Friday, August 12, 2022

Soccer memories-Part 40, Mike Walker at Everton, 1994


When Mike Walker was appointed as Everton Manager on January 7, 1994, the general feeling was that things could only get better. At this point Everton was at its lowest ebb and eyeing relegation.

Legendary Manager Howard Kendall had left on December 4th, after a run of eight losses in the first half of the season. According to some reports, he was fed up with the Everton Board refusing his request to sign Dion Dublin.

Caretaker Manager Jimmy Gabriel was even more catastrophic. He oversaw six losses in a month.

At the start of the new year 1994, Everton was just above the relegation zone.

Former Norwich City Mike Walker was charged with the task to save Everton from relegation.

Photo From: World Soccer, December 1994 

Walker was very much in demand at this point. He had qualified Norwich City to the UEFA Cup after finishing third in the 1992/93 season. The UEFA Cup run included the memorable elimination of mighty Bayern Munich.

He had transformed players such as Chris Sutton and Ruel Fox to near international level quality.

He had surprisingly left the club just a month after UEFA Cup elimination vs. Internazionale Milano.

Walker believed Norwich did not share his ambitions and chose a new challenge at a bigger club with more cash to spend.

At Norwich, he was resigned to the fact that his best players would be sold off.

He also felt his salary at Norwich was below the standing for a manager who had qualified a team to European Competition.

Photo From: World Soccer, January 1994

Walker had a core of veterans at Everton rely upon. These were Welsh goalkeeper Neville Southall, Dave Watson, Barry Horne, and Paul Rideout.

Despite elimination in the FA Cup by First Division Bolton Wanderers, the first month was satisfactory.

There were a couple of wins and draws and a loss to eventual Champions Manchester United.

Unfortunately, Walker’s Norwich magic did not work at Goodison Park.

The free fall started in March as Everton lost three straight matches (further four more losses until the end of the season).

Photo From: World Soccer, February 1994 

Walker had sanctioned former Southend United Brett Angell’s permanent signing, followed by the signing of Cambridge United defender Gary Rowett. Just before the transfer deadline, Bournemouth midfielder Joe Parkinson signed along with Arsenal’s talented but inconsistent Swedish star Anders Limpar. Walker also offloaded Billy Kenny, and Peter Beagrie.

These signings did not inspire any recovery as Everton slid towards relegation.

On the penultimate round of the season Everton were in relegation zone with only one match left to save them. The Final round of the season on May 7th, would be a dramatic event as Everton would produce their great escape. Wimbledon were leading Everton (2-0) at Goodison Park, and Everton seemed set for the drop. However, Everton would produce a memorable comeback and win (3-2) and save themselves by the skin of their teeth.

Walker had hardly improved Everton’s fortunes but stayed on for the new season (1994/95). It would be his first full season in charge, therefore no room for excuses.

Photo From: World Soccer, January 1994 

He offloaded former West Ham United striker Tony Cottee, who never fulfilled his promise in his six years at the club. The other players offloaded included Mark Ward and Preki. He signed former Tottenham midfielder Vinny Samways. For a while it seemed like Brazilian striker Luis Muller was about to sign, until the deal was off. Instead, he signed, the young Nigerian striker Daniel Amokachi from Club Brugge. Former Liverpool defender David Burrows also arrived from West Ham United as part of the Cottee deal.

The new season was just as disastrous as the previous one, if not more. Everton lost eight matches in its first eleven matches (without a single win). In a panic move, Walker signed on loan the Scottish duo of Duncan Ferguson and Ian Durrant.

The minor recovery in November was too little too late and Walker was sacked on November 8th, 1994.

Photo From: World Soccer, January 1994 

Former Oldham Athletic Manager Joe Royle replaced him, and he would slowly stabilize the team and win the FA Cup at the end of the season at the expense of Manchester United.

The Walker experiment was a complete fiasco and further weakened Everton’s standing as one of the biggest clubs (and a recent Champion just seven years prior).

At the time of his sacking Everton were at the bottom of the Premier League and had made its worst start ever in a League season.

In his brief time in charge, Everton had only won six League matches. He had the worst record of any Post-War Manager at Everton.

Walker disappeared from top level Management afterwards. He returned and had a brief stint at Norwich in the First Division and later managed Cypriot club APOEL.

There are similarities to Italian Manager Luigi Maifredi. He had masterminded the rise of Bologna from the Serie B to the Serie A and eventual UEFA Cup qualification. He was rewarded with the management of Juventus, but his disastrous season in charge (1990/91), similarly curtailed his prospects.

Walker’s departure from Norwich to Everton was detrimental to both clubs. Norwich did not find a suitable replacement and suffered relegation in 1995 and Everton did not get the Walker they were looking for.

For a brief time, Walker seemed set for a long future at the top. But the Everton experience destroyed his credit and/or it shattered his taste for the profession.



1-There were rumors that Everton Chairman Peter Johnson had signed the Rangers Glasgow duo Duncan Ferguson and Ian Durrant without Walker’s knowledge. However, Walker dismissed these reports.


2- Norwich City Chairman Robert Chase claimed Everton had illegally approached Walker. He sent a letter of protest to the Football Association demanding an inquiry.

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