It’s weird how time goes by in the blink of an eye, and it hardly feels like a year since Everton lost someone for who “legend” doesn’t quite sum up what he meant to Evertonians.
This time last year, I was on my way to meet Andrei Kanchelskis, one of the few players who made watching Everton in my teens enjoyable, and I couldn’t have wished for a better way to start the day.
I was bouncing up the street to where Andrei was staying and then I got a text. Worried it was Andrei saying he had to change plans, I checked it. I’m both glad that I did and wish I hadn’t. It stopped me in my tracks. Howard Kendall had died.
Why am I glad I read it before I got to my meeting? Because people there knew, and would have told me, and they’d have seen my reaction. I got to have it in relative privacy. Stood outside John Lewis at 10am on a Saturday.
Howard had just taken charge of Everton when I first became aware of football – and more importantly, Everton – as a 5 year old. His early problems didn’t really register with me, but his successes created an obsession with Everton that burns still. He had been a hero on the pitch to a generation before, but for me, he was the manager of Everton. An FA Cup, two League titles, a European Cup Winners’ Cup, Everton were the greatest and Howard was the mastermind behind it all.
Through this website I got to know Howard relatively well. Well enough for him to say hello and ask how things were when we saw each other at least. Well enough for him to allow Bally and me into his jokes with his former team-mates and charges. He always had a smile, always had time, and always – always – had a story to tell.
Losing Howard felt like I’d lost a family member, and I know I’m not alone in that – because in truth we lost a member of the Everton family who can never be replaced.
At our next home game, Everton will officially name the Gwladys Street after Howard, and after we helped arrange the minute’s applause for him last November with the club, we are encouraging all Everton fans to take their banners, flags, scarves or shirts to wave during the match and turn Goodison Park into a sea of colour (Blue, like) for Howard.
His sides created atmospheres that we still tell our kids about today, let’s create a special atmosphere for him against West Ham later this month.