Andy Rankin was faced with the thankless task of having to supplant Gordon West during the 1960s peak of the goalkeeper’s career. A home grown talent who progressed through the Everton ranks with Colin Harvey, Rankin was widely considered the best reserve goalkeeper in England – although there must have been times when he wondered what else he had to do to make the green jersey his own.
A Bootle boy who earned England under-23 international honours, there was a sense that Rankin may have gone to the very summit of his profession. In 1963/64, with Everton chasing a consecutive league title, 19 year-old Rankin was thrust into the first team after West suffered a loss of form. He did not disappoint and although the championship was elusive, the rookie kept his place for the first half of the following campaign. Watched by Alf Ramsey in September 1964, he put in the performance of his life as Everton beat Liverpool 4-0 at Anfield – a scoreline that barely hints at the succession of outstanding saves he made.
But always West came back, often better than before. After a taking West’s place for an FA Cup quarter final against Nottingham Forest in 1967, Rankin endured a nightmare, and was at fault for all three of Everton’s goals as they slipped to a 3-2 defeat – it was the last sight Evertonians glimpsed of him for three-and-a-half years.
He returned to the team in September 1970, after West was dropped for remonstrating with supporters during a European Cup game. Later that year Rankin made his mark in the same competition, saving a crucial penalty in the shoot out victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach. His heroics saw him keep his place until the end of the season. But at the start of the 1971/72 season, West was back and Rankin was kicking his heels in the Central League again.
In November 1971, Catterick accepted a £20,000 bid from Watford, and Rankin moved south, ousting Mike Walker – later to become Everton manager – as first choice goalkeeper at Vicarage Road. Later he joined Huddersfield Town, his career extending until in his late-thirties.