As Evertonians wait for developments on the managerial front, a three-time occupant of the Goodison hot seat celebrates his birthday. Howard Kendall turns 67 on Wednesday; Kendall spent 17 years at Everton as player, player-manager and manager.
Harry Catterick signed Kendall from Preston North End in 1967; edging out Bill Shankly’s Liverpool for the highly rated 20-year old. Completed the day before the transfer deadline, the 85,000-pound deal was the catalyst for an association that would span four decades.
Catterick swiftly converted Kendall from defence to midfield. The switch paid dividends as the one-time defender formed arguably the best midfield in Everton history. The ‘Holy Trinity’ comprised of Kendall, Alan Ball and Colin Harvey and the favourite moment of Kendall's playing career was alongside his midfield partners.
On the final day of the 1969-70 campaign, the league title confirmed, Kendall and Ball ran past each other on the pitch: “I remember talking to Bally about five minutes before the end. I asked him how it felt to be Champions, and he just clenched his fist and said: 'YES. We’re the best now.'"
The trio guided Everton to the 1970 championship, but several mitigating factors ensured the promising platform crumbled. Just four years after championship success, following three years of captaincy, Kendall departed for Birmingham City after 274 Everton appearances.
The transfer represented good business for Everton, as goal-machine Bob Latchford moved in the other direction, but it was a bitter blow to Kendall. Years later in an interview, Kendall expressed his thoughts on the decision: "That was very disappointing for me. It came as a shock as well. Billy Bingham came in and wanted to make changes."
Subsequently, after several spells elsewhere, Kendall returned to Everton in 1981-82 as player-manager. Barely featuring as a player, the midfielder guided Everton to eighth place and retired at the end of his first managerial season. The end of his 18-year career signalled the retirement of a man regarded by many as the best player never to win an England cap.
Able to concentrate on managerial duties, Kendall steered the club to a respectable seventh place in 1982-83. Unfortunately, results nosedived the following season and Kendall found his position under threat. After just six wins in 21 matches, a mere 13,659 turned up for a New Year’s Eve draw with Coventry and shouts of "Kendall Out" rang out around Goodison.
Needing a swift turnaround, the shoots of recovery were present in a third-round FA Cup tie. One week after the Coventry stalemate, Everton travelled to Stoke backed by almost 10,000 Evertonians. Kendall simply opened the dressing room windows and said, "That's your team talk. Don't let those fans down".
Everton won 2-0 and the win catapulted Everton towards FA Cup success and a first trophy since 1970. However, despite the temporary respite of the Stoke win, Kendall was again on the brink within a fortnight.
Losing 1-0 at giant-killers Oxford, Adrian Heath equalised with nine minutes remaining to secure a replay; Everton avoided the upset and won the replay, 4-1. Handed a lifeline, Kendall and the team did not look back. Given the situation at New Year, two Cup final appearances, winning the FA Cup and finishing seventh was a minor miracle.
Ending the season in fine fettle, as the prospect of the sack became a distant memory, Kendall led Everton to the best season in their history in 1985. Everton cantered to the league title, securing the championship with five games to spare and finishing 13 points ahead of second-place Liverpool.
On top of domestic success, Everton delivered European glory. Although trailing 1-0 at half=time in the second leg of the European Cup Winners Cup semi-final, this looked a distant dream at one point. German giants Bayern Munich had the crucial away goal; Everton required a season-defining 45 minutes.
Attacking the Gwladys Street in the second half, Kendall offered one instruction, "Get the ball into their box and the Gwladys Street will suck the ball into the net". The plan worked and the rest is history; Everton beat Rapid Vienna 3-1 in Rotterdam to secure the European Cup Winners Cup.
After narrowly missing out in 1986, Everton and Kendall returned to the top of English football in 1987 when a ninth league title filled the trophy cabinet. The European ban signalled the end of the first Kendall era, the Everton boss opting to try his hand in Spain.
Despite returning twice in the 1990s, mediocrity and boardroom disagreements marred these spells. Nevertheless, while the '90s spells diminished his overall record, Kendall remains the managerial yardstick for those who follow.
Years later during an interview, asked if he ever had any regrets, Kendall simply replied, “I have the honour of being the most successful manager in the history of Everton Football Club, one of the greatest and 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."
Displaying a keen eye for a bargain, much like the man on his way to Old Trafford, Kendall purchased several club legends for a relative pittance. Peter Reid, Kevin Sheedy and Neville Southall arrived for around £300,000 -- Kendall regarded Southall as his best signing.
Fast-forward to the present day, with the board mulling over the current managerial vacancy, Evertonians can only hope the new manager boasts several of the qualities found in the man who will spend today celebrating his 67th birthday.