Howard Kendall - 'Talking Blue'

By Becky Tallentire 22/10/2015  0 Comments  [Jump to last]
Talking Blue by Becky Tallentire
The following is an extract from Talking Blue, the 2000 book that answers all those nagging questions that have bothered Evertonians for years in the most candid and forthright collection of interviews ever given by the royal blue heroes of past and present. Talking Blue cuts straight to the chase with questions submitted on a ‘no holds barred’ basis by disenfranchised Evertonians, via the miracle of the World Wide Web and asked by the only woman with the temerity to do so, Becky Tallentire. It's still available for purchase on Amazon.

When they knocked on the door of my house, my father immediately asked: “Is it Liverpool?” They told him it was across the park.

And that, my friends, is quite literally how close it came.

It was one day before the 1967 transfer deadline when Howard Kendall signed for Everton, leaving Bill Shankly wringing his hands in despair. That weekend, Everton beat Liverpool at Goodison Park in the 5th round of the FA cup - a screamer, courtesy of Alan Ball. Cup tied, Howie watched from the stands.

The die had been cast.

That day was to herald the dawn of one of the greatest love affairs in football, which would span the next 31 years. And who could ever have dreamt that the twenty-year-old Tynesider with a heart full of ambition, a headful of hair with sixty quid a week in his pocket, would go on to navigate the uncharted waters of unprecedented glory. 

Fellow Bluenoses, the stage is set for the most revealing interview of his distinguished career and it gives me the utmost pleasure to introduce you to the captivating, charming and charismatic man who led Everton Football Club in it’s finest hour.

Howard Kendall, the floor is yours.


People go on about naming stands, gates and statues in honour of football heroes, how would Howard like to be remembered? Frankie Hargreaves, Anfield, Liverpool  

I would like something at Goodison Park, or the new stadium if they move, that would be a tremendous honour. Alex Young was at Goodison a few weeks ago for a presentation and I thought then how proud he must have felt.

I've been in Dixie Dean lounges and Joe Mercer suites and would be deeply honoured to have something named after me. I don't want it after I've gone though, I want to see it or walk into it myself before I depart this world.

Ask him how surprised was he was to end up on the blue half of Merseyside given that the press already had him down as having committed the heinous crime of signing for Liverpool.
Les Anderson, Burnley, England 

It was well known that after playing in an FA Cup Final for Preston when I was 17 a lot of the top clubs were coming for me. I was continually linked with Liverpool, but I got the impression that so many players had left Preston for Liverpool, such as Gordon Milne, Davey Wilson and Peter Thompson, that they didn't want to be classed as a nursery team. Jimmy Milne, the Preston manager, approached me and he said: "I've got a club for you". I was totally surprised that it was Everton.

I've never regretted it for a moment, although at that particular time I would have signed for Liverpool because all I wanted to do was play in the top flight and play top-class football. Everton gave me that chance.

Ask him about his early months at Goodison when he replaced folk hero Jimmy Gabriel and was constantly jeered for the impudence of stepping into the boots of a legend. Did he really think he had a future with us then?

John Quinn, Tewkesbury, England 

When you go to a famous club it's always dangerous when you're replacing somebody the fans love, and Jimmy Gabriel was a great player when Harry Catterick sold him to Southampton.

I was cup-tied when I arrived at Everton and I didn't make my debut for a little while. When I arrived at Goodison Park for my first game, there was a telegram waiting for me from Jimmy Gabriel. I thought that was a lovely gesture from him, and he remains a tremendous friend to this day.

But time goes on, and Harry Catterick wanted to rebuild, he'd already won the Championship, which was an absolutely unbelievable feat as a manager, and he felt maybe he had to bring some younger ones in. He brought Alan Ball in the early part of the season, Colin Harvey was emerging as one of the best midfield players in the country and he felt that maybe I made up the balance. It all turned out to be very successful.

Can you ask Howie if he remembers a game in 1972 against Derby when he tried a one-two at the Street End, he didn't quite catch the return and smiled after having come so close. Does he remember some little bastard in the first couple of rows shouting: "It's nothing to laugh at Kendall!”?  If he does, does he forgive me? If he doesn't forgive me, tell him my Dad battered me in the ground and it might make him feel better.
Brian Parkinson, Doncaster, England 

It's lovely that, I've never had a question like that asked before. Sometimes, when you used to play at Goodison Park, there could be 13 or 14 thousand people in a 40,000 stadium, you can not only hear the abuse, you can pick him out, but on that particular day, Derby County, I can't think of the person you're talking about.

I had a bad injury at Derby County, I clashed with Roger Davies and I was out for a long time after that, then when I came back I actually scored in that particular game, maybe that's the game he's talking about. I put one in from about twenty-five yards, and although I think we lost the game, maybe the little lad in short pants giving me the abuse inspired me and I gave him what he deserved in return. And of course I forgive him.

How did he feel, never getting the England recognition he deserved? 
Jim Lynch, Southport, Merseyside 

That was always a disappointment because I had a lot of media push in terms of being selected. In 1970, I was selected for the England squad against Yugoslavia at Wembley. I thought that was going to be my big one.

We trained in the morning at Roehampton and when we came out to the coach afterwards, Alf Ramsey said: "I'm going to name my 12 players", and I was about the fifth name mentioned. I always remember looking across at Bobby Moore and he gave me the thumbs up. Then Alf sat down. I thought: "Yes! I'm in, fantastic, I'm playing tomorrow", then he stood up again and said: "Rodney Marsh, have I named you?" He said: "No, Alf". "Oh, sorry", he said, "you're my twelfth man", so I thought: "Brilliant! Rodney Marsh is substitute!"

I telephoned my father and family and everyone came down to London. The next morning Alf said: "If Colin Bell fails his fitness test, Howard Kendall will be playing". Now, I knew Colin Bell was playing and I couldn't believe that he'd done it in that way, and I was sub. He promised me that if he made a substitution in the 90 minutes, I would go on. He didn't make one and that's the nearest I think anybody can get.

It is a regret and something which is disappointing, but I wouldn't have liked to have gone on for a few seconds or a few minutes, I'm a person who would like to have earned it by being selected from the start, but it was 'that' close.  Admittedly, Alf Ramsey did stick with his tried and trusted, he was a very loyal manager, and there were a lot of top-class midfielders at that particular time. He used to talk about caps being given away in cornflake packets and that became the case. I wouldn't have liked mine to be dragged out of a cornflake packet; I wanted to be selected and to deserve it.

Ask him if he remembers being Everton's number three batsman and number three bowler in the Peter Lever Benefit cricket match versus Man Utd at the other Old Trafford on 16 July 1972. He does? Right, Mr Kendall, your starter for ten: How many runs did you score and how many wickets did you take? And your 'Billy bonus' question is: who won - Everton or Manchester United? 
Billy Williams, Cologne, Germany 

I do, indeed. I don't think I took any wickets and I might have scored 60 or 70 runs. Actually it might not have been as many as that, but I'm sure it was over fifty. And we won, of course.

Did he feel that the midfield of him, Bally and big John Hurst was the best there has ever been at Goodison? I have fond memories of John Hurst going off for stitches to a head wound and then returning wearing a scrumcap.
Tony Field, Rotterdam, Holland 

I don't think John Hurst would regard himself as a midfield player, I think he must mean Colin Harvey, but I do remember John in one particular game going off for stitches, but that was the professionalism, that was the way they were in those days, nobody wanted to miss a game or even a minute of a game, we wanted to be put back on the field as soon as possible because we wanted to play. John Hurst was a central defender, not a midfield player.

Ask him does he remember missing an absolute sitter on his debut against Southampton, when he spooned the ball over the bar from about four yards out?
Tom Davis, Texas, USA 

I most certainly do. I'd waited so long for that debut and I when played in that game I don't think Everton had been beaten at home all season. I went out there and I had leaden legs, and I mean leaden legs - it was awful.

I remember missing the opportunity and I remember us losing the game. My late father was at the game, we were going back to Preston and we called into the garage for petrol. It was pouring down with rain and I just wanted to sneak away and forget about the day. All right, I'd made my debut and it was out of the way and I just wanted to go home.

I looked over and there were some Everton fans, they saw me and just bowed down in these puddles of water on the forecourt of the petrol station and paid homage to me. I said: "I had a nightmare, we lost because I missed that opportunity", and they said: "No, it's OK, thank you for coming here", and I thought: "That's me now, that'll do me.

Was Alex Dawson really as good as Pele?
Charlie Deeney, Ottawa, Canada

Quick answer? No, but I'll tell you something now, Alex could have sprung as high as Pele, Alex was superb in the air. He was only about five feet nine or 10, but he was the best in the air I've ever seen. I was a kid when I joined Preston and just to look at him play was amazing. He used to practise it every day, crosses came in and up he went, neck back and wallop! He was fantastic. Alex and Pele were different players, though, and I don't think Pele would have signed for Preston, would he?

Who did he most fear as a player? I can't believe he feared anyone, but ask him anyway.
Iain Cooke, Basel, Switzerland

It wasn't so much fear; it was the element of expectancy really when you played against Leeds United, because they were renowned as people who didn't take any prisoners. I've been on the end of quite a number of challenges from the likes of Norman Hunter and Johnny Giles. They were so apologetic afterwards and you tended to forgive them, but on that field they were ruthless. Apart from being top-class players, Don Revie’s Leeds was the crudest team you've ever seen. I'll tell you what, you wouldn't get many of them playing for ninety minutes today.

I rate you as the Evertonian of the century – you're the greatest. Who was the most talented player you played with?
Ari Sigurgeisson, Hafnarfjordur, Iceland

When I played in the 70s with Everton, I felt Alan Ball was one of the most influential players that Everton really have ever had, he was so consistent, he was a great motivator and a great pleasure to play alongside.

The best I've played against was George Best. Dear me, when you play against someone like that, you'd walk off the pitch at the end of the game and tend to be a few inches smaller, you'd know you'd been up against the best. My claim to fame is that we share the same birthday.

Given his obvious talent as a footballer, how much does he regret the fact that most Evertonians regard him as a manager first and foremost, eclipsing his feats as a footballer?
Les Anderson, Burnley, England

When Merseyside started to do the 'Sports Personality of the Year' with the Liverpool Echo, I was the first one to win that award, and that meant so much to me because it was something from the fans.

We move on, the kids now won't have seen me play, but their fathers will tell them how good we were and compare us with certain players of today, that's normal. All I can ask is that I was appreciated when I was playing there.

Who was his best signing, would it have been Nev?
Osmo Tapio Räihälä, Helsinki, Finland 

I think so, yeah. When you look at signings, you could name so many players because a lot of them did absolutely brilliantly. Neville Southall, I honestly believe was the best in the world at one stage, so if you look at the price you paid, the years' service he gave, and the Footballer of the Year award, he's got to be rated as the best signing I made, yes.

Do you think it's necessary/desirable for Everton to leave Goodison Park in order to succeed (i.e. commercially) in the modern game? 
Phil Bowker, Brussels, Belgium 

When we talk about the successful times and what Goodison Park means to a lot of people, it would be a very sad day if suddenly that was taken away from them. I think that a lot depends on where the new stadium's going to be, but if you asked the likes of Bolton Wanderers supporters or Derby County or Sunderland, they'll tell you that once the dust has settled, it's not so bad after all.

I've been up to the Stadium of Light, it's absolutely fantastic and I'm certain the facilities would be as good. You ask a Sunderland supporter, they've forgotten all about Roker Park now, and that's a compliment to the way the people have built the place, they've built a stadium which is brilliant and they've got a successful team at the minute now, too, that's also important.

Was he aware at the time that the Birmingham City footy kit of the mid-70s was an abhorrence, or did he think it looked kinda cool?
Les Anderson, Burnley, England

I remember going down to Birmingham City, I'd gone there from Everton and was a big money signing in a deal including Bob Latchford and Archie Styles.

We got to this air-raid shelter, which was supposedly a training ground; it was at Elmdon Airport or nearby. The players immediately came to me and asked me to have a word with the boss about the kit and I thought: "What's wrong with it?" I had a new fresh kit on and they had on something like you wouldn't believe, they were caked in dirt and so filthy. I couldn’t believe they were going out there wearing all this dirty gear, especially as I'd been used to special treatment at Everton. I said: "No, I won't have a word, but if it's like this tomorrow, I will.”

It was a horrible kit, though, now as I think about it.

What was his greatest moment for Everton Football Club as a player?
Iain Cooke, Basel, Switzerland

There have been so many. I think the best moment as a player was to win the Championship in 1970. I remember talking to Bally about five minutes before the end of the game when he came running past me. I asked him how it felt to be Champions, and he just clenched his fist and said: "Yes! We're the best now". The game hadn't finished, but we knew we'd won it.

His finest moment as an Everton manager, was it winning a particular trophy or something like the Bayern game?
Antony Richman, Johannesburg, South Africa 

As a manager, I think you always remember the first trophy you win at a particular club. You have the excitement of winning a semi-final and you know you're at Wembley. That 84 Cup Final, we had to win that because it meant Europe and it meant the first trophy for me as a manager, nobody then, in the future, could ever take that away from me, I'd won a trophy with Everton Football Club and I would be written in their history. It's gone on from there, but I think the first one is very special.

Did the mistreatment of you and your family by some so-called supporters in the early days have any influence on your decision to leave for Bilbao?
Mark Kenyon, Minnesota, USA

None whatsoever. I understood the fans' frustration in terms of not being successful I kept the Everton Board of Directors in contact with any move I was making, I didn't do anything out the back door. The year before, I signed a provisional contract to go to Barcelona, and they understood that. It was nothing to do with a Lineker link or whatever; I signed a provisional contract when Terry Venables was the manager at Barcelona. He was about to leave and they wanted me to take over and I told Everton Football Club.

The European ban was in place and I just wanted more of Europe, I wanted to further my education or whatever you want to call it and Barcelona were the biggest club in Europe. Then that broke down when Venables elected to stay, so I stayed, too, and we won the Championship in 87 again.

Then Athletico Bilbao came in and sold me the idea of me going there. We were Champions again and I missed Europe. I believe the team I had after winning the European Cup Winners' Cup would have gone on to better things - I really and truly believe that. They themselves going out on that pitch never believed they would be beaten, and as the manager I put them on the pitch with that belief, it was fabulous.

I don't regret going to Spain, I've never been a person who regrets what I've done. I came back from Spain and went to Manchester City and things were going all right - they were struggling at the bottom, but they stayed up, and the next season they were up there and I got the call to come back to Everton again, and I thought: "Yes, I'll do that". Now, maybe I should have stayed there, but I've never been one to turn round and say: "I shouldn't have done that". I've got on with it, and a large percent of the time it's been successful.

Thank him for all the good times, and very happy memories, and ask him would he ever come back in some capacity?
Iain Cooke, Basel, Switzerland

I'm not sure about 'any capacity' but I don't think you can about spend so many years of your life, successful times and difficult times, without it becoming a part of you. I certainly wouldn't want a job in the hot seat again. I'm hopeful that the club has sorted itself out at the top level, because if it's stable up there, it works its way through, it helps the manager, helps the players, helps everyone and, well, who knows... If there's a part to play, yes, absolutely, I would love to be connected, but for the good of the club and nothing more. I would hate to be an interference, and I think that that's a danger if people thought that maybe I was nosing in or waiting in the wings, but I would come back to help in some capacity.

Did he watch the 1986 World Cup and see the basis of his team playing for England and think: "I want the England job"?  
Dominic McGough, Rickmansworth, N London

When I came back from Spain, and it was before Graham Taylor took over, Peter Swales was on the management committee and I was at Man City. I'd missed club management in England and I was enjoying Manchester at that particular time. There was a short list of three people, and I was one of them, and I said to them: "I don't want it, I want club management". I think the England manager's job is a very lonely one and I was very, very happy in Manchester.

There was another time when I was doing particularly well at Sheffield United. I had a call from someone who was elected to appoint the next England manager before Glenn Hoddle took over and I said no. He said he thought the other person wanted it more than me, and so I told him to let him have it, but it was nice to be considered again.

It should be the best job, it should be the job that everybody wants, but it's a totally different job to being a club manager and it takes a special person who’d want to do it.

Bearing in mind that he was considered for it in the 80s (according to his book), how does he rate Keegan as England manager? 
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

I don't think Kevin likes the day-to-day hassle of a club, so that's a lovely job for him, when you get to play every two or three months. I think he does love his job, because you don't have to win Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, you've got a delay and you've got separation.

Does he take it as a compliment that so many of the players who played under him have gone into management at other clubs? I mean, Reid plays an identical pattern, shape, style and formation at Sunderland as we did in the mid-80s heyday.
Nick Williams, Warrington, England 

I think that's very nice, yes, it was a lovely compliment. I was invited up a few months ago. We were in the boardroom and the Chairman of Sunderland said: "The master and the pupil", and I thought that was nice, but I don't think Reidy would have read it like that because he's a master of his trade now. It’s taken a little while, but he's done a hell of a job up there and I'm delighted to have helped him in terms of recommending Gavin McCann. I told him not to hesitate, to just go and get him and he did. I wasn't taking him away from Everton Football Club because they should never have sold that player in the first place.

Sheedy at Tranmere, Kevin Ratcliffe at Shrewsbury, Dave Watson, and Peter Reid, they're all doing really well for themselves. I think what I did was I gave them an insight in terms of not only playing and enjoying it, but it was the way that I felt professional footballers should be treated and I think that gave them a guideline for when they went into management.

How would he compare the Everton Championship sides of 62-63 and 69-70 with the great teams of the mid-80s?
Nick Williams, Warrington, England

I joined Everton in 67, so it was the tail end of a very successful period in the club's history, really. In terms of the adulation of playing with the likes of Alex Young, Jimmy Gabriel, Brian Labone, and people like that, they were idolised by everyone and it was a great honour to actually play with them towards the end of their careers. To go on to the late 60s, I thought we played probably the best football that I've ever played in my life, and I'm talking about teamwise. We lost the Cup Final in 68, but 69 was absolutely unbelievable, it was superb and it was a great pleasure to be part of such a tremendous team. Our Championship win in 1970 was fully deserved because we were the best. It all broke up too quickly and it was a very sad day when it happened.

They talked about Everton being the team of the 70s, and in 71 we were nobodies, we'd lost out on the European Cup in the quarter-final and we lost out to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, so there was nothing then, and it broke up, similar to Crystal Palace - they were the team of the 80s and they went down in 1981, relegated. A bit like the Manager of the Month or when you win a trophy and you parade round before the game – it’s a jinx.  Mind you, I'd settle for a trophy nowadays, I don't mind where I parade it.

Why didn't he rate Paddy Nevin?
Osmo Tapio Räihälä, Helsinki, Finland

That's totally wrong, that. All players, if they play at that level and they've represented their country, have got particular skills, and to say I don't rate him is totally not right.

It depends on the club's particular position at the time and if he's got a place. What is he? A wide right-sided player, a floater behind the front two or is he a striker? Sometimes, you have to make these decisions and you think maybe you'd be better off without. But Paddy had some great skills and he's a smashing lad as well. Sometimes, you just have to make very difficult decisions.

What was the best overall team performance any team of his was responsible for - Bayern, 5-0 against Man U or the Sunderland game?
Osmo Tapio Räihälä, Helsinki, Finland

You've mentioned a few crackers there, by the way. Sometimes you're sitting there, whether it be in the stand or the dugout, and you're marvelling at what you're actually seeing on the pitch. I think if you ask most Evertonians, even the players, they'd talk about Bayern, they would talk about the night that we beat Bayern and everything that went with it.

It was a packed out stadium and everybody was on a high, the players were all Evertonians at the time, too. Nobody remembers this you know, but the 0-0 draw in Bayern was an absolutely unbelievable result and we got that because we did our homework and we did it right. Of course, we wanted an away goal which would have been even better, but 0-0 in Bayern, the Olympic stadium in Munich, was a great result because they were the best team we could face in that competition.

To go 1- 0 down was a nightmare because we knew then we had to get two. We were going towards the Gwladys Street in the second half, and at half time I told the lads the crowd were going to suck the ball in and to keep their confidence. We hadn't done anything wrong, we did everything according to plan, apart from putting the ball in the back of the net.

There are certain qualities that players have that can cause an opposition some grief, and Gary Stevens had a long throw and he used it a couple of times at the start of the second half and it caused them mayhem. We got down to a really dangerous position, he tossed it in and we got a couple of goals and they were rocking. Andy Gray was on a high, their centre back came up and there was contact made, he certainly had to have attention to his nose a few times. When Trevor Steven came through on that third goal, the whole place erupted.

I knew we'd win the Final because I'd seen Rapid Vienna and I knew we were better than them, we'd already beaten the best team in that competition, so the Final was Bayern. That night, if you ask the players, and I think supporters as well, they would turn round and say that was one of the best nights they ever had at Goodison Park.

Many thanks for managing the best Everton side I have ever seen, Were you surprised at Dalglish's departure after the 4-4 draw?     
Phil Bowker, Brussels, Belgium

He knew we were going to win 1- 0 in the second replay, so no wonder he left. No, I was very surprised; in fact I think everybody was stunned. We were behind four times and we clawed it back. It must have been a nightmare for Kenny. If you reverse the roles and put me in his place, I'd have been livid, because they scored great goals and we scored scramblies. I don't think it was just that result that made him resign, it was probably the build-up, in terms of what he felt and the pressure of the job. It's not an easy job, by the way.

The daft thing that happened at that time was this: we were drawn against West Ham away in the next round and everybody thought: "Ah, yes, Wembley now we've beaten Liverpool". We thought we were there then we went to West Ham and lost. You can't take away the 4-4, but it's not one of those that lasts in the memory because we were chasing the game all the time.

Who was the biggest nutter in the dressing-room in the 80s, the real narky, angry fella no one messed with?
Colin Berry, Wavertree, Liverpool

Kevin Ratcliffe was more than a captain. I always remember one player (Pat Van den Hauwe) I disciplined and dropped for the game coming into the dressing-room for his complimentary tickets at about twenty to three, it was much too late to be picking up tickets. Kevin just said: "Piss off, you know what time I give tickets out, now piss off", because I'd explained how much he'd let me down and the reason I was leaving him out. My captain was doing my job for me and that was the way it was. My ethos was that if you're not a good pro, not prepared to pull with the lads, not prepared to weigh in all you've got, there's no room for you in my team.

Did EFC make any attempts to overturn the Heysel-inflicted European ban in view of our exemplary behaviour in Rotterdam? 
Paul Christopherson, Nottingham, England 

I'll tell you the thing that bitterly disappointed me; everyone was aware there was a disaster, everyone was aware there was a tragedy, but when that five-year ban was lifted, Everton Football Club, regardless of who was the manager or the owner, should have been the first team back in Europe whatever their league position.

They should have gone into the UEFA Cup, or something like that. Everton Football Club, footballwise, were the ones to suffer professionally more than any other club in the league. They should have been allowed entry into some competition, but when the ban was lifted, who was the first team in? Liverpool. Now, I'm not having a go at Liverpool, but what I am saying is that they were involved in the tragedy and they were the first ones back in Europe. I wasn't involved with Everton Football Club at that time, but I thought that was terrible.

Did he think that the adaptation of our style to accommodate Gary Lineker harmed us as a footballing side?
Richard Marland, Waterloo, Liverpool

It didn't harm us, but it changed us. We had 6 players the season before who'd scored in double figures. We had Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy, Adrian Heath, Andy Gray, Graeme Sharp and Derek Mountfield. Derek's were from set pieces mostly, but we had five players who'd scored tremendous goals.

I won't take away from what Gary Lineker did, but nobody else could join in with him. We changed our style because of his pace, and when Sheedy picked him out over the top, nobody else could catch up and he'd go on and score. But although Lineker went out and got the goals, nobody else could get any. I felt that it wasn't a case of losing out in the Final to Liverpool or finishing second in the League either, we'd changed and it wasn't a coaching change, the players changed and I felt we suffered as a team.

Lineker was absolutely superb, but when the offer came in I felt we'd go back to what we were doing for the benefit of everybody. We weren't the team I wanted to be. I've taken a lot of criticism on that one, but then my answer is that we won the Championship the year after playing the way I wanted to play and with a lot more players, too. We really scrambled that one, but we deserved it because we had something going within the club.

After you'd completed the Joe Royle-inspired signing of Bilic, how long did it take to see you'd be done over? 
Phil Williams, Chester, England

I can't answer that; the people who have to answer that are the Chairman and the Board of Directors. I did a monthly report, and not just about Slaven Bilic, about every player I inherited or signed, and I have a monthly report which is minuted at Everton Football Club, so I'll leave it at that.

If we'd lost the Oxford League Cup game, in 84, would you have resigned?
Stuart Roberts, Guildford, England

I'd have been sacked, or at least that's what people tell me. I knew we had a good nucleus of players, but any manager will tell you, you just need a little bit of luck to get the odd result at the right time. But I knew what I was seeing at the training ground, and that wasn't bad, and I thought: "Just give me a little bit of time”.

If we'd lost at Oxford, maybe someone else would have come in and reaped the benefits. That would have been sad for me as I would have missed out on all that glory. Someone else would have taken over and enjoyed it all instead of me.

What did he consider the key ingredients that turned the corner for us back in 84? I reckoned it was a mixture of Peter Reid establishing himself, the promotion of Colin Harvey and the signing of Andy Gray. What did Howard think they were?
Richard Marland, Waterloo, Liverpool

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. If you're talking about taking chances and going for little ingredients in terms of: "I know what I've got and they need a little bit of a boost", I got two players who, at that particular time, were renowned for not being 100% fit. They both had injury problems, Peter with his knee and Andy with his knee. I took a chance on both of them, and in the early stages it looked like the gamble had failed, and then all of a sudden they got stronger and made so much of a difference that it was unbelievable.

People don't think about this either, but what happens in the dressing-room matters, too, and that dressing room was alive with those two. They really helped promote the younger players who were lacking confidence at that time. They then went on to play for England, Gary Stevens and people like that, they just needed some help, some guidance. The manager can give it on a day-to-day basis, but on the field Peter Reid and Andy Gray took over. Without a doubt, that was the turning point and whoever asked that question is spot on with his theory.

Can he elaborate on his abrupt dismissal from the Notts County hot seat?
Paul Christopherson, Nottingham, England

Can I elaborate? I'd rather not. I wish him all the best but if he supports Notts County, then he knows Mr. Pavis and I don't need to answer the question.

Is it true that Terry Darracott once wrote his hotel room number on the top of his head before a night out in Glasgow so he could get back if he forgot where he was staying?
Mark Kenyon, Minnesota, USA

I'm just so pleased he didn't write my number on his head. The gentleman must have been in Glasgow at the time, that's all I'm saying.

I only really have one question for Howard and that is: Will we ever get to know what happened behind the scenes during his reigns, or did he have to sign a confidentiality clause? If not, there must be a good book in there somewhere.
Andy Richardson, Hackney, NE London 

I didn't sign any confidentiality clause; I've never been a person to write an article for sensationalism just for the sake of a few bob at the time. Maybe, in the future, there will be some opportune time to tell you how it actually happened.

Is it possible to describe what it was like sitting on the bench at Wembley in the FA Cup Final watching Liverpool rob us of the Double? Did the fact that it was the Red Shite make it any harder for you to take? 
Phil Bowker, Brussels, Belgium

Yes, it did. I don't appreciate the words, though, because you have to respect the opposition and they're not shite, they're a very professional football team who on the day beat us.

What was more difficult was that it was all organised before the game that, whatever happened, it was a parade around the city, and that was very, very difficult for our lads to take. We'd just lost out on the League and to lose the Cup Final as well and to be on the same bus as Liverpool, it was very difficult for a lot of people.

Peter Reid disappeared because he couldn't cope with it. In all fairness, I respect how he felt, but at the same time I don't respect him for doing that because I had to do it and so did the rest of them. We could have all disappeared and not want to be seen round Liverpool, but we didn't.

Did he leave the first time in charge because he could see the cracks forming in the team he put together? 
John Staines, Adelaide, Australia

No, it was the European stuff. There's not many times when a manager takes over a team who are the Champions, you get appointed by a club because they're struggling. Man City, Sheffield United, and so on, and they give you 18 months or two years for you to sort them out. I don't have any regrets about leaving in 87 because Colin took over the Champions and there are not many managers who can say that.

Who, if any, is the one player you wished you hadn't sold in any of your terms at Everton? I just hope he doesn't say Mike Newell!" 
Phil Williams, Chester, England

Martin Keown, I think.

Would he like to expand on his mysterious comments on TV after he left the first time to the effect that his reasons would become apparent in time? 
Tony Field, Rotterdam, Holland 

If I did say that, then it would be to get a taste of Europe, and nothing more. I just felt I wanted to sample something and get it out of my system, I suppose.

What was the score with the racing trip before the Coventry game? A lot of snidey tales surround this trip. The beans on this little episode, would he care to spill 'em?
Les Anderson, Burnley, England

Yes, I will do. One 2 One, who were our sponsors, arranged this day because they wanted to have some publicity. It was organised before we lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday, it was on the Monday at Pontefract and it was part and parcel of the sponsorship of the football club.

It was nothing to do with having a great day out or a reward for losing, or anything like that, it wasn't a time to celebrate because we knew we were down there and in trouble, but it was just a time to honour the sponsorship deal for Everton Football Club. I'm delighted with your question, but sometimes when you reply to them people don't believe what you say.

Which player was the biggest challenge to manage?
Richard Marland, Waterloo, Liverpool

I've not had real problems with anybody because I've tended to try and treat them as I would like to be treated myself. There have been awkward sods and you've got to fine them, but as I tended to try and treat them as human beings, they’ve been fine. We all have to discipline players when they're out of order on the pitch, but off the pitch I've not had any great problems.

Why did the board renege on buying Dion Dublin? Did they not believe he was as good as Howard's assessment (thus drawing Howard's judgment into doubt), or was it really, as some have hinted, a racist thing?
Roy King Miaa, Kristiansand, Norway

No, it was never a racist thing. The club was financially not too brilliant at that point, at the same time, because I was involved in all Board meetings and financial situations I knew how much money was available for me to spend.

Alex Ferguson didn’t want to sell Dion Dublin because at that particular time they were in Europe and the English players were invaluable to him, though the rule's been relaxed since then. Dion was longer term and, OK, you agree a fee, and maybe you pay a little bit over the odds, but I spoke to my Chairman, I spoke to my Secretary, and we agreed the deal with Manchester Utd and agreed the method of payment as well.

Dion Dublin wanted to come to Everton; in fact he was desperate to come. This was the second time I'd tried to sign him, so when you talk about the racist thing, forget all about that because I tried to sign him from Cambridge.

The next morning, I went into the training ground and the Chairman, David Marsh, telephoned me and said: "I've been round with the Board of Directors and we don't like the Dublin deal - it's off, you can't go through with it".

So then I had to go through telephoning Alex Ferguson and telephoning the player to say sorry and that the Board had blocked the deal. I had a couple of days to think about it and I felt so strongly about it - maybe they had financial difficulties at the club, or whatever, but no one came and talked to me about that. In effect, they had told me I was no longer the manager of the football club because they'd blocked something I wanted to do.

I knew that we were capable of financing that deal or I wouldn't have entered into it in the first place. I just thought, watching Dion Dublin was similar to an Andy Gray situation, we weren't bad up to the penalty area but then we just needed something to happen. A big lad would have made it happen, I'm certain of that; it would have improved us, just like Andy did.  We were putting quality in there, but who was on the end of it? Nobody, and I felt Dion Dublin would have taken care of that.

I'm so delighted, not for me for a pat on the back or anything, but that the lad has gone on and had a tremendous career.

When you accepted the job third time around you must have been aware you weren't Peter Johnson's first choice. You must also have known Andy Gray had walked away, suggesting there was something rotten at the club. Are there any circumstances when you would turn down Everton if they approached you to get involved again - say as Director of Football or some such?
Neil Wolstenholme, Chelsea, SW London

No, I wouldn't turn them down; I'd listen to what they'd say. Look at the situation at Sheffield Utd, for example, the club I came away from to join Everton. At that particular time we got in the play-off final and lost out in the last minute. We could have been a Premier League club, now look at it and the change that has happened there.

If you're a football person, a fan, all you want to talk about is your football, go to your game, discuss the game, have a go about the players and then go home. There are so many factors that are involved with football now; it's not nice any more.

Westlife, Cliff or the Cuban Boys?  
Les Anderson, Burnley, England

Hhhhmm…. I know Westlife. I don't like the Cuban Boys. I am 'with it', I can't say Cliff, though, can I? But poor Cliff has been knocked like you wouldn't believe, why knock the man? You've got to respect what he's done over the years, not knock him. I'm not having that; actually, I'm sticking with Cliff.

Can you ask Howard what his views are on the Bill Kenwright takeover? Good thing? Bad thing?
Frank Hargreaves, Anfield, Liverpool

Bill's a fan and Everton Football Club deserves someone who's got a passion for the club to take over. I think it's about time someone took over who feels for the club, the club's interests and the fans' interests.

You have dealt with a variety of chairmen at Everton, including Sir Philip Carter, Dr David Marsh and Peter Johnson. Do you have a good word to say about any of them?
Neil Wolstenholme, Chelsea, SW London

Of course I have. Sir Philip was superb. He wasn't a football man, but he was a fabulous person. Normally, with Everton Football Club, the Littlewoods Organisation was behind the appointments of the Goodison Chairman, the MD of Littlewoods would normally be the chairman of the football club. We went through a bit of a difficult time early on, but he backed me up and I think I repaid that. David Marsh, I don't think he had any responsibility whatsoever, I think he led the line for others. We're working our way down the list now, aren't we? I think I'll stop there.

About modern professionals, are they artisans who deserve every penny they can get, or overpaid wankers who wouldn't have lasted five minutes in his day? 
Les Anderson, Burnley, England.

Overpaid wankers? Nah, that's not right. I don't begrudge anybody who's really top class earning what they are in the modern day. What I don't agree with is agents pushing ordinary players, and consequently they're earning too much - because they don't deserve it. Top players should earn it, but I think that average players are overpaid.

Did he really not rate Hinchcliffe at all as a player, or was it an attitude thing?
Col Berry, Wavertree, Liverpool

I sold him from Man City to Everton, I didn't have money at Man City when I was there. Colin Harvey loved Hinchcliffe and I needed a goalkeeper badly, so the deal was I took Neil Pointon from Everton, I rated him; I thought he was a superb player. Hinchcliffe went to Everton and that gave me enough money to buy Tony Coton from Watford, so I got two for one and I thought that was great business.

Now, whether I like Andy Hinchcliffe or not doesn't matter, but when I came back to Everton the media feeling was: "He'll be the first to move, he doesn't like him". That wasn't the case, the lad has great qualities, I'm not saying he was my ideal defender, but he's got a sweet left foot and he's played for his country. It was just a matter of circumstances, that's all. I had Michael Ball coming through and we needed the money, and all of a sudden it was a case of:  “Somebody wants Hinchcliffe, how much?" and then it's a deal, because I've got a ready-made replacement and I could go and spend the money somewhere else.

In the present day, as a manager when you've not got money to spend, you move out certain players and bring in others. Selling players to strengthen your squad is all part of being a manager, there's a lot of wheeling and dealing going on.

How good could Billy Kenny Jr. have been?  
Richard Marland, Waterloo, Liverpool

Who knows, all you could say was that he was on his way through the youth team and forced his way into the first team. He naturally had talent or he never would have had that opportunity. It's sad that he's not still there, doing what he was good at, and that's playing football.

In retrospect, does Howard think that playing in so many different positions so early on damaged John Ebbrell's career? 
San Presland, New Brighton, England

John Ebbrell's career wasn't damaged at all. I signed him for Sheffield United Football Club, I got the steal of the century and he only played half a game. I'll tell you something now about John Ebbrell, he's one of those players that players appreciate, managers and coaches appreciate, but sometimes not the fans, but there are players who are so important to your team and I couldn't believe I signed him for £900,000. Unfortunately, the lad's career has been cut short by injury, but he was a great asset.

Would Andy Gray have made a good Everton manager with you as general manager?
Mark Kenyon, Minnesota, USA

Andy's his own man. I think if he'd taken over Everton he'd have wanted to do it his own way. He would have wanted to be the one who was responsible for the success and not have me in the background. I don't think there was any possibility of myself working with Andy.

Who was the player who he really wished he'd signed, the one he had the chance to, and didn't, or the best one who turned him down? 
Col Berry, Wavertree, Liverpool

My disappointment was that when I first went to Everton I didn't sign Bryan Robson because that was my real target, I wanted to sign him from West Bromwich Albion and he was the real one that got away. Nobody left me, though, unless I wanted him to go.

What is the dark secret surrounding him and Gary Speed, you know, the one that made Speed leave?
Ste Daley, Speke, Liverpool

All I can say is that Gary Speed wanted to go to Newcastle. Kenny Dalglish chatted him up and when I spoke to the agent to see what was going on he told me that Speed wanted to move on. I told him that I wanted Speed to stay, I'd made him captain the first day of the season and I definitely wanted him to stay. I spoke to Kenny and he said: "It's nothing to do with me, but he was on our list last year". Speed had been got at, without a shadow of a doubt, and it came as no surprise to me.

What did surprise me was when he refused to go to West Ham. You know something, there was a lad called Griffin from Stoke City, he was told not to play in a game and he ended up at Newcastle, too. You look at the record books it's a fact. That was an awful way of pushing through a transfer, to say you don't feel mentally well enough to play, and where did they both end up? Newcastle. Gary Speed? I'll leave it to you.

Who was the young player he was convinced would make it and didn't? 
San Presland, New Brighton, Merseyside

That's a good question. To be honest, it's a very difficult question. It's not the perfect answer, but there was a player at Everton once called Jimmy Paige and everyone was chasing him because his ball skills were incredible, he could juggle the ball like you wouldn't believe. Everton pushed the boat out, gave him a contract and signed him. He never grew, he didn't get any strength, and in the end all he was doing was juggling the ball about. To be a judge of people or players at that age is crazy because you just don't know, you could have the best skill in the world but you may not become a player.

In your opinion, who is the better centre forward, Sharpie or Dunc?
Phil Williams, Chester, England

I definitely couldn't compare people like that. When you're talking about strikers, it depends on the service they get, too, don’t forget.  Sharpie, I always felt, could do more. I didn't feel he scored as many in the six-yard box as he could have, the little tap-ins.

Now Dunc didn't score enough goals. He never got into goal-scoring positions as often as you'd have liked him to, although he had a presence.

With no hesitation, I'd say Sharpie right now, but I'll say this, now, too, without a problem: I've got so much time for the Big Man, and I'm talking about Dunc, when he gets over his injury he'll be a sensation, he's absolutely unstoppable at times, but over a longer period of time, Sharpie would come out on top.

Why did you bring Cleland in when O'Kane seemed to be doing so well? 
Phil Williams, Chester, England

It was the end of Cleland's contract, anyhow, so he wasn't going to cost a fee. We felt we needed more experience, and although Cleland had played for Rangers for a good many years, he was still a young lad so there would be a sell-on effect on that. He could play right or left side, so I felt he'd be a nice addition with no attachments involved and without any disrespect to John O Kane.

Does he ever reminisce and think of what might have been if he'd have signed for Liverpool? All those trophies as a player, must have had him thinking 'if only' now and then? 
Les Anderson, Burnley, England

No, I'm not a person who looks back, to be honest with you. I've worked hard, had a very lucky career and when you talk about success, I can hold my head up high.

When I signed in 1967 as a player I never thought for one minute what would have happened and that I would have spent seventeen years, once as a player and three times as a manager, and enjoyed so many successful times.

I have the honour of being the most successful manager in the history of Everton Football Club, one of the greatest and the biggest clubs in the world. It's a tremendous honour and I don't regret for one minute anything or any decision that I've made.


© Becky Tallentire 2000

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