Comings and Goings

Alasdair Jones 30/05/2020 20comments  |  Jump to last
In researching the background to some of my previous posts, I frequently came across the widely held view that Harry Catterick was, during his tenure as manager of Everton, probably one of the shrewdest operators in the transfer market. Although his dealings cemented the clubs “money bags” reputation, he also established a strong youth set up at the club which, during his 12 seasons in charge, brought forward first-team players such as Colin Harvey, John Hurst, Brian Labone, Tommy Wright, Jimmy Husband and Joe Royle. All at various levels served club and country with distinction.

The theme of this post is, however, the transfer dealings of those two managers that would be classified as the immediate successors to Catterick, and whose objective would be to rebuild the team and ultimately create a Championship-winning side. How did Billy Bingham and then Gordon Lee fare in comparison to the “shrewd operator”?

Between 1961-62 and 1972-73, Catterick showed the door to some 72 players; an average of 6 per season. At the same time, he laid out the welcome mat to 30 players; an average of 2.5 players per season.

Billy Bingham

Billy Bingham was appointed by the club as successor to Catterick in the summer of 1973. He moved to Everton from Greece where he was head coach to the national side. At the beginning of season 1973-74, he relied on the “inherited” squad of players. For the first game at Leeds, the team included Joe Royle, Roger Kenyon, Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey, and former youth team players Mick Buckley and Terry Darracott. Missing from the team were Joe Harper, Mike Bernard, Henry Newton and Rod Belfitt.

As the season progressed, Bingham began to identify which players could usefully contribute to the team and its ambitions. In the end, he showed the door to 8 players including, Henry Newton, Rod Belfitt, Jimmy Husband, Joe Harper, Howard Kendall and Archie Styles. He welcomed two players: Bob Latchford from Birmingham City and Dave Clements from Sheffield Wednesday. Latchford was in fact part of a player exchange deal involving Howard Kendall and Archie Styles going in the opposite direction.

The net cost of transfers to the club by the end of the season was £110,000.

Everton made a solid start to the 1974-75 season. During the summer, Bingham had brought in two valuable signings: Jim Pearson from St Johnstone for £100,000 and Martin Dobson from Burnley for £300,000. With these two additions to the team, the Blues were only beaten once over their first 21 league games up to 14 December, and headed the table after a 2-0 win at Derby.

However, during this opening half to the season, Bingham sold on two further members of the 1970 Championship side. Joe Royle went to Manchester City for £170,000 and Colin Harvey to Sheffield Wednesday for £70,000. Under Bingham’s watch, the third and only remaining member of the Holy Trinity had played his last game for Everton. That left John Hurst and Roger Kenyon still with the club and who had played in the 1970 side.

In his book, A Different Road, Bob Latchford expressed the view that Billy Bingham was a bit hasty to clear the decks of players from the Championship side. He apparently wanted his own team. Latchford cited in particular Joe Royle, who should, in his view, have stayed for at least two more seasons. He was an experienced player who knew what it took to win. John Hurst aside, there was no-one in the squad with comparable experience.

And so it proved. The Blues endured a miserable Christmas, the highlight of which was a wretched 3-2 home defeat to bottom club Carlisle, having been 2-0 up at half-time. There then followed a draw against Middlesborough and Blues were down to 4th. This was a very competitive and open league, compared to today's Premier League, so that a recovery in their form in the New Year saw them top again by the time they travelled north to play at Carlisle in the return fixture. Most pundits and bookmakers had them down as certain Champions.

It was not to be. The Blues returned south from the Border City empty-handed having conceded three goals without reply... From then until the end of the season on 26 April, they won only two further games and finished 4th.

During the latter part of the season, Bingham had added Mick Smallman from Wrexham to the squad for £100,000. This brought the total spend on three players over the season to £470,000. Four players were sold for a total of £246,000. The net cost to the club over the season was £224,000.

During the summer of 1975, Bingham neither recruited nor sold any of his first-team players. At the beginning of the new season, the squad was essentially the same as ended the previous season. Even during the course of the season, transfer activity was limited. In December 1975, Brian Hamilton was brought in from Ipswich for £40,000 and, in March 1976, Andy King came from Luton for £35,000.

Sales during the course of the season were mostly fringe players with the exception of one of his earliest recruits, Dave Clements, who went to New York Cosmos for £20,000 and also Peter Scott to York for £12,000. Notwithstanding the lower values involved, Bingham still incurred a net loss on his dealings in the order of £43,000. The season itself proved to be less than inspiring, the Blues finishing in 11th position.

“A strange inertia hung over our transfer dealings” noted Bob Latchford. The manager and the board had not taken the opportunity to take the previous season as a springboard for a stronger assault on the Championship by recruiting one or two proven quality players. In particular, he highlighted the ongoing goalkeeping problem.

That inertia persisted into the beginning of season 1976-77. Gary Jones and John Connolly were sold to Birmingham City and John Hurst, John McLoughlin and Cliff Marshall were released. However, a number of good homegrown players were beginning to make their mark. These included Ken McNaught, Ronnie Goodlass and David Jones to add to Mick Lyons, who was by now an established member of the squad.

Notwithstanding the inactivity in the transfer market, the Blues made a solid start to the new season. On the opening day, a Bob Latchford brace helped secure a 4-0 away victory at Loftus Road. This result was one of those typical opening day surprises. QPR had finished runners up to Liverpool the previous season and were expected to build on that achievement in 1976-77.

By the time of the first derby game of the season at Anfield, on 16 October, the team were in 3rd place in the table. From that point onwards, their form regressed and, as December arrived, the team had slipped to 11th. They had however fought their way into the Semi-Finals of the League Cup, following a 3-0 victory at Manchester Utd in the Quarter-Finals.

In order to try and arrest the team's poor league form, Bingham moved into the transfer market. He signed two quality and experienced reinforcements in Duncan McKenzie from Anderlecht for £200,000 and Bruce Rioch from Derby for £180,000. The basis of a fairly strong team was emerging based on Lachford, Dobson, Lyons, Mckenzie and Rioch. But the next five league games were either lost or drawn. The only win was at home to Stoke City in the FA Cup. The Board took action having witnessed Bingham’s failure to build on the improvements reflected in the results during the 1974-75 season. He was sacked two days after the victory over Stoke City.

Since his appointment as manager in the summer of 1973, Bingham’s transfer dealings, as part of his quest to construct a Championship-winning side involved the signing of 9 new players and the “sale” of 19 players. On average, therefore, he welcomed 2.5 new players per season into the club and showed the door to an average of 5.4 players. This was a “churn” of staff slightly below that of Harry Catterick.

However, insofar as the purchase of new players is concerned, it mirrored that of his predecessor but without the same return in terms of trophies or league position. I accept that to some degree this is a somewhat unfair comparison as Catterick enjoyed a much longer period in charge and, it might be said, bought more time in which to achieve the ambitions of the club. The overall net cost of transfers to the club arising from Bingham’s tenure was £577,000.

Gordon Lee

Gordon Lee was appointed as Bingham’s successor on 30 January 1977. He was effectively the Board's second choice, Everton having failed to lure Bobby Robson from Ipswich Town.

His first match in charge was the FA Cup Fourth Round replay at Goodison Park against Swindon Town, which was won 2-1. For the remainder of the season, Lee did little by way of tinkering with the first-team squad, given that they were about to embark on a two-legged semi-final with Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup and a successful run to the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup.

The League Cup culminated in a three-match final vs Aston Villa, Everton losing 2-3 in the third game at Old Trafford. All Evertonians will be familiar with the outcome of the two games at Maine Road in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool. The first game was overshadowed by the disgraceful conduct of the referee, Clive Thomas.

Insofar as the rest of the League season was concerned, Lee successfully steered the team away from the relegation zone to finish a respectable 9th, losing only 2 games over that period.

Lee did make a signing in the first month of his tenure, bringing in Mike Pejic from Stoke City for £135,000, to add some steel to the defence.

Before the start of the 1977-78 season, the new manager had the opportunity to take stock of the squad and he moved into the transfer market, making two significant signings. George Wood was signed from Blackpool as first-choice goalkeeper, for £150,000, to hopefully finally resolve the clubs on-going problem in this position. The second signing was Dave Thomas for £200,000 from QPR.

Three players were sold over the same period and a further four later in the year. The outgoings included, Bruce Rioch, Ronnie Goodlass, Mike Bernard, and Ken McNaught. Rioch and McNaught were somewhat surprising given that both were established members of the squad. Rioch departed to Derby County for £150,000 and McNaught to Aston Villa for £200,000.

Lee's first full season in charge of the club saw a marked up-turn in the club’s league form. The season ended with the Blues as runners up in the Championship, winning 22 games and scoring 76 goals. Bob Latchford’s season was particularly prolific, scoring 30 goals and rounding the campaign off with a hat-trick in a 6-0 home win against Chelsea. Latchford readily acknowledged in his book that he benefitted enormously from the service to him provided by Dave Thomas.

Having had a good season, Lee did not want to rest on his laurels, probably recognising the misjudgement made by his predecessor following the 1974-75 season. Over the summer, and through to March 1979, he brought in 7 new players and sold 7. Included in this relative frenzy was the “bizarre” signing of Mick Walsh, a striker from Blackpool, for £330,000 in August 1978, and his subsequent exchange for Peter Eastoe from QPR, in March 1979. Two other key signings were Colin Todd from Derby County for £290,000 and Brian Kidd from Manchester City for £150,000.

Notable sales were Jim Pearson to Newcastle Utd, Mick Buckley to Sunderland and Duncan McKenzie to Chelsea. The gates to Bellefield were beginning to resemble a revolving door.

But season 1978-79 was to prove to be a false dawn. Although finishing 4th in the Championship, they lost to Dukla Prague in the UEFA Cup on the away goals rule, were knocked out by Nottingham Forest in Round 4 of the League Cup, and lost in Round 3 of the FA Cup to Sunderland. The highlight of the season was for many the Andy King spectacular against Liverpool at Goodison Park.

So, at the onset of 1979-80, Gordon Lee set the revolving door at Bellfield spinning once again. Nine new players were drafted in and eight players left. The newcomers included a raft of expensive signings. Indeed all the signings virtually amounted to a new team. The newcomers included:

John Bailey from Blackburn, £300,000
Martin Hodge from Plymouth, £135,000
Gary Stanley from Chelsea, £300,000
Asa Hartford From Nottingham Forest, £500,000
John Gidman from Aston Villa, £650,000
Gary Megson from Plymouth, £200,000
Graeme Sharpe from Dumbarton, £125,000

Notable departures were:

David Jones to Coventry, £250,000
Martin Dobson to Burnley, £100,000
Mike Pejic to Aston Villa, £250,000
Pat Heard to Aston Villa, £150,000
Colin Todd to Birmingham, £275,000
Dave Tomas to Wolves, £420,000

Notwithstanding all this transfer activity, the team finished in 19th position in the League, recording only 9 wins. The FA Cup provided some respite from the poor league form but, having progressed to the semi-finals, the Blues were disappointingly denied a Wembley appearance by second division West Ham, following a replay at Elland Road.

The 1980-81 season began with only one significant signing: Jim McDonough, a goalkeeper from Bolton Wanderers for £250,00. At the same time, the club parted company with George Wood to Arsenal for £140,000, Brian Kidd to Bolton Wanderers for £110,000, and Andy King to QPR for £400,000. The latter would return to the club under the management of Howard Kendall.

The revolving doors to Bellfield were no longer spinning as they had the previous season. It appears that Gordon Lee was now more inclined to put his trust in the club's emerging younger players, such as Kevin Ratcliffe, Gary Megson, Steve McMahon and Graeme Sharp, alongside Mark Higgins, and Mick Lyons, who were by then established members of the squad.

The Blues made a slow start to the new season, which was not surprising given the number of inexperienced players Lee was seeking to blood. However, by early October, Everton were 3rd in the table. But, by the time the season was drawing to a close, the side were fighting to stay outside the relegation zone.

The poor form in the league was in stark contrast to a good run in the FA Cup during which they knocked out a string of much stronger First Division sides: Arsenal 2-0 at home, Liverpool 2-1 at home and Southampton 1-0 at home in a replayed game, having drawn 0-0 at the Dell. Everton were unable to progress beyond the 6th round being knocked out by Manchester City in a replay at Maine Road following a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

After a 0-0 draw at Wolves on the final day of the season, the team finished in 15th position and only 3 points from the “drop”. Their poor league form was mirrored by a sharp decline in attendances at Goodison Park.

Gordon Lee was sacked two days after the Wolves game. During the course of his 4½-year tenure, he signed 23 players and sold, loaned-out or released 40. On average, he welcomed 5 new players each season and showed the door to some 9. These figures compared to the record of Harry Catterick tend to show that the club had become less sure-footed when delving into the transfer market. When looking at the transfer dealings in 1979-80, it is difficult to see what strategy the manager was adopting in buying and selling players, and that was to a great extent reflected in the team's poor league form over his final two seasons.

Under Gordon Lee's management, there was a net loss on dealings in the order of £1,839,500. This was over three times worse than the costs incurred under Billy Bingham, albeit that Bingham was manager for a shorter period.

Following Gordon Lee's dismissal, the board appointed Howard Kendall as the new player-manager. He had quickly established a reputation for himself at Blackburn having taken the club from Division 3 to the fringes of Division 1 in two seasons.

Following the appointment, the Chairman of the Everton Shareholders Association noted that “the board simply cannot afford to get it wrong this time”. Not surprising given the net spend under Gordon Lee's tenure which was accompanied by declining attendances. The door to Bellfield could no longer keep revolving at the same cost and speed.

To Conclude

Both Billy Bingham and Gordon Lee set out to re-establish Everton as a club that would always be in the mix to win the Championship or one of the two domestic Cup Competitions. In addition to that, there was the recognition that the club should also look to compete in one of the two European Club competitions that were becoming increasingly important.

Both took the club close to securing a first Championship win since Harry Catterick’s side of 1970. Both failed in similar fashion by failing to secure sufficient points at the “business end” of seasons 1974-75 and 1977-78. Gordon Lee did steer the club to two FA Cup Semi-Finals. The first in 1977 (as well as the final of the League Cup in the same year), albeit with Billy Bingham’s squad, and the second in 1980. Appearances in Europe in the UEFA Cup were patchy and unproductive.

Gordon Lee's efforts proved to be far more expensive than Billy Bingham’s and, towards the end of his tenure, his transfer policy had an almost scattergun approach. Neither could however take on the mantle of being someone who was sure-footed when it came to buying players. In fact, Gordon Lee, it might be said, was the manager who got the best out of two of Bingham’s better signings – Bob Latchford and Martin Dobson.


All the figures relating to the buying and selling of players and results/ league positions are as set out on the web-site efcstatto.

Books referred to were:
Colin Harvey’s Everton Secrets
A Different Road by Bob Latchford

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Reader Comments (20)

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Phil Parker
2 Posted 30/05/2020 at 23:31:42
During these lockdown days, I have been wondering how it all went wrong for our club post-1970.

Obviously Harry's illness was a big factor, but I identified four massive mistakes. Not going into the reasons, what happened is nothing we can change now.

First was not securing the signature of Archie Gemmill, who went on to win the League title with two different clubs. A real combative driving force in midfield right through the 1970s.

Next comes the goalkeeper situation. Peter Shilton should have been signed, whoever scouted the two keepers we suffered in the 70s, one for a British goalkeeper transfer record, has a lot to answer for, and as the richest club in the country during that time I have no idea why it was not rectified.

Selling Howard Kendall in 1974 was just madness, far and away our finest midfield player then, and still the best when he came back as player-manager in 1981.

Finally, the two managers mentioned in this article were not of sufficient calibre to occupy the position of Everton manager, and led to ten wasted years. All these mistakes should have been avoided. The game at the highest level, which is where our great club should always be, is about top players and good management.

During the period covered by this article, the high standards set by Everton right through our history, but especially in the 1960s, were allowed to slip badly. As I say, I know the reasons these mistakes happened. Not interested. They should not have been allowed to happen.

Martin Nicholls
3 Posted 31/05/2020 at 10:46:17
Phil, I agree that losing Howard Kendall was a huge blow; however, if I remember correctly, Birmingham insisted that there would be no deal for Bob Latchford unless Kendall was a part of it. Bingham's judgement must therefore have been that Latch was more important to his team-building plans than was Kendall.

Fans could debate that all day long but I assume from your use of the word "madness" that you would not have gone for that deal? My view at the time was that we shouldn't have gone for it as I agree with your opinion as to how good a player Howard was (and remained).

At the end of the Latchford years and with hindsight, maybe it was the best deal? I know we won nothing with Latch but would that also have been the case if we'd have kept Howard and not done that deal? Who knows?

Another great article, Sas, but Smallman was David, not Mick!

Jay Wood

4 Posted 31/05/2020 at 14:32:48
Thank you Alasdair.

This is an extremely well-researched, compiled and written. A thoroughly entertaining read.

I was never inspired by Bingham or his functional brand of football. I still recall with a wry smile in that season when we blew the title with the two losses to eventually relegated Carlisle as you mention the match report from a dour 1-0 win on Derby's notious mud bath at Pride Park.

At half-time the home groundsmen would come on with their 'stomper' tools in a vain attempt to flatten back into place the worst of the pot holes.

So dire was the football on show, a report I read stated. 'As the players took their leave at the interval, the groundsmen took to the pitch to batten down the remaining sods!'

Gordon Lee's Everton had some grand moments and of course it gave us the formidable Thomas - Latchford combo. But increasingly the football also became more attritional.

I'm also wary of a coach seemingly unwilling to learn from other football cultures, whilst Everton manager Lee said of the 1978 Argentina World Cup that there was nothing he could learn from it.

But as your article neatly shows, both managers and the club came tantalisingly close to landing silverware under their tenures.

A case of 'nearly but not quite', which lent to our gradual fall from grace, signing some good players and some duds, letting go of good players at the wrong time.

Now if the board hadn't shot its mouth off about appointing Bobby Robson after the Cat, before he had a chance to tell his Ipswich board as agreed, causing BR to change his mind, we could have had a very, VERY different story...

An excellent article, Alasdair. Well done.

David Currie
5 Posted 31/05/2020 at 18:26:01
Great article.

Had we got Bobby Robson and Peter Shilton we would have won things in the '70s. We went close but never had a top keeper.

Phil Parker
6 Posted 31/05/2020 at 22:33:48
In money terms Martin, we spent £550,000 on Bernard, Dobson and Clements, trying, and failing badly, to replace Howard, who was valued at £180,000 in the deal. I reckon madness is about right. The idea that Freddie Goodwin could dictate terms to the club we were then with the richest man in the country at the helm also brings that word to mind. Goodwin obviously knew a midfield player when he saw one! As I said, this was one of the things that just should not have happened. Bad decisions that took a heavy toll on us. NSNO.
Dave Abrahams
7 Posted 01/06/2020 at 11:27:44
He was a lovely man off the field. Me and my son Tony spent a good 20 minutes talking to him at Aston Villa after he had retired. We had a good chat about football in general. He never spoke about his own spell in the game. A nice-easy going genuine fella.
Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 01/06/2020 at 11:31:16
Sorry, talking about Bob Latchford in the above post (7)
Alex Lee
9 Posted 01/06/2020 at 12:41:40
Great read, Alasdair,

But brought back a couple of nightmares!!!

I was at both the shambolic Carlisle games and I still break out in a sweat when I think of them. I think if we had won one and drawn the other, we would have won the league?

I was talking to Big Bob a couple of years ago in Liverpool and he still remembers those two games as losing us the title. Another interesting thing he told me: When he signed for Everton, he was told "We are signing Peter Shilton from Stoke shortly." I wounder what would have happened if we had done?

Oh well...

Anyway, good read. COYB

Dennis Stevens
10 Posted 01/06/2020 at 17:28:38
I'm sure the chances of it happening would have been somewhere between nil & zero, but what a smart move it would have been if our Board had persuaded Bob Paisley to step out from behind Shankly's shadow a year before he inherited the top job at Anfield.

I wouldn't claim that he would have necessarily delivered the same success that he brought to those luvable reds, but I'm sure he would have been successful – with the added bonus that we would have severely disrupted their succession plans too!

Terry White
11 Posted 01/06/2020 at 18:49:24
A couple of observations. Martin Dobson was a classy and lovely player, (Phil, #6). To categorise him alongside Dave Clements and Mick Bernard is to to do him a vast disservice.

In signing Rioch we got a left footed player who played on the right side of midfield and cut in from the right, scoring a number of goals for Derby from that source. We played him generally on the left side of midfield, thereby neutralising his effectiveness for us.

When we signed him Colin Todd was considered a part of the best central defence in the country alongside Roy McFarland. Todd was an exceptionally good footballer. For reasons best known to Lee, we played him at right back preferring Billy Wright in central defence.

Steve Carse
12 Posted 01/06/2020 at 19:14:53
Pat Heard - now there was a young player who looked like he'd make it. Strong, and calm on the ball. Proved himself very capable at Villa.
Dennis Stevens
13 Posted 01/06/2020 at 19:22:54
Didn't Ken McNaught go on to win the League & European Cup with Villa?
Andy Riley
14 Posted 01/06/2020 at 20:10:45
As I recall, it was Bobby Robson who was first choice to replace Bingham but a certain Don Revie was the first choice to replace Harry Catterick. That was all set to happen as I recall as John Moores offered him a fortune only to be scuppered by some MP highlighting Ted Heath's incomes policy which dictated that a new arrival in a job could not be paid more than the person being replaced.
Dave Abrahams
15 Posted 01/06/2020 at 20:12:20
Terry (11), spot on there regarding Colin Todd. As you say, Colin was a really outstanding defender before he came to Everton. At Everton, I have always argued that he wasn't that impressive, for the very reason you stated: he was played out of position.
John McFarlane Snr
16 Posted 01/06/2020 at 20:24:04
Hi Alasdair, an excellent article, but I hope you don't consider me pedantic, by pointing out that Harry Catterick didn't bring Brian Labone through the ranks at Goodison. Labone made his debut against Birmingham City at St Andrew's in March 1958 and Catterick became manager of Everton in April 1961.

I repeat, it was an excellent contribution and a really good read; we can only hope that the present regime don't follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.

Paul Birmingham
17 Posted 01/06/2020 at 20:46:38
Colin Todd was a class act as was Mike Pejic.

Looking back it was as they say now, sadly even 40 plus years ago, we were asymptomatic and always blew it at the big games, league, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup.

The FA Cup Semi-Final first leg, and even the replay, it's as if the team by default conjured up defeat when we should have won.

Hopefully under Carlo, the mentality will improve.

All stay safe and well.

Paul Birmingham
18 Posted 01/06/2020 at 20:48:54
Sorry, I was referring to the 1980 FA Cup Semi-Final, above, I've not mentioned 1977, as I've discussed it on numerous pots over the years and the rest is history. Thank you.
Alasdair Jones
19 Posted 02/06/2020 at 13:22:31
John @16,

Hi John, good to hear from you. Yes, you are right and a bit of a sloppy assumption on my part. Labone got himself established in the side in season 1959-60. By the time Catterick was appointed, he was first-choice centre-half and indeed Jimmy Gabriel was also in the side by then. Maybe I was giving Catterick credit for keeping him in the side.

Always good to have your comments, John.

Martin @3

You are right regarding Smallman's Christian name. I have administered a slap on the wrist.

Glad you enjoyed the post.

Roy Johnstone
20 Posted 04/06/2020 at 20:26:59
Cracking read, Alasdair. Gordon Lee's team was 2 players short of brilliance. In the words of Peter Taylor: 'With Shilton, we had a chance; without him, we didn't.'

We also needed a grinder like John McGovern in midfield to allow Dobbo to do his thing. So near and yet so far.

I can't comment on Bingham as I was a wee boy. Bob Latchford's summary in A Different Road suggests that training was attritional. One of those managers who felt players were hungrier for the ball if they didn't have it during the week. Since proved to be total bollocks.

Pekka Harvilahti
21 Posted 06/06/2020 at 22:36:51
I think we should have tried to get Brian Clough as he was arguably the most innovative manager back then.

In 1977-78, Nottingham Forest under Clough (with Shilton and Gemmill) were too strong and clever for Gordon Lee, who I guess trusted more on old-time football.

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