Inchy: 'I should have stayed at Burnley!'

His wife Jane still reminds him he made the wrong decision.

Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 7:30 am
Adrian Heath

And Adrian Heath accepts he should have gone with his head, rather than his heart, after leaving his job as Burnley boss to return to former club Everton as Howard Kendall's assistant in the summer of 1997.

Heath had just guided Burnley to ninth in the Second Division in his first full season in charge at Turf Moor, just dropping off the play-off pace in the last few games.

However, with a number of young players now established in the side - the likes of Chris Brass, Paul Weller, Paul Smith and an exciting prospect in Glen Little - mixed with the experience of Nigel Gleghorn, Marlon Beresford, David Eyres, Gary Parkinson and Jamie Hoyland, prospects of a promotion push looked good.

Everton players including Alan Harper (left with trophy), Adrian Heath (centre with trophy top), Neil Pointon (3rd right), Kevin Sheedy (2nd right) and Wayne Clark (holding award right) parade the Division One League Championship trophy following their First Division match against Luton Town at Goodison Park on 9th May 1987. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Heath had already brought in Marco Gentile on a free transfer from MVV Maastricht - described as one of the best uncapped players in Holland by Ruud Gullit, and was close to sealing a £200,000 move for former Blackburn midfielder Mark Patterson from Sheffield United.

But the call of his Goodison mentor, who he had also served as assistant at Sheffield United before returning to Burnley as manager, was too strong.

Heath said: "My wife rang me and said 'what's happening?'

"I said 'Howard's offered me the job to be assistant manager at Everton, and I think I'm going to take it'.

"She, to this day, reminds me she was adamant I shouldn't do it.

"In hindsight, I've always been big enough to admit I made a mistake.

"The Everton I was joining with Howard was not the Everton of when I was there, and some of the things Howard was promised to go back weren't delivered on.

"I should have stayed. Frank (Teasdale) was really upset and offered me a new deal, and said 'look, you've just started to build here, you've got good young players, Weller, Smithy', and he said I should stay and see it through.

"He was right. I should have done.

"But at the time you make a decision, sometimes you make them with your heart, not your head."

Heath is convinced the side would have gone close to promotion the following season, but after the arrival of Chris Waddle, ended up needing to beat Plymouth at Turf Moor on the last day to avoid relegation: "We'd brought a few players in, and I look back at the likes of Glen Little, people like that - I know if I'd stayed that summer and had the opportunity to bring the type of player in that I was looking at, then I know we would have gone a lot closer.

"Chris came in and decided to change an awful lot about, a lot of the players I thought were good players, he didn't particularly think so.

"Obviously it took Stan (Ternent) to come in and turn it around again.

"When I look back, I could have handled that situation better and bottom line, I should have stayed.

"But you can't play for Everton in the most successful team in that club's history and not have strong feelings.

"Before I spoke to you, I'd just done an hour on the Everton podcast about Howard. It's still very much at the forefront of my life, and I've been gone twenty-odd years.

"I'm on the Howard's Way film, which captures the era very well, Thatcher's Britain, the music - Echo and the Bunnymen, Christians, Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

"It was a big decision, but it was the wrong one."