Howard Kendall, the greatest Evertonian of them all, is sitting at a bar, sipping coffee, contemplating the kind of thoughts people have when they have condensed their lives between the cover of a book.
His is called Love Affairs and Marriage. The marriage comprises the 17 years he spent in four different spells with Everton. The affairs took him to Bilbao, Manchester City and Sheffield United, and ended messily, as affairs tend to, in Greece. There, in charge of Ethnikos Piraeus, which he describes as "a sort of Greek Luton Town" he had to drag his goalkeeper from the toilets and force him to play. That was when enough became enough. That was 14 years ago.
Kendall is 67 now, long consigned to Everton's past, but things happened to him young. He was 17 when he played for Preston in the 1964 FA Cup final, 23 when he won the league with Everton, 38 when he managed them to the title.
He was 52, (younger than Sir Alex Ferguson was when he won his first title with Manchester United) when he ventured into the toilets looking for his keeper. He is younger than Bryan Ferry, who was preparing to play the art-deco interior of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall when we spoke.
There is a photograph of Ferry and Kendall as part of the Washington Grammar School team of 1957-58. Ferry "a wimpy right-winger – or so I told him when we ran into each other at the Liverpool Empire" is at the back. Kendall is bang in the centre.
Both their fathers were miners, although Fred Ferry, who had been a ploughman, moved into the mines to look after the pit ponies, while Jack Kendall was forced out by pneumoconiosis into becoming a caretaker in a country school. He was driven to make his son a sportsman.
"It didn't matter if you went to grammar school, the options as he saw it were going down the mines or becoming a milkman," says Kendall. "Alan Ball's father was like that. Bally was obsessed by the need to please his dad.
"When I signed professional forms for Preston, he and mum came down from the North-east to look after me and, looking back, that was one of the most fabulous things they could have done. They left their friends and they left their community."
They moved to Ainsdale, where on the dunes, Harry Catterick, the one Everton manager whose record compares to Kendall's, would oversee pre-season training, watching from his Rover. Compared with Bill Shankly, who has been the subject of plays and novels, Catterick, his contemporary across Stanley Park, remains a shadowy, sometimes repulsive figure.
"You quickened your pace when you saw him. I spent six years under him, he made me his captain. What was he like as a bloke? I couldn't tell you. The people he employed, his coaching staff didn't like him. As players, we were terrified of him.
"His one skill was identifying players and balancing his team. David Moyes has brought Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United and then tries to find a position to play him in. Catterick knew exactly where you would play. I can remember one conversation with him. It was towards the end, he wasn't well and he said to me: 'Everton won't pay me off. They're waiting for me to die.' It's a hard business is football."
Hard and selfish. Between 1979 and 1989 the title left Stanley Park once. No city has dominated English football in quite the way Merseyside did during the Thatcher years when Upper Parliament Street burned in the Toxteth riots and to quote Neil Kinnock, Derek Hatton's Militant-dominated council "hired taxis to scuttle around the city handing out redundancy notices to their own workers".
And yet, while Graeme Souness appeared in Alan Bleasdale's Boys from the Blackstuff and Peter Reid, Kendall's great lieutenant, whom Bleasdale coached at Huyton Boys, wore red boots to celebrate Labour's election victory in 1997, the vast majority of Merseyside footballers were apolitical. They, after all, lived in Formby and Southport, not Upper Parliament Street.
"I got to know Derek Hatton, of course, because he became a regular at Goodison," says Kendall. "He filled a room, you couldn't not like him. He would always come up and kiss me, usually when he hadn't had a shave.
"But we were too wrapped up in football for politics. We were in a cocoon. We knew football provided a release and took away the stresses, if just for a short while. People say it gives you 90 minutes of release but it gives you more than that. You talk about it going to the match, you discuss it in the pub. It gives you the day."
Kendall is renowned not only as the man who won three titles with Everton as both a player and a manager but as a man who returned to Goodison too many times – between 1990 and 1993 and again in 1997-98. It is hard to think of any manager who did better second or even third time around.
When Jose Mourinho came back to Stamford Bridge in the summer, it seemed inevitable Chelsea would carry on as if he had never left. Things proved more difficult. "There were always going to be problems because when I returned to Everton in 1990 the dressing room was split and it will be the same for Mourinho," says Kendall.
"There will be players like John Terry and Frank Lampard who he will know and trust and there will be others who he won't . And if he selects Lampard ahead of someone else, the guy who is left out will think there is only one reason behind it, favouritism.
"Then he will buy his own players and, if it comes down to a choice between Samuel Eto'o, who he bought and Fernando Torres, who he didn't, it will be no choice at all. Torres isn't 'his' player and Torres will know that, too. At Everton, second time around, I felt it was a case of them and us."
Football was changing. In Love Affairs and Marriage there is a scene where Kendall hosts a meal in a Chinese restaurant for his players, who have paid for it with their fines. Slaven Bilic leaves early and hands over his credit card to pay his share and the rest use it to buy lashings of Moët & Chandon champagne.
It was the sort of thing that happened at clubs everywhere but this was 1997 and Arsène Wenger was introducing the kind of regime where nights out at the Chinese were as anachronistic as Jackie Milburn's half-time cigarette and tot of whisky. For a lot of people in football, it was later than they thought.
Gary Speed left Everton for Newcastle early that season and the reasons behind the departure of his captain have not, until now, been properly explained. "Kenny Dalglish [who was then Newcastle manager] had tapped up him and a lad called Andy Griffin from Stoke.
"They both refused to play for their clubs on the same day. Gary Speed failed to turn up for our game at West Ham. Two naughty deals, to be honest. Two players not turning up on the same day? There must have been influence somewhere. I thought that was a terrible way of doing business."
Could you see him...? "Killing himself? No, a lovely lad. He was one of the most level-headed men I ever managed. I remember one evening in Ireland when we talked through everything about the club. He was such obvious management material."
It was a shock and not just because it was Speed. Compared with farmers and professional cricketers, among whom there have been 150 suicides, few footballers take their own lives. I mention Mark Saxelby, a farmer's son who I can still picture scoring 181 for Durham among the spring blossom of Queen's Park, Chesterfield, on the bank holiday weekend in 1994 when Ayrton Senna was killed. Six years later he drank paraquat. "Farmers and cricketers, it's the time they spend alone," says Kendall. "And then there's the winter."
His own career ended in early autumn, at 52. "I did apply for jobs but my heart wasn't in it, the way it had ended at Everton," he says. "I went for a job at Ipswich and one of the board members leant forward and asked me: 'What have you done in football?'"
Never go back: Kendall's tenures
May 1981-June 1987
Appointed player-manager at Everton after two years in same role at Blackburn. Led the Toffees to First Division titles in 1984-85 and 1986-87, as well as an FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup, before leaving for Athletic Bilbao.
Honours 2xFirst Division, 1 FA Cup, 1 Cup-Winners' Cup
Nov 1990-Dec 1993
Returned to Goodison Park after three-year absence but could only achieve three mid-table finishes. Resigned in December 1993.
June 1997-July 1998
In a third and final spell in charge, Kendall only just managed to keep Everton in the Premier League, surviving on goal difference on the final day. Departed by mutual consent, to be replaced by Walter Smith.
'Love Affairs and Marriage' by Howard Kendall is published by DeCoubertin BooksReuse content