Tuesday, August 09, 2022

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Everton - Sticky Toffees

Sticky toffee pudding (via Wikipedia)

Everton seemingly contrive to continue a post- Carlo Ancelotti, and even David Moyes, fall ever closer to the Championship trap door following the axing of Rafa Benítez (who was seemingly too close to the other side of Stanley Park for comfort). With Frank Lampard parachuted in to salvage their season, could there yet be hope for the Toffees?

 

 

After all, they're no strangers to struggle and survived their closest brush with dropping out of the Premier League entirely back in the early days of the competition. Mike Walker was tempted from a Norwich side he'd led to third place and a memorable UEFA Cup defeat of Bayern Munich, to Goodison Park in January of 1994, succeeding Howard Kendall.

 

He lasted nearly a year before biting the bullet the same November, having just about kept them up. A final day win over Wimbledon saving the skins of the boys in blue, having gone 2-0 down before two goals from Graham Stuart either side of a Barry Horne effort sent Sheffield United and Oldham to the gallows alongside Swindon.

 

In light of which it might not be unreasonable to wonder why he left Carrow Road in the first place! The answer is simple- a case of heart ruling head. As When Saturday Comes put it-

 

“Norwich were knocked out of the UEFA Cup by eventual winners Internazionale in December. Walker was gone a month later as he cashed in on his high stock value by signing a lengthy contract to revive Everton, the team he supported in his north Wales boyhood. “

 

And just four years after that his beloved club would find itself in a similar position having turned for a third and final time to Howard Kendall. The architect of much of their Eighties success had originally been tempted from Blackburn to return to a Goodison Park, which had seen arguably the best years of his playing career before he took the decision to hang up his boots.

 

The first three seasons of his tenure, beginning in 1981-2, would see him turning to relative youth in the likes of Neville Southall, Peter Reid alongside Kevin Sheedy and Trevor Steven.

 

Bringing in the likes of Andy Gray from Wolves, who would later of course also share his opinions as a pundit, sometimes controversially so, gave them a solid platform on which to build. And indeed they went on to bring in the 1984 FA Cup as a prelude to the following year's league title and European Cup Winners Cup, another league win following just two years later.

 

Tick a boo, or should that be take a bow, as Gray has since said of many a decent finish! The cup final win over Watford had in itself ended a drought of 14 years without a trophy and in the process saved Kendall from the sack and indeed the wrath of those filling the stands...

 

“Kendall and Carter must go. 26,000 stay-away fans can’t be wrong.” As leaflets handed out by irate supporters spelled out loud and clear to the 13,659 who'd turned out to watch a 0-0 draw with Coventry a week before a third-round cup tie at Stoke. In an attempt to rally his troops, all he had to do was open a window so they could hear those who'd made the journey to the Victoria Ground.

 

“That’s your team talk. Don’t let those fans down.”

 

Clearly it worked, as Gray nabbed the first goal of a 2-0 win, Alan Irvine joining him on the scoresheet. This was followed up with an eventual 3-0 win at Gillingham after two replays, a home tie with Shrewsbury bringing another 3-0 win in the fifth round prior to a quarter final seeing off of Notts County away. Southampton were dispatched in the semis, after also failing to make the most of their home advantage.

 

Following the final whistle Kendall must have had Evertonians purring. “What I really want Everton to be is the best. What I really want to win is the championship. The FA Cup is tremendous for the fans and the players.

 

But for me it is just a start. It gives us a major trophy. It puts us at Wembley against Liverpool again in the Charity Shield. Most of all, it puts us into Europe where we should always be”.

 

But in a bitter irony it was to be the ban on English clubs playing in Europe, following the Heysel disaster, which would at least in part drive his departure to Spain with Athletic Bilbao. Gary Lineker also off after just one season, having signed from Leicester City, Gray returning to Aston Villa after that particular deal was done.

 

Kendall would return again by November 1990, exiting Manchester City having decided it was time to go back to his “marriage” with Everton and put his “affair” with City to bed! Evidently the passion was still there as he led them from looking odds on for relegation to a ninth-place finish.

 

Things were flagging a bit by the following season as he took the Toffees to twelfth, a lowest league finish in around a decade as the old First Division prepared to bow out and the Premier League took centre stage in a reshuffle of the footballing deck. That first season at the new top level saw he and they drop a place, and by December of the following season he'd packed his bags again, a terrible run contributing to his decision after initially topping the table early on.

 

Apparently they couldn't live without each other and he returned once more to lead them for the 1997- 8 season, finding himself in a similar position to Mike Walker in that they would be reliant on the final day results of those around them. They stayed up on goal difference, Bolton falling on their swords at Evertonian expense before Kendall resigned and the late Walter Smith took the reins for three largely unsuccessful seasons. What followed was Moyes' arrival and the beginning of the sort of resurgence the blue half of Merseyside must still be crying out for!

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