Work and family commitments mean Saturday’s match against Manchester United is likely the last game I’m able attend this season, and therefore could also be the final Everton Premier League game I go to in a long time. With that grim thought on my mind I arrived at Goodison early and took a walk around the ground, aware that things may never be quite the same again.
Around the famous old stadium is a timeline detailing some of the club’s achievements over the last 144 years. It left me wondering just what has gone so wrong. I don’t think I was the only one thinking that. There was a definite fear hanging in the air, as well as a sadness at the club’s possible fate.
But there was also a determination, a determination to back the team and try and drag them away from the abyss. The Goodison crowd has been criticised over recent years for having the temerity to express frustration at the club’s slow decline. But since Frank Lampard’s appointment there has been a noticeable change in atmosphere which has undoubtedly boosted the team.
Having this game so soon after the Burnley debacle was definitely a good thing as it forced us to move on from the horrors of Turf Moor. I don’t think Everton played that badly in that game, or at West Ham last week, but tentative signs of progress are not enough at this stage of the season. Points are all that matter - which is what made this weekend so significant.
With the final whistle, Goodison roared in the spring sunshine, it’s ageing stands reverberating to the beat of 38,000 jubilant Evertonians as the three points were secured. We may still rue points dropped along the way this season, but the value of this win goes far beyond the knowledge that the Blues remain clear of the drop zone for another weekend at least. It was the manner that the victory was secured that will go a long way towards boosting the morale of both the players on the pitch and the fanbase that remains fully behind the new manager and the side.
All over the pitch there were heroic performances. Jordan Pickford continues to impress in goal, Ben Godfrey got his head on everything, while Michael Keane recovered from a shaky start to keep United’s attackers at bay. Vitalii Mykolenko played his best match in a Toffees shirt, and Fabian Delph reminded us that he is a midfield player of real quality - when fit. Alexi Iwobi never stopped running and finally appears to be at home in a blue shirt. What would we give for a team of Richarlison and Anthony Gordons? They may have vastly different backgrounds but they mirror each other in determination and infectious enthusiasm.
The one player who got some stick was Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who looked to be playing within himself. Is it a lack of effort? I don’t think so. I wonder just how bad his injury was and whether he is still wary of going full pelt for fear of suffering a recurrence, something that has happened all too often to himself and a number of his teammates. He remains a key player in the side though so we must hope he can play himself into a bit of form. Still, that was a minor complaint on another wise bright day, the sort of day with have rarely witnessed in this dismal season. You can forgive the fans for enjoying every last drop.
Watford and Burnley both losing made it pretty much the perfect weekend, meaning the Toffees now have some breathing space in the battle against the drop. The Blues schedule ahead is still a tough one though, so any kind of points they can pick up would be welcome.
They remain rancid and brittle away from home but at Goodison, Everton have now won five out of seven under Lampard, including their last two without conceding a goal. They have not become world-beaters overnight and there remains work to be done, but there looks to be enough there to drag the team over the line before major surgery on the squad under new Director of Football Kevin Thelwell can begin in the summer. For now though, up the Toffees!