Well-regarded football trouble-shooter Gordon Lee took up the post of manager in January 1977 with an impressive catalogue of previous successes. Having already won promotion for Blackburn Rovers in 1974-1975, and securing the League Cup for Newcastle United, fans and the Chairman looked to Lee to reverse the decline in Everton’s fortunes.
Living up to his reputation, Lee steered an Everton side verging on the relegation zone back up to finish a respectable ninth, losing only two matches out of eighteen league games, and winning through to the League Cup Final and the FA Cup semi-finals.
First season optimism was defeated by victories to Aston Villa and Liverpool, but the next season saw Everton finishing in third place and attaining the First Division’s highest goal tally with 76 goals. The 1978-1979 season saw Everton on form with nineteen straight victories, including an important win over Liverpool. Criticising a referee over dangerous conditions at a Southampton match, Lee was charged with bringing the game into disrepute, and despite being cleared by an FA committee, the case had an adverse affect on a painstakingly constructed side.
Finishing a discouraging fourth, Everton again seemed to be heading downhill. Leaping into the transfer market on deadline day, Lee signed player Brian Kidd and Peter Eastoe in an attempt to boost morale.
Forced to spend ever more money, Lee’s 1979-1980 season seemed doomed to failure, despite the arrival of talent such as Stanley and Megson. The downturn in the clubs success was reflected in the confidence of both fans and the board; attendances began to suffer.
With his position under review, Lee threw himself into his work, attempting vainly to revive the club. After a month of speculation following an embarrassing home defeat by Norwich, Lee was sacked by Chairman Phillip Carter on May 6th.