You don't have to be a great player to be a great manager of Everton - but it helps

Paul Newton 21/09/2016 9comments  |  Jump to last

Nobody would argue that great players necessarily make great managers – the list of managerial casualties who used to be great players is too long for that. But at Everton…

A quick survey of the last 50 years or so shows an interesting correlation between the player and the Everton manager he became…

Harry Catterick (1961-73): We can’t really judge Catterick’s ability as a player because he signed for Everton age 18 in 1937 and we all know what happened 2 years later. During the war he played 71 games as centre forward for Everton and scored 55 goals, so he clearly had potential. However because of the war he was unable to make his league debut until 1946, by which time he was 26. After this he went on to make 59 appearances for Everton, scoring 19 goals. He was certainly a great Everton manager, winning 2 first division titles and the FA Cup once. Arguably he is second only to the great HK, of whom more later. Verdict: Player ? Manager: Great.


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Billy Bingham (1973-77): The peaks of Bingham’s playing career were playing 86 times for Everton 1961-63, during which he scored 23 times, and his 56 appearances for his native Northern Ireland. As a player he would fall into the category of ‘good, but not great’. As manager of Everton he was ultimately a disappointment – league positions of 7th and 4th were followed by 11th place in his third season. (11th in his third season? Where have I heard that before?) Verdict: Player: Good. Manager: Good?

Gordon Lee (1977-81): Lee spent most of his playing career at Aston Villa, where he made 118 appearances during 1955-66, a good steady professional. The peak of his accomplishments as Everton manager was a 3rd place finish in the league, season 1977-78. There were also several good cup runs, but his final 2 seasons were disappointments, finishing 19th and 15th, resulting in the sack. Verdict: Player: Good. Manager: Not so good.

Howard Kendall (1981-87; 1990-93; 1997-98): Our most successful manager ever. He built an almost entirely new team which was one of the finest of the 1980s. Two league titles, a second place, one FA Cup, one European Cup Winners’ Cup, several cup final appearances, only prevented from greater heights by the ban on English teams playing in Europe. But what of Kendall the player? The Kendall-Ball-Harvey axis was one of the greatest ever to grace Goodison Park. Inexplicably, he never played for England – but then at international level so much depends on who else happens to be around at the time. As a club player, and certainly for Everton, he fits the ‘great’ category. Verdict: Player: Great. Manager: Great.

Colin Harvey (1987-90): Again, obviously one of the Kendall-Ball-Harvey midfield. This in itself classifies him as ‘great’ where Evertonians are concerned. Like Kendall, the lack of international call-ups is strange – just one appearance for England. As Everton manager he tried to arrest decline after the departure of Kendall. His record is respectable – league positions of 4th, 8th and 6th, although by the Everton standard of the time this was poor. He also took the club to the FA Cup Final of 1989, about which the less said the better. Verdict: Player: Great. Manager: Good.

Mike Walker (1994): The peak of Walker’s playing career came at Colchester United, where he was inducted into their Hall of Fame. It is a pity for Everton that he didn’t stay there. A contender for our worst manager ever, he took Everton to the brink of relegation, from which we were only rescued by that famous victory over Wimbledon in the last game of the 1994 season. Verdict: Player: Average. Manager: Poor.

Joe Royle (1994-97): Another player like Kendall and Harvey who is viewed as a great by Evertonians even if he isn’t seen as such elsewhere. 102 goals in 232 appearances is some return. He also did a great job for the club as manager, rescuing us from the horrors of Walker’s reign with his ‘dogs of war’, and winning the FA Cup in 1995. Verdict: Player: Great. Manager: Great.

Walter Smith (!998-2002): Hardly a great player, Smith spent his entire career in the Scottish League with Dundee United and Dumbarton. Hardly a great manager for Everton either. His time was spent selling top players to balance the books – in the case of Duncan Ferguson, against his will - and fighting relegation. To be fair, it can’t have been easy working under the circumstances at the club at the time. Verdict: Player: Average. Manager: Poor.

David Moyes (2002-13): A good professional as both player and manager, but hardly a ‘great’. He steadied the ship after Smith and achieved consistently respectable league positions, but he was never able to get success against the top clubs of the time. As season followed season it was as if he had gone as far as he could go, and by 2013 the time was ripe for him to leave. Verdict: Player: Average. Manager: Good.

Roberto Martinez (2013-16): Like Moyes, a good pro as a player and nothing more. And as a manager? A good first season, which we now know was very much built on the defensive solidity established by Moyes. After that, the slide … only arrested by his dismissal, which should have come much sooner. Verdict: Player: Average. Manager: Poor.

Ronald Koeman (2016-): Undoubtedly a great player. 192 appearances for Barcelona, scoring 67 goals (and he wasn’t even a striker!) says it all, not to mention 78 appearances for Holland. So, certainly a great player. But as an Everton manager? Early signs are good (apart from the Norwich result), but only time will tell … Verdict: Player: Great. Manager: ???

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Reader Comments (9)

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Danny Broderick
1 Posted 21/09/2016 at 19:03:03
If only it was that easy – Howard Kendall's 2nd and 3rd stints as manager would have been much more successful!
Chris Williams
2 Posted 21/09/2016 at 19:43:56

I think you have been very generous in some of your assessments here, in both categories.

Bingham as a player was past his best when he came but was OK as a stopgap between Lill and Scott. He was bloody awful as a manager.

Lee was a boring Black Country bloke who was utilitarian in his approach and who didn't really fancy 'fanny merchants' – to use Jack Charlton's term.

Kendall and Harvey need to be seen as a partnership in the first spell I believe. Kendall unfortunately was much reduced in subsequent spells.

Royle was a great player before back surgery at an early age. After that he was just good. As a manager I liked him for his humour and the Dogs of War. At least until Claus Thomsen and talk of Carlton Palmer.

Walker was out of his depth and Smith, Moyes and Martinez have been done to death on here but as players they were mediocre at best.

At least Koeman has won stuff!

Paul Conway
3 Posted 21/09/2016 at 20:01:12
IMHO, any great player can become a great manager if they are afforded the funds that were available to the likes of Mourhino, Guardiola, Zidane etc.

Proof: Real Madrid, Barca, Bayern, etc very rarely fail!

Douglas McClenaghan
4 Posted 22/09/2016 at 08:35:46
This confirms my expectation that Unsy is our next manager.
David Ellis
5 Posted 22/09/2016 at 09:11:39
OK I'll bite:


Catterick: Great
Bingham: Poor
Lee: Average to Poor (started well...)
Kendall Mk 1: Great
Harvey: Average...took a title winning team and
Walker: Poor
Royle: Good
Smith: Poor
Moyes: Good
Martinez: Average
Koeman:?? so far so good

Moyes was a better manager than Royle -- better than all of them apart from Catterick and Kendall. The worst was Walker. All the others had some high points. (Okay, apart from Smith, whose only high point was facing down Agent Johnson.

Alan J Thompson
6 Posted 22/09/2016 at 14:38:18
Kendall first time around was not doing so well until Harvey was appointed as his Assistant and Harvey, for some reason – finances?' made some astonishing statements. When he sold Gary Stevens to Rangers he said that he thought no defender was worth a million pounds without ever properly replacing him. For that matter some of Kendall's early buys were hardly successes.

And could it be passed without mentioning the third musketeer, Alan Ball, who hardly set the managerial world on fire.

No disrespect intended, to any of them.

Dennis Stevens
7 Posted 22/09/2016 at 21:10:33
Ultimately, both managers & players are generally considered as good as the results they've achieved.

Joe Royle saved Everton from relegation when all thought we were already doomed, won the Cup the same season, finished 6th in his only full season & never lost to our luvable neighbours – how he must envy Moyes's record, eh?

Peter Mills
8 Posted 23/09/2016 at 08:55:32
Paul, I think your assessment of Mike Walker's managerial ability as "poor" is a little generous.
Robin Cannon
9 Posted 26/09/2016 at 16:41:32
Looking at correlation rather than cause, and from a very small sample size. I don't think there's anything in particular that demonstrates great players have an advantage when it comes to becoming great managers; with the exception of greater opportunity.

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