Football: Kendall's arrival stirs the passion

Phil Shaw sees the former Everton manager embark on a testing new job
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The Independent Online
The wife of a Notts County big-wig, on being introduced to Howard Kendall before his first match as manager, then turned to ask Adrian Heath and Alan Harper if they were his sons. In a curious way, it was not such a ridiculous question.

Kendall, 48, who saw County win 3-0 against a Burnley side including the former Everton duo, still commands a loyalty from the years they shared at Goodison Park of the kind normally found in families. In Heath's opinion, his capacity to forge a similar bond at Meadow Lane in the next four months might just be enough to preserve First Division status.

"If anyone can do it, he can," said Heath, who, like Harper, also served Kendall at Manchester City. "The County players will relish working with him. His man-management is his greatest quality - it's superb - and his training is always enjoyable. If they do the business for him, he'll look after them.

"It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he kept them up. If he does, it'll probably be an even greater achievement than anything he did at Everton because County have been bottom nearly all season. It'll take top-six form at least to get them out ofit."

In Evertonian lore, Heath's goal at Oxford in 1983 is credited with saving Kendall's job and launching an era awash with trophies. Now, as part of a team who offered only token resistance to the relegation favourites, he was a reluctant participant in the resurrection of his mentor's career. So bad were Burnley that their manager, Jimmy Mullen, ordered them in for training yesterday.

Because of the supine opposition, judgement must be reserved on Kendall's new charges. The Burnley keeper, Marlon Beresford, set them on their way with a clearance that hit Devon White and looped in. Paul Devlin and Gary McSwegan added further goals, andthe confidence with which County began to move the ball around indicated how they overran Tottenham in the League Cup and led Manchester City before drawing in the FA Cup.

"The stadium is superb, and what I've got to do now is get things right on the pitch," Kendall said. "If your players show that sort of attitude and skill, you've got a chance, though whether we can do it consistently I don't know. If we can, there won'tbe any need to go into the transfer market. It was an encouraging start, but only a start."

Tomorrow's replay at Maine Road should provide a more searching test of County's capabilities. Kendall had a year at City after his Bilbao sabbatical - at a time when he was a front-runner to lead England - and the ensuing defection back to Merseyside will ensure a lively reception. "They've forgotten about me by now," he said, adding with an impish laugh: "I hope."

Like the finger-wagging he gave Mullen after a County penalty appeal, or the touchline tirade which prompted a discreet reprimand by a splendid referee, Gurnam Singh, it was a sign that Kendall's fire has not gone out. After failing narrowly to land the Ipswich post following an ill-advised spell in Greece, the flame might have been low. Yet the parting shot oozed enthusiasm: "It's been a great day - I've missed it."

Goals: White (50) 1-0; Devlin (70) 2-0; McSwegan (87) 3-0.

Notts County (4-4-2): Cherry; Mills, Murphy, Johnson, Legg; Devlin, Butler, Turner, Matthews; McSwegan, White (Agana, 86). Substitutes not used: Sherlock, Reece (gk).

Burnley (4-3-1-2): Beresford; Parkinson, Davis, Winstanley, Eyres; Harper, Hoyland, Randall (McMinn, 56); Heath; Saville, Robinson (Deary, 69). Substitute not used: Russell (gk).

Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).

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