Saturday, May 7, 2022

Everton fans want to create a ‘bearpit’ atmosphere for the Chelsea game to show their support for the players

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Fans are planning a partisan show of support ahead of Sunday’s game after the Toffees slipped into the relegation zone following last weekend’s Merseyside derby

But Everton fans have conjured up a unique answer to their desperate situation. High-profile supporter groups hatch a plan for fans to line the path to Goodison Park to greet the team manager in a loud, partisan demonstration of their support.

Everton’s poor league position is worsening by the week as dark clouds gather over one of the Premier League’s founding members. It hasn’t escaped anyone in north Liverpool that Frank Lampard’s side could be five points from safety by the time of Sunday’s kick-off against Chelsea.

It’s reminiscent of the kind of welcome Everton’s finest teams – the 1995 FA Cup winners or the heroes of the 1980s – received, and it could be argued that this group of players hardly deserves the honour. But that misses the point.

“The idea is for as many blues as possible to be there and show their support. No focus on what happened before, instead the focus is on the last six games and trying to strengthen the only people who can get us out of this mess – the players,” says co-organizer Mark Ellis. Turning Goodison Park into a bear pit for the remaining home games is their blatant goal.

It’s a call that reflects the unique dynamic of a fanbase horrified that relegation, which they previously evaded in dramatic circumstances, now seems increasingly likely. Because Everton fans have struggled to formulate a unified response to the unfolding horror.

Podcaster Paul the Esk helped launch the 27 Years campaign earlier this year, which sparked anger over the club’s recent demise with much of the support.

Frustrated by what she saw as poor management at the club – “a board that isn’t fit for purpose” and a “careless and meddlesome” owner, Paul sums it up – her stated goal was to force Farhad Moshiri to listen and to deal with the fans’ concerns.

But an initial call for exit in the 27th minute of the Arsenal game (marking 27 years without a trophy) in December did not garner much support, despite all the media coverage.

“Many fans said it was not the time to protest. To be honest, I think Everton supporters have been more reactive than proactive,” admits Paul. A change of tactics was forced upon them, and protest and anger were deflected until their struggle for survival was resolved.

“It’s not something a lot of Evertoners would normally put behind them, in all fairness,” said co-organizer Jemma Birks of the open demonstration of support planned for Sunday.

“But it’s gotten to the point where the fans are willing to do literally anything to create the best atmosphere and support for the players to get three points.”

Few can understand how this came about. “The negligence is remarkable,” says Paul of Moshiri.

“I’m sure he invested more money than he ever intended but that’s because he has to react to the mistakes he’s made which have cost the club. He’s like a bad player who has to cover his losses.”

There are signs within the club that the “strategic review of football structure” could be a way out of the chaos Everton find themselves in.

Kevin Thelwell is a solid choice for the Director of Football role and has a chance to make his mark on the youth line-up – a bone of contention for many Evertonians – after the club look for a new Academy director and Under-23 coach following David Unsworth’s departure.

It was understood that there was talk of recruiting following the ‘Everton DNA’ rather than the reactive way successive managers have signed players for their own particular philosophies. Few could argue that this approach has borne fruit given the mishmash of styles that have so unbalanced Lampard’s squad.

Everton fans feel the rest of the football world wants to see them stumble. On Wednesday, QPR forward Charlie Austin said it would be “fun” if the Toffees went under.

But Everton forms the bedrock of the community in which it lives. The relegation would be catastrophic for the fans.

“I cannot stress the importance of Everton Football Club to the city and its residents,” said David McBride, a supporter for 40 years.

“That importance has been underestimated by those who aren’t from the city or from Everton, but that importance and sense of ownership that Evertoners have is what sets us apart.

“We may not be the most outspoken supporters, but Saturday’s action and positive campaign is our way of showing it.”

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