A drizzly November night in Liverpool city centre.
On Saturday 2 November 2019, I wound my way down to the Odeon at Liverpool One to view the premiere screening of Howard’s Way, a film charting the success of Everton Football Club under visionary manager Howard Kendall and his staff in the mid-1980s. Arriving about 45 minutes early, I spotted Graeme Sharp and Pat Van Den Hauwe chatting with John Bailey. “Liverpool have just scored again!”, I overheard Bailey remark, a good couple of hours after the final whistle had officially gone down at Villa Park where our neighbours had plundered another injury-time winner earlier that afternoon. Is right, Bails.
My mind was awash with everything I already knew. The story I’ve pored over a million times since I was 10 or 11 years of age. The tale of a young football manager and his assistant, playing partners in the great Everton side of the mid-late 1960s; a squad of aspiring talents, topped up with a sprinkling of wiser, older heads, their net guarded by the greatest goalkeeper the world has ever seen; all roared on by a band of supporters desperate for success, with absolutely no idea what they were in for.
Off they all set on a rollercoaster journey, defying all odds and encountering rip-roaring success for a fleeting period. Then, as with many a similar story, a mixture of normal life events, sheer misfortune, the passage of time and an element of tragedy intervened to cut things short in their prime. Loss of key personnel at key moments and events beyond their control conspired cruelly to bring the curtain down long before everything they had planned and dreamed of had come to pass on the footballing stage. More sherbet lemon than Everton mint in many ways. Bittersweet.
Rob Sloman’s documentary details Everton FC’s meteoric rise from First Division also-rans, trophy-less for over a decade in 1983 to FA Cup Winners, League Champions and European Cup-Winners’ Cup winners in successive years from 1984 to 1985. A further League Championship would follow in 1987.
Howard Kendall remains Everton’s most successful manager, a whisker ahead of his mentor Harry Catterick, the man who brought Kendall to Goodison Park in the mid-1960s as part of his celebrated Holy Trinity midfield alongside World Cup winner Alan Ball and local lad Colin ‘The White Pele’ Harvey.
Steeped in the traditions of the club, Kendall (and Harvey who was promoted from coaching Everton’s youth team to become Kendall’s right-hand man in 1983) fashioned a lean, mean unit, capable of out-footballing the best teams in the country off the park or squaring up and mixing it with the likes of European giants Bayern Munich as and when required. Men of steel, but boy could they play. The squad of players Kendall assembled and the team spirit he cultivated meant every man in that side would have run through a brick wall for the man they called The Gaffer.
However, at Christmas 1983, Kendall was walking a tightrope and it appeared more a case of not if, but when he would be relieved of his duties by the board of directors. Perhaps the fact they were too skint to afford another pay-off plus the ensuing negotiations for a replacement played a part. Funny how details like that go missing over time, Philip Carter was more than happy to take the praise for standing by his man.
Nonetheless, a combination of factors in the early months of 1984 colluded to change Evertonian fortunes in spectacular fashion. Everton were booed off after an insipid 0-0 home draw with Coventry City on 31 December 1983 left them struggling in 16th position in the table. Three results in three away games in the first three weeks of January, in the three domestic competitions would, along with Peter Reid and Andy Gray finding form and match fitness, change everything. The Goodison Roar would come later.
Birmingham City were despatched 2-0 at St Andrew’s in Division 1, Stoke City were knocked out of the FA Cup by the same score-line at the Victoria Ground, the game where Kendall’s team-talk famously comprised him opening the dressing room window to let in the roar of thousands of travelling Evertonians and commenting “do it for them.”
Then the moment many people pinpoint to this day, on a wicked night at Oxford United in the League Cup, where, a goal down and heading out of the competition Everton will never win, Reid harried Kevin Brock 30 yards from the Oxford goal. Brock panicked and slipped the ball back towards goalkeeper Hardwick, not noticing a dart being made by Adrian Heath, who pinched the ball, cut in to create an angle and slotted home what turned out to be a seminal equalising goal in Everton Football Club’s history, 1-1! A narrow – not to mention controversial, oh for VAR in 1984! - League Cup Final defeat would follow, first a 0-0 draw at Wembley, then a replay at Maine Road, in March against arch-rivals and incessant silverware scavengers Liverpool. But Kendall and his men were onto something. And they knew it.
The FA Cup run which began on that blustery afternoon in Stoke in January would end in the bright sunshine at Wembley, in front of assembled dignitaries and a tearful Elton John. Everton were too strong for poor Elton’s Watford, Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray plundering two memorable goals, Neville Southall standing firm. As mentioned, two League Championship titles would follow over the next three years, a further three (losing) FA Cup finals before the end of the decade and that European Cup Winners’ Cup winning campaign which would crown a glorious 1984-85 season.
Everton players Reid and Southall and manager Kendall swept the board at the annual football awards, Everton were voted World Soccer Team of the Year and notably set an all-time record points tally, one not to be broken until well into the Premier League era, by which time one could argue the goalposts had been repositioned well and truly in favour of an “elite” few, but that would be sour grapes, right?
The night before the Howard's Way screening, I had been in town to attend the penultimate evening performance of Girls Don’t Play Guitars, Ian Salmon’s brilliant show which tells the story of Liverpool’s – and arguably the world’s – first all-girl beat group, singing and playing their own instruments on a par with the rest of the male-dominated mid-1960s guitar group scene.
By a bizarre quirk of fate, just like the Liverbirds, Everton would fall foul of a ban on touring and further establishing their reputation and chances of success at the highest level possible, just when their star was well and truly on the rise. The Liverbirds had developed a huge fanbase from their Hamburg base, having followed in the footsteps of The Beatles et al to the Reeperbahn and specifically the famous Star Club.
Alas, they were prevented in no uncertain terms by their German manager Manfred Weissleder, in somewhat Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker-fashion, from touring America in 1966-67 as Chuck Berry’s hand-picked support act. With that they were denied the opportunity to test themselves on another level as musicians, artists and people, and possibly make it big beyond the confines of the mainland European pop scene where they had by now long paid their dues. Gradually the band disintegrated and only now, looking back, is their impact, as female rock and roll pioneers, slowly gaining recognition.
Fast forward to 1985 and, through no fault of their own, the English Football League’s newly crowned, record points-scoring champions, Everton, were denied the chance to compete in the European Cup. To stand up against the very best, to hone their craft on the biggest stages across the continent, to bring home more trophies for their adoring fanbase and to demonstrate to those across Europe who had become long-distance supporters of near-neighbours Liverpool during their unprecedented run of success in the 1970s into the early-1980s, that there were TWO teams on Merseyside.
Things could and should have been so different, but for the ruling which followed the Heysel stadium disaster.
As a father myself today, to a 5-year-old daughter, I have been fortunate enough to be able to involve my little girl in this Everton passion which has us all in its grasp, on a face-to-face, real-life level since I moved home to Walton last year. She has been an Everton in the Community mascot at an FA Cup 3rd round tie at Goodison Park. She asks me questions about Sharpy, Dixie, Big Nev, Big Dunc and Co while we stroll around the stadium on our way to feed the ducks on Stanley Park lake. Everton Football Club’s history is such that there is so much I can tell her. But there could be so much more.
My first match as a wide-eyed 7-year-old was on 9 May 1987, the day we brought the Championship trophy home once more. We've won one trophy since then. The hard-fought 1995 FA Cup, secured under the management of another of Harry Catterick's protégés, Joe Royle. A pitiful return for a club of our size, our history and heritage. Above all our fanbase. Us, the ‘people’ in The People’s Club.
Howard’s Way manages to evoke the era brilliantly, much like the recent Two Tribes documentary, setting the story against the backdrop of the poverty and political upheaval in Liverpool, scored with the brand of music which always rises from such times; and embellished of course with archive footage of that incredible football team.
Contributions from the core of that squad are delivered with real heart and warmth, men clearly looking back fondly on momentous times in their young lives; each though clearly burdened with no little pain at what might have been. Adrian Heath’s knee ligament injury robbed him on a practical level of involvement in the run-in to the 1984-85 season, a loss he will take to the grave with him.
Andy Gray’s devastation at being let go by Kendall after the 1985 FA Cup Final is genuinely heartbreaking. Derek Mountfield, alongside Ratcliffe I think as the two childhood Evertonian’s in that side, delivers a touching insight, while he digs out his personal memorabilia collection on camera, as to the elation he felt at becoming ‘one of us’ who got to pull the shirt on and take to the field of play as Everton threatened to sweep all before them.
For me, one of the stars of the show is, perhaps surprisingly, Pat Van Den Hauwe. For a man with a reputation which, whether he likes it or not, precedes him as – depending on who you talk to – ‘Psycho’ or simply an enigma, it comes across in spades just how uncomfortable Van Den Hauwe is being interviewed. Yet what he does say speaks volumes.
The likes of Gray and Reid can and do deliver nights of raucous entertainment at sportsman’s dinners up and down the country. Pat Van Den Hauwe comes across a far more reserved character, almost in a kind of “old-fashioned values” way, if that makes sense. I found his contribution incredibly moving. He really, really means what he says. You can see it in his eyes.
The film is a wonderful tribute to a man who did wonderful things for Everton Football Club, for us as Evertonians. Beautifully pitched, it captures the men who Howard Kendall assembled, their feelings and reminisces, perfectly. I challenge any Blue not to shed a tear during the sections featuring Colin Harvey. And the contributions of David Fehily and his wonderful mum Barbara offer what is almost always missing from these things; a genuine fans’ actual perspective. A film of David’s life should follow, it would be brilliant.
Finally, the scenes filmed at Goodison for the film are breath-taking. The Old Lady is still stunning. I want to keep her. I know we can’t, but I want to see more work like this done before we leave. It has to happen.
Just the same as on the pitch, Everton HAVE to stop selling everything we have at our disposal so very short. It’s time to be louder and prouder. Andy Gray knows it, him and Reidy brought that attitude in spades in early 1984 and look what happened? We HAVE to live up to our motto. We HAVE to preserve memories of Goodison, bottle as much of our heart and soul as we can before we move. The club HAS to back projects like this. They are essential. And as several people pointed out during the Q&A at the end of the screening, Marco Silva and his squad HAVE to be locked in a room and made to watch, and discuss, this film. It should be written into every contract. Learn your history boys. Learn it good.
I guess, if I’m being picky, I would have liked to have seen a little more of Howard himself. He was a man who always struck me as existing on a higher intellectual plane amongst most football men. Few spoke as well as him in interviews. ‘Erudite’ is a word I always associate with him. I gather from my friend Becky Tallentire that Kendall, Royle and Brian Labone were all only children, all grammar school educated. All I felt spoke (Joe still speaks of course!) so well, with real depth, intelligent word usage and meaning. All three are, of course, among the top manufacturers of Great Everton Quotes. We are lucky to have them as our own.
With thanks to film-maker Rob Sloman and his team for a rare and beautiful piece of Everton art. To David and Barb for their heartfelt contribution. To Carena Duffy and her team at Everton in the Community for all the work I know they did behind the scenes.
But most of all, thank you to Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and THAT squad. That unbelievable squad. I was 5½ in May 1985. Same age as my daughter is now. You were superheroes off the telly, in posters on my wall. The image of those HAFNIA tops. The sparkle of cups and medals. The daft songs. All of that was a part of what made me as a person. I’m 40 now; it’s sad that it’s taken so long for something like this to come together, but I’m delighted that it has.
Up the Toffees!
Reader Comments (26)
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1 Posted 06/11/2019 at 00:27:24
2 Posted 06/11/2019 at 00:40:20
This is one of the best things I have ever read on this fine website. I'm a few years older than yourself (born in April 1970), and those days are forever etched in my mind. I'd convinced myself at a very early age that I would never see us win a trophy. Beating Watford at Wembley is still the greatest Everton day of my life.
I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of the players from that era. They where my heroes then and they're my heroes now.
God, how I want our young fanbase to see the sort of days I, and so many of our fans, saw in them days.
They love our club now, seeing that sort of thing would elevate their love of our club to even higher levels!
3 Posted 06/11/2019 at 07:52:52
4 Posted 06/11/2019 at 08:46:56
I was lucky enough to have been at Goodison in 1985 when we clinched the league v QPR and then for Psychos winning goal at Norwich.
What a team that was. My favourite player was Paul Bracewell but they were all brilliant. Also not forgetting Harper and Richardson who filled in so well when one of the Fab Four midfielders were out
5 Posted 06/11/2019 at 09:06:36
6 Posted 06/11/2019 at 09:22:30
7 Posted 06/11/2019 at 09:38:31
8 Posted 06/11/2019 at 09:46:09
9 Posted 06/11/2019 at 11:07:29
There are so many memories from a short period of time. One of the greatest came flooding back on Sunday, watching Trevor Steven turn towards Gwladys Street. When he stroked home the 3rd goal into that net against Bayern Im certain the reaction of the crowd registered on the Richter Scale.
But possibly the greatest moment came at Rotterdam. Rapid scored an unlikely goal to make it 2-1 with 5 minutes to go, and for a few seconds I was thinking “typical Everton, theyre going to make us sweat”. Kevin Sheedy didnt think that, he strolled down the pitch from the kick-off and clipped in a third to bring about pandemonium. Im looking at an autographed photo of that moment on my office wall as I type.
We cannot live in the past, and Im sure the reminiscing of ageing men must grate on those who have only suffered the last 25 years. But for me, the memory of how a team that was struggling so badly became champions and heroes still gives me some hope for the future.
10 Posted 06/11/2019 at 11:17:48
After the meal he went with one of them to Formby, and my mate told me that Pat, just wanted to sit in one of the pubs, in one of the seats that Howard Kendall sat in, and I think that sums Pat up, Actions rather than words, and a lovely little story of a man with loads of feeling for Everton FC.
Brilliant that Peter M, mate, because that was the only thought I had once Trevor Steven, turned towards the Glawdys st, and I visualised the goal, whilst listening to the fella next to me explain where he was in the ground when Steven sent Goodison into hysterics!
11 Posted 06/11/2019 at 13:12:59
12 Posted 06/11/2019 at 13:43:00
I am the same age as you are and only remember bits and pieces from the 80s, but I was (and still am!) mad about all things Everton. Big Nev is my hero, I became the school goalie and just wanted to be as brave as Nev - that made me a shoe in for the team as I was fearless 😀
Oh for my kids to witness such good times, unfortunately they just dont care for football
13 Posted 06/11/2019 at 17:34:41
The 69-70 team which was so exciting to watch, Ball, Kendall and Harvey and the attacking force of Royle, Husband and Whittle. How it disintegrated after the one season is one of the mysteries of football.
But the best team was Kendall's team of the mid eighties. A magnificent keeper, a sgood as anyone I've ever seen, a magnificent defence marshalled by the great Ratcliffe, what a football brain and what pace for a central defender, A magnificent pair of strikers, Gray and Sharp and a perfectly balanced midfield. Anchored by Reid and Bracewell, both brilliant readers of the game and both hugely creative as well, then Steven on the right and Sheedy on the left. So very different, but they complemented each other perfectly.A team in every sense was Kendall's group.
That midfield with creative anchors and the kind of widemen that never went out of games or disappeared for long stretches, is exactly what the present team needs.
The memory of these three teams keeps me true in the darkest hours and this present team is certainly quite a dark period.
14 Posted 06/11/2019 at 17:38:17
Our current squad should be embarrassed at their lack of fight compared to that squad- can you imagine any team with Reid and Ratcliffe in it rolling over as soon as they went a goal down?
I met Kendall a few times in his post management years and have to say I didnt like him but he certainly gave the impression that anyone giving less than 100% would not have lasted long with him. A great manager, a great player and no honour is too great for him.
15 Posted 06/11/2019 at 17:47:31
Thanks again for this - just what is needed now.
16 Posted 06/11/2019 at 17:52:47
17 Posted 06/11/2019 at 22:29:08
West at his peak was very underrated in my opinion. Two truly great teams and who knows which one would have come out on top?
18 Posted 08/11/2019 at 03:07:26
I was 18 years of age in 1984. I saw a team transform from zeroes to heroes. I remember the terrible 0-0 v Coventry as I was one of the 15,000 or less (can't remember the exact gate) watching and dreading the future at the time.
I feel genuinely proud of our younger supporters as they have had very little to sustain them over the years. I started going to Goodison Park in 1976. I only had to wait 7 or 8 years to see us win silverware. Once it came, it kept coming. Even in 1995, when we beat Man Utd, I still believed we had a right to sit at the top table and get our fair share as I saw it.
God only knows how we have not really gone close to any success since. Forget money and board members, we are talking about one of the greatest football clubs in the world and we are barren after 24 years!!!
I will always remind anyone who cares to listen about Howard's team, my team and the football they played.
"We're Everton and we'll be Everton forever!"
19 Posted 08/11/2019 at 21:22:41
The "Heysel" canard as the reason doesn't stand scrutiny it was the same for all the more likely reason is our sloth-like leadership invoked it's unique gift of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
I'll have the luck but can we have a plan next time?
20 Posted 10/11/2019 at 08:58:10
21 Posted 12/11/2019 at 09:13:43
22 Posted 12/11/2019 at 09:46:49
23 Posted 16/11/2019 at 05:02:03
Im in bits here. Just bought it and will be watching it in minutes with the high-end rose that gets pulled from the wine in the basement cellar for special times.
I simply cant wait. These were my special years. I was at York Uni 1984-87 when we were champs from the city of Blackstuff that she never had the guts or integrity to visit. There was kudos coming from Liverpool in those miners/Degsy/Spitting Image times at a well-known sloane ranger Uni, believe it or not. I was at Norwich on that unforgetable Pat van den Hauwe day and Stoke in 84 when it was pissing down and Howard said open the windows and just listen to them sing.
I love Howard Kendal and I will watch his film now and drink, weep, reminisce, think about Thomo who died in 2005, play Rotterdam in my mind, and pinch myself that I was lucky enough to be chosen.
And then I can watch it again tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that, and ……..
24 Posted 16/11/2019 at 16:08:32
25 Posted 16/11/2019 at 18:04:24
26 Posted 16/11/2019 at 18:15:26
Kendals team played beautiful consistent football from 84 for 4 or 5 years, with a good sprinkling of trophies but with many magnificent other seasons where we where a goal or 2 short of winning even more silverware.
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