GOODISON Park erupted in applause for a club legend on Saturday, prior to Everton’s clash with Manchester United.
More than 200 miles to the north, on the sidelines of a Scottish Championship fixture between Hibernian and Dumbarton, Alan Stubbs staged his own, deeply personal tribute to Howard Kendall, whom the Hibernian manager yesterday described as “Everton’s Bill Shankly”. For Hibs fans looking for a reference point, it is probably Eddie Turnbull.
On Saturday, minutes before a game vital to Hibs’ title hopes kicked off, Stubbs took himself out of “the zone” to pull on a black armband in tribute to Kendall. He wore it throughout a match Hibs won 4-2. “It would have been hard to notice,” said an emotional Stubbs yesterday, as he broke off from previewing tonight’s Scottish Championship clash with Falkirk.
“But I felt it was the right thing to do. I knew there was a minute’s celebration for him at Goodison – and it is a celebration because what he brought to Everton was a celebration.”
Although Kendall was in charge for three different spells at Goodison, Stubbs, a boyhood Evertonian whose first footballing memories were inspired by the charismatic manager in the 1980s, never played for him, much to his regret. Their paths did cross, often socially. Kendall’s bonhomie was legendary.
Stubbs was privileged to be mine host when Kendall, years after his greatest days at Everton, with whom he won the league title both as a player and manager, reminisced on a bar stool about breaking Liverpool’s stranglehold.
Everton won two titles in the mid-1980s and reached three successive FA Cup finals, winning the first versus Watford in 1984. With Kendall only in his late 30s, they lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year. He died aged 69 on Saturday.
“There is a huge hole that’s been left by him at Everton that won’t ever be replaced,” said Stubbs. “There will be a big empty seat left as well – he was always at games.
“I owned a wine bar and Howard was always in there,” he added. “He was the life and soul of the bar. He used to always come in – he used to like a glass of wine, early in the morning! He would always have people around him, he would be telling stories. People would come in just to listen to his stories. He was a really infectious guy.
“Ask any player who has played for him, and not one player – hand on heart – will have a bad word to say about him,” continued Stubbs. “You won’t get a lot of managers about whom you could say the same. He was Mr Everton. Even when he wasn’t at Everton, he was Mr Everton.”
Despite being in the midst of a buy period with Hibs, whenever Kendall’s funeral takes place, whether this week or next, Stubbs promised to attend. “I will be there to give him a well-deserved send-off,” he said.
“For me, Liverpool had Shankly,” he added. “We had Howard Kendall at Everton. He lit the room up. Whenever he was with anybody, he was so charismatic.
“I was gutted when I got the phone call [on Saturday morning]. I know what he did for the football club. It will be a long time before what he did is replaced.
“It will be a really sad, emotional day at the funeral,” he added. “It will be a huge funeral, one of those where you go to the cathedral and the streets will be paved with blue - and red.”