January 7th 1994, the day Peter Johnson, the then Everton chairman, made one of the worst decisions in the history of Everton Football Club, a decision so bad, that within 4 months it had almost cost Everton their place in the Premier League.
The decision to appoint the silver-haired Mike Walker as Everton manager was disastrous. Within weeks he had taken the Blues from mid table security to serious relegation candidates and only a quite unbelievable come back against Wimbledon on the final day of the season, preserved Everton’s Premier League status. The ramifications of relegation that day would have been horrific.
Mike Walker joined the club from Norwich City where he was incredibly popular. The fans adored him and he was held in such high esteem he was verging on hero status following an incredible 18 months in which he had taken the small provincial club to third in the Premier League and on an incredible run in Europe. The highlight of his time at Carrow Road was a famous 2-1 win in Germany over the mighty Bayern Munich. That win propelled Mike Walker to the top of the managerial pile, and when Howard Kendall resigned from the manager’s job at Everton for a second time, the Everton board were determined to get their man. A month-long power struggle with Norwich was played out in public, before Mike Walker resigned his position and made the move to Goodison Park.
With his silver hair and all year round tan, Mike Walker was an eccentric character who clearly loved the limelight. However he was not cut out to manage a club of the stature of Everton. At the time the Blues were still rightly considered one of the biggest clubs in the country and had been Champions of England just 7 years earlier. Influential players from the golden era still remained at the club and Walker was unable to handle the big personalities of Neville Southall, Dave Watson and Ian Snodin.
After a dream start, a 6-2 win over Swindon Town, Mike Walker’s time at Everton quickly deteriorated into a farce. The dressing room was lost almost instantaneously and results went from bad to worse. With just 4 wins in his opening 18 games for the club, the Blues suddenly found themselves inside the relegation zone with just one league match remaining. The Blues were two-nil down before half time against Wimbledon and the Evertonians feared the worst. Luckily, and I choose that word carefully, that goal from Barry Horne and two from Graham Stuart preserved Everton’s Premier League status and for the time being, Mike Walker’s job. The stay of execution didn’t last long. 16 games into the new season and with just a solitary win to their name, the Blues were rock bottom of the table and Walker had to go.
Under immense pressure from the supporters and the playing squad, Peter Johnson made the decision to sack Mike Walker on October 8th 1994, barely 10 months after he was appointed. Everton moved quickly to appoint Joe Royle, the man who should have been appointed in the first place and to emphasise how poorly Walker had performed, Royle led the exact same squad to FA Cup glory that very season.