HE WILL forever be cherished by Evertonians as a wonderfully gifted player and their club’s most successful manager – but senior England glory never really beckoned for Howard Kendall.
However, the exception to Kendall’s cruel lack of international recognition was the summer of 1964 when he lifted the Little World Cup as captain of England’s all-conquering U-18 side.
That success, the first by an England youth team on foreign soil, helped launch the career of players like Harry Redknapp and John Hollins – and gave the future Everton legend some memories to savour alongside his finest in the Eighties.
Now, as two Everton youngsters, Hallam Hope and John Lundstram, aim to recreate that feat in Mexico, Kendall reflected on the summer that changed his life.
Already building a name for himself as a silky-skilled and industrious midfielder at Preston North End, Kendall travelled to Holland treating the tournament as just another chance to do what he loved most.
“There wasn’t as much pressure on young players then,” he says. “Agents weren’t as prevalent and there were less commercial pressures like boot deals and sponsorships.
“Even when it came to how you lined up I played in midfield, but back then you don’t talk about attacking midfield or defensive midfielders, it was just going out there and playing.”
The County-Durham born teenager took his flourishing career in his stride, and that unflappable nature proved useful just months after the England success.
Kendall had only turned professional in May 1963, but when Preston’s regular left-half Ian Davidson was suspended by the club for an unauthorised trip to Scotland ahead of their FA Cup final, Kendall took his place, becoming the youngest player to appear in the ‘64 final.
“It really was a memorable year,” he says. “My aim back then was just to get into the Preston first team, and that will be the same for the young lads from Everton over in Mexico now.
“You have to keep your eyes on achievable goals and not start getting too ahead of yourself. Hallam Hope and John Lundstram will be hoping they do enough to get David Moyes’ attention and maybe get themselves nearer that first team sheet.
“Like me they probably won’t dwell on it because you don’t when you’re young. I was just enjoying being in the moment and playing.
“It was a great time. Most, if not all of the lads went on to have good careers in the game. Harry Redknapp, John Sissons, and Peter Knowles. I’ve got a lovely photo of them all lifting me up after the final while I am holding the trophy.
“It wasn’t the case like with some England youth teams of most of the faces disappearing out of the game gradually afterwards.
“England had won it at Wembley the year before when Tommy Smith and Ron Harris were coming through, but we were the first team to win it on foreign soil.
“I kept in touch with most of the lads from that team. I had a tremendous relationship in the middle with Johnny Hollins who was at Chelsea. Playing with him was like playing with Colin Harvey, and we had a top rapport.
“And Don Rogers was player of the tournament – he was some talent. He was with Swindon and stayed loyal to them for most of his career before moving onto Crystal Palace. Swindon have a stand named after him now.
“Then there was Harry Redknapp who was a big personality back then and was already upsetting people! Nothing has changed!”
Kendall hopes that England’s current crop have the same opportunities to enjoy top-flight careers that he did.
“I’m not sure whether the current players will get the same chances at many clubs,” he says. “There’s a much bigger foreign influence – whether it’s young foreign players being brought over to English academies or foreign managers preferring their own players to young local talent.
“There’s also a much bigger pressure on young players to be successful immediately. But if they are that little bit special, and I hope Hallam and John prove to be, they will still shine through. The experience of pitting themselves against the best young players from across the road will be invaluable, even if they don’t quite realise it now.
“At least at Everton every young player can look at David Moyes’ track record and see there are routes to the first team. He gives them chances.
“Look at Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, and Seamus Coleman. With a bit of luck we’ll see Ross Barkley achieving big things in a royal blue shirt soon.
“Moyes gives young players a chance, and whether that’s because he cannot afford to import big foreign names all the time or not, it’s got to be a good thing for the lads out there in Mexico.”