By now many Evertonians will have seen the superb film about the great mid 80’s side. Testimony to how excellent this film is that every football fan who loves the true emotion of the beautiful game should watch. We say that from a starting point of being jaundiced by much of the way football is portrayed across media, accentuated by the theme and narrative that football didn’t exist before 1992 BS (Before Sky).
As a piece of filmmaking, it is highly skilled, emotional and compelling combination of storytelling, anecdotes, interviews and an outstanding music soundtrack. Under Rob Sloman’s production, it importantly creates context : context of the environment and the hopelessness of many under the economic abyss imposed on Merseyside , context of the sense of collectivism of the people of this wonderful city , context of how this young team grew into an inspired band of brothers who cared so much for what they became and who they represented. All of that led by the alchemist and wonderful man manager, Howard Kendall, supported by Colin Harvey, a coach who ingrained high standards, respected and loved by players and clearly well ahead of his time.
Everyone involved in the film should be mightily proud. Particularly, for Evertonians of a certain age, from the opening semi-autobiographical piece on Dave’s distraught and desperate reaction to the unthinkable Bally leaving to the powerful, sad, funny and uplifting celebration of Howard’s life, it’s joyously full of pride and passion.
Keith Mullin’s soundtrack is simply brilliant. It’s subtle, funny and smart. From Mike Lyons cathartic admissions of falling short with the overlay of Hot Chocolate’s 1977 ‘You win again’ to Wembley 1984 and the Teardrops ‘Reward’, it layers the feeling of the times and the struggles of being Blue.
Perhaps the biggest complement is that the match action, whilst great to see is not the centerpiece. Of course, we love Southampton at Highbury, Sharpy at Anfield, 1,2, 123, 1234, 5 nil and above all for us everything from April 24th, 1985 but the film portrays how Howard developed and distilled this team by blending the vital components that instilled belief. It also is a salutary lesson of fine margins : the choice of Colin Harvey to become coach, the support of Sir Phillip Carter despite the significant protests , the risky signings of Reid and Gray and the sheer mental fortitude of a group players who found ways to win, week in, week out (with a tiny squad).
On a wider perspective it’s a great assessment and lesson in leadership. A proud , passionate man who understood how to make individuals greater , to make Peter Reid want to ‘run through brick walls’, to make tough calls on players outside the starting eleven and the importance of the blend callow youth and leaders that created a collective hard arsed professionalism within a team.
The emotions of this film, this team, this club and this game are perhaps best captured with Reidy, Gray, Pat and Sharpy on the Goodison pitch talking through the Bayern game. The game they all admit they would take to their grave. The game that nearly everyone there that night would similarly take. They would so because it was the perfect storm of a leader, a team and a crowd that knew their collective power would overcome an exceptional team. The moment on the film and the evening equally irresistible.
Howard’s Way deserves every accolade. It was vital to tell the story of a great team that was denied the ultimate opportunity. It is an important acknowledgement of Howard and his team, but it is an awful lot more than that. In an era where elite football is often predictable, sanitised and a sense many players transient, it’s a fabulous reminder of the true power of our game. A game that needs fans to create the defining moments and memories. Howard’s Way is Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
Owner and Founder, FANSCAPES