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Everton Fans: Final day elation, relief and outrage at Goodison Park

Everton fans can breathe again after another long season fighting relegation. For the second year running, their final home match culminated in a Goodison Park pitch invasion. Toffees fans endured another emotional rollercoaster, and it's one they could do without in 2023/24. Let's look back at how that final matchday went down. By James Kelbrick

It's the penultimate game of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign. With five minutes of the 90 remaining, Everton fans are on their feet as their side have a free-kick inside the Crystal Palace half. The Toffees have done so well to get back onto level terms but only a win will see them safe for another season. Demarai Gray whips in a fantastic cross and Dominic Calvert-Lewin dives head-first, connecting with the ball and sending it past Jack Butland and into the back of the net. Goodison Park erupts, the stands start to shake and the noise level are like nothing this grand old stadium has heard since the Toffees beat Bayern Munich here in 1985.

The final whistle blows and the once green pitch is now so flooded with adoring Everton fans that it now looks like a sea of blue and white. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters embrace one another and sing aloud with the rest of the crowd and the manager that orchestrated this great escape is stood high in the stands with the board that appointed him singing along and celebrating like one of the fans.

Everton

Another Season, Another Relegation Battle

Cut to the final day of the 2022/23 Premier League season and once again, Everton are battling to stay in the top flight of English football. This time around, the fans expect more from their players and the latest manager, who has galvanised the side and taken them into a position whereby their fate is in their own hands with a home game against already safe Bournemouth. The Toffees sit 2pts clear of both Leicester and Leeds with each of the ten matches kicking off at the same time. The early news from Elland Road is that Leeds are losing but it isn't long before Leicester take the lead against a weakened West Ham side and Everton now slip into the relegation zone on the live league table.

The Toffees go in goalless at the break and while Bournemouth have seen more of the ball, it's Everton who have come closest to scoring. This Everton side don't have many goals in them and with last season's hero Dominic Calvert-Lewin out injured, Sean Dyche's side can't afford to concede the first goal and simply must find a way past Travers in the Cherries' goal.

It's the 57th-minute and Everton have a throw-in on the left-hand side in the Bournemouth half, James Tarkowski lays the ball off to Idrissa Geuye who sends a high ball into the box towards Amadou Onana. The big Belgian midfielder challenges the Bournemouth defender and the ball makes its way outside of the penalty area towards the on-rushing Abdoulaye Doucoure who only has one thing on his mind. The Mali international connects perfectly with the ball and in that split second a deafening silence hits Goodison Park. One single goal could end up maintaining a 70-year record, Doucoure's shot hits the back of the net before the Bournemouth goalkeeper could even react and like a volcano, Goodison Park erupts once more with cheers that rival DCL's late winner against the Eagles a season earlier.

Everton got the goal they needed and managed to keep a clean sheet meaning that even though Leicester won, it would be the Toffees that avoided relegation to the Championship. Leeds ended up being thrashed at home be Tottenham while Leicester claimed a 2-1 win over David Moyes' Hammers. It proved quite fitting that Everton earned their safety through a 1-0 home win under Dyche and that Doucoure scored the all-important goal. Under Frank Lampard in the first half of the season, Doucoure had started well but soon fell out with the former Chelsea man and at one point, came very close to moving to Fulham. Thankfully, for the Everton fans, Doucoure remained where he was and became the most important member of the starting eleven under Dyche.

We've talked about Everton's lack of goals and while Dwight McNeil started to score on a regular basis, in the heart of the midfield there really was only one goal threat from Everton and it came from Doucoure. Dyche got the best out of the Mali midfielder where the likes of Lampard and Carlo Ancelotti failed. You could see the impact Doucoure was having under Dyche once the former Watford man picked up a 3-match ban, Everton looked void of all ideas in his absence and the Toffee's faithful were almost hitching their Premier League survival on his return to the side, along with Calvert-Lewin who also had an impact but sadly it was on a short term basis as yet another injury would curtail his campaign.

Mixed Emotions at the Final Whistle

Everton did it, the Merseysiders extended their long, long run in the top-flight unrivaled by any other club. Whilst the final whistle of the Everton vs Crystal Palace game a season earlier produced an almost entirely positive reaction from the Everton fans, Patrick Vieira might think differently, there was more relief this time around and even that didn't last very long. Some idiots, and I have to call them that as Everton had been warned about a big fine and possible points deduction for another pitch invasion this season, decided to take to the field once again though nowhere near as many.

The ones that did breach the pitch were greeted with boos and jeers from the proper Evertonians who stayed in their seats. The issue with the pitch invasion also meant that the Everton players didn't come back out for their traditional lap of honour and that in turn meant that Yerry Mina, who played a big part in saving the club this season and is a fan favourite, never got to say his goodbye to the club and the fans didn't get to show their appreciation for the Colombian centre-back.

The fans in the stands then turned their attention to the board and owner of the football club sending a message that what they had seen this season simply wasn't good enough and change was needed. This reaction was always going to come following numerous decisions by the people in charge at the football club led to a huge divide between themselves and the supporters. Putting up pictures in the training ground from the scenes after the great escape against Crystal Palace only served to enrage Everton fans who viewed the move as a ‘small club mentality' celebrating survival when a club with such a great history should be embarrassed by these scenes with trophies the only thing that should be celebrated, even if that appears a long way away.

Change at Everton is Inevitable

The Everton owner and board can't get away with the inept way they have been running this club over the last few years, especially seeing how the relationship between fans towards the Chairman and CEO has deteriorated into nothing. The owner has put his hand is his pocket and tried to improve this team but sadly he has a bad habit of trusting the wrong people to run his business. The player recruitment has been shocking, the communication, or lack or, from the club to the fans is almost none existent, and the fact that the board members haven't even been attending home matches is just embarrassing.

Everybody knows that a football club is nothing without its fans and the Everton owner can surely see that he needs to make a radical change if he wants to get the fanbase back onside and the club moving forward again. Goodison is the club's historic home, and an iconic English ground just like Kenilworth Road, where Premier League football will be played for the first time next season. But the new Everton stadium looks fantastic and I personally can't wait to taste the atmosphere myself. Still, that doesn't fix or overshadow the real issues that plague the club. If changes aren't made this summer than Everton will be back in a relegation fight next season and that is something many of the Toffees faithful couldn't handle. We're not talking about challenging for Europe or even a top-half finish, the aim should be to have the club safe with 5 or more games to spare and then we can build upon that. Keeping Dyche will be key to the consistency and stability the club really needs right now. Player sales might be necessary but that money has to go back into the squad for the manager to build the team he wants, only this way can the club start to move forward again.


James Kelbrick

Experienced football writer and media coordinator, Everton fan James has been working full time in sports since 2015, when he completed his degree in Media Production.

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