July 1998 – March 2002
Already hugely successful in Scotland after a period with Glasgow Rangers, Walter Smith rejected an offer from Sheffield Wednesday to accept the position of manager at Everton.
Despite a promising beginning, Smith’s term again followed an all too familiar pattern. Inheriting a team unable to cope with a chronic injury crisis, Smith experienced early problems with the board following a falling out with then Chairman Peter Johnson over a communications breakdown regarding the sale of striker Duncan Ferguson to Newcastle United. Smith claimed that he had not been consulted.
With the question of blame still unanswered, Johnson resigned, and current deputy-chairman Bill Kenwright assumed control of the club in December 1999.
With a void left in the forward line by the loss of Ferguson, Smith’s team were facing another struggle to avoid relegation. Not a promising beginning to the Scotsman’s first season south of the border. With an impressive piece of negotiating, Smith managed to acquire rising star Kevin Campbell on loan from Trabzonspor, a move that seemed to bring about the revival the Everton fans had so desperately wanted.
Six games and nine goals later, Smith’s choice of Campbell seemed inspired, and earned the striker a permanent move to the Blues. However, the 1999-2000 season saw more frustration for Smith and his squad. Losing in the Worthington Cup to Oxford United, and a humiliating 4-1 defeat by Newcastle in the FA Cup quarter-finals put Smith’s position into doubt.
The next season did little to restore confidence. The departure of Barmby, Hutchison and Collins left the Everton midfield in tatters, and not even the swift drafting in of Niclas Alexandersson, Thomas Gravesen and Alex Nyarko could save the team.
Again, the Worthington Cup saw a humiliating defeat for Everton, but it was the FA Cup 4th Round defeat by Tranmere at Goodison that really devastated a team already losing confidence.
August of the 2001-2002 season saw Everton back up at the top of the table, but history chose to repeat itself, and the loss of five Premiership matches in a row, the usual mortifying Worthington Cup exit, and a run of league form that left relegation again opening beneath them called Smith’s future into question.
Three goals in the first half of the FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough, and Smith’s Everton career was no longer in question: it was over.