John Ebbrell was seen as the future England captain when he started his Everton
senior team career proper during season 1988-89. Ebbrell came through the
FA School of Excellence at Lilleshall and served his apprenticeship at Goodison
Park during Howard Kendall's first period. He made his full debut in the
last league match of the season, a home victory over Derby County (1-0) on 15
May 1989, after four earlier substitute appearances (plus one very early
blooding two seasons before, as a 17-year-old sub for Alan Harper in the
Full Members Cup, Second Round at Charlton Athletic, 3 March 1987).
His potential was immense, but somehow he never quite fulfilled it during
Harvey's, Kendall's or Mike Walker's time. No-one ever questioned his determination,
attitude and sheer work-rate, but poor displays where he failed to live up
to the initial billing, and his profligacy in front of goal made him a player that some fans couldn't fully warm to, especially during the difficult
times. His adaptability never helped him during this time either, as he was
made to play in several positions, most of which didn't suit him.
Ebbrell was always reluctant to hide, though; ironically, this also tended to aggravate
the crowd. He was very good at getting into advanced positions in the opponents
box but unfortunately once he got there he wasn't always able to convert due to poor finishing or first touch. These things tended to stick in the
memory of the crowd and it was that memory which most fans would take away
from the ground. No-one gave him credit for getting there in the first place,
no-one noticed him haring back to resume his position in central midfield,
his excellent defensive work, his covering for colleagues, — what everyone
remembered was the high-profile misses.
John was a true Evertonian who would do anything to help the cause, and with
the guidance of Joe Royle he was able to show some of the potential he promised.
John's strengths are in closing down and harassing the opposition. His attitude
also got sometimes the better of him and he had a tendency to get booked for his overly
He was also one of the "Dogs of War" that Royle employed alongside Barry Horne and Joe
Parkinson when he came to the club in November 1994. The idea was to
stop the opposition from playing and then strike from corners or glimpses
of genius from Anders Limpar. Royle never liked
this tactic, but was forced to adopt it when the club was in danger of
The greatest disappointment for Ebbrell, however, was to be overlooked for
the 1995 FA Cup Final -- the hardest decision Joe Royle ever had to make.
For a while, John's position at Goodison looked tenuous, indeed the crowd
shamefully got on his back so much in one game that Joe Royle was forced
to sub him. But the bizarre three-foreigner rule (pre-Bosman) allowed him
back into midfield to score in Reykjavik. Ebbrell was
given permission to play more creatively. With Parkinson, they could both
dominate the midfield and run the engine-room.
Ebbrell started to finally receive appreciation from the fans with solid
midfield displays during 1996. He was even made team captain after injury
to Dave Watson, but second-half surrender
of a two-goal lead at Old Trafford soon put paid to such lofty ambitions. He
later said that he knew he would eventually leave the club when he was dropped
after captaining his beloved Everton. With Parkinson an automatic choice
in the middle of the park, John sometimes had to fight for the other place
against more creative candidates, mainly Tony
That was until the Great Injury Crisis of late 1996. Ebbrell became one of
the hobbling wounded with an ankle injury sustained against West Ham in October. His recovery
was aggravated when he resumed playing on it. Eventually, the damage
was bad enough to warrant an operation, and further time on the sidelines
— although he did play in two matches after Christmas as Everton slumped
to equal their worst-ever league run of six successive defeats. What
was to be his last appearance for Everton came in a 0-2 defeat at Goodison
by Blackburn Rovers on 1 January
The final straw for Ebbrell appears to have been the signing of Claus Thomsen from Ipswich Town in January
1997. This was a move taken by Royle to beef up the midfield in the
wake of the injury crises that still left Ebbrell out of the team. Contact
with Kendall was obviously re-established, and the move finally occurred
at the end of February, after Royle had initially blocked it for fear of
further depletion to his limited squad.
Another factor was the Bosman ruling, and Ebbrell's contractual situation
which meant a free transfer abroad could work for him in the summer of
1997. In the end, Royle accepted the inevitable and cashed in on some
of the 27-year-old's residual value. Farewell to a true-blue Evertonian.
Postscript: And its a sad farewell to football for John Ebbrell,
who announced in January 1999 that he was forced to retire due to an
infection in the area of an operation wound picked up in hospital when
he was being treated for an ankle injury that had prevented him fugsrom
playing for a long time. Ebbrell made only one start with his new
club, Sheffield United, and his retirement must be seen as an indictment
of the dubious practice of "playing through the pain barrier", when
players with injuries are given pain-killing drugs.
Ebbrell's first role in coaching was as Chief Scout under David
Moyes at Everton, a post Ebbrell held for 3 years before subsequently
leaving to pursue a football agency role. Ebbrell co-founded X8 Ltd, a
football representation and agency business. In 2002, X8 merged with
Proform Sports Management Ltd. The combined agency represented
approximately 60 players (including a young Wayne Rooney).
Ebbrell started coaching at Tranmere Rovers in the 2008–09 season.
In July 2010, he succeeded Kenny Shiels as Tranmere Rovers' Centre of
In March 2015 Ebbrell rejoined Everton in an Academy Coaching
role, and took charge of Everton's Under-18 side as Manager in January
2016. He was appointed Assistant Manager of Everton's U23 team for the
2016–17 season, winning the Premier League 2 Division 1 title in its
first season in U23 format. Everton's U23 team won the Premier League 2
Division 1 title for the second time in three seasons in April 2019.
Ebbrell was promoted to the position of Head of Academy
Coaching and U23s Assistant Manager in November 2020, with
responsibility to oversee the Academy Coaching programme whilst
continuing his role as assistant to Academy Director and U23s team
manager, David Unsworth. When Unsworth left in April 2022, Ebbrell
stepped up to manage the U23s for the final games of the season, in
which they narrowly avoided relegation to PL2 Division 2.
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