Everton Album: Andrei Kanchelskis
An exclusive, in-depth chat with Andrei Kanchelskis.
Goodison Park loves a flair man.
A player who captivates the Gwladys Street, mesmerises the Park End and frustrates all those whose hearts lie elsewhere.
Indeed flair is the gift every Everton manager wants to deliver and, in the summer of 1995, Joe Royle, fresh from lifting the FA Cup, did just that.
Bagging his first Everton goals in a 2-1 win at Anfield certainly endeared Andrei Kanchelskis to the Goodison faithful; the further 14 he hit that season made him a firm fans' favourite.
But flair players are an odd breed and sometimes, for whatever reason, that spark fades. Kanchelskis’ second season was plagued by injury and – as he himself admits – loss of form.
By the end of January 1997 he had played his last game in royal blue and joined Serie A outfit Fiorentina for £8million.
Toffees fans were grateful to have seen the Russian international in full flight. Yet, in different circumstances they may have seen more, as Kanchelskis explained to evertonfc.com…Looking back now, what are your memories of your time at Everton?
It was a great time, it’s a great team. There was a good atmosphere and a good coach. I am very, very happy and very pleased I played for Everton. In my first season we played very, very well but the next season not so. I don’t understand why. Joe Royle wanted to buy some good quality players but the chairman [Peter Johnson] said 'no, it’s not possible'. I found that a little bit strange.
Your first Everton goals came against Liverpool [above]. That made you popular with the fans straight away…
Yes. I scored two goals against Liverpool at Anfield and we won 2-1. It was the derby and so, of course, the fans were happy. I’m happy with the two goals and the fans are happy with the win. It was a good time for me.
The Everton team you played in had so much potential but it went unfulfilled. Why do you think that was?
I think we needed more quality players. This is important for every club. Like then and like now if Everton [want] to play in the Champions League, they need quality players. It’s just the way.
How did the Manchester United team you played in compare to the Everton squad you joined?
It was a bit different, of course, because Manchester United is a massive club that plays every season in the Champions League. But Everton had many good players too, and I enjoyed my time there. Manchester United, many times, won titles and cups so, of course, that was the big difference.
What did you think of England and the way of life when you first moved to Manchester?
It was okay because it didn’t rain too much (laughs). I like England because it rains maybe, but it’s not cold. I liked playing when it was raining because the ground was very good for me. I enjoyed England and I still do. My son was born in Manchester; my girl was born in Glasgow. I have a lot of English and Scottish friends too so, yes, it’s good.
You watched from the sidelines as Everton beat Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup final. Did that influence your decision to join the Club?
Yes, and also because Everton was close to my house. Back then I still lived in Manchester. I spoke with Joe Royle and he said to me to come to Everton. He was convincing and that is why I moved to Everton.
What was Joe Royle like as a manager?
Joe is a great person and I liked working with him because he is a nice coach. I enjoyed my time working with him. He was a good manager for me.
Who were the characters in the dressing room during your time at Goodison Park?
When I played we had a good team and a good atmosphere in the dressing room. Daniel Amokachi, Duncan Ferguson, Neville Southall; we had a good defence right across the back too. With Amokachi, sometimes the coach didn’t pick him for the first team. This is normal life. Sometimes the manager says 'you’re on the bench', sometimes the coach says 'you’re playing in the first team'. It’s football life.
Everton fans idolise Duncan Ferguson. What was he like to play alongside?
Duncan is a big man, is a good player and he always played well for Everton. I understand why he stayed at Everton a long time. And fans like people who stay a long time at the Club and work hard. He played 100 per cent and worked 100 per cent.
In your first season you scored 16 goals. What helped you settle so quickly?
I remember I was playing more attacking that season. I was less defensive and we had more space. That meant it wasn’t so tight at the end of the games and I had more space. That, I think, is why I scored 16 goals.
The second season wasn’t so good personally and fans said your heart was no longer at Everton…
No, I don’t think [that’s true]. I know that season was not good for me, but it was because of injuries, bad injuries. After Russia played very badly in Euro 96, psychologically I wasn't in the right place. Then at the end of the season [it was in fact January], the chairman of Everton said to me you must move to Fiorentina. It was because Fiorentina wanted to pay £8million for me.
You were only at Fiorentina a short while before coming back to Britain with Glasgow Rangers. Did you regret leaving Everton?
It was not my decision [to go to Fiorentina], it was a decision made by the Club. Joe Royle moved from the Club and a new coach came in and my psychological [outlook] was no good. Maybe I needed a change of atmosphere and a change of club.
If things had been different, would you have like to have stayed at Everton?
Yes, if Joe Royle had stayed. And also if Joe had [been allowed] to buy maybe more good quality players. I loved the supporters of Everton and I remember a great time. I would have liked to have stayed, no problem.
Andrei Kanchelskis was talking to evertonfc.com in October 2008.