This Week – 29 Years Ago

David Hardman 07/12/2022 15comments  |  Jump to last

Bit late with this one – it might be better not clashing with an England game though. Otherwise the 10 people who normally read these might not see it.


Something a bit different this week, in which I’ll give some context to the circumstances around the departure of Howard Kendall Mk II, which happened after the home game against Southampton on 4 December 1993.


We all know the story. Everton won 1-0. The victory put them in a respectable 9th position. After the match, Howard Kendall found out that the board had blocked his plans to sign Dion Dublin from Manchester United, and he resigned.


After his departure, the team plunged down the table and ended up only surviving on the last day. The team were still struggling at the wrong end of the table when he returned in 1997. Yet another last-day escape followed, while Dion Dublin, now with Coventry, was earning England caps and was on course for the Golden Boot.


With this information, it’s easy to project the fantasy of what might have been. A top 10 team, augmented by the goals of Dion Dublin, with Kendall staying in charge, would have pushed on and maybe even been on their way to repeating the success of his first spell in charge, with the future Homes Under The Hammer presenter fulfilling the “Andy Gray” role.


The bare facts, though, don’t tell the full story.


Saying that they won the match and were 9th in the league would imply that the team were chugging along nicely, winning regularly and on course to challenge for the European places. Actually, prior to this game, Everton had won only one of their previous nine league matches.


Back in August, I wrote about Everton’s bright start to the previous season (92-93), which soon fell to pieces as the team found themselves hovering dangerously near the drop zone by the time 1992 was over.


The autumn of 1993 was following a similar pattern. And although they won this match (their first home win since the Ward/Cottee derby in mid-September, incidentally), it’s worth noting that Southampton, under Ian Branfoot, were arguably the worst team in the Premier League, on their way down without a whimper before Alan Ball took charge and inspired Matt LeTissier into the form of his life.


Everton won at the Dell at the beginning of the season, scoring 2 early goals and cruising to victory, with Kendall himself that we’d “dominated the game from start to finish”. They were far less convincing in this game, even with home advantage. In fact, it can be argued that only beating them 1-0 could almost be considered a disappointment – put it another way, if they hadn’t won, questions would be asked. And, to reiterate, this was only their second win in 10, and served as temporary respite from the slide they were on.


Having said all that, even I can’t deny that their form rapidly deteriorated even further under the temporary leadership of Jimmy Gabriel, picking up just one point from the next 7 matches. Looking at the fixtures during Gabriel’s time in charge, though, it’s difficult to see that results would have been that much better during this time if Kendall had stayed on.


West Ham at home on New Year’s Day 1994 is the only game that I can see the team winning had it not been for the uncertainty and lack of confidence from the managerial limbo. Otherwise, the opponents were either riding high and on a good run (Newcastle, Blackburn), or recent meetings had shown they had the measure of Everton since Kendall’s return (Chelsea and the two Sheffield clubs).


There was also a loss at Man City, Kendall’s and now Peter Reid’s former club, and Maine Road had become a difficult place to pick up points since the latter was replaced by Brian Horton.


Of course, there’s no telling what impact Dion Dublin would have made had the signing gone through. Which leads nicely to giving some context to the board’s decision not to allow that transfer to happen.


During his second spell, Kendall’s track record with strikers – both buying and selling – had been largely unsuccessful at this point. Mo Johnston, in particular, had arrived for big money 2 years earlier and was now nowhere near the first team and ended up being released from his contract before the season was out.


Paul Rideout had also been purchased as a goalscorer but was only managing half a dozen or so goals a season. As I said when reviewing 92-93 though, the seemingly journeyman striker would prove his worth the season after Kendall left.


The only forward Kendall signed who had flourished was Peter Beardsley – and how – but even this signing was only made after his then club, Liverpool, beat Everton to the signature of Dean Saunders. And after a quieter second season, Kendall accepted Newcastle’s approach to take him back to Tyneside in 1993, where he was now having a terrific season.


Another player he let go, Mike Newell, who I’ve also mentioned recently, was sold to Blackburn within a year of Kendall’s return, and ended 1992-93 with more top flight goals than any Everton striker, and over 20 in all comps, despite not taking penalties and often playing in a supporting role.


Against this, it’s understandable that the board were reluctant to sanction yet more money – probably a similar figure to the Johnston fee – for a striker who’d suffered a season-long injury shortly after joining Man Utd and had barely played since. By cancelling the transfer, though, it did send a clear message that they no longer trusted their manager's judgement in the transfer market, and to any manager who puts dignity and integrity ahead of money, it leaves only one option.


It’s possible, though, that there were other factors at play. A while ago, Patrick Murphy did an excellent weekly piece, in the style of this but better, of what was happening on the corresponding week down the years. When December 1993 came up, he observed that, a few days earlier, treble-chasing Manchester United had won 2-0 at Goodison in the last 16 of the League Cup (and presumably, this is when discussions over the transfer of Dublin began).


With a title challenge clearly a no-go, this defeat meant the end of yet another opportunity to win a first trophy since returning; it meant yet another cup exit before the quarter-final stage (the last time they’d reached the quarters was by winning that unforgettable 5th Round against Liverpool in 1991, shortly after his return, when they also reached the Full Members Cup Final).


As Patrick Murphy commented, it was a demonstration in the flesh of just how far behind Everton were, and after over 3 years back at the helm, they were arguably further away from the best than they were on his arrival.


It’s possible that this may have also played into his decision, or at least made the Dion Dublin thing the last straw rather than the only reason.


Intentionally or not though, leaving when he did – going out with a win, leaving the team seemingly in a respectable position, and given the career Dion Dublin would go on to have – well, as his opposite number a few nights earlier, Alex Ferguson, showed in 2013, knowing exactly when to walk away is an act of great judgement. 

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Reader Comments (15)

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Paul Traill
1 Posted 09/12/2022 at 06:21:10
Loving these articles David, keep them coming.
Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 09/12/2022 at 14:58:43
It had echoes of 1997 David. Joe Royle resigning because the board blocked his move for for Tore Andre Flo. Okay, in hindsight, Flo wasn't prolific for Chelsea in their rotational system, but neither was Duncan Ferguson. Flo might have worked in a Joe Royle team. If I recall, it would have been a double signing from Brann, but I don't recall the name.

You'd think the board would back a manager who had won a trophy, signed Kanchelskis (probably our last genuinely top class signing subject to debate?) Speed (quality player) and Barmby (very good at the time for us)?

Of course not, so Joe walked.

Of course not! I don't want to turn this into the obvious conversation, but evidence if we needed it, that manager's are always to blame.

And thanks for reminding me that the Everton October / Autumn isn't a new phenomenon!! It's practically an annual occurrence.

Dennis Stevens
3 Posted 09/12/2022 at 15:02:27
I don't always comment, but always enjoy reading these trips down memory lane.
John Hughes
4 Posted 09/12/2022 at 15:28:31
Danny - pretty sure the other player from Brann you allude to was Claus Eftevaag. Flo was the main target, Eftevaag was a makeweight in the proposed deal. As it was, Flo wasn’t convinced the move was for him and Eftevaag failed his medical anyway! A typical Everton tale, sadly.

Phil Hamer
5 Posted 09/12/2022 at 16:23:01
I love these articles David, especially you go back to 1987-95 when I could barely think of anything other than Everton!

During Howard Kendall's second spell, we always looked incisive and fluid in August but then sank into a swamp of dross by mid winter. I often wonder whether Kendall was using exactly the same training, fitness and coaching techniques in 1993 as he had been in 1985, and so we were simply less fit than most other teams.

Perhaps as a manager generally, he had gotten stuck in the eighties while the likes of Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalgleish were able to move with the times and even set new standards?

John Raftery
6 Posted 10/12/2022 at 00:45:04
I am also enjoying these articles, if not some of the memories they revive. I remember standing at the bar in Lulu's celebrating the 1-0 win when the news came through Howard had resigned. Along with the board's refusal to sign Dion Dublin my immediate reaction was we were now in big trouble.

The challenge for the board was to find both a new manager and a big striker. Mike Walker and Brett Angell were not the solutions. Luckily we survived that season by the narrowest of margins.

The first weekend of December 1993 was made even sadder on the Sunday when we heard the great Roy Vernon had died at the age of 56.

Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 10/12/2022 at 07:04:16
Brett Angell John, did you have to?!!!

That season makes last one look like a canter. We could afford to go to the Emirates and almost have a party in the sun!!

Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 11/12/2022 at 15:34:32
I go along with Patrick Murphy ‘s take on what was happening at Everton at the time of Howard's walk out and resignation the second time he had left Everton. The first time, under different circumstances, we'd just won the league title.

The truth, to me, was that Howard had four brilliant seasons.out of six the first time round, he never ever reached those heights again as a manager with various clubs and the reason was his illness, known to some at the beginning but well known to many at the time he came for the third disastrous effort.

Incidentally, Dion Dublin played for Coventry City in the last game of that season when we scraped a 1-1 draw to escape relegation, and Howard was replaced during the close season.

Howard was a great player for the Blues, I could talk about him all day as a player and he gave us our pride back as a manager with those four great seasons. But it would have been better for Howard, and us fans, if he had chosen to stay away the second and third times.

Tony Hill
9 Posted 11/12/2022 at 15:56:27
Where is Patrick Murphy? He was an excellent contributor on this site. I hope he is well.
Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 11/12/2022 at 18:36:42
Tony (9),

Yes, I thought Patrick always had his eye on the ball when posting about Everton.

Unfortunately he hasn't posted for a couple of years now.

Andy Meighan
11 Posted 11/12/2022 at 20:18:59
John 4. You bailed me out there with the other player in the Flo deal. Don't think I'd have got that in one of the random quiz questions we normally have after the game. No googling allowed of course.

And John 5, I didn't realise Roy Vernon was only 56 when he died. Shocked me that, was unfortunate he was a little bit before my time but my dad said he was a great player. Love these articles.

Brian Wilkinson
12 Posted 13/12/2022 at 16:44:35
Along with Flo and Eftevaagk, I'm pretty sure he wanted to bring Barry Horne back as well; I could be wrong.

Another great read, David.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
13 Posted 13/12/2022 at 17:06:55
Dave, never mind not coming back, if it wasn't for the thugs across the park, he would never have had a reason to leave.

Oh wait, sorry, they were Chelsea fans infiltrating them at Heysel – nothing to do with that lot.

Dale Self
14 Posted 13/12/2022 at 17:11:06
David, make that thirteen now. Good stuff which is just before my Everton birth in '94. These have been good with some fantastic context. Keep it going.

Damn it Phil, okay fourteen

Ste Traverse
15 Posted 13/12/2022 at 19:54:00
I was one of the 13,000 diehards that pitched up at Goodison for that 1-0 over Southampton the day Howard Kendall quit his second stint. I remember the day quite well, I was only 17 then and didn't think I was going to get to the game but managed to negotiate an early dart from the job I had then.

There was so few there you almost see the word 'EVERTON' in the seats in the Upper Bullens from my spec in the Gwladys Street.

We played okay and deserved to win. I recall chatting to some Saints fans after the game on the bus back to Lime Street who said their best defender on the day had been the woodwork as we'd hit the post and crossbar several times.

No mobiles or social media in those days so it wasn't until I got home after 6 pm that I found out Kendall had quit. It was a huge shock that I didn't see coming and what lay ahead in the next month with Jimmy Gabriel in caretaker charge was arguably the most traumatic period in the club's recent history.

The club was utterly rudderless and not helped by a clueless board, one our current Chairman was very much part of. December 1993 really were dark dark days for this club.

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