Club Connector: Kevin Ratcliffe
A closer look at the former Everton and Cardiff City defender.
In the third of a new series for the 2013/14 season, we take a closer look at Goodison legend Kevin Ratcliffe.
Ahead of each match, the focus will be on one specific player who made a name at Everton and the Blues' forthcoming opponents.
Ratcliffe is the 'Club Connector' as we get set to make the trip to the Welsh capital on Saturday afternoon...
March 1980 – January 1993
January 1993 – August 1993
A BLUES LEGEND
Two top-flight titles, one FA Cup, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and four Charity Shields: Kevin Ratcliffe is quite simply the most successful captain in Everton’s rich and illustrious history.
He offered over a decade of service and clocked up a staggering 493 appearances for the Toffees – a total which ranks him fifth in the Club’s all-time appearance charts.
He made his debut against Manchester United in March 1980 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old left-back and ended his Blues career as a revered and seasoned centre-half, his last outing coming in a home meeting with Leeds United in December 1991.
Ratcliffe’s time at Goodison evokes numerous great memories – most of which involve the former Wales international lifting silverware above his head.
He was the skipper when the Blues won their only continental crown in 1985, beating Rapid Vienna 3-1 to secure the European Cup Winners’ Cup title.
However, it’s the semi-final second-leg of the competition against Bayern Munich, when the Toffees fought back from a goal down to win the tie 3-1, which Ratcliffe rates as his outstanding recollection.
“The atmosphere was just electric,” he said in the 1997 book Everton Greats. “There were about 50,000 in the crowd and 48,000 of them were screaming for us. We just could not lose that. Even the final in Rotterdam against Rapid Vienna couldn’t match that game.
“We were 1-0 down at the interval when Howard Kendall made his famous statement in the dressing room that all we had to do was get the ball in the box and the Gwladys Street would suck it into the net. We went out in the second half and battered Bayern.”
FROM THOSE THAT KNOW HIM BEST
Former teammate Kevin Sheedy: “He was a great captain for Everton. He was a winner who had a calm head on his shoulders. He was the link between the manager and the players and it worked very well. More importantly, he was a fantastic player and I can’t speak highly enough of him. But he didn’t have quite the success with Wales and I was able to give him stick when we qualified for the European Championships and World Cup with Republic of Ireland!”
Former manager Howard Kendall: “He was the most successful captain in the history of the club. As a defender, he was a strong tackler, a great reader of the game and quick. You look back at what silverware he lifted up, it was a tremendous achievement.”
Former teammate Graeme Sharp: “He was a fantastic captain for Everton and also a great leader for Wales. They never qualified for major tournaments but they had some great players at that time like Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Dean Saunders. When he got older, his pace went a little but he was still a great reader of the game. He went through some tough times when he started out at left-back and he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But he showed his determination by knuckling down and proving himself as a fantastic player. He knew how to look after the lads too and he got along with everyone.”
Former teammate Peter Reid: “I will always remember the FA Cup semi-final in 1984. Rats was having a bad time and he claimed the problem was that his shorts were too tight. I took my shorts off, swapped them with him and he then had a much better second half! In all seriousness, he was a terrific defender with pace to burn. He did the simple things very well.”
FOR THE OTHER SIDE
After a very short spell at Dundee, Ratcliffe joined Cardiff City in January 1993 - where he made an instantaneous impact.
In his decade at Goodison Park, he had netted just twice - so few would have predicted a goalscoring debut for the Bluebirds. Sure enough, the defender opened his account for his new club in his first outing away at Carlisle, powering an unstoppable second-half header into the back of the net to send Cardiff to a 2-1 win.
Ratcliffe spent just half a season at Ninian Park but it was a memorable year in the club’s history as they romped to the Third Division title, beating Welsh rivals Wrexham to top spot by three points.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Ratcliffe wound down his career with fleeting stints at Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Chester City before taking up the managerial reins at the latter – a position he held for four years between 1995 and 1999.
In November 1999, Ratcliffe joined Shrewsbury Town as manager and helped them avoid relegation to the Conference on the final day of the 1999/00 season.
Undoubtedly the highlight of his four-year tenure with the Shrews was masterminding an FA Cup giant-killing of his beloved Everton in January 2003, as the Blues fell victim to an unforeseen 2-1 defeat at Gay Meadow.
Nowadays, Ratcliffe works as a pundit for BBC Radio Wales and will be covering Everton’s first ever trip to the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.