Extracted and slightly adapted from my blogs on the 1983/84 FA Cup, a look back on Everton's progress in the competition, and how winning the trophy provided the foundations for the success that followed under the sadly departed Howard Kendall.
The recent passing of Howard Kendall reminded many Evertonians of the glory days of the past, a time when the club battled with their local rivals to gain national supremacy, as Everton legends were made and trophies were won in a unforgettable few seasons. But before the Everton dawn came terrible darkness. By the end of 1983, Kendall looked to be on borrowed time.
Just a week before Everton faced a tricky FA Cup third round tie at Stoke, just 13,659 fans turned up to watch an abysmal 0-0 draw against Coventry at Goodison Park, with protest leaflets handed out by fans plainly spelling out their feelings towards the chairman and manager: "Kendall and Carter must go. 26,000 stay-away fans can't be wrong".
Everton were 16th in the league, and apparently going nowhere. Defeat at Stoke and/or Oxford in the forthcoming FA Cup and Milk Cup ties did not bear thinking about for Kendall.
Stoke City 0 Everton 2: The tide turns
Legend has it that Kendall, noting the 10,000 or so Evertonians that had made the journey to the Victoria Ground, opened the dressing room window to make the players fully aware of their responsibilities. "That's your team talk. Don't let those fans down".
Goals from Andy Gray and Alan Irvine started the rags to ribbons story for Kendall and his team, as the road to Wembley began. Just eleven days later came that Kevin Brock back pass in the Milk Cup quarter final at Third Division Oxford, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Read more about the FA Cup third round here:
Everton 0 Gillingham 0: Stuttering
Gillingham 0 Everton 0: Nev and Cas combine to keep Kendall safe
Gillingham 0 Everton 3: Job done
Kendall was still not fully out of the woods though, and a defeat against Third Division Gillingham may well have tested the resolve of the Everton board. A 0-0 draw at Goodison saw the visitors denied by a goal line clearance, crossbar and Neville Southall, and the Everton keeper would play a huge part in the replay at Priestfield, as Kendall breathed a huge sigh of relief.
With the replay deep into extra-time, Gillingham's Tony Cascarino found himself one-on-one with the Welsh keeper, Big Nev standing between him and a shock that may have led to an awkward meeting between Kendall and his employers. Describing the incident in his Full Time autobiography, Cascarino reveals the doubts that were flooding his mind as he found himself through on goal:
"Any striker worth his salt will put this in the net"
"This is your big chance"
"It's not as easy as it looks, you know"
"You're shitting yourself, aren't you?"
"You're going to miss"
Cascarino fluffed his lines, and would often be greeted warmly by Kendall in future meetings, with the Everton manager reminding him of the night the striker saved his job. Everton won the second replay 3-0, with Andy Gray playing a pivotal role in the goals scored by Kevin Sheedy (2) and Adrian Heath. Things were beginning to take shape.
Read more about the FA Cup fourth round here:
Everton 3 Shrewsbury 0: Reid strengthens the spine
The comfortable fifth round win over Shrewsbury kept the Everton juggernaut moving along. Earlier in the week they had beaten Aston Villa 2-0 in the first leg of the Milk Cup semi-final, and their double assault on Wembley continued, with Peter Reid putting in the kind of display that would become his trademark over the next few seasons.
Finally putting his injury nightmare behind him, Reid was now an important part of the Everton spine down the middle, though in truth players such as Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven and Kevin Sheedy showed the quality down Everton's flanks too.
The Times' David Powell penned the following tribute to Reid after his Shrewsbury performance: "Watching Peter Reid on Saturday was like trying to follow an ex-convict on his first few hours out of jail. Determined to make up for lost opportunity, Reid could not stay still for a minute. A moment's inattention and you were likely to miss a piece of devilish improvisation".
In a remarkable few seasons Reid would reach four Wembley finals, win two League titles, a European Cup Winners' Cup, the PFA Footballer of the Year in 1985, and play for England during the 1986 World Cup. Talk about making up for lost time.
Read more about the FA Cup fifth round here:
Notts County 1 Everton 2: Gray stoops to conquer
The Everton revival under Howard Kendall showed no signs of slowing. Already at Wembley in the Milk Cup, Everton had only suffered one defeat in 1984 alone (the second leg of the Milk Cup semi final against Aston Villa) and had recently held Liverpool at Goodison Park, a match in which Graeme Sharp missed a penalty.
Southall would again play his part against a Notts County side that would be relegated come the end of the season, as Everton managed to progress in filthy conditions. Andy Gray's below sea-level header won the match; it would not be the only header he would score in the Cup run that would be talked about for years.
As Everton marched on, Kendall must have pinched himself, surely pondering just how much his fortunes had changed in such a short space of time. A little over two months after the Coventry nightmare, Everton had reached a Wembley final, were in the last four of the FA Cup, and were unbeaten in the League and on their way to a respectable 7th placed finish. Times they were a changin.
Read more about the FA Cup sixth round here:
Southampton 0 Everton 1: Inchy sends Everton back to Wembley
Throughout Everton's Cup exploits one thing remained permanent: the role played by Neville Southall in the many nip and tuck matches that littered Kendall's route to Wembley. The Welshman was again in fine form as Double-chasing Southampton were kept at bay during a nerve-wracking semi-final at Highbury. Clive White of The Times stated that the Welshman was "the biggest reason why they (Everton) will be reliving Wembley".
Adrian Heath's 117th minute winner sent Everton to Wembley again, their fans invading the pitch in jubilation, as Highbury's lack of perimeter fences was questioned (the club never hosted an FA Cup semi-final again in the standing era). The police may have had a job on their hands separating rival supporters come the end of the match, but Kendall's position was now a lot more comfortable. He was now just one win away from scooping Everton's first trophy in 14 years.
"Liverpool had better get used to sharing the spotlight on Merseyside from now on," White wrote afterwards. He was not wrong. After years in the wilderness and living in the shadow of their successful brother, Everton were threatening to emerge as a force in English football. But first they would need a trophy to show for their efforts.
Read more about the FA Cup semi-finals here:
Watford 0 Everton 2: Gray gives Watford the blues
The 1984 final may not have been a classic, yet try telling that to any Everton fans who had suffered in the years leading up to the FA Cup triumph. Graeme Sharp would open the scoring, although it would be Gray's controversial clincher that would take up most column inches in the few days that followed. Trevor Steven's fine match saw him get the better of young Neil Price on a number of occasions, and in the 51st minute his cross led to Gray and Watford keeper Steve Sherwood contesting the ball in front of goal.
Falling backwards, Sherwood appeared to have gathered the cross, yet Gray leapt above Steve Terry and made contact with the Watford keeper's hands and as the ball apologetically crept over the line, all eyes turned to referee John Hunting. Hunting awarded the goal as Sherwood sat on the Wembley turf astounded at the decision, contemplating what he would refer to as "the worst moment of my career". Watford manager Graham Taylor was furious, as Watford's chances disappeared instantly.
After Kevin Ratcliffe collected the Cup and the celebrations began - complete with John Bailey's comic hat and glasses - the press started to cast their eyes to the future. Stuart Jones highlighted that "Everton's horizon, so dark in December, is also dazzlingly bright", with Frank McGhee stating "It will be remembered joyously by those who love Everton, as the day this great club emerged again from the gloomy shadows cast by their conquering neighbours."
Certainly Howard Kendall was in full agreement. "What I really want Everton to be is the best. What I really want to win is the championship. The FA Cup is tremendous for the fans and the players. But for me it is just a start. It gives us a major trophy. It puts us at Wembley against Liverpool again in the Charity Shield. Most of all, it puts us into Europe where we should always be".
Read more about the FA Cup final here:
The 1984 FA Cup did prove to be a turning point in Everton's history and the fortunes of Howard Kendall, just as many had predicted at the time. The 1984/85 season would see the League Championship won along with the European Cup Winners' Cup, and only Norman Whiteside's brilliance denied the club a treble.
The following year was one of frustration; Everton were denied a crack at the European Cup by the Heysel-related ban, and Kendall and his men would be pipped at the post by Liverpool in both League and Cup. Yet in 1987 the title was regained and the future looked bright.
But that was as good as it got for Kendall and his time at Everton. Restricted by the European ban, Kendall's frustration led to his departure to Athletic Bilbao, and he was unable to recreate the previous magic in subsequent spells back at Goodison. Never go back is a popular saying, but Everton's chiefs could hardly be criticised for hoping that Kendall could rewind to 1984-87 once more.
A glorious era where Liverpool were briefly knocked off their perch, as Kendall led Everton to four major trophies and made Wembley a second home. A man who put the smile back on the faces on Everton's supporters, who gave them trophies, success, Bayern Munich at home, and built teams containing a whole host of Everton legends. Only one Englishman has won the League title since Kendall's second triumph in 1987 (Howard Wilkinson in 1991/92). It's little wonder that the achievements of Howard Kendall should be celebrated with so much fondness as we remember the life and times of a managerial great.
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