In the end, the result seemed almost secondary.
To see Everton let a late lead slip at Wolverhampton on Saturday brought obvious disappointment, but after the monotonous slog that last season quickly descended into, it seemed far more significant that, after an excellent transfer window and Sam Allardyce’s dreary reign consigned to ancient history, Evertonians felt together again.
Indeed, whereas enduring the limp, anaemic football lumped up in 2017-18 by first Ronald Koeman and later Allardyce became a chore, to be at Molineux yesterday was a pleasure, with far more positives to derive than many of last campaign’s victories, even.
Here, there were no explicit chants towards an unpopular manager as in April’s win at Huddersfield, nobody leaving at half-time as in February’s 5-1 drubbing at Arsenal, no clear discord between the fans and the club that was synonymous with much of Allardyce’s tenure.
Ohhh YERRY MINA pic.twitter.com/F5mmh5VKOZ— Louis Crawford (@LouisCrawford10) August 11, 2018
Instead, on a drizzly Saturday afternoon in the West Midlands, we got the very antithesis of this. 3,000 vociferous Evertonians were launched into delirium by the brilliance of £40 million signing Richarlison, with jubilant fans flying into rows ahead of them, and young Blues high-fiving everyone in sight. As every supporter ceaselessly chanted the Brazilian’s name in unison outside the ground afterwards, it only served to emphasise the depth of positivity now surrounding the club.
Undoubtedly, the Toffees’ football at Wolves provided plenty more to smile about in new boss Marco Silva’s first competitive game at the helm. Richarlison rightly took the headlines for his debut brace, and in time may prove the overdue replacement for Steven Pienaar, but it was equally satisfying to watch an Everton side show the sort of fight rarely seen since the swashbuckling days of David Moyes. The much-maligned Morgan Schneiderlin, so often the footballing embodiment of last season’s malaise, looked revitalised and much closer to the tough-tackling fan favourite he quickly became following his signing in January 2017.
Make no mistake, this was the sort of game Everton would have crumbled in last year and left empty-handed. In a cacophonous atmosphere such as that at Molineux on Saturday, with a raucous home crowd cheering on their newly-promoted side, it showed a certain degree of mental toughness about them to leave with a credible point, more so considering Phil Jagielka’s red card late in the first period.
Every reason to be cheerful, of course, must be tempered with the caveat that this is extremely early days for Silva, and there have been too many false dawns at Goodison in recent years for even the most ardent Evertonian to have no reservations. But rarely has the fanbase radiated such optimism as it did at Molineux since arguably the first season under Roberto Martinez.
With the bonus of much more to come from Everton, not least from deadline-day signings Kurt Zouma, André Gomes, Bernard and Yerry Mina, the sheer mundanity of last season, and the vitriol associated with Martinez’s last days now seems a world away. Silva may not be as overtly enthusiastic as the Spaniard, or as cold as Koeman, but thus far his greatest success has been reuniting a deeply unhappy following.
Whisper it, but watching the Blues might be about to become enjoyable again.