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Everton fans of a certain vintage have been here before, I myself watched in horror with my dad as we slipped to a 2-0 deficit against Wimbledon’s crazy gang. We prayed that the footballing gods would hear our prayers and save us, they manifested themselves in Everton stalwarts Graham Stuart and Barry Horne, and we were saved.
After sheer relief, the overriding emotion of the day was that we should not, and could not be in that position again. Unfortunately for us, the unthinkable did happen again, when Gareth Farrelly again saved us against Coventry. And most recently, last night’s thrilling comeback against Crystal Palace.
Evertonians are a funny bunch, the passion we feel for our club and its players can border on hysteria, nothing reflects this more than this season. Most will tell you we started under a cloud, the appointment of Rafa Benitez left a sour taste in the mouth of many a blue, not simply because of his affiliation with our old enemy but also because of the disregard the board and owner showed to the feelings of the fans. Football is a business, none of us are naïve enough not to know that, but if Everton is the business, then the fans are their consumers. We felt we should be listened to, we were not, and the almost inevitable chants for Benitez’s head were followed shortly after.
Enter Duncan Ferguson for his now all too familiar appearance on the seemingly never ending managerial merry-go-round at Goodison. Big Dunc is one of us, he is first and foremost an Evertonian and bears the scars and tattoos to prove it. He is universally adored by Evertonians and once more he stepped into the breach to not only look after the team but remind us what we had forgotten. Everton is the peoples club and his contribution to the pre-match drinks at the Brick highlight very well the relationship between him and the fans.
Alas, his singular game in the hot seat this time around resulted in a tepid 1-0 home defeat to Steven Gerrard’s Villa, the former Liverpool man leaving the ground that day with a wry smile. Dunc was devastated along with 40.000 others inside Goodison. It’s often said of blues that the least we demand is spirit and pride – take a bow Dunc, you brought both in spades and we love you for it.
Football is a game of clichés. Cometh the hour cometh the man is one often used. Enter Frank Lampard Jnr, one of the countries finest and most decorated midfielders, and the possessor of a promising, albeit fledgling managerial career.
Of course eye brows were raised by some sections of supporters and the media, but “we are Everton” he said and rallied his squad and the fans back to a relationship long since forgotten at the end of Rafa’s reign. Not too long after, the toxicity that had threatened to envelop the club was lifting, and despite the fact results were still sometimes way below par, the fans were again feeling a synergy with the players.
We have had so many false dawns as blues, after the crushing 3-2 away defeat to Burnley we feared the absolute worst, 5 points adrift of safety and with a rosta of games approaching nobody gave us a chance of winning. We then went on to beat United, Chelsea and Leicester. Hope was renewed.
A confluence of events brought us to our last home game of the season against Crystal Palace, a game we simply had to win to avoid needing a result against Arsenal on the final day. The fans certainly played their part both before and after the game. We said “we have done all we can boys, the rest is up to you”. Predictably, they made us sweat on the result , 2-0 down at half time with a mountain to climb. I don’t mind telling you I feared the worst . But in typically gut wrenching Everton fashion we managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The fans invaded the pitch and apart from the few mindless who took it as an opportunity to cause trouble, the vast majority simply embraced the feeling of sheer relief that we had avoided the unthinkable .
So the feeling we experienced last night not withstanding, I can’t look back on this season with anything but disappointment. There have been flashes of joy, even euphoria at times, but they have been outweighed by frustration, fear and often anger at a club who flattered to deceive yet again. We are Blues, the club is in our heart and soul, the very notion of relegation should be unthinkable. But again we have danced with the devil and got way too close to the flame.
FT. And breathe…
UP THE %$*@£[email protected] TOFFEES!!!!!!
— Everton (@Everton) May 19, 2022
So I send this impassioned plea to my club. The club I will follow no matter what division we are in, players I will think of as family members, brothers in the fight against mediocrity. Please feel it like we do, please listen when we tell you it destroys us when we lose. If we don’t see you fighting we will lose our own stomach for the battle. We will stand by you through thick and thin if you show you want us to.
Our club is not defined by one season, no success or failure will interfere in our love affair with you. We are Everton. We are the People Club. And to our detractors we say quite simply, “we will see you in the Premier League next year.”
By Richie Elder
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