On 7th December 1989, Howard Kendall returned to England as manager of Manchester City and secured their survival with a comfortable 14th-place finish. Kendall had spent the previous two years in Spain managing Basque outfit Athletic Bilbao having left Everton where he won the league title twice during his time at Goodison Park. The former Everton player was continuously linked with the England manager’s position and even turned down an approach from Newcastle United during his time in Spain. Kendall was in charge at City for half of the 1989-1990 season and until November of the 1990-1991 season.
After Manchester United’s heaviest ever derby defeat only two months previously in the Maine Road Massacre, rumours began to circulate that Alex Ferguson was to be sacked by United and replaced by Kendall. However, when Peter Swales sacked Mel Machin and replaced him with Kendall, City fans were delighted and felt they had gotten one over on their bitter rivals.
Kendall was not the original choice to replace Machin as Swales first approached Oldham manager Joe Royle. City fans’ disapproval of Machin’s sacking was quickly forgotten when Kendall came in. The City board requested he build a squad capable of challenging at the top of English football once again for the first time in more than a decade.
Despite the excitement, supporters soon became frustrated with his transfer activity, especially when four popular players – Ian Bishop, Trevor Morley, Neil McNab and Andy Hinchcliffe – were sold and replaced with former Evertonians – Alan Harper, Mark Ward, Peter Reid, Wayne Clarke and Adrian Heath.
The best signing of this period came in March 1990 when Kendall bought Niall Quinn from Arsenal. Quinn’s goals and all-round influence helped the Blues avoid relegation, and in the summer of 1990, he added goalkeeper Tony Coton, and another ex-Evertonian Neil Pointon and the 1990-1 campaign started with only one defeat in the opening eleven games.
Sadly, just as City’s future seemed bright and only a couple of months into the new season, Kendall abruptly walked out on the club to return to his first love Everton. Hate mail and cruel chants came Kendall’s way as supporters felt betrayed. Swales was shocked, and the atmosphere around Maine Road quickly became toxic.
The new Everton manager even contemplated taking Peter Reid with him to Goodison but wisely, decided against the move.
The bitterness from the fans towards Kendall was made worse when he famously stated that Manchester City was a “love affair”, but that Everton was a “marriage”. Had Kendall remained at City, many feel his City side would have evolved into a trophy winning team competing at the very highest level of the English game.
Kendall would remain Everton manager until December 1993 when he would be replaced by Norwich boss, Mike Walker.
Peter Reid took over from Kendall in November 1990.