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The day Goodison got its groove back

We don’t have much time left at this famous old stadium, which makes matches like Saturday’s win over Leeds all the more special

Everton v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The clock may be ticking on Goodison Park, but there’s still life in the old girl yet.

The 130-year-old stadium has been a toxic place of late, full of anger, frustration and vitriol. But the dark clouds that have hung over L4 have dissipated – for now at least - during one barnstorming afternoon against Leeds.

I have not enjoyed a trip to Goodison quite as much as that in a long, long time – and perhaps what made it so special was the joyless games we have had to endure over the last few months.

I know how fortunate I am to be able to go and watch Everton games live. Having written for this website for more than a decade I have got to know Toffees fans based all over the globe. I am full of admiration for their loyalty and dedication, often getting up at ungodly hours to watch Everton (usually lose). I will never moan about a 12:30pm kick-off again.

But at the same time I freely admit going to the game had to begun to feel like a chore, an obligation, something to endure rather than enjoy. And at times uncomfortably vitriolic.

All the talk on social media in the build-up to this game (and well done to all the fan groups for promoting this) was about how the fans needed to be at their boisterous best, to rediscover their voice to help drag the team over the line.

The supporters more than did their bit, while the players responded in kind with their best performance of the season.

Everton v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images
Everton v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The connection between the fans, manager and players has been restored. For now at least. The key question now is whether it can be sustained.

The adrenalin-fuelled ferocity of Saturday’s performance will be hard to replicate week in week out, but we should all at least try.

The power of Goodison cannot be underestimated and should be a key weapon in our armoury. Rafa Benitez instantly neutered that advantage because of the hostility to his appointment but Frank Lampard knows how important it can be.

If he can gee up the fans and get them onside it makes life so much more difficult for the opposition, while the Toffees players themselves looked much more comfortable when they have such ferocious backing behind them.

Everton v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Not that I’m blaming the fans for voicing their frustrations over recent months. They have been badly let down by the club despite their incredible loyalty. It has always been the players first and foremost who should earn the backing of the crowd and not the other way around.

But the arrival of Lampard has acted as something of a clean slate, the chance to put the difficulties of the autumn behind us knowing that only a unified club will be able to get out of this mess.

There are still plenty of issues at Everton and they remain in a perilous position in the table. But Saturday’s game has injected fresh vigour into a flagging season, and finally put smiles back on the faces of Evertonians.