Ghosting Howard

A eulogy to mark the passing of a true Goodison great from a man who got to know the real Howard Kendall as they worked on his 2013 autobiography.

James Corbett 19/10/2015 6comments  |  Jump to last
A eulogy to mark the passing of a true Goodison great from a man who got to know the real Howard Kendall as they worked on his 2013 autobiography.

Howard was the most successful English football manager as well as one of the most significant individuals in Evertons history. But more than that he was a good man, a nice man, loved by everybody who knew him.

I grew up as a child in the 1980s idolising the teams he managed and was lucky enough to work with him on his autobiography three decades later. By the age of 40 Howard had won two league titles, a European trophy and FA Cup as manager. These were staggering achievements and one can only imagine the hype that would follow an English double title winner today, much less one so young. They followed an outstanding playing career with Preston, Everton, Birmingham, Stoke and Blackburn. At Everton his midfield partnership with Alan Ball and Colin Harvey was considered among the greatest English football has seen.

Yet I didnt always feel that he got the credit that he deserved. His career in football was over at the age of 52 after a near disastrous third spell as Everton manager, which was a black mark on his career and muddied his reputation. Moreover the advent of the Premier League reshaped perspectives of English football and it seemed, to some people at least, as if what happened before 1992 didnt matter so much.

It did and it does, of course. The book that we worked on Love Affairs and Marriage gave Howards achievements the context that they deserved and did a little bit to recast him as the giant of English football that he was.

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Wed been introduced by a mutual friend in 2010 and two years later agreed to collaborate on his memoir. Much of 2013 was spent either working on his book or on the road promoting it. We shared some good times.

Howard was such a gregarious character. Sometimes footballers are aloof or want to retain a distance with their public, but Howard loved being among ordinary people, the fans, sharing a chat or a story. One of my favourite memories of my time with him was popping into the Hanover Hotel in central Liverpool a couple of hours before a Liverpool home match with Aston Villa. The place was packed with fans on their way to the game. Had it been Kenny Dalglish going into a pub full of Evertonians Im sure he would have been berated and jeered, but not Howard, who was completely at ease in their company and the Liverpool supporters were respectful and interested in the great man too. (He could, of course, have become a Liverpool player in 1967 had Bill Shankly had his way and Merseyside football history may have looked very different had that happened.) But despite the banter and the chat he never forgot his first love, Everton. Later, listening to the commentary of that game he punched the air every time Aston Villa scored in what was a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool.

He had many many friends, not just through football, but in business, media and showbusiness too. He was generous in his praise, particularly of young footballers, but never gave it easily. He had a gentle way of making people feel ten feet tall. I always felt that his highest respect was reserved for those who had been successful outside the game, perhaps because for a large part of his career in football everything had seemed to come so easily to him and for Howard there was a mystique attached to those who had achieved things beyond football: his beloved father, Jack, who showed him the way as a player; Sir Philip Carter, who as Everton chairman forged a successful partnership with Howard, but who achieved much in business; his son, Simon, who was head boy at Merchant Taylors school and later forged a highly successful corporate career; the entertainer Ken Dodd, who he considered a genius and a force of nature.

He was always good company, a bon vivant, although there was a mythology attached to his socialising, in large part because he was always in the public eye. The last time I saw him was over dinner at a restaurant in Crosby last April, which we shared with two journalists up for the day from London. It was everything youd want from a night: boozy, gossipy, and very very funny albeit that I was the source of a lot of Howards ribbing. As one of the journalists who was with us tweeted me on Saturday when we heard the news: "There arent many title winning managers with whom Ive sung the Spitting Image chicken song. That was an incredible night. What a guy. My sides hurt almost as much as my head the next morning." That was what a night out with Howard was quite often like.

I remember vividly, as an eight year old, the great sense of loss when he left Everton to manage Athletic Bilbao in 1987 but that is nothing to the sense of emptiness that I feel today. Ill miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lily; Simon; his daughters, Hayley and Lisa; his grandchildren, who he took such pride in; and all his friends, particularly Ray Parr and Brian Greenhalgh, who were always there for him.

As for Howard, how would he like to have been remembered? In the closing passage of Love Affairs and Marriage, he wrote of his days after football:

"The pleasure comes not in reflecting on past glories, but in coming into close proximity to those that I hopefully brought some happiness too once in a while.

"People ask me how Id like to be remembered. Ive had a good life and a fine career, both as a player and a manager. It would have been nice to have saved the best until last, like Bob Paisley and Alex Ferguson were able to do at their clubs, but that wasnt to be. Yet Ive had far more highs than I have lows and possess some wonderful memories from my life in football. My wish is simple. Id like to be remembered as someone who as a player and manager brought enjoyment to supporters. Thats all."

The outpouring of grief and fond memories of Howard from throughout the game and beyond showed that he achieved just that.

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Reader Comments (6)

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Ian Jones
1 Posted 19/10/2015 at 17:48:34
Wonderful eulogy. Hadn't realised how young he was when he won those titles. Sad to think that he sort of 'retired' early and was lost to football so early.
Peter Laing
2 Posted 19/10/2015 at 18:17:59
Growing up in the 1980s in Liverpool, I was able to walk like I was ten foot tall into school with my head held high, and that was due to one man – Howard Kendall.

But being an Evertonian isn’t simple, Lineker broke my heart in 86 leaving after the World Cup, and then Howard 12 months later. Somebody told me Everton don’t do dynasties, and it seems that is true, but with Howard Kendall we had some glorious years, RIP.

Mick Hanlon
3 Posted 20/10/2015 at 10:40:51
I remember going to the junior school in the late '70s and a teacher asked "Who supports Everton, put your hand up". I was one of the very few who did put his hand up (remember Liverpool were dominating everything).

I thought "This is a bit harsh, we are being punished for being Evertonians"... Turns out we were being taken behind the scenes at Goodison, they just wanted proper fans and not kids looking for a day off school.

This was before Howard rewrote the history books and made us all walk that little bit taller. A lot of kids in school that day, who I knew supported Everton, were ashamed to be Evertonians, so kept their hands down. We were always the kids, looking in the Liverpool Football Club candy shop window, whilst they were stacking up their trophy collection.

Howard changed all that. He knew what it meant to be a blue, he knew we had to come again and we did. Thanks for all the unforgettable memories, Howard; thanks for being one of us, football will miss you.

It would be a fitting tribute to win something this season, make this Day One, the start of something new and for Roberto to say we did it in his memory.

Maybe my kids will put their hands up and be proud Evertonians; I’m talking about proud, not loyal... we have waited too long. Maybe we can finally write a new story in our proud history.

Peter Carpenter
4 Posted 20/10/2015 at 15:08:21
There were two big disappointments in my early days following Everton: one, Alan Ball’s transfer to Arsenal; and two, when I found out that the Bob Latchford transfer involved Howard Kendall going the other way.

Too young to appreciate the footballing merits of the Holy Trinity, they came to me in hearsay and tales from older fans. I always referred to them as Kendall, Harvey and Ball, in that order. It just sounded right.

I still remember the excitement of seeing him back on the field at Goodison for a routine mid-season match against, I think, John Toshack’s Swansea about 7 years later. He was simple, effective and on another plane to all the rest on that pitch for just those reasons.

Then, in my early twenties and with some cash of my own to spend at last, there were the great days out: Kevin Brock’s famous backpass on a frosty night in Oxford; Southall’s wonder saves at White Hart Lane and Hillsborough; trips to Wembley, Rotterdam and even trophies! FA Cups, League titles and European trophies.

And a team for all seasons: fast and furious if you like (Sunderland 1985); sublime and smooth (Ipswich and Kevin Sheedy scoring twice from the same free-kick): battling, if you wanted a battle; and, above all, inspiring confidence that whatever we came up against we would have the tools for the job.

But there is always a hint of what might have been, even without the disastrous European ban. (It’s branded onto my brain that a team as bad as Steaua Bucharest won the 1986 European Cup on penalties after one of the most dire finals ever seen.) Howard never got an England cap and maybe that bad luck followed him. Hansen’s hand stole the Milk Cup away from us in 1984. Whiteside’s inspired curler the FA Cup and a treble a year later...

I’ve always thought they should have stayed in Rotterdam after that final, gone on the piss for a day or two, and flown over to Wembley on the Saturday morning to defeat United before a glorious return to the city a day later with two cups... we couldn’t have failed.

Then 1986 and a shock defeat at Oxford handed the title to the Reds. It should have been three in a row, and of course more cup sorrow followed. It came as a shock to be reminded that Howard’s top flight career as a manager ended at the age of 52, younger than I am now.

The best of all my times watching Everton were down to him. I wish I had met him.

Thanks, Howard.

Paul Washington
5 Posted 20/10/2015 at 18:58:31
There was an Everton night at my local parish club, St Basils in Widnes, and a host of Everton luminaries attended. I fortunately managed to have a conversation with HK, just me and him in the club foyer.

Amongst things spoken were his decision to sell Lineker, his comeback game against Notts County away (on a freezing night and the heating broke down on the train home) and his love of EFC.

At the end of the conversation I said to him "thanks for the memories," to which he replied, grabbing my arm and leaning in to me, "It's been my pleasure."

Howard, it’s been an enormous privilege for us to have you as a Blue.

God Bless
Terence Beresford
6 Posted 24/10/2015 at 21:58:39
I hope Howard Kendall gets the turn out he deserves on Thursday.

Wembley was our second home in those days. I will never forget Rotterdam and that aircraft hanger we were kept in after the match with a foreign film playing. Straight from there to Wembley for the FA Cup Final. Imagine the outcry playing two cup finals in 3 days. What a side.

Thank you for giving me so much joy in the eighties. God bless; COYB

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