(John) Bond goes on a trophy mission
As 1976 drew to a close, no sleigh bells had been heard on County Road – patrons of The Brick, indeed, across the whole kingdom of Evertonia, were more likely to hear alarm bells as their beloved football team slumped to one defeat after another.
Yuletide salutations had long since given way to a 'winter of discontent' mindset – language in The Brick public bar not of Shakespeare but closer to that used by punk rock group the Sex Pistols, who had recently shocked the nation during an expletive-ridden television interview.
The festive fury of Evertonians had been further evoked by the latest reversal; a 4-0 Christmas stuffing at Old Trafford following on from heavy losses against Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City – the battering against Manchester United putting the tin rather than paper hat on a dismal December.
Less than 10 minutes away from where many of the blue and white faithful were gathered to expunge this X-rated Xmas from their minds – some of whom had witnessed the nightmare that afternoon at the Theatre of Dreams – the returning Everton directors left the team coach and headed directly to the Goodison Park boardroom. Their discussion moved quickly from whether manager of 3½ years standing, Billy Bingham, should be sacked, to the candidate best suited to replace him - the board split over the differing profile and style of the two men they found themselves discussing.
From the head of the table, Chairman Bill Scott brought the meeting to order.
"Well gentlemen, there we have it," he said, the flashing lights on the Christmas tree behind him adding colour to an otherwise sombre scene – the decision to part company with Bingham, an Everton league title-winning player in 1963 and who guided the team to a 4th-place finish 18 months before, not taken lightly.
“It seems our discussions have brought us to a shortlist of two – that of Gordon Lee and......” Scott paused for a restrained cough, “John Bond.”
“Lee is our man,” said Philip Carter, normally the most dominant voice around the boardroom table, although recently his views had been challenged by the most recent inductee Ronald 'Ronnie' Price, whose pub and nightclub empire had seen him amass considerable wealth.
“Safe pair of hands, done a fine job at Newcastle,” continued Carter assertively, “learnt the ropes in the lower leagues and doesn't tolerate nonsense from the players. He'll steady the ship.”
Price, who at 40 was the youngest in the room by 15 years, swiftly interjected. “Is that what we need at this point? I agree he offers stability, but we were all at Norwich last season when they hammered us. They played some great football fast and open, the sort of football we should be playing – Everton football. That's why John Bond is my choice.”
Carter made no attempt to disguise his dismissive look. “John Bond,” he scoffed, directing his remarks to the chairman, “he's not our sort at all. Far too fond of seeing his picture in the newspapers for my liking - and all those quips to reporters. Gets himself confused with James Bond that one. I can tell you – he's not for us.”
Carter gave those around the table an inclusive glance, “And the supporters won't take to him. Gordon Lee, as simple as that.”
“But it's not that simple,” replied Price, immediately firing back, “I'm a born and bred Evertonian and speaking as one, I'm sick of that lot,” the thumb over his shoulder gesture was directed somewhere across Stanley Park, “getting all the headlines and being loved by the press. I want us playing good football and knocking them off the back pages.”
Carter was unmoved by the argument. “All that newspaper razzamatazz might work for London clubs or little ones trying to get above themselves, but it won't wash here. What we need – and the supporters want – is sure and steady.”
Price was struggling to contain his frustration. “The only thing sure and steady at the moment is our slide down the table. What we need is something radical, new thinking – so I propose we approach Norwich City.” Despite seeing Carter shrug his shoulders, he went on. “Just hear me out in relation to us having a discussion with John Bond. If he turns us down for whatever reason, we make a move for Gordon Lee.”
As he finished speaking Price struck an open-handed gesture as if inviting consensus from his fellow board members. As the chairman nodded passively, Carter broke the silence.
“If he does accept, then we must insist he wears a tie in the boardroom – and not one of those loud ones he wears on television.”
In no time, rumours reached The Brick that Bingham had been sacked, the lead-up to closing time prompting a rush in speculation as to whom the next incumbent might be. Second division managers Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest) and Lawrie McMenemy (Southampton) were among the names bandied about, with Lee also considered a possibility – the only reference to Bond being a New Year's Day showing of Thunderball.
Barely 48 hours later, however, that had all changed as Everton successfully negotiated the release of John Bond from his contract from Norwich City – whereupon he signed a 2-year Goodison Park deal. Talking, at length, to a posse of football writers gathered in the gymnasium beneath the Goodison Road stand, he was quick to lay out his Merseyside manifesto.
“There's some good players at this club, very good players in fact,” said Bond, loosening a button on the front of his plaid-checked blazer, “but a lack of confidence has caused a problem in winning games. My obligation to the directors and supporters is to restore confidence and turn results around – and the intention is to do it with entertaining football. When the supporters come along here on a Saturday afternoon, they want to be entertained – when I sit down at 3 o'clock, I want to be entertained.”
Bond was no less forthright when asked if he would be making any moves into the transfer market. "The board here have a track record of backing managers in that respect, so I'm not expecting things to change. But, to answer your question,” Bond paused in allowing a press photographer to take his shot, “I have indicated to the directors a couple of players we should be interested in signing and would like to think we can get things moving on that score pretty quickly.”
Refusing to be drawn on the identity or positions of those concerned, the mere conjecture of Everton making imminent signings was already dominating the next day's sports pages – when Bond dropped a transfer bombshell while being interviewed that evening on the Granada Reports television programme. Referring to his earlier comments about bringing in new players, he answered the question by saying, “Unfortunately I've missed out on who would have been my first signing."
Pressed for a name on who that would have been, Bond revealed: “Last week, I tried to sign Alan Ball for Norwich from Arsenal, but he went to Southampton instead. If we'd had a bit more time, Alan would have definitely been my first signing here – shame, he'd have enjoyed coming back and being here with me.”
Despite Liverpool being top of Division One and through to the European Cup quarter-finals, it is Everton who end 1976 as Number One for newsprint. Amid countless references to 'New Year sales' and 'The Man With The Golden Team' Bond becomes the first manager in England to spend £750,000 in a day, breaking the British record transfer fee to sign striker Trevor Francis (£500,000) from Birmingham City, with £250,000 spent on QPR goalkeeper Phil Parkes.
In sanctioning the spending spree, the Everton directors drew the line at Bond also signing son Kevin from Norwich and recruiting his former West Ham team-mate Malcolm Allison as first-team coach...
As the 1976 UK Christmas Number One, When a Child Is Born by Johnny Mathis, begins a January slide down the charts, Everton, bolstered by Parkes and Francis, begin climbing Division One. Both signed in time to play in the FA Cup, 1977 begins with a 3rd Round victory over Stoke City, which is followed by league wins over QPR, Aston Villa and Leicester City.
Francis and centre-forward Bob Latchford resume to notable effect a partnership that began at Birmingham City – a goalless Merseyside derby in early-March the first time either of them fail to score since being reunited. In the meantime, although Parkes and Francis being ineligible, Everton advance to the League Cup Final, meeting Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday 12 March.
For the second time in three seasons, Bond (taking Norwich to the final in 1975 where they lost by the only goal to the same opposition), sees his charges fail to score in this fixture, a low-key affair ending without a goal even after extra-time. Four days later, the teams again cannot be separated in drawing 1-1 at Hillsborough – but the following Saturday, with Parkes and Francis reinstated, an FA Cup semi-final place is booked by virtue of a 2-0 Goodison victory over Derby County.
Going into the hat along with Leeds United, Liverpool and Manchester United, Everton avoid their city rivals and are paired with Manchester United, the tie taking them back to the Hillsborough home of Sheffield Wednesday. While an improvement in league form continues apace, making European qualification a realistic target, hopes of securing a UEFA Cup spot by winning the League Cup are dashed when Villa prevail in the second replay, clinching the trophy by virtue of a 3-2 triumph.
Bond, however, rallies his men and following successive league victories, they turn up to face Manchester United – Bond happy to be at Hillsborough, citing an FA Cup semi-final victory over United as a West Ham player at the same venue 13 years before. In the build-up to the game, he and United manager Tommy Docherty trade barbs and quips – but the final word goes to Bond, who wearing the latest in an array of stylish raincoats, sees a second-half goal from Duncan McKenzie win the tie.
As for their Wembley opponents, the situation remains unresolved; Leeds and Liverpool drawing 2-2 at Maine Road, where the Elland Road side are left fuming when Welsh referee Clive Thomas rules out a late Allan Clarke goal – his decision, shrouded in mystery, denies Leeds victory and allows Liverpool to fight another day.
The euphoria of reaching their first FA Cup Final for 9 years gives Bond exalted status on the blue half of Merseyside. It is not dimmed by a first league defeat in five matches – but a 2-1 reversal at his former Carrow Road home gives the Everton board cause for concern when Bond hints at an intention to sign son Kevin at the earliest opportunity, the papers gifted a 'From Norwich With Love' headline.
On Wednesday 27 April, the first all-Merseyside FA Cup Final is ensured when Liverpool score a comfortable semi-final replay victory over Leeds – who continue seething at the injustice suffered in the first game, mere mention of the name Clive Thomas prompting bitter apoplexy among Leeds supporters for eternity.
In the build-up to the late-May FA Cup Final, Everton emerge from a 5-match unbeaten run to finish 5th but, for the first time since Bond was appointed, they are usurped on the back pages by Liverpool, who retain the league title and progress to the European Cup Final – Borussia Monchengladbach awaiting them in Rome four days after their Wembley date.
In the week Queen Elizabeth begins her Silver Jubliee Tour of the UK, Merseyside decamps to London for the FA Cup Final. Despite a strong showing in the second half of the season, an Everton side of Lyons, Latchford and King were not expected to stand in the way of Keegan, Callaghan and Kennedy in their quest of completing the double – the second stage of a possible treble with the European Cup Final still to come.
Reflecting his cosy relationship with the local press, Bond, to the chagrin of the Everton board, allows a reporter from the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo to travel aboard the team coach from their North London base to Wembley – with access to the dressing room when issuing his final tactical instructions. When the players emerged from the tunnel, Bond and opposite number Bob Paisley, at the head of their respective teams, spend the walk to the halfway line for the pre-match introductions in cordial conversation – Bond, tall and immaculately groomed, giving Paisley, stout and formal, an affectionate pat on the shoulder as the players separate in readiness to meet the Duke of Kent.
On a sweltering afternoon, the game, for all the intensity and passion generated by the crowd, is played at a pedestrian pace. It finally catches fire 10 minutes into the second half when Francis finds space in the penalty area to shoot past Ray Clemence from 12 yards. The lead, however, is short-lived - Jimmy Case restoring level terms within 90 seconds, his fierce drive giving Parkes no chance as it rips into the net.
Sensing the double was now within their grasp, Liverpool take control, the January investment in Parkes pays dividend for Bond as his goalkeeper performs heroics in denying Kevin Keegan and Ray Kennedy. But as extra-time looms, Mackenzie, Francis and Latchford, the most celebrated Everton trio since Ball, Kendall and Harvey, conjure a slick passing move that results in Latchford bearing down on goal – his cool finish not only taking the FA Cup to Goodison for the first time in 11 years, but giving Everton their first derby victory since 1971.
At the final whistle, Paisley sportingly congratulates Bond, who in turn wishes Liverpool luck for their next match, the imminent European Cup Final – but for Evertonians, jubilation is immediate and unrestrained. Their first major trophy since 1970; for the players and manager it is the most significant moment of their careers, the Everton dressing room echoing to repeated renditions of The First Cup is the Sweetest – a variation of the Rod Stewart hit currently at Number One in the charts.
With entry into the European Cup Winners Cup secured on their own merits (Everton were guaranteed a place by Liverpool winning the title, but now qualified in their own right – as Evertonians everywhere were quick to point out), anticipation for the new season was at an all-time high.
While European champions Liverpool were saying goodbye to Keegan and investing in Kenny Dalglish, Bond set his sights on signing highly-rated youngster Glenn Hoddle from recently relegated Tottenham and Ipswich Town central-defender Kevin Beattie.
On the first day of pre-season training, Bond confides in a Daily Post reporter that overtures have been made with regard to both players – asking for his comments to be kept 'off the record' for the time being – and while they sip tea in his office, the topic of conversation turns to the biggest football story of the summer, namely Don Revie resigning as England manager.
“Not tempted, John?” asks the reporter nonchalantly. Wearing a suit worth more than the transfer budget of most 3rd and 4th division clubs, Bond leans back in his chair and considers the question.
“It's England, so you'd have to think about – but for that job, I'd definitely want Malcolm with me.” He is still looking contemplative when the phone on his desk begins to ring. On lifting the receiver he says, “Morning chairman... I'm well thank you.”
After listening for a moment, Bond remarks, “Okay chairman, three it is. I can't say too much, I've got the press with me. But that's fine, I'll talk to you later.”
“Contract extension, John?” enquires the reporter, sensing a story. “Eh - oh no. Off the record, three players have to be moved on before I can make a move for Trevor Brooking. Cloughie wants him as well, but I'm sure he'll come here – known Trevor since he was a kid at West Ham.”
“Got to hand it to you, John – you've got big ambitions for Everton.” Before they can talk any further, the phone starts ringing again. “I can see you're busy,” says the reporter, “I'll let you get on.”
Lowering his voice as Bond takes the call, he adds, “Will you keep me posted on Hoddle and Beattie – and Brooking?” As he reaches the door, Bond responds by raising his thumb. “Bond – John Bond.”
“Harold Thompson here, Sir Harold Thompson. Chairman of the Football Association. I have a job in mind for you, Mister Bond...”
Author's note: Like other articles, similar in nature to this which can be found elsewhere on my blog, no offence is intended to those who are redefined by the scene-shifting taking place – the intention merely to create an amusing alternative to what we know transpired.
While not a born Evertonian and therefore lacking the footballing fortitude that seems ingrained from the cradle, in recent years I have forged close friendships with some native to the land of Evertonia – their sense of forbearance a constant source of fascination.
Of a generation who can recall in an instant the title-winning triumphs of 1963 and 1970, their mood darkens in recalling much of the 70s. While we agree (along with the 'fictionalised' Philip Carter of this piece), that John Bond is not the sort of manager Everton would have employed in 1977, the object of this exercise is to present an improbable scenario with a shred of plausibility. (While at Norwich, Bond did try to sign Alan Ball, later signing Trevor Francis for Manchester City.)
Opposite in most respects to Gordon Lee, (who succeeded Billy Bingham) not least in football philosophy, Bond was closer to Everton traditions than Lee it that respect - hopefully these differences offer room for thought in this far-fetched tale.
As for the man at the centre, I came to know John Bond well during his spell as Shrewsbury Town manager in the early-90s. One of the most charismatic men I have ever met, he was by then a big fish in a small pool, but always funny, affable and generous with his time.
After he left in May 1993, we kept in touch for a while; after years without contact, our paths crossed again one night at Highbury. Shaking hands like the distant friends we were, pledges were made to keep in touch – but those good intentions became lost in the motion of daily life, my heart still heavy when learning of his death at the age of 79 in September 2012.
Whilst acknowledging the improbability of John Bond being appointed manager of England at the end of my fanciful narrative, that is not to say under him – or Malcolm Allison, for that matter – the national team would have achieved any less in the late-70s and early-80s.
They would, however, been a damn sight more entertaining to watch.
Reader Comments (7)
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1 Posted 14/11/2020 at 09:12:59
But a fusion of '70s retro music, football and fantasy would be a winner all round for many of our punters on here. These seem to be the perennial themes of the various Rants and Reflections that constitute Neil's blog at Samtimoniuos.com, where this piece first appeared.
2 Posted 15/11/2020 at 23:47:35
Although Gordon Lee did okay at Everton for a couple of years, and when Bond got his big break at Man City a few years later, that also ended disastrously after a promising start. In fact, very disastrously as City were relegated in 1983, the season Bond was sacked.
So it's hard to say if Bond would have done better.
Frankly though, it's the other man from East Anglia we should have got! Bobby Robson was coming to us from Ipswich in January 1977, but did a U-turn after somebody at Goodison leaked his imminent appointment to the Daily Mail, before Robson had told the Ipswich Chairman in person of his decision.
Bungling Boardroom is not a new phenomenon at Everton, believe me.
3 Posted 16/11/2020 at 00:34:22
If you're gonna write an alternate reality, surely you can do better than Bond? And surely we would have gone on to dominate football domestically and in Europe, whomever we appointed (Bond apart), whilst witnessing our neighbours playing Tranmere in the derby deep down in the lower leagues.
4 Posted 16/11/2020 at 02:38:03
Bobby Robson would have been a great manager for us I'm sure – particularly if he could have bought half the Ipswich side with him – Cooper, Burley, Beattie (who got badly injured and never really played again), Osman, Butcher, Mills, Whymark, Mertens, Wark, Brazil, Mariner, Gates and another Dutchman (Thyssen) best side I saw at Goodison in the late '70s.
5 Posted 16/11/2020 at 07:01:52
6 Posted 17/11/2020 at 12:30:37
7 Posted 17/11/2020 at 17:49:04
Gordon Lee presided over a famous Cup victory against the RS. January 1981 – the Varadi (meat pie in the face) derby!
And, of course, he was in charge when we were robbed in the Clive Thomas semi-final derby.
His overall record against them wasn't too shabby: 3 draws and1 defeat at Anfield and 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats at Goodison. All 3 defeats only by the odd goal.
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