Today’s article was published on our sister site Tale of Two Halves back in August 2018. With Everton facing another crucial weekend, we thought it would be good to remind the fanbase that an unsung hero can appear from nowhere…
Over the history of football, including old football before it was invented in 1992, there have been many ‘unsung heroes’. In this case, a player who appeared for his club week in, week out. Always did his job with little fuss or fanfare and his contribution outweighed expectation. He had appeared at Wembley three times without success and failed to trouble the international team bar one appearance for England ‘B’. I didn’t see Paul Power play for Manchester City other than games against Everton or coverage of matches on Match of the Day. I couldn’t, therefore, judge his whole Manchester City career although he was always seen from the outside as a solid dependable defender who wouldn’t let you down. I can judge his Everton career, however, and I believe he was one of the most important members of the team that coming season.
It seemed he was always going to be regarded as a ‘one club man’ who gave his tireless all to the only club he ever played for. A player who would look back on his career with hundreds of fond memories but no major trophy to show off. Highly valued at Manchester City, he was their captain and expected to lead their team into the new season.
When a club is looking to strengthen their team with a tilt at the Championship the aim, these days managers tend to look for a ‘marquee signing’. Someone who will make a difference rather than just squad strengthening. A marquee signing though is just as likely to mean overpaying millions of pounds for an overrated but well-known dud. Everton needed to strengthen their team having failed to win a trophy the previous season.
In 1986, with no European football and the ridiculous and insulting ScreenSport Super Cup dying its slow deserved death, domestic football was the pinnacle of a club’s achievement. The spectre of football hooliganism surrounded English football and attendances were relatively poor. Everton were runner-up in both the Championship and FA Cup the previous season and needed to strengthen. The selling of leading goalscorer Gary Lineker to Barcelona left Everton fans disappointed, to say the least. Leading scorer in the World Cup only weeks earlier, the lack of European Football appeared to be the big motivator in his move abroad.
Everton’s purchases of Neil Adams and Kevin Langley made few ripples. When the team is doing successfully you tend to give the manager the benefit of the doubt, even if you’ve never heard of the player. Most assumed those signings were players for the future. When Everton moved for Norwich City centre-half Dave Watson, opinion was mixed as he would be replacing crowd favourite, Derek Mountfield. Generally, though, fans were happy that the team was, at last, being strengthened. Everton had made such strides in the last two and a half years, they didn’t want to lose the momentum steadily building, despite the loss of European football.
Everton go for Power
It was the purchase of Paul Power though that raised eyebrows. Fans just didn’t see it coming. He was seen as cover for the first team in the coming season and only expected to play a handful of games. The then 32-year-old had recently signed a one-year contract with City and a young defender called Andy Hinchcliffe was waiting in the wings. It seemed to make sense when Everton offered a fee. Howard Kendall swooped and offered £65,000 for his services while Power was on holiday in Devon. The story goes that Power was due a testimonial which could have been a sticking point in negotiations. Howard Kendall, an astute man realised Everton were due to play City and offered to make it Power’s testimonial. That created the unusual scenario of Power playing for his new club in his testimonial for his old club. Job done!
Power made his debut for Everton at Wembley in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the Charity Shield. A week later he made his league debut in the 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest. He played the first part of the season filling in at left back for ‘Psycho’ Pat Van Den Hauwe and it was a tribute to his ability that he slotted in seamlessly. ‘Psycho’ Pat was out until February 1987 and Power did not miss a game.
More than just cover
As the season wore on, the Blues continued to have injury problems to their major players. Not only was Paul Bracewell out for the season, but Neville Southall was also out until October, Gary Stevens until December and Peter Reid until the following February. Derek Mountfield missed most of the season but at least Dave Watson had arrived just in time. The players Kendall had bought, seemingly for the future were all playing their part in keeping the team in contention until players returned to fitness.
When Pat Van Den Hauwe returned in February 1987 it coincided with an injury to Kevin Sheedy so Power deputised on the left of midfield. That made the so-called ‘bit part’ for Power looking more like it was becoming a leading role.
Strong in defence, with a biting tackle Power was a solid defender. He also found at Everton that he was able to go forward a lot more as a defender due to the quality in the team. In an interview he did for Everton’s Former players’ Foundation’ he sings the praises of “Sir Trevor Steven”, Graeme Sharp, Inchy (Adrian Heath) and Kevin Sheedy who played in front of him. When Power got up the field he was adept at whipping in crosses from the left and often got into scoring positions himself. One occasion stands out in November when Power returned to Maine Road as an Everton player and scored the second goal in a 3-1 victory. He subsequently refused to celebrate in front of his ex-teammates. City were subsequently relegated.
Closing in on the title
In all, Power was ever present up until the title was won, three games from the end of the season. A niggling knee injury meant he was due to have an operation at the end of the season. Once Everton had become champions, he opted to have the operation early. Sadly he was never quite the player he was before the operation and only played in a handful of games the following season. In all, he scored 6 goals in 54 appearances for the Blues.
Although Everton’s side of 1984/85 is seen by most fans as the pinnacle of Howard Kendall’s reign, it could be argued that the 1986/87 title win was more impressive. Like the season before, the side was riddled with injuries to key players. Many players stood in to secure the title, specifically Neil Adams, Kevin Langley, Paul Wilkinson and later Wayne Clarke and Ian Snodin. Power though completely exceeded expectations. From ‘bit part’ player to key player he ensured the key positions on the left were not only secure but Championship winning standard. He was appreciated so much that he was named Everton Supporters Player of the Year 1986/87.
Following the 1987/88 season, he retired and took on a coaching role at Goodison Park. When Howard Kendall returned to Everton in 1990, Paul Power was released. He then took on a coaching role with the PFA before returning to his first love, Manchester City coaching the academy youngsters. He left City when Manuel Pellegrini took over and revamped his coaching staff at the club.
Manchester City: 365 appearances, 26 goals
Everton: 54 appearances, 6 goals
England B: 1 appearance
Honours: League Championship 1987 with Everton
Value to Everton that season: Priceless!