1981-1987, 1990-1993, 1997-1998
Renowned as the man who returned Everton to a position of pride, Howard Kendall was yet another of Everton’s former star players returning to the club as manager. Businesslike and ruthless, his first stretch at the club saw him making numerous ill-advised purchases of substandard players, balanced to a degree by the introduction of Neville Southall and Adrian Heath to the squad.
After a number of mediocre seasons that saw the team slowly slipping down the league, and a concerted ‘Kendall Out’ campaign of Christmas 1984’, Kendall’s dreams of acquiring a cup victory were finally realised in the same season with the FA Cup returning to Goodison after a gap of eighteen years.
With the support of influential first-team coach Colin Harvey, Kendall’s Everton line up won a procession of trophies in the next few years, including the clubs first European trophy. Kendall’s success at the club simply added to the astonishment of fans when Kendall, a man who had twice rejected offers from Barcelona, abandoned the Everton side in June 1987 to join Athletic Bilbao. A period reviving Manchester City followed, only for Kendall to rejoin Everton in 1990 following the sacking of his close friend, Colin Harvey. With rumours and condemnation greeting his appointment, he answered his critics with what has become his most famous quote: “With Manchester City it was a love affair – with Everton it is a marriage.”
Struggling to hold on to the reins of a team in free-fall, Kendall arrested the decline in the 1990-1991 season, but improvement failed to materialise over the next two and a half seasons, a team restructured at enormous expense failing to make any discernable impact. Kendall’s second term as manager culminated in his December 1993 resignation due to clashes with the board over transfer policy.
Returning to the club in June 1997, Kendall was far from the board’s first choice. However, the club was in dire need of a proven manager, and many remembered Kendall’s early successes. Demonstrating his usual robust approach, he promoted promising rookies to the first team and dabbled frequently, if unsuccessfully, in the transfer market.
Unfortunately, the club’s financial inability to attract top-quality targets dogged Kendall at every turn. Despite reaching mid-table respectability in the 1997-1998 season, Everton demonstrated signs of slumping once again, and cash from the sales of Gary Speed and Andy Hinchcliffe failed to find reinvestment in the team.
Another battle against relegation beckoned for the club, won only in the last game of the season, and evidently traumatised by the experience, Kendall pledged immediate improvement. Six weeks later, frustrated by financial constraints and clashes with the board, Everton’s most successful manager parted company with Everton for the third and final time.