Everton: a broken football club

They are proud to be one of the first club in Everton.

Founding members of the Football League in 1888, as well as the English Premier League 104 years later. The first team to win the League Cup as well.

On Saturday, as an icy wintry wind swirled around Goodison Park, English football’s first purpose-built ground, there were two unwanted additions to the list. The first time the Everton board had been asked not to come onto the pitch for their own safety, and the first time the team had lost four home games in a row since 1958.

If there was shock on Boxing Day with that late punch by Wolves, then fury as Brighton erupted there on January 3, it was the unsettling mixture of disgust, despair and fear that settled upon the famously old ground Saturday when rock bottom. Southampton have become the latest team to turn the knife.

Everton dropped to 19th place, and is now level with South Coast club and West Ham on points. However, even with half the season still to go, the real fear is that this could be the start of a farewell to the Premier League.

Subsequently opposition manager Nathan Jones compared the competition to a championship game in its physical nature. What causes sleepless nights in the blue half of Merseyside is that there is every chance of playing next season in the Second Division.

Dismal statistics are piling up at a rapid pace. That’s 10 defeats in all competitions for Everton in their last 13 games. Just three wins after 19 league games this season – a joint fewest in their history.

Their irregular tally of 15 points, when adjusted to the modern three points for a win, is also their lowest ever combined. He was only rewarded the last time they were relegated in 1951.

Add to the omens a fanbase increasingly plagued by anger and toxicity threatening to dampen the challenge and spirit that helped the club overcome slump last season and there is little sign that Frank Lampard has the funds to bring in new players to help out. Owner Farhad Moshiri offered the manager some job security in a rare interview last week, but even that won’t stop question marks from building up against Lampard’s suitability; With the magic and clarity of the tactical approach that last season managed to seep through the mud.

How must he wish an explosion of momentum and confidence. Even reliable performances against Manchester City and United failed to deliver anything, so a side who had been rested five days less than Everton before this vital fixture battled tired legs and rode the momentum of their victory over City in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday (A). The competition (Everton) went out disastrously when Lampard dispatched an over-rotating side (against Bournemouth) to victory on Merseyside.

The unexpected return of Alex Iwobi to the starting line-up despite picking up a serious ankle injury at Old Trafford should have provided a boost. So it should have been Amadou Onana’s excellent header that gave Everton the lead.

But when James Ward-Prowse settled in easily after half-time, the mood at Goodison began to turn. The belief that this game would mark a much-needed turning point began to fade and slipped faster when Anthony Gordon, providing an offensive threat, brainlessly conceded a free kick in the kind of area a specialist like Ward-Prowse craves. Having gone a bit wrong in the corners earlier, the Southampton midfielder made no mistake the second time around.


Everton suffered another league defeat at home to relegation rivals Southampton (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

Lampard appeared later than usual to the media with an apology and a poise that underscored his qualities as a person. However, that won’t do much to ease the skepticism of fans wondering if his appointment will prove another deadlock instead of the new dawn they hoped for last season.

Lampard said it himself. He’s neither a “miracle worker” nor “the best manager in the world”, but the reason a few thousand fans lingered in freezing temperatures after the game to chant and hold up banners calling for change is more about the conditions the Everton boss is in. forced to work. He has a weak team and few means to strengthen it due to past transgressions.

Against Southampton, it was Lampard’s signing, along with Director of Football Kevin Thelwell, who shone. Onana was a rare positive in a half-hearted show. It may be too early to judge the wisdom of signing Neil Maupay from the outskirts of Brighton’s first team and Dwight McNeil from relegated Burnley as part of a plan to improve last season, but that did not keep him on the bench against Southampton.

Some of the anger against the Everton board, particularly chairman Bill Kenwright and chief executive Dennis Barrett Baxendale, has jumped rather than crossed the line of acceptable criticism. The fact that they had to walk away from the match for their own safety contributed to the feeling of dissatisfaction around the match.

The club says Barrett-Baxendale was physically assaulted after a recent match, and the emails wishing Kenwright dead were shocking. Everton later confirmed that they were in contact with Merseyside Police about overall security threats, but no formal complaint about a specific incident had been made to the force.

It all added to the persistent toxicity that seemed to envelop Everton, as did the supporters surrounding Yerry Mina, an unused substitute, as he later walked off the ground. The Colombian came out to talk to them, insisting he would “give his life for the club”. While others, like Gordon, were instructed not to stop, young striker Ellis Sims, recalled from a loan at Sunderland in a desperate attempt to add firepower, looked shell-shocked as he drove into the same storm.

Those behind the campaign for changes to what they believe to be a dying plate have stressed that they condemn any kind of abuse, and part of their campaign has been aimed at reviving those rousing pre-match team bus salutes that proved so strong on morale last April. And it is permissible.

But there were noticeably fewer fans at Goodison Road cheering this time around, and the ability of most fans to blindly support after Ward-Prowse’s free-kick was diminished. Maybe it’s because it’s January and there are still enough games to play.

Or, more troublingly, the malaise is developing such negative critical mass that there won’t be a repeat of the fan-player synergy this time around.

If that’s the case, the descent will only feel more certain.

The fear is that Everton is broken and it is out of anyone’s hands to put the pieces back together at the moment.

(Top photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

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