Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson among those pay respects to Everton legend Howard Kendall
Scale of Howard Kendall's legacy can be measured in multi-generational congregation in attendance at a tearful but perfectly pitched memorial service
A gathering of British footballing nobility paid its respects to Everton’s greatest manager, Howard Kendall, at a funeral held in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
The scale of Kendall’s impact and legacy can be measured in the broad and multi-generational congregation in attendance at a tearful but perfectly pitched memorial service.
This was not solely an opportunity for Everton to bid farewell to its most successful coach, but a chance for English football to acknowledge the passing of a figure universally respected - a manager whose name will chime throughout the ages.
Former team mate Joe Royle recalled being a teenager taken under the wing by Kendall, the inspirational title-winning midfielder of the late 60s and early 70s. Peter Reid offered entertaining insights and a reminder of Kendall’s genius man-management after he returned to the Merseyside club as manager in 1981.
The presence of Sir Alex Ferguson – a former adversary – was an acknowledgement of how Kendall was a managerial titan of his age.
Former Everton striker Wayne Rooney took his seat to acknowledge his longer-term debt to the side that changed the footballing landscape in the mid-80s.
While hundreds filled the aisles to hear personal tributes from Royle, Reid, Graham Stuart and chairman Bill Kenwright, thousands more stood outside having earlier lined the streets as the funeral cortege passed Goodison Park.
Kenwright – himself recovering from illness – delivered a typically charismatic eulogy summing up the talent, humour and footballing wit of the manager who won two League titles, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in the space of three memorable seasons between 1984-87.
“He knew the difference between those who see greatness and those who claim it,” said Kenwright.
“You have to believe and he truly believed. What made him the legend that he was? He understood us. He understood Everton. He loved the camaraderie, the team. He was a great player, a great manager, and more than anything, he was a blue.”
Spontaneous applause greeted the funeral cortege as it approached the cathedral, Kendall’s coffin risen and carried to the alter as the Elton John record ‘I guess that’s why they call it the Blues’ played.
Reid, the inspirational central midfielder in Kendall’s most brilliant side, recalled the epic semi-final victory over Bayern Munich in the 1985 Cup Winners Cup.
“His management at half-time that night showed us how to beat them,” said Reid.
He also noted the turning point of Kendall’s management career, a series of cup wins taking Everton to the first of three successive FA Cup Finals in 1984.
“The memory that sticks with me is the first trophy, the FA Cup final, walking down the steps and just seeing him smile, and that will live with me forever,” said Reid.
Royle said Kendall’s warmth endeared him to rival fans as much as Evertonians, a fact illustrated by the number of representatives from across the British game at Thursday’s service.
“He was a man of the people,” said Royle.
“There are two words used so often in football - ‘great’ and ‘legend’. Howard was a great player and truly a legend.”
Another ex-player and current first team coach, Duncan Ferguson, was among those delivering a reading, as did Kendall’s son – Simon - whose moving poem “A Song For Living” ended with the most poignant and appropriate epitaph for Kendall. It ended with the words: “Because I loved life”. The floral tribute on Kendall's coffin read "gaffer".
Also in attendance were representatives from Liverpool FC, including Robbie Fowler and chief executive Ian Ayre, as well as former player and boyhood fan of Kendall’s 80s side Jamie Carragher.
Everton’s matchday theme from ‘Z-Cars’ brought the service to its end.
“Howard would have loved that so many are here today,” said Kenwright.
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.