Catterick’s Everton legacy too easily overlooked

ERIC BROWN welcomes the overdue biography of one of the top managers of 1960s English football

It’s the ultimate quiz question to spice up any football trivia contest: Which manager collected more English top flight points than any other in the 1960s?

So that would be Bill Shankly then? Don Revie? Matt Busby maybe, or Joe Mercer, Brian Clough or Bill Nicholson?

None of the above.

Harry Catterick: built one of the greatest teams of the 1960s
Harry Catterick: built one of the greatest teams of the 1960s at Everton

It was Harry Catterick who outscored his rivals in the points department but whose rather dour character saw him overshadowed by many of the more publicity conscious among them. An uneasy relationship with the media peaked with his attempt to ban Match of the Day cameras from Goodison Park.

Catterick finished outside the top six on only one occasion during spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Everton. He twice won the League Championship, grabbed the FA Cup in the most exciting final ever staged and built a dream midfield many claim has never been bettered in English football.

Cheshire-based Everton nut Rob Sawyer has produced the first Catterick biography, Harry Catterick, the untold story of a football great as a tale of disaster, triumph and disappointment.

The son of a County Durham steelworker and miner, Catterick started his football career as a centre half but soon moved to centre forward, netting an amazing 73 goals in one season for Brinksway at the age of 15.

With the family living in Stockport, young Harry was expected to join the local club. But both Manchester clubs were soon on his trail and it was a surprise when he elected to join Everton.

During wartime Catterick played for Stockport against Everton when County arrived at Goodison with only nine players, and a month later he scored for Everton against Stockport, who were by then managed by his father. By the time war ended Catterick was 25 with precious little time to establish himself as a top player and in 1948, after being in and out of the Everton side, he asked for a transfer.

Eventually Catterick took his first step on the managerial ladder by becoming player-manager of Crewe before moving on to Rochdale as manager in 1953.

He brought in a promising coach called Joe Fagan but after five years battling the bank manager at Spotland while qualifying for the new Third Division, Catterick moved into the big time with Sheffield Wednesday in 1958, after Bill Nicholson had turned the job down.

Catterick built the club into one of the most formidable in the country but quit in April 1961 partly because the Hillsborough board refused to let him sign England forward Joe Baker. Just 10 days later he was back as manager of Everton side.

Catterick flourished at Everton as a transfer market wheeler-dealer and advocate of thrilling one-touch football. His Everton legacy included trophies but much more than that. He constructed a midfield of Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball nicknamed “The Holy Trinity”, “The Three Musketeers” or “The Three Graces”. Whatever you called them, they were quality, ball-playing gold dust in an era when other less enlightened clubs employed players known as “Chopper”, “The Anfield Ironman”, and “Bites Yer Legs.”

Another legacy involved the training ground. When he arrived Catterick found Everton’s training facilities at Bellefield little more than a recreation ground with bumpy surfaces and a wooden pavilion. He was invited to come up with something better and personally designed a new complex which proved the envy of other top flight clubs.

This enabled Catterick not only to impress and sign a string of promising schoolboys but also helped persuade top stars to join Everton.

Sawyer’s tale is probably at its most interesting when touching on Catterick’s transfer activity. How close he came to signing Kenny Dalglish, how Brian Clough gazumped him for Archie Gemmill after the player had agreed to join Everton and how Catterick beat Revie to land England World Cup hero Ball.

After the league and cup triumphs there’s a harrowing account in his own words of how Catterick suffered a heart attack while on the lonely Yorkshire moors driving back from a scouting mission. This dramatic attack was followed by a steady health decline and eventually his Everton exit.

Yet the Catterick story continued with a spell in charge of Preston where he managed three players destined to become European Cup winners: Michael Robinson, Tony Morley and Mark Lawrenson.

Sacked by Preston in 1977, Catterick unsuccessfully applied for the England manager’s job when Revie decamped to the desert.

The lure of Everton proved too strong and soon he was back in a scouting capacity. Harry Catterick was aged 65 when he died at Goodison during an FA Cup tie against Ipswich on March 9, 1985. His biography has been long overdue.

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