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Kendall in bed again at Everton

Phil Shaw reports from Goodison on on the remarriage of old flames
On forsaking Maine Road for Goodison Park seven years ago, Howard Kendall reasoned that "with Manchester City it was a love affair, whereas with this club it's a marriage". Confirming their status as the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of football, Kendall and Everton duly tied the knot again yesterday.

They have now got hitched on four occasions - the first as a fresh-faced wing-half arriving from Preston in 1967, the last three as manager - but the prospect of carrying Everton over the threshold once more has not diminshed Kendall's Zsa Zsa Gabor-like appetite for footballing nuptials.

According to Peter Johnson, his new chairman, when he asked what salary it would take to prise him from Sheffield United, Kendall replied: "All I want is to manage Everton."

Kendall, who was 51 last week and will work on a three-year contract, is undaunted by the knowledge that he was scarcely Johnson's first choice. In the 13 weeks since Joe Royle's departure, Everton have flirted with Bobby Robson, Martin O'Neill, George Graham, Tommy Burns and even a Dutchman, Wim Van Hanegem, before settling on Andy Gray last week.

After attempts to recruit the Sky presenter floundered, Everton moved swiftly for their old flame. The impression of going back to the future is cemented by the appointment of another figure from Goodison's great days of the 1980s, Adrian Heath, as assistant manager. Heath, who played alongside Kendall at Stoke and under him at Everton, City and Sheffield, vacates the manager's chair at Burnley.

Viv Busby, who cut his managerial teeth at Hartlepool, follows Kendall from Bramall Lane, where he coached the side to the First Division play- off final. Colin Harvey, Kendall's former deputy and successor as manager when he left for Bilbao 10 summers ago, is already back as youth development officer.

Johnson praised Kendall's "courageous decision" to accept the job (a choice of words that might be lost on Sheffield United, who have been offered barely a fifth of the pounds 1m compensation they are seeking). The board had wanted a "world-class manager"; now he believed it had secured one.

Kendall's comeback marks an extraordinary upturn in his fortunes. When he left the Goodison hot seat for the second time, late in 1993, having been unable to recreate the triumphs of the previous decade, his career went into steep decline.

The nadir was a 10-week stint at Notts County, culminating in his sacking two years ago. "Leaving wasn't the lowest point," he said yesterday. "Every day I was there was." At that time, the only way he thought he would be coming back to Everton was to watch from a friend's private box.

The years since their last separation have not been kind to Everton, either. Three of the last four have seen them finish close to the relegation zone, leading Kendall to conclude that the squad needs greater depth and quality. Johnson has reputedly made pounds 20m available, and Kendall has already conceded an interest in Paul Ince.

Although he declined to identify players, a striker to partner Duncan Ferguson will be among his priorities, with Andy Cole and Fabrizio Ravanelli likely targets.

Johnson felt that qualifying for Europe was a reasonable ambition next season, saying it was "unrealistic" to talk about the title. Kendall, too shrewd to offer hostages to fortune, did agree that with three new arrivals "you're looking at the higher part of the table".

The funds at his disposal made him more confident that his third sojourn would be happier than the second. "The expectancy level was great last time. I made decisions on the playing staff too quickly because this place demands quality. We said certain people were not Everton players when maybe we didn't have better.

"This time there's money available, though you've still got to find the players. The point against attracting them would be our finishing position (15th). They would maybe want to join a top-six club. We've got to convince them this is the place to be."

Heath, 36, confessed to "sleepless nights" over whether to leave Burnley. "I was enjoying being my own man, but the lure of Everton was too great."

The new management team recognised that another season of treading water would not do. "It's a big year for this club," Heath said. "The only reason we're here is that what's gone on hasn't been good enough."

Outside, well-wishers had gathered to offer encouragement if not confetti. A banner hanging from a pub alluded to Johnson's food-packing empire and the possibility that Everton may leave their famous home, yet it seemed appropriate to Kendall and the club he cannot get out of his system. "A hamper is for Christmas," it read, "but Goodison is for life."

Howard Kendall factfile

1946: Born 22 May, Ryton-on-Tyne.

1963: Signed as an apprentice with Preston.

1964: Became the then youngest player to appear in an FA Cup final, in 3-2 defeat against West Ham United.

1967: Moved to Everton.

1970: Collected League Championship winners' medal.

1974: Joined Birmingham.

1977: Signed for Stoke.

1979: Player-manager of Blackburn Rovers.

1981: Becomes Everton player-manager.

1984: Led Everton to two Wembley finals, losing 1-0 in Milk Cup replay to Liverpool, winning FA Cup final 2-0 against Watford.

1985: Clinches first League Championship title as a manager, loses FA Cup final against Manchester United, but beats Rapid Vienna in European Cup-Winners' Cup final.

1986: Everton's third successive FA Cup final ends in 3-1 defeat against Liverpool.

1987: Recaptured League title. Quit Everton to take charge at Athletic Bilbao.

1989: Manager of Manchester City.

1990: Resigned from Maine Road after 11 months and returned to Everton.

1993: Quit Goodison.

1995: Appointed manager of Notts County in January but dismissed in April. Takes over at Sheffield United in December.

1997: Guides Blades to First Division promotion play-offs.