Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC6 minutes to read
Liverpool, England – The survival trance lasted less than a minute at Goodison Park. Everton secured the victory they needed to avoid relegation from the Premier League, beating Bournemouth 1-0 with an Abdoulaye Doucoure goal in the second half, but the dominant emotion at the end of the match was anger.
Angered by being in this position – again – but also by the system in charge of running the club. Fans were chanting “Kick the board!” Before the Sean Dyche players left the field, but the plate wasn’t there to hear it. Directors, chairman Bill Kenwright and owner Farhad Moshiri have not attended a home game since the club cited security concerns about their safety ahead of the match against Southampton on 14 January.
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It was the third time that Everton had achieved the so-called great escape on the last day of the Premier League season, having also saved its skin in 1994 and 1998. Everton have faced relegation on other occasions, and managed to avoid last-day drama last season by winning in their penultimate match, but the reason the celebrations were so short on this occasion was that the club’s fans had had enough.
Doucouré, whose right-footed volley from 20 yards sealed the decisive victory over Bournemouth, summed up the mood around the club with a sharp assessment of what it means to survive.
“There is a lot of work to do,” he said after the match. “We can’t get carried away. I’m not a hero. Nobody’s here. We work and play for Everton and we have to be much better than that. We need to realize the mistakes we made this season. Everyone showed passion at the end, but next season we need to come back.” Stronger and put Everton on top.”
Relegation often goes hand in hand with errors and incompetence off the pitch, and Everton are fortunate not to suffer ultimate punishment for their shortcomings.
They let Richarlison, last season’s top scorer, leave on a £60m move to Tottenham, opting to replace him with Neil Maupay of Brighton for less than a quarter of that fee. Maupay only scored once all season and that was in September.
In January, after manager Frank Lampard was sacked after 11 defeats in 14 matches, Everton were the only club not to sign a deal during the transfer window. They did, however, allow young striker Anthony Gordon to join Newcastle in a £45m deal.
Daichi’s appointment as manager was arguably the right thing to do on the Everton board, given that the former Burnley boss had kept the club in the Premier League. But Dyche wasn’t their first choice. Marcelo Bielsa, the opposite of Dice in terms of coaching style, was the board’s choice. But the former Leeds manager soon realized Everton were in a bigger mess than he could solve in six months, so Dyche got the job.
Unless there is more turmoil at the club – there is ongoing speculation about ownership and whether Everton can be sold – Daichi will remain in charge of driving the team forward and ensuring progress is made. But there was a dose of reality from the manager after this match.
“This was a horrific day for everyone involved,” he said. “There’s no fun in it for me. It was very difficult, but the positive side is that we got the job done. There’s a lot of things to change here and a lot of work to do, but this is a big step towards doing that,” Everton must remember. They were so cool, that. We can’t say, “Oh, it’s all now.” I don’t have magic dust to sort it out.
“If you ask five different Everton fans what we need, you get five different answers, so we have to reorganize everyone. Work on the next season started the day I got here. This is not an easy fix, far from it. Fans want us to be We are at the top of the market because we are a big team, but we don’t perform like a big club.”
It would be much easier to hit the reset button as a Premier League team than a failed EFL club.
Everton are set to move to a new stadium during the 2024-25 season, but before that, they must deal with any punishment that comes their way after being charged by the Premier League in March for breaching financial fair play regulations. If the charge is supported, Everton could be deducted points next season, so ‘Groundhog Day’ this time next year is a possibility.
Avoiding relegation was crucial for Everton. Next season will be their 70th consecutive season in the top flight – only Arsenal (98 seasons) can boast a longer streak – and that sense of the club’s future in the balance hangs in the air ahead of this match.
The streets around Goodison were quiet before the game, as if no one dared speak, and the calm was broken only by cheering outside the ground, setting off flares and fireworks as kick-off approached.
Last season, Lampard would credit those same fans for helping to sustain the team after creating a frenzied atmosphere in the crowd, welcoming the coach of players with color and noise. Daichi wanted none of that. He wanted to ease the feelings and treat it like a normal day, so the players arrived individually in their cars. It might also have been a ploy to allow them to escape quickly afterwards if events had turned out differently.
But there was no need to sneak out the back door, thanks to Doucoure. He scored the goal that was important to keep Everton in the Premier League, sending Leicester and Leeds down instead.
The Everton board will celebrate somewhere, but the fact that they walked away from such a pivotal game tells you all about the tightrope the club still has to walk.
They stayed up, but nobody was partying too loudly.
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