Following Johnny Carey’s much-publicised departure in April 1961, the Everton board were left with the unenviable task of bringing in a manager who could clinch Everton’s first trophy in more than a generation. Carey’s successor, Harry Catterick, completed the task within two years of his appointment and went on to be Everton’s longest serving boss in a career which lasted 12 years. His name, and iron rule, dominated what became known as Everton’s golden era.
CATTERICK had already experienced 15 years as a centre forward with the club when he returned to Goodison Park in the summer of 1961. He had first signed in April 1937 as a part-time professional while continuing an apprenticeship as a marine engineer. As a youngster making his way in the A team and reserves, he shared a dressing room with Dixie Dean, then in the final days of his Goodison career. But with the likes of Tommy Lawton and Robert ‘Bunny’ Bell ahead of him, Catterick had to wait until after the Second World War to make his league debut in an Everton shirt, although he did make 73 wartime appearances, scoring 56 times.
After the war, although no less accomplished than many of his contemporaries, he struggled to claim the number nine shirt on a regular basis. Among Evertonians of a certain era, like many of his team-mates he has tended to fade by comparison to his illustrious forbears. And yet his scoring record in a struggling side was by no means a disgrace and he attracted plaudits on the way.
Catterick has for years shown a virility, sense of direction, shooting, urge and general football stamp that earned him a regular place in a senior side,
wrote Leslie Edwards in October 1948. ‘He did not get his deserts through misfortune, injury and the luck of the game... He is wrong in his outlook when he essays to help the defence but at least he shows forthright thoroughness and willingness to work.’
Catterick did, however, have his occasional moments of glory, such as a hat-trick scored in a 5-1 away thrashing of Fulham in October 1950. At the end of that season Everton were relegated and after playing a part in just three more first-team games, in December 1951 he left to become player-manager of Crewe Alexandra. His work at Gresty Road and, from 1953, at Rochdale was quietly efficient, stabilising Third Division strugglers into steady forces. In August 1958 he was appointed Sheffield Wednesday manager, a move that proved to be the making of Catterick. In his first full season he led them to the Second Division Championship, in his second to fifth in the First Division – eleven places above Everton. In 1960/61 Wednesday might have won the League Championship had it not been for the formidable Tottenham double winners of Mackay, Blanchflower and Jones.
BY THIS TIME ‘The Catt’ had established a reputation as one of the finest managers in the country. He had the verve, winning mentality and discipline that many believed the popular Johnny Carey did not have. Amid heavy speculation about his future, on 14 April 1961, the day before Everton played a home match with Cardiff City, Everton’s chairman John Moores sacked Carey while on their way to a Football League meeting in London. The Irishman was in the process of leading Everton to their highest post-war position of fifth. Catterick replaced him days later.
Moores later said of his decision to appoint Catterick: ‘I believed Harry had the drive we needed and I didn’t give him two years to bring us trophies, or even say anything like that. I told him to aim for a place in the top six by playing good football, and by doing that I was sure that success would come.’
Carey had already laid the foundations of a very good side and his dismissal divided opinion, with some arguing that he was unlucky to be sacked. Among his expensively assembled squad were players like Billy Bingham, Jimmy Gabriel, Brian Harris, Brian Labone, Mick Meagan, Derek Temple, Roy Vernon and Alex Young. All would be important players for Catterick.
The new manager laid down an immediate marker for his style as Everton boss. On the club’s end-of-season tour to the US he sent home his captain and star player, Roy Vernon, for ‘disciplinary reasons’. In doing so Catterick had shown that he would give short shrift to anyone who crossed him, even a player as crucial to his cause as the Welshman. He would have not just the deference of the Everton players, but their fear too.
MANY YEARS LATER, this author came into conversation with a player who was managed by both Catterick and his England counterpart, Alf Ramsey. The two shared many qualities: tactical mastery; dour, almost emotionless personas; winning mentalities. I asked the player what the differences were between the Everton and England managers.
We respected Alf,’ he said.‘And we respected Catterick too. But we feared him more than anything.
BUT FEAR also played a part in Catterick’s own mindset. In John Moores he had one of the most demanding and exacting bosses in British business. As he had shown with Carey, he had little patience with those who failed in his pursuit of success. ‘I am only paid for one thing – to get results,’ Catterick told the News of the World’s Bob Pennington. ‘If I don’t get results for any reason then I’m no good to my employer and I should be OUT.’
During his first full season, the 1961/62 campaign, the new manager only made a few additions to the side he inherited, bringing in 19-year-old Gordon West from Blackpool and adding some steel to the heart of his team with the acquisition of Dennis Stevens. In signing West, Everton had paid a record fee for a goalkeeper and Catterick had no issues in breaching transfer records. Twice under his rule the British transfer record would be shattered by one of his purchases. ‘I haven’t got a copyright in this transfer business,’ he would say. ‘Other managers also buy big and sell big. But the important thing is to think big.’
EVERTON finished the 1961/62 season in fourth place, an improvement of one position from Carey’s last season, but Catterick’s management had seen Everton shore up their previously leaky defence and add discipline and consistency. They conceded 15 fewer goals than in the previous campaign. Gone were the days of the late 1950s when the Blues could lose by five or six goals. And yet they were still capable of emphatically demolishing their opponents as they had done on occasion when Carey was boss. Cardiff City discovered this in the penultimate game of Catterick’s first season when Everton knocked eight past them.
During the summer of 1962 Catterick added only Liverpool’s winger Johnny Morrissey to his side – a move that initially inspired mystification on both sides of Stanley Park. The £10,000 fee was to prove one of the finest bargains in Everton history. But the confidence Catterick had in his existing squad – the basis of which was inherited from Carey – was justified. Goodison had become a veritable fortress under Catterick and this was underlined by the fact that they lost just four home games in his first three seasons as manager and remained undefeated there through 1962/63. The Goodison crowd had a huge effect upon the team’s performance – something which the Observer noted in September 1962:
Visiting teams must survive matches at this ground in the certain knowledge that if Everton don’t get them the crowd will. This has become an inferno... frightening, ferocious, and often with some of the malevolence of a latter day Rome in it.
BY LATE November 1962 Catterick’s team were second and well placed for an assault on the League Championship. But England was about to be struck by its coldest winter of the century. The big freeze halted English football. From 22 December Everton went seven weeks without a league game and more than two months without a home match. They came out of the blizzard strongly, the squad augmented by the signings of midfielder Tony Kay – Catterick’s captain at Sheffield Wednesday – and winger Alex Scott.
Bill Nicholson took his great Spurs team to Fortress Goodison on 20 April 1963 with the winner expected to eventually take the Championship. Everton were in third position with 50 points, with Leicester and Spurs ahead of them on 51. An Alex Young header divided the teams and virtually ensured that the League Championship was Goodison-bound. The title was secured on the last day of the season when a Roy Vernon hat-trick saw off Fulham. Catterick, recalled Young, ‘had taken Johnny Carey’s men, added a few of his own and transformed us from entertainers into winners. He then fine-tuned us into champions.’
Everton would start the 1963/64 season badly, falling as low as 16th position by October and being knocked out of the European Cup in the opening round by Inter Milan. However, the side was boosted in March 1964 by the £85,000 arrival of Blackburn Rovers centre forward Fred Pickering, a British domestic transfer record. By the end of the month Everton were sat at the top of the table with just five games remaining. But Everton were unhinged by the match-fixing scandal that led to Tony Kay’s ban and lost three of their remaining games, drawing a fourth. Everton finished third.
Catterick’s new signings – and those, such as Colin Harvey, who were plucked from the youth team – were forming the basis of his next great team. But in the dressing room there was unease among the crop of highly talented players he had inherited from Carey. Years later, Young wrote:‘I remain convinced that the only men he wanted to succeed were those he’d brought through the ranks and the ones he’d spent money on.’ Vernon became increasingly peripheral through the 1964/65 season and was sold to Stoke City and Tommy Wright replaced Alex Parker at right back. England full back Ray Wilson replaced Mick Meagan and even Young found himself out of favour. This was to the consternation of some fans, who produced placards bearing such wisdom as ‘Sack Catterick, Bring Back Young’.
CATTERICK was a remote figure, rarely seen on the training pitch unless press cameras or the chairman were present. Players sensed his presence by seeing gaps open in the blinds of his office at their new Bellefield training ground. Much of the day-to-day business was conducted by his trainer, Tommy Egglestone. He was never revered like his contemporaries, Don Revie, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby.
Catterick justified his aloofness to the sportswriter Alan Hoby in a revealing interview in March 1967, saying that it was a consequence of the city’s goldfish bowl mentality. ‘There is a different atmosphere in Liverpool to anywhere else in the country,’ he said. ‘The intensity of feeling, the personal involvement is unique. I know, because I manage one of the country’s leading teams in a city where football is a religion. Of course, working as I do amid all this emotion, it would be fatal for me to become part of it. You’ve got to keep a cool head in this business. Otherwise, you’d never be able to make any decisions.’
Everton had finished the 1964/65 season fourth, but expectations were mounting. So too was discontent with the manager. This was to bubble over spectacularly midway through the following campaign. In January 1966, with Everton labouring in 11th place, the team travelled to Blackpool. Catterick caused shock and consternation by dropping Young in place of a 16-year-old debutant, named Joe Royle. Everton lost 2-0 and afterwards a crowd of supporters gathered around the team bus, and Catterick was jostled and jeered at and fell. Afterwards it was claimed in the national press that he was attacked. Catterick labelled the fans ‘cowards’ and the Everton director E. Holland-Hughes described it a ‘dastardly attack’. Others suggested that it was exaggerated. Brian Labone said years later that Catterick slipped and stumbled, that the only real damage was to his pride. As Young wrote 40 years later: ‘Blue folklore contains no shortage of misinformation about “The Blackpool Rumble”.’ But what is certain is that it showed an extreme example of the extraordinary ambivalence sections of the support felt for their manager.
A week later Young was restored to the line-up for an FA Cup third round tie against Sunderland. He scored in a 3-0 win. Some Evertonians felt that his omission was a piece of kidology, designed to kick-start his season.
If that was the case it certainly reaped rich dividends. For the first time in 33 years Everton returned to Wembley, overcoming a disappointing league campaign and a 2-0 deficit in the final against Sheffield Wednesday to lift the FA Cup for just the third time. Catterick described the win over his former club as ‘the thrill of my footballing life’. Years later, in semi-retirement, he reflected:
That was my greatest moment. The Cup hadn’t been to Everton for many years and it was wonderful to bring it back to Merseyside and receive the acclaim of the crowds as we returned to the city.
BUT CATTERICK didn’t rest easily. In the 18 months following the FA Cup Final win he reconstituted his team again, edging out Scott, Young and Gabriel and bringing fresh blood in the shape of Royle, Alan Ball and Howard Kendall. Ball was a £110,000 British record signing from Blackpool, Kendall cost £80,000 from Preston North End. Tommy Wright later told me that Catterick’s biggest attribute was signing the right players at the right time. ‘Gelling the players, that’s what Harry Catterick was good at,’ he said when we met in the mid-1990s. ‘Buying the right players to fit into the team, not having the team fit around a player, which a lot of teams tend to do.’ They fitted the new complexion of football, which was becoming harder, more defensive, more tactically astute.
Speaking in 1967 Catterick acknowledged the changing landscape of the English game. ‘Football today,’ he said, ‘is much more punishing physically than when I was playing. More and more emphasis is laid on the physical side of the game ... upon destroying ... wrecking. In fact, if the trend goes on, there is a danger that the skills which make football the great entertainment it is will gradually melt away.’ Players like Kendall, Ball and Colin Harvey – who formed the exquisite heartbeat of his new team – merged the skill and physicality to excel in this new world.
Everton returned to Wembley in 1968 and were unlucky not to recapture the FA Cup, falling to a single extra-time goal against West Bromwich Albion. Catterick remained loyal to his squad and no new faces were brought in over the summer of 1968. Of the side that started the first game of the 1968/69 season eight played 40 or more League games, something which bears testament to Catterick’s loyalty and confidence in his players.
Many believe that the Everton of the 1968/69 season played better and more stylish football than the one that was to win the title a year later. But for an indifferent start and a poor finish, Catterick’s side may well have clinched the title in 1969 too. In the end they claimed third spot, but many sides had been given a lesson in football from the School Of Science ruled over by the iron fist of its headmaster Catterick. The most emphatic win came against Leicester City in November when the Blues stuck seven past a young Peter Shilton. The ‘strolling maestroes of Goodison fulfilled the promise they have been parading in recent weeks’, recorded the Daily Post.
His team’s potential was realised in the 1969/70 season, when Everton strolled to the League Championship. ‘They have won it by playing football, by applying their individual skills to the team as a whole,’ said Catterick. ‘And I would like to believe they have also managed to entertain spectators all over the country in the process ... Our success has been a team effort and the effort must be shared all round.’ Jibes about the ‘Merseyside Millionaires’ no longer held true. The team had cost just £275,000 to build, with £112,000 of that spent on Ball. Harvey, Hurst, Husband, Labone, Royle, Whittle and Wright had all been home-grown players and the average age was just 24. Ball confidently predicted, ‘I can see five great seasons ahead. This team is certain to go better. We have lots of skill and every player works hard for each other. With that behind us, how can we fail?’
WHAT HAPPENED over the following three years counts as one of the great mysteries in Everton history. Everton started the 1970/71 season slowly but built up momentum in cup competitions, reaching the quarter-finals of the European Cup against Panathinaikos and the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Liverpool. Within the space of three days they were dumped out of both competitions – on away goals by the Greek side and 2-1 against Liverpool having first taken the lead – and Catterick’s team seemed to die. They finished the season 14th, having won just one of their last 13 league and FA Cup games.
Things did not improve in the 1971/72 season. Within its first month Catterick effectively lost Labone and Wright to serious injury. Then in December he sold Alan Ball for a British record fee to Arsenal. The move shocked English football. Catterick announced that Ball’s departure marked the start of the construction of a new team. ‘I have been extremely patient, giving them every chance to regain their form and attitude to the game. Now my patience has ended.’
But, normally so astute in his transfers, Catterick’s judgement began to fail him. Large sums were frittered on players like Henry Newton, Bernie Wright and Joe Harper. The highly promising David Johnson was part-exchanged for the less-than-satisfactory Geoff Nulty.
Things worsened for the Everton manager. In January 1972 Catterick suffered a heart attack while driving back from Sheffield where he’d been watching a game. Although he was back at the centre of things within ten weeks, he later estimated that it took him ‘eighteen months’ to fully recuperate. When that period had elapsed time had run out for him. Finishes of 15th and 17th saw him ushered upstairs to a largely undefined ‘executive’ role and Billy Bingham took over.
CATTERICK had anticipated that such a day would come, when he spoke to Alan Hoby six years earlier. ‘It’s a strain at times and it can be lonely,’ he said. ‘Every Saturday you are on trial. Of course there are bound to be pressures. If things go wrong naturally you get the bird. You are the target. But that’s what I’m paid for. I certainly wouldn’t like to be in some backwater where there is no excitement, no atmosphere. What really keeps you on your toes is the fact that you’ve got this big duty to the public ... That you’re completely involved with the team and its future. Football is a business. You’ve got to sell it like any other commodity. And, like any other business, there is no room for complacency.’
Two years later he was appointed manager of Preston North End but failed to bring back success to the once mighty Lancastrian club.
After leaving that job in 1977 his football career ended. Fittingly it was at Goodison Park where Catterick died on 9 March 1985 after watching a 2-2 draw with Ipswich Town in the FA Cup. Everton’s manager that day was Howard Kendall, the second of four Catterick players to have learned sufficient managerial lessons from the ‘master’ to go on and manage the club.
After winning the Championship in 1970 Catterick shared his football philosophy with the world. ‘When I go to a match,’ he said, ‘wherever it may be and whoever might be playing, I go to watch a contest. I go to be entertained ... Quality of performance is so important.’ For many years, by vigorously adhering to Everton’s famous Nil Satis Nisi Optimum motto, Catterick did just that.