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Wednesday, 2 November 2011


The Start Of The Premier League Era

On 31 October 1990, Everton occupied the 18th of 20 places in the First Division. Only the bottom two clubs would be going down this season, as the top flight would be expanding to 22 clubs for 1991–92. However, it was still Everton's worst start to a league season, and manager Colin Harvey paid for these shortcomings with his job.

Everton had struggled in the first few months of the 1990-91 season and manager Colin Harvey was sacked. The club sought to bring back Howard Kendall for a second time as manager, and in November Kendall left Manchester City and returned to Everton, along with Harvey who became assistant manager.

A Return To Wembley Proves To Be A False Dawn

Things had looked liked they had improved when Everton returned to Wembley for the Zenith Data Systems Cup final, only to lose 4-1 in extra time against Crystal Palace. Action in the First Division saw Everton climb out of the relegation zone to see Kendall guide Everton to a ninth place finish.

The 1991 close season saw the departure of Everton hero Graeme Sharp but the attack was bolstered by Peter Beardsley who was signed from Liverpool and Mo Johnston from Glasgow Rangers.

Despite these changes to the squad, Everton continued to decline in 1991-92 finishing 12th - their lowest finish for more than a decade. 1992-93 was the first year of the new FA Premier League, which took over from the Football League First Division as the highest division of English football. However Everton finished 13th and the pressure grew upon Howard Kendall.

The opening stages of the 1993-94 season looked to be the turning point for Howard Kendall in his second spell as Everton manager, as they topped the Premier League after winning their opening three games. However, a dismal run of form followed over the next few weeks, and Kendall walked out on Everton in early December after they had plummeted down the league to occupy a mid table position.

The Mike Walker Era (1994) The Great Escape

In January 1994 Everton found a successor to Howard Kendall when they recruited Mike Walker from a Norwich City side that had recently finished third in the Premier League and eliminated Bayern Munich from the UEFA Cup. Everton would later be fined £75,000 by the Premier League for "indirectly inducing" Walker to leave Norwich.

He was now faced with a challenge of saving Everton from relegation from a top flight which they had so far been members of for 40 successive seasons and been champions of just seven years earlier.

That Wimbledon Game

On the final day of the season needed to beat Wimbledon at Goodison Park in order to stay up. Wimbledon took a 2–0 lead, but Everton pulled off a dramatic escape act thanks to Hans Segers to win 3–2 and help send Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic down with already-relegated Swindon Town.

Everton made a poor start to the 1994-95 season and were bottom of the league after 14 games, having won just once (and even then not until their 13th match), and Walker was sacked in November 1994.

The Joe Royle Era (1994-1997) The Dogs Of War

Within days of Walker's sacking, former Everton player Joe Royle had returned to the club as manager after 12 years in charge of Oldham Athletic. His key priority was to save Everton from relegation.

The Arrival Of Duncan Ferguson The Loan Ranger!

He made a few changes to the squad in his first few months as manager, including making striker Duncan Ferguson's loan move permanent for a club record £4million. Everton confirmed their Premier League survival in the penultimate game of the season when they won 1-0 at already-relegated Ipswich Town.

But the biggest success of Everton's season came on 20 May 1995, when a Paul Rideout goal gave them a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

The brilliant goalkeeping of Neville Southall also played a crucial part in Everton's first major trophy win for eight years; he made several thrilling saves in the game, including two late shots from 20-year-old Manchester United forward Paul Scholes.

Andrei, Andrei Kanchelskis... Andrei Kanchelskis... Andrei...

Royle bolstered Everton's squad for the 1995-96 season, with a club record £5million move for Manchester United's unsettled Ukrainian winger Andrei Kanchelskis.

He was determined to build on the FA Cup glory with a good run in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup however runs in the cup competitions were short lived.

Everton's league form was vastly improved as they finished sixth and were narrowly pipped to a UEFA Cup place by Arsenal on the final day of the season.

It had been a great season for Kanchelskis though, as he scored 16 goals and continued to live up to his reputation as the finest right-winger in the Premier League.

 However, he defected to Fiorentina halfway through the next season. Everton slowly fell apart without Kanchelskis and manager Royle stepped down as manager on 27 March 1997 with a relegation battle creeping upon the club.

Veteran defender and captain Dave Watson took over as caretaker until the end of the season, helping confirm Everton's survival, but he did not want the job permanently and the hunt was now on for a new manager.

The Third Howard Kendall Era (1997-98)

After the end of the 1996-97 season, Everton approached Howard Kendall (by now at Sheffield United) following rejections from Bobby Robson and Andy Gray about a third spell as the club's manager. Kendall returned and there was much hype as the new season began about whether Kendall could still work his old magic and re-establish Everton as one of England's top playing sides.

Farrelly's Goal Against Coventry!

However, the 1997-98 campaign was a difficult one. As in 1994, Everton's survival was not assured until the last game of the season and only achieving survival on goal difference at the expense of Bolton Wanderers. Off the field, the club was in a major financial crisis at this time which would not be resolved until 1999.

Kendall's third spell as manager ended in June 1998 when he was sacked, and it seemed likely that chairman Peter Johnson would turn to Manchester United assistant manager Brian Kidd as his successor, but the job went to Walter Smith instead.

The Walter Smith Era

Successful former Rangers manager Walter Smith took over from Kendall in the summer of 1998 and big things were expected along with some high profile signings but his first season saw another relegation battle, and only a late run of four wins from their final six games saw them earn safety a 14th place finish.

During the 1998-99 season striker Duncan Ferguson was sold to Newcastle United without Smith's knowledge. The resulting outrage from supporters regarding the manner of the sale lead to chairman Peter Johnson stepping down from his post.

Uncle Bill Takes Control

Theatrical producer Bill Kenwright bought control of the club and installed Philip Carter as the new chairman. Smith's chances of success were hampered by continuing financial constraints which had also contributed to the club's decline in previous years.

1999-2000 proved to be a better campaign, and the club looked to have an outside chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup for much of the season. 

In the reverse of the previous year though, Everton fell apart in the final months of the campaign, claiming just two victories from their last twelve games and finishing in 13th, just one place higher than the previous year. 2000-01 saw a major step back however, and the club once again fell into a relegation battle, not helped by long-term injuries to several key players.

TV Deal Goes Belly Up Along With Walter Smith

In March 2000 American cable television provider NTL approached the club with a view to purchasing a 9.9% stake in the club.

Everton expected to announce a deal before the beginning of the 2000-01 season, but by October 2000 any chance of an agreement had disappeared leaving Everton with financial difficulties and forced to sell first team players, including Youth Academy products Francis Jeffers and Michael Ball, to balance the books.

The board had already spent £18.4 million on purchasing new players including bringing back Duncan Ferguson, on the basis that an agreement was in place. Around the same time Paul Gregg had been negotiating a deal with United News and Media but this never came to fruition.

The Everton board finally ran out of patience with Smith and he was sacked in March 2002 after an FA Cup exit at Middlesbrough, with Everton still in real danger of relegation.


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