Howard Kendall showed great faith in the devil you know, as he went back to his
previous club, Sheffield United, to strengthen Everton's struggling midfield
with Don Hutchison following the acrimonious departure of
Gary Speed in February
"It's good to be back on Merseyside," the former Liverpool and West Ham
midfielder told ClubCall. "I am really excited about being back in Liverpool
and being given another chance at a massive club."
Kendall originally bought the 26-year-old Geordie from West Ham to Sheffield United
in January 1996, paying £1.2M for him, and an injury-depleted midfield prompted
Kendall to sign him again.
"I got on really well with Howard and Inchy so it is nice to be involved
with them again. I still have got a few friends over the road at Liverpool
but obviously I will not be able to talk to them anymore," he joked.
it's just good to be back. I am not sure what role Howard will want to use
me in. Whether it's as a defensive midfield player or to try and get goals,
it is not a problem."
Hutchison started his career with Hartlepool before moving on to Liverpool
for £175,000 in 1990.
Hutchison had a problematical four years at Anfield before Howard Kendall took
him to Sheffield United. Through his dealings with the player,
Kendall was convinced
he brought quality to the squad. This is what Hutch once said about
his relationship with Howie:
"Howard Kendall is probably the most
influential person on my whole career because he took me to Sheffield United
and then bought me again at Everton. He just helped me with being
relaxed. I’ll never forget the first time I signed for him. He
had a fridge in his office and he opened a can of lager for me. We
just hit it off and we were good friends. Then I went to Everton, and,
while a normal manager would shake your hand and say ‘welcome’, Howard
gave me a cuddle and said ‘it’s nice to have you back’"
Evertonians took some time to
be convinced, although Don at least put in the effort during the fraught
final months of a dismal 1997-98 league season for Everton under Howard Kendall.
Don Hutchison didn't really come good for Everton until Walter Smith gave
him a commanding role in midfield, and made him team captain if
Dave Watson was absent. Hutch showed himself as
a solid defender and determined midfield general, who held Everton together
through the darkest days of another depressing winter at
Goodison in 1998. Hutchison's
reward was an extended contract, and improving fortunes as Everton started
to finally score some goals and win some games as the
Spring of 1999 started to bloom.
For his efforts and commitment, Hutch was even voted Everton's Player of
the Season in some quarters a decision which did not please the purists.
By any analysis, Hutchison is little more than an animal on the field, a
sad corollary to Everton's parlous position in the
Fair Play League as the
most indisciplined club in the Premiership. What was that motto again?
Oct 99: The Don's position at Everton has been subjected
speculation, with claims that he could go to of all places
Newcastle United. This despite all the usual platitudes
about wanting to run out his career at Goodison Park. The reason for this nonsense?
contract will be up in two years... Yes, two years!!!
Some fans saw the hand of his greedy agent at work here, upping the ante
to supposedly failed negotiations for a contract extension.
the problem there is that his pay rate drops substantially in his final year
the year on which his pension is calculated (do players get pensions?)
and the Everton Board are adamant.
Things were hardly made any better when he had an ugly on-field spat with
defensive rock, Richard Gough, during the Coventry match, but that was quickly
settled between the players, if it left a lingering bad taste in the mouth
of many fans. The next slap in the face was to hear that The Don is now angling
for a move to Serie A. You just don't know whether to laugh or cry!
2000: After rumbling on for 4 months, the Hutchison
saga appeared to be nearing an acrimonious conclusion, with
Everton refusing to come close to Hutchison's £15k to £20k self-valuation. They offered him a derisory £725 on
top of his current £9,000-a-week pin-money, the clear intention
being to force a quick sale and cash in while there was
still a decent chunk of his current contract in
place. Hutchison publicly labelled it "a disgrace"
and was promptly stripped of the captaincy by Walter Smith, and dropped from
the first-team squad.
Dubbed the "poor man's
McAllister", in an unusually perceptive piece of Times
journalism, feelings amongst Evertonians will be mixed
about seeing another current team captain and Player of the
Year making the now traditional pilgrimage to the
Northeast. Capable of subtle and intelligent football
at times, The Don would also allow his game to fall well
below par, and the red mist that comes from being bred as a
Liverpool player would occasionally descend as he went in
for just one more bone-crunching lunge. Still, one fan was sufficiently
concerned to set up a Keep Don
at Everton webpage!
But Deadline Day passed
without so much as a glance at the telephone in such far flung places as
Milan, Madrid, and Sunderland. It was all just so much hype and hot
air from his irritating agent, Rachel Anderson, and the Don was left to
ponder his first bite of humble pie. Rehabilitation came slowly almost
a month later, when Hutchison replaced the suspended Mark Hughes at Leicester,
and headed in an excellent equaliser that earned Everton a point. For
the remainder of the season he was gradually accepted back into the team,
but the captain's armband stayed with John Collins.
And then, with the
season over, the transfer nonsense started up all over again... Leicester,
Coventry, Real Betis... Liverpool? No, the ultimate destination was
Sunderland, for £2.5M – a tidy profit and to be honest, everyone is
probably better off having somewhere else – with the possible exception of
Sunderland manager Peter Reid.
Postcript: Many years later, in 2014, Hutchsion would spin his side of the story in an article in The Journal:
I had joined Sunderland after Everton and saw Olivier Dacourt, Marco Materazzi and Kevin Campbell come into the squad on big money. I was being paid £6,000 a week and they were all on £25,000 or more. I knew I couldn’t get to that level but I asked Walter Smith (then manager) to sort me out.
I remember sitting in El Choco restaurant in Pisa and Walter telling me to get a bottle of red wine and come for a chat. He promised to match Nick Barmby’s wage, which was £16,000.
But when we got back to England, that had been forgotten.
The offer was £8,500 from Everton and my agent Rachel Anderson called a halt to things.
I sought out Walter and asked what that was all about. He said he didn’t have any recollection of our meeting but I told him he’d told me what other players were on, so I couldn’t be making it up!
For the second time he pinned me up against a wall and told me I’d never play for Everton again. It was the day before we were due to play West Ham and I watched from home as Nick Barmby scored a hat-trick in a big win.
My days were numbered. Walter told me to go and train with the kids or train on my own, which I did for a month until there was a load of injuries and suspensions and I was back in the team against Leicester. I scored the equaliser with a header – one of my best moments – but I still left for Sunderland at the end of the year.