by Richard D J J Bowdery.
With only six wins from 21 League appearances the natives of Goodison Park were growing increasingly restless. There were vociferous calls for the manager’s head on a platter.
To cap it all his First Division side were facing a banana-skin match: a League Cup quarter final tie against Third Division Oxford United.
It only made matters worse when his side went 1-0 down during the match before Adrian Heath stepped up to level the score and draw the game at one apiece.
Everton went on to win the replay 4-1 and made it all the way to the Wembley Final only to lose in a replay 1-0 to arch-rivals Liverpool.
But a corner had been turned on the 18 January 1984 with Heath’s equaliser and it’s such results that define a manager’s career – you only have to look at Mark Robbins winning goal for Manchester United in an FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest to realise that. It was that cup win which saved Alex Ferguson’s United career according to perceived wisdom at the time. And we all know what he went on to achieve.
While some among the Everton faithful still wanted ‘blood’ the board stayed faithful to their man at the helm.
It was a wise decision on their part as it as it turned out. And Howard Kendall rewarded their faith with the most successful period ever in the Toffee’s history.
When Everton FC were looking for their Manager of the Millennium in 2000 they had over a dozen candidates to choose from. The Millennium Giants panel whittled it down to two: Harry Catterick and Kendal.
But even the legendary Catterick couldn’t compete with a manager whose success included:
• Two League Championships – 1984/85 and 1986/87
• FA Cup winner – 1984 (runners-up in 1985 and 1986)
• Charity Shield winners – 1984, 1985, 1986 (shared) and 1987
• European Cup Winners Cup winner – 1985
• Manager of the Year – 1985 and 1987.
So it was Kendall, appointed player/manager in 1981, who was bestowed with the honour of being Everton’s Manager of the Millennium.
He left in 1987 to manage Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, largely because of the ban on English clubs competing in European competitions, but returned for two further spells with Everton in 1990-93 and 1997-98.
During these latter periods, however, he couldn’t rustle up that Midas touch he had once displayed. Even the 1991 Zenith Data Systems Cup eluded him when his side lost4-1 in the final to Crystal Palace.
Although his managerial reign at Everton ended in a whimper it has done nothing to taint the glory years from 1981 to 87 when Everton FC really did reach the dizzy heights of English and European league and cup success.
But there is still one question I have that remains unanswered: did Howard Kendall ever buy Adrian Heath a large drink for that goal he scored on 18 January 1984?
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