From Goodison Park to St James’s Mount people stood three or more deep waiting to pay their respects on the day a great man was to be put to rest. It still doesn’t seem real, a man who I was lucky enough to meet more than once and interview in some detail is no longer with us.
Howard Kendall for me was more than a great player and manager, he was an immensely likeable, affable individual who found time for anyone and everyone. He had a knack of making you feel important, despite him being almost certainly asked the same questions over and over since he retired, he never seemed jaded and would happily talk football, and certainly Everton for hours. In short Howard Kendall loved football and more importantly Everton above anything else.
Of course we all know that Howard loved Everton and I can only hope that he knew how much Everton and indeed every Evertonian loved him. It was certainly apparent around Goodison Park on a matchday were older fans would joyfully clasp hands with him while introducing him to their kids for a photo. I regaled my daughter with tales of how good a player and manager he was but perhaps most tellingly when she met him at eleven years old her comments were simply, “He’s a nice man”. Howard Kendall was part of an era of football that still retained it’s common touch and he remained in touch with the people throughout and although he will be remembered for his many achievements, it’s his ability to connect with everybody he met that is one of the reasons he had the respect of all he met.
Naturally Howard had the respect of Professionals young and old in the game and this was highlighted today by the many former and current players in attendance inside the Anglican Cathedral, the countless eulogies from all corners of the game and the respectful response from fans all across the World.
Joe Royle talked with eloquence about Howard Kendall the player in a packed out Anglican Cathedral, Peter Reid was effusive in his praise for his former Manager but it is the words of Bill Kenwright speaking about his friend that hit home hardest.
“To us he was the greatest player, he was the greatest manager but more than anything he was a blue.”
A lot of people say that no one is bigger than Everton Football Club yet today showed that this is not the case. Howard Kendall was a giant amongst Evertonians, he will forever be revered and when his statue is built it will become a place of pilgrimage. Rest in Peace Howard Kendall.