Manager Frank Lampard made a point of leaving the Everton dressing room following Sunday’s crucial 2-1 Premier League win at Leicester City to head back onto the pitch and make a personal thank you to the supporters who had helped inspire his players to victory at the King Power Stadium.
There are times when a manager will play to the gallery and bank credit with the fans by milking the adulation that comes back the other way, but Lampard’s show of appreciation felt different. It seemed more like a display of gratitude and relief; an acknowledgement that Everton’s sudden revival in their fight against relegation — which sees them now a point clear of 18th-placed Leeds United with one game in hand — has been sparked, and sustained, by their long-suffering supporters.
“I went back out there because they [Everton fans] are incredible and they need to know how we feel about them,” Lampard said after the win. “What we had last week against Chelsea [a 1-0 win], what we had leaving Finch Farm [their training ground], what we had today, it is incredible. They should give themselves a huge pat on the back — they are part of that result today.
“They pushed the players and that is why we celebrate with them at the end. With their influence, with their togetherness, and what we can do with it — I’m not shouting from the rooftops, we are still in a relegation fight — but if we want to get out of it, it has to be together as a club and we have seen that in recent weeks so just a huge thank you to them.”
Arriving at Goodison. 🔵#EVECHE pic.twitter.com/nT4hai6YeJ
— Everton (@Everton) May 1, 2022
Prior to Everton’s 1-0 win at home to Chelsea on May 1, the supporters filled the streets around Goodison Park and welcomed the team bus in their thousands, setting off flares and creating a scene replicated inside the ground during the game. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel also revealed how his players were woken up by fireworks released outside their hotel in the early hours of the morning, apparently by Everton fans.
Frank Lampard acknowledges the fans’ support at the King Power this weekend. Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
And as Lampard and his squad left their training base on Saturday, they were given another noisy accompaniment by hundreds of fans who made it clear just how important it was that the team won again to ease fears of relegation for the first time since the First Division’s 1950-51 campaign.
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Just over 12 months ago, the passion and anger of supporters across Europe helped ensure that plans for a Super League were hastily abandoned by those involved. Fans of the continent’s breakaway clubs showed they were vehemently opposed to their game being treated as a commodity by owners and chief executives whose motivation was rooted solely in financial gain. But while that was one example of fan power, the difference made by Everton fans this month is another element of how, when a fan base comes together, it can generate momentum which makes a significant difference on the pitch.
There have been other examples in recent weeks. Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers reached the Europa League final on the back of incredible support from their fans, inside and outside the stadium. Eintracht took over 30,000 fans to the quarterfinal win against Barcelona in the Camp Nou and their contribution to a shock win even prompted Barca coach Xavi to question how the German club were able to get so many supporters into the stadium.
While the scenes inside and outside the Santiago Bernabeu last week, when Real Madrid produced their unforgettable fightback against Manchester City in the Champions League semifinal, was another example. A week earlier, City’s Etihad Stadium lacked atmosphere and a sense of occasion, so perhaps fan power made the crucial difference for Madrid?
Everton fans celebrate after the win over Leicester City. GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images
Everton’s situation is different to those of Frankfurt, Rangers and Madrid, though. Their fans have come together out of a sense of desperation. If Everton go down, the club face a financial nightmare. In March, they posted a loss in excess of £100 million for a third successive year — their losses amount to £371.8m over that three-year period — and the club’s finances have also been hit by the cancellation of sponsorship deals with three Russian companies — USM, Megafon and Yota — due to connections with Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek oligarch sanctioned by the U.K. government because of links to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
And with construction already underway on Everton’s new 52,888-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, funding the completion of the stadium as well as managing the cost of relegation and ensuring a swift return to the Premier League would place the club under huge financial and sporting pressure.
Having seen their team drop into the bottom three prior to the Chelsea game, five points adrift of safety, the Everton supporters came together against Leicester to make a difference at a time when Lampard’s side were beginning to look like a lost cause.
At times in recent years, the many mistakes made by Everton in terms of managerial appointments and player recruitment have prompted fans to register their anger and add to the negativity that has hung around Goodison for too long. It was a similar story at Newcastle, where fans lost patience under former owner Mike Ashley, while Manchester United are once again in the midst of fan protests against the ownership of the Glazer family.
When fans turn against their club, it often seems like a downward spiral and can damage the morale and results of the team. But just when the players needed them most, the Everton fans have put their grievances aside and focused on saving the team from a relegation that could place the future of the club in doubt.
Everton are still fighting for survival, but back-to-back wins have replaced hope with belief and you can’t overstate the role that fan power has played in their revival.