For my generation of Evertonians, Howard Kendall, quite simply, was Everton.
By the time I was seven, Kendall was on the cusp of becoming Everton’s most successful manager. I lived in the North East at the time, but would travel to Goodison Park every weekend, at first just with my dad, but later with the supporters group he set up. I begged him to write a letter to the club asking if I could be mascot – as I presume most other people my age had done. Just after my seventh birthday, the reply arrived. I would be Everton’s mascot at Roker Park in April. The letter is still in a frame, signed by Howard Kendall.
The day is pretty much a blur, barring a few things. Neville Southall let me score past him in the warm up as I’d told him I’d bet my dad a pound I could beat him, and Kevin Ratcliffe shouted at John Bailey to “stop *****ing swearing, there’s a kid here” without a hint of irony in his voice before the game. But my clearest memory is how Howard greeted us. Huge smile, strong hand shake, and treating me as if I was the most important person in the stadium. He showed us into the changing room, he introduced me to every player, and he told me not to worry about the stack of beer crates that were taller than me which were sat in the corner.
Then, as I ran out onto the pitch with the first team to warm up, he shouted after me “Have a great game, Simon.”
Little did I know then that I would get to know Howard much better later on in life, thanks to this website. We did an in-depth interview together when NSNO was very first starting, and sat for almost two hours in a bar in Formby talking all things Everton, past and present. We’d catch up at the various sportsman’s dinners he spoke at, and he would always make time to say hello and check myself and whoever I was with were OK.
He had won so much, both as player and manager, but would always make time to make sure everyone around him was ok and having a good time.
David Moyes may have coined the phrase “The People’s Club” about Everton, but Howard Kendall epitomised it. If Everton are the People’s Club, then Howard Kendall was the People’s Person.
I grew up watching Howard Kendall’s teams brush aside all opposition put in front of them, proudly living up to the club’s motto “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.”
He created the Everton I fell in love with, and for that I will always be grateful. You will be sorely missed.
Thank you Howard. Legend. Gentleman. Evertonian. Inspiration.