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Walter, thank you
Although he never felt Walter Smith was the right man for the Everton job, Phil Roberts extends his thanks for perhaps his greatest achievement at Goodison — the departure of Peter Johnson.

25 March 2002

So, 10 days on from the sacking of Walter Smith, two wins later, six goals later, are we all breathing a huge sigh of relief and saying thank goodness he has gone and what a waste of four years?

For me, I am desperately looking for documentary proof that confirms I said in the summer of 1998 I was not convinced he was the right man for the job.  I always felt his achievements at Rangers we down to the fact that he had more money to spend than any other manager in Scotland and that is why they won the league every year.  When Celtic got some money and a decent manager, he failed and left.  With our perilous financial state, he was never going to be able to repeat his success but had he got the tactical know how to do something for us?  Perhaps 7 goals in the first 13 games he was in charge should have told us something about where we were going, especially as only one of them was at Goodison when United thrashed us!

So we slithered and slid around the relegation spot, and the eight 0-0 draws that season were just going to send us down when he brought in Kevin Campbell.  With no other strikers, he was finally forced to play Francis Jeffers and wonders of wonders we scored 20 goals in our last 9 matches having scored a mere 22 in the previous 29.  

This also showed the two sides of Walter.  Having bought Dacourt, Collins, Unsworth, Materazzi, Weir (best buy ever?), Bakayoko (worst buy ever?), Simonsen, he signed Super Kev.  If only we still had them all playing for us now — except for Ibrahima of course!  His ability to bring in players to the club was excellent — he was a manager with a reputation and I believe people came to Everton because Walter Smith was the manager. 

Yes, the money may have been good, but the added lure of playing for a successful manager and the possibility of that manager repeating his success surely was added weight to their decisions to play for Everton.  But the other side, yes he did play Michael Ball for the whole season but he sold Gavin McCann, used Richard Dunne and Danny Cadamarteri sparingly and was almost forced by supporters power to play Jeffers.  His dislike and mistrust of youth was there for all to see.  The youth cup winning side of the previous season hardly got a look-in.

The following season, after a minor financial re-adjustment — the selling of almost everyone he had bought the previous summer   he brought in Gough, Xavier (by the way. noticed how many viruses he is getting when playing for Liverpool?) and Pembridge and we trundled through the season just above half way until that last day when the defeat to 'Boro sent us down to 13th.  Almost progress, 60 goals in the season and 40 points at the start of March meaning we could all enjoy the season. Walter was getting it right! 

Then a bit more wheeler-dealing and in came Nyarko, Gravesen, Naysmith, Watson, Gazza, Pistone and a host of physios.  What did he and Archie do to the players?  Over the four years, I reckon we lost a whole season from at least 11 players — 400 games in total.  We went backwards, the goals dried up and it was end April before we really breathed a sigh of relief when Bradford missed two penalties to make us safe.  Somehow, we never seemed robust enough and the instant change of Moyes in starting afternoon training is striking.  12 months from now we can judge whether Walter and Archie got it wrong if we end up with a reduced staff of physios.

So we then came to this season and the well-documented slide and the inertia that we seemed to find.  The four goals in his last 12 games was reminiscent of the start and that was going to take us down but then the end came.  

Even with all the above comments, there was one event in the last four years for which all Evertonians around the world should be thankful to Walter Smith.  Without Walter, we would, by now, be in Division One for sure and going nowhere.  It was the integrity and stature of the man that was so vital at the time.  The legacy of the years of success at Glasgow Rangers and the OBE meant only Walter would have succeeded in these circumstances all others would have failed. 

It all started one dark November night in 1998.  A day that should be etched into the minds of all Evertonians, perhaps in the same way as the night 'Inchy' Heath scored in the sandpit at Oxford. It was perhaps as momentous as that the night the club's fortunes were turned around.  And in a very large part it was all due to Walter Smith.  Perhaps Walter was not as fortunate to benefit from a team that was able to then move on to become the best in Europe, but nevertheless above all we should be grateful to him and thank him for being our manager at the time.

The night in question was 23 November 1998.  We won that night, a Michael Ball goal being the only one scored as we beat Newcastle to climb out of the bottom three.  But it was not on the pitch that the real story was being played out.  For this was the night Duncan Ferguson was sold to Newcastle and in the days that followed was Walter's greatest legacy to Everton FC.


So thank you Walter. If for nothing else, that act alone makes you an Everton Legend.

Phil Roberts 

©2002 ToffeeWeb


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