Black Eyes, Scones And Champagne: Key Figures Relive Everton's Farrelly-Inspired Escape

On 10 May 1998, Everton's attachment to this country's elite clubs was being retained by a gossamer thread.

Only by achieving a result against visitors Coventry City superior to the one Bolton Wanderers managed at Chelsea would Howard Kendall's team hold on to their Premier League status.

evertonfc.com spoke to a selection of the men involved in the matches at Goodison Park and Stamford Bridge to tell the story of an afternoon jammed with suffocating tension and when the outcome remained unclear until the very last. 


“I remember the atmosphere in the place, it was absolutely electric.

“There was no way – and I know it was close in the end – but there was no way Everton were going to lose that match, because of the passion of the fans in the stadium.

“When I think of Everton, I think of that. I think of the fans in moments like that. They were like an extra player for the team.”

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Everton today are considering an exciting future, harbouring authentic designs on competing in the Premier League’s upper reaches under the command of a manager with a gluttonous appetite for silverware.

Twenty-two years ago, the dynamic was rather different. A season which stubbornly refused to gather legs climaxed in a cocktail of tears, relief and faithful promises of ‘never again’, vows honoured in the two decades and more since they were pledged.

It was an odd campaign, 1997/98. There were some heady days, giving genuine rise to optimism of something exciting being in the offing. But not enough of them. Consistency was elusive and a young, honest team lacked a killer instinct.

Everton actually lost only six of their final 22 matches. They played football that was pleasing on the eye and were managed carefully and caringly by Howard Kendall.

They won only six of those 22 matches, however, and followed a comprehensive Merseyside derby victory in the opening half of the campaign by embarking on a winless six-match streak.

The upshot of all this was that Everton entered the season’s final day in the bottom three. They trailed Bolton Wanderers in 17th by one point – but boasted a goal difference superior to that of the Lancashire club.

Coventry City were the visitors to Goodison Park, while Bolton finished with a match at Chelsea, a team with nothing resting on the result and three days away from contesting the European Cup Winners’ Cup final with Stuttgart in Stockholm.


Don Hutchison signed for Everton in February 1998 and instantly established himself as a key midfield figure.

The passage of time has done nothing to cloud Hutchison’s sharp recollections of the season’s denouement. Ask him if he has known pressure like it and, well, you are left in no doubt as to the gravity of the occasion.

“Never, never,” he says. Hutchison pauses, digests the gut-spinning emotion rushing through him all over again, then begins to convey the enormity of the responsibility he felt weighing his shoulders.

Everton were teetering on the brink of a first relegation in 47 years – and only a third demotion in the Club’s history.

“Pressure of that sort? Never, ever,” he reiterates. “It was just too big, too big to imagine. I do not know how we got ourselves in that situation, I have no idea.

“Looking at the players in the dressing room… how we found ourselves playing Coventry and needing a result – it was quite shocking, actually.”

Kendall used all his smarts and interpersonal skills to help his players negotiate a tricky week.

The brains and inspiration behind Everton’s halcyon days of the mid-1980s, the Club’s greatest manager had to prepare his squad for 90 minutes boasting the ghoulish potential to haunt them for life.

“The night before the game, Howard took us to a hotel over the water in New Brighton, just to get us away,” says Hutchison.

“It was too big. You couldn’t stay in your house and drive to the game. There was just too much uncertainty in terms of the lads being late because the streets would be packed with fans.

“Howard took us for a walk in the morning – and, typical Howard, he took us into a little deli, we all had a cup of coffee and a scone.


“Then we got on the coach and that was when the nerves hit. We started seeing a few Evertonians walking the streets. Ten or 20 of them, then a few more, and more, and by the time we got to Goodison Park, there were thousands on the streets.

“From the traffic lights nearby to the players’ entrance should be a 30-second drive. It took half an hour.

“The fans were banging on the windows and sides of the coach. It could have been intimidating but I loved it. It got my juices going and my adrenaline flowing.”

Richard Shaw was a defender for Coventry City. He stands up Hutchison’s account of the bedlam around Goodison pre-match.

“As a player, you don’t often see the match from the fans’ perspective,” Shaw tells evertonfc.com. “As a fan, you might turn up half an hour before kick-off but as players you’re there much earlier.

“When we turned up on that day, the streets were lined with Evertonians and it was clear what a massive day it was for them.

“You could feel the tension and scale of the occasion just through the atmosphere around the stadium when we made that journey on the coach.”

Coventry had been in similar peril 12 months previously, a final-day victory at Tottenham Hotspur combined with the failures to win of both Middlesbrough and Sunderland enabling the Sky Blues to escape the drop by the skin of their teeth.

One year later and the West Midlands club were in rude health. They had lost only one of their previous 15 matches and could finish anywhere between ninth and 11th.

“We had nothing to play for so were quite relaxed and happy to play our football,” says Shaw, who until last year was boss of Crystal Palace’s Under-23 team.

“I love Everton, anyway, and playing at Goodison Park with the crowd right on top of you. It is not like a lot of the modern stadiums.

“But on that day, it was incredible, such an atmosphere.”


If Everton’s objective was clear – Kendall cautioned journalists before the match to not rule out the idea of a draw sufficing, but they simply had to go for victory, lest Chelsea not go full throttle at Bolton – then Coventry’s players nursed disparate motivations.

While Shaw was content to soak up the experience, play with the shackles off, fellow defender Roland Nilsson possessed twin ambitions.

“We were fighting to get up to 10th and for Dion Dublin to score some goals – he was chasing the Golden Boot,” former Sweden international Nilsson tells evertonfc.com.

Shaw and Nilsson both recall conversations with their opponents on the day.

“I spoke to a few of the Everton players in the tunnel,” says Nilsson. “They were saying, ‘You don’t have anything to play for, we have everything to play for… think about that during the game’.

“We had a laugh about it. But I said, ‘No chance, we will see after the game how things have gone’.”

Shaw’s memory of discourse with an opponent comes from the heat of battle.

“I remember Mickael Madar kept turning round to the back four and saying, ‘You have to let us score, you have to let us score’,” says Shaw.

Madar laughs. He does not remember the moment. Nor does he doubt Shaw’s word.

Mention of that one word, Coventry, elicits a guttural response from the Frenchman.

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08:56

ASK A BLUE...WITH KEVIN RATCLIFFE

Everton legend answers fans' questions.


“Oooh,” exclaims Madar, who joined Everton in January 1998.

“It is normal to be nervous before each game,” he tells evertonfc.com. “But this? You want to win and play well. And you put pressure on yourself.

“But when the referee blows the whistle, you forget everything and just play.

“It was difficult, of course. The players told me, ‘If we save the Club; run, run, run. Everybody will come on the pitch and it will be crazy’.

“And we ran.” Madar dissolves into fits of laughter.

Everton swarmed all over Coventry from the first whistle. The midfield three of Hutchison, Gareth Farrelly and Nick Barmby harried, hounded and rattled into tackles as if their lives depended on it.

Duncan Ferguson and Madar employed their physicality to buffet the visitors’ backline.

Farrelly, the left footer signed from Aston Villa the previous summer and with no goals in his previous 25 Premier League games that season, chested down the ball on the edge of the D after seven minutes.

He swung his right boot through it, connecting flush and scoring into the top-right corner. It would be Farrelly’s solitary league goal for Everton.

“We all responded to the atmosphere, I don’t think anybody shrank,” says Hutchison.

“It is not the type of game you are going to come away from thinking, ‘I played well there’.

“Apart from Gareth Farrelly, no one will think they played well.”

Colin Todd was Bolton Wanderers’ manager in 1997/98. He had brought the club up as runaway Division One champions the previous season.


The subject of 10 May 1998 prompts Todd to cast his gaze back a further eight months.

“There was another thing that was significant, you know,” Todd tells evertonfc.com. “And it would have made a big difference.”

To this day Bolton supporters plaintively recall Gerry Taggart being denied a goal by referee Steve Lodge when the defender’s header appeared to have crossed the line before being hooked clear by Terry Phelan in a 0-0 draw with Everton in the season’s fourth match.

Former Bolton centre-back Gudni Bergsson remains exercised by the call, too.

His reflex response to mention of the final-day drama, like Todd, is to harp back to 1 September 1997.

“What about that goal we scored that wasn’t given,” Bergsson exclaims.

“How telling was that? You can never say for sure how things would have panned out but it was so close in the end.”


The return fixture at Goodison Park in December 1997 was a humdinger.

Bolton recovered a two-goal deficit – with efforts from Bergsson and Scott Sellars – only for Ferguson, inspired by being named Everton captain for the match, to complete a hat-trick of headers and settle the contest.

“I scored with a header, but Big Duncan scored three, didn’t he?” questions Bergsson, wanting his sketchy memory of the day verified.

“Yes? Crikey. I am sure I was not marking him.

“Boy, it was a cracking game. I remember it well. It was nice to score but disappointing in the end to let in three goals.

“I had a bit of a rough ride with Everton. I am not pleased with them… but I do wish them well.”

Still, heading to west London five months later, Bolton had their one-point advantage over the Blues.

“I looked at Chelsea’s team sheet and thought, ‘We have got a great chance here’, because they had left one or two big hitters on the bench,” says Todd.

“We had wonderful chances in the first half to get in front. But we came in at half-time 0-0.”

Danny Granville was the left-back in Chelsea’s team. The 23-year-old had moved to Stamford Bridge from Cambridge United the previous summer and forced his way into the side in the season’s closing months.

With Graeme Le Saux injured, Granville knew he had a very good chance of starting the European final three days later.

He was betwixt and between the need to turn in a performance which kept him in the box seat to play in Stockholm and ensuring he didn’t sustain an injury that left him grounded on the runway.


“It was just odd, there was no pressure on us at all but we had to be as professional as possible,” Granville tells evertonfc.com.

“A lot of us were playing for places in the cup final, which did give us some extra incentive. The final was in the back of my mind – and there were other players who could have filled my position.

“It was mad we had the Stuttgart game so soon after playing Bolton. I think we flew out the next day.

“You are mindful of the wider impact of your game, though. I also had a soft spot for Everton. Being a left footer, I always used to like Kevin Sheedy.

“That Everton team in ‘98 had some good players, too. I used to love Duncan Ferguson and was fortunate to play against him a few times. He was a top player, a real handful.”

Ferguson, as was typically the case, had been the subject of plenty of pre-match talk in Coventry’s dressing room.

“You did not want to tackle him if you could help it for fear of making him angry,” Shaw tells evertonfc.com.

“Before any game against him, we would say, ‘Whatever you do, do not upset him, or it will be messy’.


“Four of us – me, Noel Whelan, Darren Huckerby and Paul Telfer – were going to Ayia Napa a few days after the game.

“Beforehand we were saying, ‘Whatever you do, do not upset Dunc’. We do not want to be going away with a black eye.

“Paul Telfer upset him and Duncan caught Paul with a stray elbow – it was a fair challenge but the impact was heavy.

“But we were sat round the pool in Ayia Napa and Paul Telfer had this big black eye. We were saying, ‘Remember what we said before the game – why did you do it?’.

“Duncan was a fantastic player, an absolutely fantastic player. A real handful. And with Madar as well, it was a really physical forward line.”

Madar made way early in the second half for Danny Cadamarteri.

Everton, explains Hutchison, had found themselves caught between two stools – and Kendall sought to reinject some purpose into the Toffees’ play.

“These games are really hard to play in,” says Hutchison. “Everything about you says, ‘We are at home, we should go and attack’.

“But on the flip side, you are thinking, ‘What if we do attack and Coventry score?’


“Then you are trying to second guess what Chelsea would do against Bolton. We were pretty confident they would win but you are never sure, especially on the last day of the season.

“They are brilliant games to play in – but not for your nerves or to show your ability.”

Evertonians’ anxiety was assuaged slightly by news of Chelsea player-manager Gianluca Vialli opening the scoring at Stamford Bridge.

Vialli, frustrated by the deadlock, had introduced himself, Uruguayan attacker Gus Poyet and Roberto Di Matteo, the silky Italian midfield technician, for the second 45 minutes.

“They brought on some of their big subs and that changed the momentum of the game and we lost it,” says Todd.

Six minutes from the end at Goodison Park, Cadamarteri was dumped to the turf in the box by defender Paul Williams.

Barmby missed the opportunity to put the season’s outcome beyond doubt when his resultant penalty was saved by goalkeeper Magnus Hedman.

If that spurned chance felt like a kick in the stomach then its repercussions intensified when Dublin’s header from a David Burrows cross sneaked through Everton number one Thomas Myhre on 89 minutes.

It was Dublin’s 18th Premier League goal of the campaign, enough for him to tie with fellow Englishmen Michael Owen and Chris Sutton for the Golden Boot.

In terms of the targets spelled out by Nilsson, that was one successfully ticked off. Coventry wanted more, though. They liked the look of that top-half finish.


“The atmosphere in the ground was fantastic: a big noisy crowd and you could tell the supporters were trying to do absolutely everything they could to help the players get the result they wanted,” says Nilsson, who was capped 116 times by Sweden and now manages the country’s Under-21 side.

“You could feel the stress in the ground and the crowd was so up when they scored. I can remember the cheers when Chelsea got their first goal against Bolton, too.

“Then as soon as we equalised, everything went quiet. You could feel how tense it was. Every single decision – throw-in or free-kick, everything – they were desperate for it to go to Everton.

“And really late on, they were screaming for the referee to blow his whistle.

“We tried to keep going and went close to a winner a couple of times.”

Jody Morris tapped in a second goal for Chelsea in stoppage time to conclude events down south.

Vast sections of the home support in the capital weren’t best pleased with their young midfielder.

Chelsea’s fans weren’t especially fussed about Bolton’s fortunes. But they were somewhat giddy about the idea of their team helping condemn Everton to the drop.

“Our supporters were geeing Bolton on a bit but we did a professional job and that was important to us,” says Granville.

“I was still relatively new at Chelsea and any game you play, you want to give everything.

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08:24

DAVIDE ANCELOTTI ON DELIVERING KEY MESSAGES TO EVERTON PLAYERS

Assistant manager on what he's discussing with players and being ready to return.


“It was weird having the fans pushing on the other team – and Bolton did have a couple of good chances.

“Everton had a top side when I was growing up. But everybody has their difficulties at some stage – Chelsea certainly had theirs.

“You don’t expect a club like Everton to be fighting relegation, though.”

Kendall had deliberately chosen his words in the week preceding the match.

There had been an expressed concern about Chelsea “playing in flip-flops”, perhaps a nudge in the ribs to keep the Londoners honest, and that suggestion a draw could lift his team above the perforated line.

When referee Paul Alcock sounded the full-time whistle and Evertonians poured from the stands and onto the Goodison turf to revel in their shared relief, Kendall’s utterances had a prescient feel.

More than 200 miles away, Bolton were shattered.

“You have highs and lows as a player and a manager,” says Todd.

“That was one of the hardest things to accept in my career, being in that dressing room and seeing grown-up people in tears.

“It did mean that much. And to get to a situation where you had 40 points – and teams have stayed up with far fewer than that… it kills you.”


Todd had received bulletins from Goodison throughout the afternoon. Before turning his thoughts to Kendall, he considers how his emotions ebbed and flowed.

“Oh yeah, yeah, we knew what was happening,” says Todd.

“But once the nail was in the coffin, 2-0 down, then you are really…” He tails off.

Then starts again.

“When it was 0-0, we were happy and not worried about the other result. But Everton had a scare as well, didn’t they?

“A draw would have been good enough for us, wouldn’t it? But it wasn’t to be… it wasn’t to be.

“You need a little bit of luck and it ran against us. But 40 points?

“Everton – in terms of the club – should not be in a position like that.

“Howard was a wonderful guy, from the same part of the world (north-east) as me. The only Cup final I went to was the one he played for Preston (aged 17 in 1964) and I looked out for how he was doing from that day.”


Coventry’s players heeded the advice that had been conferred on Madar.

“When the referee blew his whistle, everyone just said, ‘Run, run, run’,” says Nilsson.

“We had tried our best, our manager Gordon Strachan wanted to win the game and we had wanted to as well.

“You could sense our commitment in the way we reacted when we went behind.

“If Gordon had told us to just go out and enjoy it, it would have been a different game after the first goal.

“But we wanted to do better than that and we kept going.”

Shaw chips in.

“It was such a tense time for Everton and, in the end, I was pleased they stayed up because it is a terrific football club.

“But we tried our best to win the game and make life difficult for them because that is the honesty of English football. It was a good game and good day.”


While the celebrating Evertonians heaved the mightiest collective sigh of relief, exhaling months of stored anxiety and ignoring the rain soaking them to the skin, Kendall and his players retreated inside to reflect on the day – and the season.

Amid a raucous dressing room scene, it suddenly struck Hutchison that he had not clapped eyes on his manager for some time.

“All the lads were celebrating, having a drink and a bit of champagne,” says Hutchison. “It was a party atmosphere and it didn’t sit right with me, celebrating staying up.

“But you do, you get on with it because it is part of the team spirit. You don’t want to be a loner or an outcast.

“I looked around the dressing room, the lads celebrating and the music on. I could see [assistant manager] Adrian Heath and [first-team coach] Viv Busby.

"But not Howard.

“I asked [kit manager] Jimmy Martin where he was. He told me he was in the boot room.

“I knocked on the door and opened it slightly – wanting to be polite.

“The lights were off but I fully opened the door and saw Howard, sat with a glass of champagne in his hand, crying.

“It makes me hugely emotional when I think of the emotion on his face. I sat in a darkened room with Howard for 10-15 minutes, just hugging him, basically.

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07:13

CALVERT-LEWIN AND KELLY SURPRISE EVERTONIANS

Strike duo discuss hobbies with fans.


“I was chatting to him, trying to distract him from crying. We were both in tears.

“He said to me, ’Listen, I just did not want to be the man who took Everton down’. He loved the Club so much.

“With that, we got ourselves together, wiped the eyes, went back into the dressing room and got on with having a good time.

“But it was very emotional.”

Shaw, co-owner of a young brand specialising in football-related products, explains how relegation could have changed the course of Everton’s history.

“I was relegated at Crystal Palace (in 1993 and 1995) and players are selfish,” he says.

“I got caught up in that way of thinking and I was wrong. You think, ‘I need to move on if I want to get in the England squad’. That sort of thing.

“But what you do not realise is, it affects the whole community. People selling tickets, everyone in the club shop. Your budget goes down, people lose their jobs and the local community suffers.

“I remember Palace going down and thinking, ‘What is my next move?’.

“But I look back and think, ‘Wow, relegation is such a big thing’.

“Players sometimes do not understand what it means to the fans.

“I have been to loads of games since I stopped playing and have seen how important it is to supporters – it is their world. The result affects their whole week.

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07:05 Wed 06 May 2020

CHAMPION BLUES ON TITLE-WINNING EMOTION

Everton stars remember being crowned country's best team 35 years ago.


“They spend so much money following their teams everywhere.

”I saw a great Everton side in the mid-80s. I honestly think that if English clubs had not been banned they would have won the European Cup.

“That team – and I am not an Everton fan (Shaw rushes off the names: Southall, Stevens, Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Van den Hauwe, Steven, Reid, Bracewell, Sheedy, Sharp and Gray with a zeal to match the most committed of Gwladys Street denizens) – I remember it like it was yesterday.

“It was a great team. An incredible side. I remember watching them on the Big Match and Match of the Day.

“A lot of kids now just watch Barcelona and Real Madrid and are wowed by the lime green boots.

“They are interested in who can score a free-kick from 40 yards and putting it on Twitter.

“If you love football and watch football, that Everton team… Oh my God, you could not help but admire them.”

Coventry finished the season 11th, one point behind Leicester City directly above them.

“We had a good side,” says Nilsson, “and when you have a goalscorer up front and are not conceding many goals, you know going into any game there is a good chance you will win it.

“It is the complete opposite to the way Everton would have been feeling.

“But sometimes that happens to good teams.

“They do not get the results they want, then they start to think about things too much and lose confidence. Everything becomes a struggle.

“I think that happened to Everton. They did not perform as well as they could, then suddenly found themselves chasing points at the end.

“It is a very hard combination because you do not have much confidence but know every point is so important.”


Nilsson left Coventry in summer 1999 for Helsingborgs in his homeland. He returned to the West Midlands in 2001 immediately following the club’s relegation, ultimately taking over for a short-lived stint as manager. Coventry have not featured in the Premier League since.

“When you drop out of the Premier League, you lose your better players because you have to sell them to generate money,” says Nilsson.

“Financial structures change and it becomes very hard to do well.

“Then you need somebody prepared to put more money into the club. There was nobody to put in big amounts to keep Coventry going to the same level.”

Three days after doing Everton a decent turn, Chelsea beat Stuttgart in the Swedish capital courtesy of Gianfranco Zola’s 71st-minute goal.

Granville played the full 90 minutes and was outstanding.

“It was an amazing night,” says Granville, today working as a games teacher at Duncombe School in Hertfordshire.

“I have never wanted to hear a final-whistle so much. As soon as Zola got that goal, Stuttgart were applying so much pressure on us.

“I had to pinch myself to believe I was playing with players like Vialli and Zola.

“That final and winning promotion with Palace – we beat West Ham at the Millennium Stadium in the play-off final (in 2004) – were my career highlights.”

As Granville and his teammates cavorted around Rasunda Stadium, Bergsson was still licking his wounds. The memory lingers today.

“It was the worst moment of my sporting career,” says Bergsson unequivocally.

“We had a good enough team to stay up but perhaps our inexperience cost us.

“We went down on 40 points, which is usually enough, but we came back and built on that experience – and Bolton in the years afterwards enjoyed a really great period for the club, which we all remember fondly.

“It is one of those things. It was very close. And a great escape for Everton, of course. They enjoyed it, I am sure.

“It is great when you avoid relegation, it feels almost like winning a title.

“The pressure of being down there when you really need the points is the hardest thing in football.

“When we brought in Youri Djorkaeff – a great talent, a World Cup winner and former Inter Milan player – he talked about never having experienced the pressure that comes with fighting relegation.”


Todd shook Bolton from their misery and oversaw an unbeaten 11-game start to the season after relegation.

They would, however, lose the Wembley play-off final 2-0 to Watford. The manager left seven games into the following campaign.

“We had good players and a good bond – a tight dressing room,” says Todd.

“It showed when we bounced back the next season – recovering from being relegated to get to the play-off final.

“We had a board meeting a few days after that final – and when the chairman [Gordon Hargreaves] and I came out of it, we could both smell danger. There were two people we felt wanted to make changes.

“Eventually, after a lot of discussions with Gordon… seven games into the season [1999/00], I decided it was right to move on.”

A little more than six weeks after expertly steering Everton through one of the Club’s hardest days, Kendall’s third and final spell in charge came to an end.

He was replaced by Walter Smith, who began his squad overhaul by recruiting a cosmopolitan selection of players from France, Italy, Scotland [Alec Cleland] and, in the case of David Unsworth, down the M6 at Aston Villa.

Everton finished 1998/99 in 14th spot.

“We had a very good side from back to front that season and a good mix of personalities as well,” says Hutchison.

“It was an exciting time but we should have achieved more.

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02:58 Wed 06 May 2020

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“John Collins and Marco Materazzi, really good players, joined us.

“We signed Olivier Dacourt, who was a brilliant character to have around, a real tough man but he could play.

“And Kevin Campbell came from Turkey late in the season.

“It’s hard to put your finger on why we couldn’t do better over a consistent period. Perhaps we were in a period of transition?”

Richard Dunne played 16 Premier League matches in Smith’s first season. He had featured four times as a teenager in 1997/98, including in that 3-2 victory over Bolton which would prove so meaningful.

Centre-back Dunne was part of the Everton team which won the 1998 FA Youth Cup and paraded the trophy on the pitch before kick-off against Coventry, beside the Club’s ladies team, which was showing off its Women’s Premier League trophy.

He is responsible for the quote at the top of this article. It bears repeating.

“I remember the atmosphere in the place, it was absolutely electric.

“There was no way – and I know it was close in the end – but there was no way Everton were going to lose that match, because of the passion of the fans in the stadium.

“When I think of Everton, I think of that. I think of the fans in moments like that. They were like an extra player for the team.”

Dunne continues: “It was a hard season because it was all ups and downs. There were a lot of changes at the Club… but it is experiences like that which build a club.

“It gets the fans around you, they develop their love for the club through moments like that.”


The last word, though, belongs to Kendall.

In the aftermath of the drama he skilfully captured the prevailing mood, turning soothsayer, once more, and striking a tone similar to the one Dunne would hit 20 years later.

"The fans responded today when the team coach arrived,” began Kendall, “when the players entered the field, when they played.

"There was never a negative thought in the fans' minds.

"It is a day I won't want to go through again while I'm manager.

"We've survived, deservedly so. We will build from that.”

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