for the European Cup in 1986 and 1987, had we qualified for it.

It is, however, doubtful that we would have been strong enough to challenge the AC Milan team who by 1988 competition were the dominant European side.

I strongly endorse James Mullarkey's view above. There was inadequate long-term planning at the club during this period, but the fault can't all be laid at Howard Kendall's door
Mike Allison
10   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:26:01

Report abuse

The best time to plan how to be at the top is when you're at the top. You've got a lot less distance to travel. Just look how difficult its been in the Moyes era, we've had a good manager, a stable club, and a gradually improving squad for eight years and still we're just coming off the back of an 8th position. The club was complacent in the eighties and failed to do what it should have done, we're still paying for that now.
Michael Kenrick
11   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:27:28

Report abuse

I thought it was common knowledge that the main reason Kendall left was to prove himself in the European arena ? buy managing a team playing in Europe. He left Everton well before his time because he was denied that opportunity by those horrible bastard Reds and the ridiculous total ban on English football in Europe.

Everton should never, ever have been banned. If they hadn't been banned... who knows? But the distinct possibility was there that Kendall would have gone on to greater and greater success, and our entire subsequent history would have been radically different. Note: possibility... not certainty.

After Everton having just completed an entirely peaceful European final of our own in Rotterdam, we should have never let it rest. That bitch Thatcher was primarily to blame for here anti-scouse agenda. We as a club should have made sure that Liverpool, and only Liverpool were punished. A 10-year ban for them would not have been long enough.

Of all the heinously unfair travesties that have befallen Everton, and there are many, this one makes my blue blood boil the hottest!
Fergus McCarthy
12   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:28:35

Report abuse

If we were in American sports, lawsuits would have been flying to either reinstate Blues in Europe as was their right, or have clubs involved in Heysel compensate. BIG TIME!

Everton in Europe at that time would have attracted top players as top sides do, and it would have grown on itself, with the team getting stronger and getting more revenue.

James Mullarkey
13   Posted 20/07/2010 at 17:00:57

Report abuse

When the English got back into Europe, Everton were never mentioned. It was a travesty but we should have been there when the ban was lifted ready as English Champions. Kendall left for European football but why did he care when it was with a no-mark team? Remember he did sell Linekar to Barca thinking he was going to manage there. Not the actions of a true Evertonian.
Jon Cox
14   Posted 20/07/2010 at 16:53:46

Report abuse

Tony, just as you are quite right to put forward your hypothesis of how we may not have taken Europe by storm because of the tragic events that happened in the mid eighties, it is of course only conjecture.

As we all know a hypothesis is not fact therefore we need to have an equal, for it to balance. Had we not as Michael said been castrated by "that bitch Thatcher" then it could have worked out very different for us.

The Barcelonas and Milans of this world had been playing in Europe for decades and so had the best players wanting always, to play for them.

This would have easily worked out the same in the end for Everton. If this had of happened and at the advent of the premier league we could very well have been one of the favoured four.

It's only "a question of balance."

(Good album!)
Mick Gallagher
15   Posted 20/07/2010 at 17:08:14

Report abuse

I agree with everything you said Michael 12. The bit you missed out was the other Tory running our club and who let her get away with it. Step forward Mr Philip Carter, leading Tory on Merseyside, he should have fought the ban.
Colin Taylor
16   Posted 20/07/2010 at 18:02:16

Report abuse

If Everton had stayed in Europe, we would have been at the top when Sky came into football. We could so easily have had the success Man Utd had in the 90s and we would have been part of the sky 4. It affected us long-term, not just them first few years. Kendall would never've left and our trophy cabinet would be bulging with honours. I am getting pissed off now the more I think about it
Alan Kirwin
17   Posted 20/07/2010 at 18:39:00

Report abuse

What a strange article. There are always what ifs & pre-suppositions. But here's some more:

In 1985, Everton overwhelmed a team that many regarded as the best in Europe (Bayern Munich).

Between 85 - 87, we missed wining a hat-trick of league titles by just 2 points. We scored goals for fun throughout 1985 and 1986.

During those 3 pivotal years, our squad changed very little. Had we been in Europe, we would have had further funds and attraction for the best new players.

After 1987, the European ban meant that we started to lose players to teams like fucking Rangers! because they were in Europe.

Truth is, whatever may have happened, had we not been banned from Europe, what DID happen was a grave injustice, utterly fucking ridiculous and probably wouldn't get through the courts now, and instrumental in suppressing (even destroying) our club's potential for a seat at the top table.

I have little doubt whatsoever that, had we been allowed into Europe, it would have begun a self-perpetuating mode of success that, once the Premier League arrived, could have seen things in a very different light.

It was Paradise Lost as far as I'm concerned. I think Tony's article underplays it on all counts.
Tony Christian
18   Posted 20/07/2010 at 19:02:51

Report abuse

Alan ? some good points but fails to acknowledge the fact that, despite enjoying domestic success, the then Everton board (are you reading, Sir Philip?) where negligent for failing to build upon the success we had already achieved.

I think that, regardless of European football, the likes of Lineker would have left at the earliest opportunity. However, despite receiving £2.75 million for Lineker, Everton did not buy another 'high profile' striker until Tony Cottee arrived in 1988. In 1987-88 we actually completed a full season with a forward line chosen from Sharp, Wayne Clarke & Paul Wilkinson whist Liverpool speculated to accumulate by signing Beardsley, Barnes & Aldridge.

You also fail to acknowledge the likes of Arsenal & Man United also did not have any European football but within a very short period were leaving Everton in their wake. Sadly Heysel denied us a couple of European nights at Goodison and nothing more.

David Price
19   Posted 20/07/2010 at 19:32:38

Report abuse

We lost Trevor Steven, Gary Stevens, Lineker, Kendall because of the ban. We were denied the chance to build on what we had. A great team to last another five years, with Kendall to develop the next generation.

We missed out on PL glory from 92 onwards, granted not a cert, but it would have been right to miss out through football reasons and nothing else. Imagine it today, restraint of trade, human rights etc, disgrace what happened to us.

20 years we've had to wait for a team that gives us parity to any other side in the league. If we get the momentum from the start, the only thing that can stop us is some bunch of RS rampaging through some clapped out Europa League ground and getting us banned again.

Brendan O'Doherty
20   Posted 20/07/2010 at 20:01:13

Report abuse

Mick Gallagher (#12);

I didn't know that Carter was one of Maggie's boys. I've always felt that although the ban hit us hard (the hardest in fact), Carter and the board at the time were also to blame for letting the club drift and fall from it's lofty position through their (lack of) decision-making and forward planning. But now that I know he was a blue-rinse tory, it explains his inaction quite a lot, and I blame him even more for it.
Tommy Gibbons
21   Posted 20/07/2010 at 20:06:36

Report abuse

Sooo with Mr Kenrick on this! And those of you saying it's our own fault for not building and/or AC Milan were to be the dominant force... Get real, the redshite were the dominant force, we were about to be their equal or even usurp them..

Weren't we voted WORLD team of the year for 1985?!... The point being is we should never have been put in the position in the first place... and until the redshite offer an apology or even acknowledge Heysel was their fault... They'll always be REDSHITE!...

John Daley
22   Posted 20/07/2010 at 21:07:29

Report abuse

Well, if it wasn't for the European ban, then Kendall would probably have remained at the club and I am sure we would have gone on to enjoy more success.

The biggest mistake Everton made was promoting Colin Harvey to manager. Great Evertonian, great coach, but he never seemed totally sure of himself when he stepped out of Howard's shadow. Players left to play in European competition and to earn bigger wages but I also feel Harvey was determined to dismantle and build his 'own' side. However, most of the players he brought in were simply not fit to lace the boots of those they were supposed to be replacing.
Tony Christian
23   Posted 20/07/2010 at 21:42:07

Report abuse

At the end of the day, it's very sad watching the interview on Sportsnight as you realise just what could have been. If you are interested, the whole interview is available on
Derek Thomas
24   Posted 20/07/2010 at 22:58:41

Report abuse

Nah, nothing would have changed. We don't do dynasties, we don't build to go forward, we never have. All those facts mentioned above ARE a contributing factor and beyond our control. But what we could have done about them WAS NOT we fucked up big style.

It wasn't the slings and arrows of outragious fortune vs Kendall (by default us) people are forgetting the main fact...

KENDALL GOT LUCKY! He was one Boxing Day away from the sack, the Cup game at Stoke(?), the Oxford game. The semi vs Luton we were deep into extra time at 1-1.

Yes, I know you make your own luck sometimes but Lady Luck has to be there to dangle it under your nose in the first place.

But most of all, he got a whole season out of those perennial sicknotes, Reid, Sheedy and Gray.

Don't even start me on the fact that he went into the Cup Final with 2 injured players, who played the whole game, walked off unaided and in one case, Bracewell, never kicked a ball for over 2 years.

All that would have happened would have been a different version of the failure to kick on that we saw.

He didn't have a magic formula, because all his attempts after 87 failed both with us and else where.

He sold Lineker to Barca coz he thought he was a cert for the job and ended up in an average Spanish club.

Maybe it could have been different but not, I think, much.
Ste Traverse
25   Posted 21/07/2010 at 01:11:55

Report abuse

It's not true Kendall sold Lineker because he thought he was getting the Barca job as, towards the end of 85-86, Venables decided he wasn't leaving the Nou Camp after all, after Kendall had been interviewed. Kendall reports this in his autobiography and Lineker was bizarrely sold in the July after scoring 40 and finishing leading scorer in the World Cup.

Had the European ban never happened and we'd held on to Steven, Stevens, Lineker and Kendall, I do believe we'd have gone from strength to strength. But what I still can't get my head round was why Kendall chose Athletico Bilbao. Had he gone to Real, Barca or AC Milan, then fair enough... but some average Spanish club was strange to say the least.
Richard Harris
26   Posted 21/07/2010 at 15:49:59

Report abuse

We were one of the best teams in Europe at the time and would have had a glorious chance to prove it. Although any team that wins trophies needs a bit of luck as well and being Everton this may have been a problem in a crucial game :0) Still the chance for a heroic failure in a final where we outplay the opposition but get a dodgy referee's decision against us would have been preferable to years in the wilderness...
Tom Hughes
27   Posted 21/07/2010 at 20:11:48

Report abuse

In 85, we won the strongest league in Europe at a relative canter. In doing so, we also took the title off the reigning European Champs, having done the double over them on the way.

Over the previous decade (almost), every English Champ had won the European Cup, even one-hit wonders like Villa, and the tiny previously unheard of Notts Forest swept all the so-called European giants aside. Such was the strength of our league at the time. I think that, and the fact that we only narrowly lost a double the following year before reclaiming the title, would suggest that we would've had a very strong chance to secure a European Cup in at least one of those 3 seasons......

That IMO would've dramatically changed the club's fortunes and standing. Everton were hit far harder by the ban than say Liverpool for instance, since they'd had unprecedented success in the previous 13 years and had greatly increased their fanbase and wealth in the process. Their immediate future was secured. We had none of that to fall back on, and lost our momentum as we lost so many key players/manager.....

Other clubs, such as Man Utd and Arsenal were at a different stage in their development cycle, and they took up the mantle. Had the European backdrop still been there I doubt that momentum would've been lost so quickly. It was all a rather unnatural demise speeded by a ban that saw key personnel wish to further the European adventures they had already sampled. Yes, there were other issues and mistakes, but that lost opportunity was singularly the biggest factor on several levels IMO!

Peter Laing
28   Posted 21/07/2010 at 21:19:18

Report abuse

The sale of Gary Lineker (Mick Channon, Mexico 86) following the World Cup was arguably the most defining moment in the post Heysel period. To sell a player that had scored 40 goals in a season capped by a fine World Cup which culminated in the Golden Boot was criminal.

I have heard the cliches about how Lineker disrupted the contribution of the whole team approach to performances, vindicated by the 1987 triumph. However, IMO had Southall not sustained that terrible injury against Rep of Ireland, I would suggest that we would have also likely been Champions in 1986 too.

Philip Carter fiddled whilst Rome burned in the following seasons; how he can be given Life Presidency at Everton beggars belief.

Jimmy Hacking
29   Posted 22/07/2010 at 12:25:00

Report abuse

The real tragedy about 85 was how quickly the rest of the footballing world moved on...

Growing up in Manchester in the late 80s/early 90s, I would bang on about how in 85 Everton were the best team in the world, only to be drowned out by laughter... I remember in about 92 having to bring in an old Everton Annual into school to prove to ignorant classmates that just 5 years ago we were Champions, since literally nobody would believe me (by that point, we were fast becoming a complete joke).

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment to Fan Articles, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and MailBag submissions across the site.

© ToffeeWeb

Latest News

Subscribe to The Athletic, Get 40% off

Online Football Betting with Betway

Bet on Everton and get a deposit bonus with bet365 at

Recent Articles

Talking Points & General Forum

Pinned Links


We use cookies to enhance your experience on ToffeeWeb and to enable certain features. By using the website you are consenting to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.