Colin Harvey needs little introduction to Everton supporters. He grew up watching his beloved blues from the Boys’ Pen in the corner of Gwladys Street and soon became the one who was then cheered for by all of Goodison Park on the pitch. As far as Everton goes, Harvey has seen it all as he spent the best part of 40 years at the club.
From his debut as a raw 18-year-old midfielder, to Harry Catterick’s Everton, to league and cup glory as a player and then as Howard Kendall’s right-hand man throughout the club’s most successful period in the 1980s, few have experienced more in blue colours then the man once dubbed ‘the white Pele’.
Q) You made your Everton debut as an 18-year-old against Internazionale in the European Cup at the San Siro Stadium in September 1963, that must have been a baptism of fire if ever there was one?
“It certainly was. I played in the reserves on the Saturday and I hadn’t played for the first team at all. I was told to report at Bellefield on the Monday before the team were travelling to Milan later that day. They had all sorts of skips and kit that needed carrying then so that was a young players job to help them and I went with the team. It wasn’t until just before kick off on the Wednesday night when Harry Catterick told me that I was playing. He kept the decision back a bit to save me thinking about it, which was very thoughtful of him. Although we lost the match 1-0, I didn’t play too bad and settled in fairly nicely in front of over 70,000 fans. To have been able to put on that blue shirt was fantastic. At the end of the previous season (around May time) I was playing in the Everton B team, and after playing an afternoon game, we managed to get back down to Goodison Park to watch Everton beat Fulham and clinch the 1963 league championship. It was a fantastic experience to be there and see the team win the trophy – little did I know at the time that I would be in that team in a matter of months.”
Q) Legendary Everton manager Harry Catterick brought you into the team and was obviously aware of your footballing credentials from an early age. He is rightly regarded as one of the club’s most successful managers, having won the championship twice and the FA Cup, what was it like to play under him?
“Harry was a very tough taskmaster, he expected a lot from you and a lot of players were frightened of him – but in the same breadth very respectful of what he had achieved. He always treated me well throughout my career, he started off my career and he was a great source of help to me. He didn’t over talk to you but if you know that he liked you, you know he respected you and I certainly thought he did that. Harry was a delegator and he would tell his coaching staff what he wanted from them and they done most of his day in day out work at the club.”
Q) The 1960’s was a prosperous period for Everton and you cemented yourself as a key member of Catterick’s team. In addition, you also played in two FA Cup Finals during the decade (both winning and losing a final), what was it like to win the trophy at Wembley?
“Before we got to the final, I still have fond memories of the only goal I scored in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, which gave us a 1-0 victory at the old Burnden Park, home of Bolton. We were leading 1-0 and I remember when Alex Young hit the bottom of the post, and we would have doubled our lead if it had went in. At the time, I wished it had gone in but when the game was over, to have scored the only goal to take us to the final is still a fantastic feeling even to this day. In the final itself against Sheffield Wednesday we were 2-0 down (and they were quite rightly the best team for an hour) but we came back in the last half hour and scored three goals. It was a fantastic feeling and one of my early boyhood dreams had come true.”
Q) The Everton fans nicknamed you ‘the white Pele’ as they watched yourself, Howard Kendall, and of course Alan Ball form the club’s most formidable midfield of all time – the ‘Holy Trinity’. Tell me about that midfield trio…
“Alan Ball signed for the club in 1966 and on the Saturday before he arrived we played Liverpool in the Charity Shield at Goodison as it wasn’t played at Wembley in those days and they beat us 1-0. It could have been four or five, they absolutely murdered us. The following Monday, Harry went out and brought Bally, and two weeks later we played Liverpool at Goodison again and beat them 3-1. The difference was Bally, he just raised the bar for all of us. Every day in training we were all aspiring to be a better player, just to be as good as him. Obviously, it helped to inspire us to be better players and then Howard arrived the following season in 1967. We just seemed to have this bond straight away. The two of us were a little bit more defensive minded and Bally for the first two or three years of his Everton career scored 15 or 16 goals a season – he was unbelievable. We just gelled as a threesome, were on the same wavelength football wise and it was just one of those things that we came together and for the next four to five years everything went great.”
Q) For those who did not see you play, how would you describe yourself as a player?
“I wasn’t a goalscorer! I was reasonably creative, I could run all day and I could tackle as well so I was like that box-to-box midfield player that Harry told me to be. He just expected me to do everything I could from box-to-box so that’s what I tried to do. I could pass it outside the box, but when I got in there I couldn’t shoot!”
Q) The title winning season of 1969-70 was a special time for the club. What was it like to win the championship?
“We were in the middle of a fantastic run and we secured the championship with a 2-0 win against West Brown (1st April 1970). We played some fantastic football and I just had one of those games, and scored the goal which clinched the title. I started darting with the ball from the middle and then went on to beat one, beat two, beat three and then the ball just flew into the top corner. It was unusual for me but it was one of those nights. As I held the trophy I could see my dad in the ground, it was just an amazing experience.”
Q) Goodison Park has been your home for so many years, you must have a great affection with ‘The Grand Old Lady’?
“It hasn’t changed much down the years, it’s still the same old Goodison Park that I’ve known since I was a kid. I used to go when I was five or six. My dad used to drop me off and he used to go in the Gwladys Street, we went in the boys’ pen and met him afterwards. It’s changed a little bit but not a great deal since those days. A lot of my family were evertonians and some of them lived just by the ground for a couple of years when I was a youngster so it was just walking distance to go and watch the games.”
Q) A proud moment for you in your career must be receiving full international recognition with England against Malta in a European Championship qualifier in 1971. Having won the solitary cap, do you think you were unlucky not to win more?
“It’s a great honour to play for England and I’m proud that I did it – even though I’m one of those quiz questions relating to England players who have been capped once! In 1969 I was called into England’s squad for a South American Tour and was included in a party of 18. I played against Mexico, but the fixture did not count as a full international. The following season I sustained a serious eye injury and fell out of contention for Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1970 World Cup squad. I eventually won my only cap a year after that tournament but of course I would have loved to have won a few more.”
Q) In 1974 you made the switch to play for Sheffield Wednesday and spent the best part of two seasons with the club. After retirement in 1976, you arrived back at Everton in a youth coaching capacity. Do you think it was always your intention to come back to Goodison so soon after you had left?
“Yes Everton was my club and when Billy Bingham, the manager at the time, asked me to come back I couldn’t refuse. We won the FA Youth Cup in 1977 and that was great to work with some of the emerging players that were coming through like Kevin Ratcliffe.”
Q) Just a few years on and in 1981 you became Howard Kendall’s right-hand man after he was appointed manager of the club. Having played together for so many years in the ‘Holy Trinity’, was it easy to ‘hit the ground running’ as a managerial twosome?
“Yes it was and it was an amazing time. As soon as Howard came back, things between us just seemed to gel again. We just had a fantastic period for six or seven years where we were competing for and winning trophy after trophy. I’m proud of what we achieved because we had a great team and the 1980’s was an unforgettable period. My only disappointment is that we didn’t get an opportunity to enter the European Cup as it was then because of the ban on English teams participating in the competition. The fact that we won the league championship in 1985 and the European Cup Winners Cup made us all believe we were good enough to win the European Cup. My feeling was that if we had been able to enter, we would have won it at least once.”
Q) When you grew up on the terraces as a young boy and then moved into the Everton first-team, did you ever think you would become manager of the club one day, as you did in 1987 when Kendall left Goodison for Athletic Bilbao?
“No not at all! As a kid when I was growing up my biggest ambition was to just play football and I never even gave coaching or management a thought. To have been able to play, coach and manage the club you’ve supported as a kid was just unthinkable. I was lucky enough to play for my local team in the first instance.”
Q) And finally Colin, what does Everton mean to you?
“Everton has been my life both as a kid and as a man. At the moment, I’m Chief Scout at Bolton and after looking for their result first, the next one I always look for is Everton. Once an evertonian, always an evertonian as someone quite rightly said.”
This interview was also published in the Everton Supporters Club London Area (ESCLA) Fanzine.