If you want to see any Everton fan momentarily engulfed with a heady mixture of anger, fear and sadness, then simply whisper ‘Mike Walker’ into their ear.
Walker’s brief tenure at the helm of the club during the mid-nineties was one of the darkest in Everton’s history, a nightmare from which it took us months to wake.
The 1993/94 season hadn’t been a great one for Everton. Despite starting brightly things had pretty quickly turned sour. Adhering to the laws of diminishing returns, Howard Kendall’s second spell at the club was mired in mediocrity; the aging squad proving ill equipped to match the fan’s lofty expectations.
In the end, Kendall quit mid-season, citing the board’s refusal to sanction the purchase of Dion Dublin as his reason; an episode that managed the neat trick of reflecting badly on both parties.
Adhering to the laws of diminishing returns, Howard Kendall’s second spell at the club was mired in mediocrity
His leaving might have helped Everton reduce their bar tab, but it did little to benefit the club. Under the disastrous leadership of caretaker manager, Jimmy Gabriel we managed to lose six and draw one of the next seven matches; failing to score in six consecutive games.
The club was in desperate need of leadership and looking for a managerial genius to turn things around. But instead we turned to Mike Walker.
In Everton’s defence, Walker came with a growing managerial reputation, having guided Norwich City to third place the previous season, gaining them their highest ever league finish and entry into the UEFA Cup.
Sadly though, it turned out that this was a fluke and we got Walker just as his luck was running out. Over the following months, seemingly unaware of our gradual slide towards oblivion, Walker treated the club like his own personal plaything, testing out different formations on a weekly basis, making unfathomable decisions, such as the elevation of Brett Angell to the starting line-up, and generally acting as though this was a game of Championship Manager.
Walker treated the club like his own personal plaything, testing out different formations on a weekly basis
The result was that by the penultimate Saturday of the season we found ourselves in the relegation zone and facing the challenge of needing to beat an in-form Wimbledon to have any chance of staying up.
In the end, the club escaped relegation, but we came very close. It ultimately took a herculean effort by a team not accustomed to such things to turn a two-goal deficit into an eventual victory, ending up 3-2 victors and claimants of that all-important safety spot.
Despite our appalling end-of-season form, the majority of Evertonians were willing to give Walker the benefit of the doubt, hoping that the slide under Gabriel and not the new manager’s arrival had been the catalyst for the team’s disastrous form.
But what fools we were. It was all Walker. And he proved this with some style during the early months of the new season. The team, which welcomed the addition of bustling, goal-phobic, Nigerian forward, Daniel Amokachi, failed to secure a single win during the season’s first twelve game, leaving Everton stranded in the bottom three with just a handful of points.
In the end, the club escaped relegation, but we came very close
By November, even the board had begun to lose faith, finally coming to the same conclusion as the fans – that the age of Walker had been an unmitigated disaster and it was best to sack him before further tragedies afflicted the club.
Were it not for the incredible run-of-form put together by his replacement, Joe Royle, then it’s likely that Everton could well have gone down that season.
Visitors to Everton can still see a picture of Mike Walker outside Goodison, part of a tableau illustrating the club’s history that adorns different parts of the ground’s exterior. His face looms like a warning from the past, a reminder that every club, no matter how ‘big’ they believe themselves to be, is just one ‘wrong-appointment’ away from oblivion.
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