"Brain of Britain" - Martin Keown's Everton nickname and the time he kicked Kevin Sheedy in the head

Team 33 learn about the many highs and eventual lows of Everton in the 1980s

Martin Keown, Everton

Martin Keown at Everton in 1991. Picture by Neal Simpson EMPICS Sport

The 1980s were arguably Everton's greatest era when you look at the roll-call of trophies attained under manager Howard Kendall and coach Colin Harvey.

League titles arrived in 1985 and '87, along with the FA Cup in 1984 and a European Cup Winners' Cup in 1985.

However, as Here We Go, Everton in the 1980s: The Players' Stories author Simon Hart told Team 33, the early part of the decade was extremely testing for the Toffees, with leaflets sent around at a League Cup match against Chesterfield demanding that Kendall quit.

But the late '80s also saw Everton begin to slide from the summit of English football, as a "band of brothers" began to split into cliques.

Speaking to figures such as Pat Nevin, Gary Lineker, and Neville Southall, Hart details the fascinating stories that were littered throughout that period, including exactly why Martin Keown kicked team-mate Kevin Sheedy in the head on a night out. 

In the book, winger and Newstalk pundit Nevin - who joined Everton in 1988 just after the trophy era ended - tells Hart about the dressing room environment in the late '80s at Goodison Park.

"It suddenly became clear that there was a schism within the team. It was horrendous," Pat tells Hart. "I was the same as I'd always been - an outsider looking in - but I seem to have been lumped in with the new guys versus the old guys. I was thinking 'It is not me versus anyone - I don't give a s*** how long you've been playing or if you've just arrived or how much you cost, I don't care.'" 

One of the new players that arrived in 1989 was a man who came through at Arsenal, and would return there to have a distinguished career under Arsene Wenger: Martin Keown.

But in a tough and unforgiving dressing room environment at Everton, talent alone wasn't going to be enough to flourish.

"Martin Keown was the best marker you've ever seen, but he was very disliked," explains Nevin. "I like unusual characters but I can understand why guys didn't like him - his social skills weren't great, he reacted badly when wound up, and he was certainly getting wound up by the older group of players."

He even had a nickname within the camp, with team-mates referring to him as the "Brain of Britain"; not exactly a compliment, you'd imagine.

"They were a group of players who liked to take the mickey out of each other, and everyone I spoke to said that Keown couldn't laugh at himself," Hart told Team 33. "He took himself very seriously and just didn't fit in at all. They called him BOB - Brain of Britain.

Manchester United's Gordon Strachan (r) is marked by Everton's Kevin Sheedy (l). Picture by Peter Robinson EMPICS Sport

"He was a fish out of water in that dressing room at the time. He was a young player and whether he changed as he got older and grew up at Arsenal... but Kevin Sheedy used to wind him up something rotten, which obviously led to a famous incident when they went out for what was meant to be a team bonding [session at] a Chinese restaurant one evening. It ended up with Keown kicking Kevin in the head - so not really what Colin Harvey had hoped for at the start of the evening."

Former Ireland international Sheedy has spoken about his side of the story from that incident in his book So Good I Did It Twice, and admitted that it still makes him "cringe" to this day.

"As he left the restaurant Colin warned us all not to get into any trouble," Sheedy writes, "but what I didn’t realise at this particular get-together was that my drinks were being tinkered with.

"By the time we arrived at the Red Rum Bar at the Carlton Hotel on Southport’s Lord Street I was speaking double Dutch. Martin and I then had a row over football issues. I must have said something he took offence at and he pushed me over, kicked me in the face and split my eye.

"A fall out is one thing, but you don’t expect a team-mate to kick you in the face."

You can listen to the full interview with Here We Go: Everton in the '80s author Simon Hart on Team 33 right here.