Few people can boast the length of association with Everton Football Club that Howard Kendall has enjoyed. Three spells as manager spanning two decades since 1981 would have been enough to firmly entrench him into the annals of Goodison history but Kendall can lay claim to a glorious playing career as well. As a pivotal member of the illustrious Everton side of the late 1960s and early 70s, Howard made 274 appearances for the Blues before departing for Birmingham City in 1974.
Kendall was an established and accomplished player well before he arrived at Goodison Park from Preston North End in March 1967 for the princely sum of £80,000. Having captained England to triumph in the Junior World Cup in 1963, Kendall became the youngest player to have played in a Wembley FA Cup Final at the age of 17 a year later.
Interest in his talents grew and Liverpool made an attempt to lure him to Anfield in 1966, only to be told that the young Kendall was not available. Within months he was signed up by Everton but it took him until the following season to find his real form.
Once he had made the central midfield his own, he became a dynamic source of creativity and inspiration during the latter School of Science era when Everton dominated English football. Having over-turned Sheffield Wednesday in the classic 1966 FA Cup Final the season before Kendall arrived, the Blues were beaten in extra-time in the 1967 final and made it to the semi-finals in 1968. Two seasons later, however, the Catterick jigsaw came together with the magnificent 1970 title-winning side in which Kendall was a drivin force.
Curiously, Everton's expected domination of the domestic scene didn't materialise and the glory of the 1960s gave way to the dark 1970s when Liverpool became kings of England, much to the chagrin of the Blue half of Merseyside. Kendall was eventually sold to Birmingham City as part of the record-breaking deal that brought Bob Latchford to Goodison in 1974 from where Howard went to Stoke City in 1977 where he became player coach.
His first managerial position came at Blackburn Rovers soon afterwards but in 1981 he returned to Everton as replacement for Gordon Lee. Over the ensuing six years, Kendall engineered the most successful period in Everton's history but it wasn't all plain sailing. He came within the weeks of being sacked in 1983 before the whole season pivoted on the famous backpass incident at Oxford United.
Kendall's team went on to win the competition that year, beating Watford 2-0 in the final at Wembley. In 1985 they won the League championship with a record points haul, triumphed in the European Cup Winners' Cup and took Manchester United to extra-time in the Cup Final before succombing to Norman Whiteside's spectacular goal. Peter Reid and Neville Southall scooped the respective Player of the Year awards while Kendall took the top managerial honour.
It didn't stop there, either. Heart-breaking runners-up spots in both the FA Cup and League in 1986 behind Double-winning Liverpool were followed in 1987 with another First Division Championship which the Blues won in style and despite a horrific injury list. Even better, Liverpool were shut out of the trophy reckoning altogether!
However, the ban on English clubs in European competition after the Heysel Stadium riots in 1985 frustrated Kendall and he left Goodison in the summer of 1987 to take the reins at Athletic Bilbao in Spain. He soon returned to England, though, when he was appointed manager of Manchester City in 1990. He led City to top five respectability before accepting an overture from Everton to return to the Goodison hotseat.
Sadly, there was to be no repeat of the successes of the previous decade. By December 1993 he had walked out again, this time in protest at the board's refusal to grant him sufficient funds to purchase Dion Dublin from Manchester United. The club plunged to the brink of relegation in May in the ensuing instability and although Everton were to briefly recover in 1995, the club slumped back into the doldrums again soon afterwards.
Joe Royle, Kendall's team-mate in the early 1970s, left Goodison in March 1997 and after a farcical summer-long hunt for a high-profile successor, chairman Peter Johnson eventually appointed Howard to his third spell as Everton's manager.
After a desperately poor start to the 1997-98 campaign, during which Johnson cut off the money supply for player purchases, Kendall's Everton went into freefall in the league and only a significant revival in the winter kept the club above the relegation zone. By May, a succession of crucial suspensions and an injury crisis had sapped the club's resources and left Everton standing on the brink of relegation with two matches to go.
Following a match that no Evertonian will ever forget, Kendall's Everton
avoided relegation on goal difference with a 1-1 draw at home against Coventry City. Thanks to Chelsea's 2-0 win over Bolton at Stamford Bridge, Wanderers went down and the Blues managed to preserve their 44-year unbroken association with the top flight. Kendall, though, was forced out at the end of June that year, replaced 6 days later by former Rangers boss Walter Smith, ending his third and last managerial spell at Goodison.