If you're under 68...

... you won’t have known a time when Everton weren’t in the top division of English football. This year, as it seemed that Everton's hopes were going up in flames. The fire is out but the house has structural damage and might have contravened building regulations too.

Just some idle ramblings on the last 5 months; 5 months which seemed to contain 5 years’ worth of drama and some truly memorable moments watching the unique and original Everton FC.

When Everton flirted with relegation in 1994, the presenter of the Radio 5 sports programme introduced the show on the decisive day with the words, “If you’re under 40 you won’t have known a time when Everton weren’t in the top division of English football.” This year, as it seemed that Everton's hopes were going up in flames, he could have started, “If you’re under 68…”

Well, the fire is out but the house has structural damage and might have contravened building regulations too.

From the lowest point – defeats against Brighton and Norwich at the turn of the year – just enough went right, just enough, to preserve Everton's long stay. Finally, the baffling decisions, weird line-ups, illogical substitutions and non-substitutions of an experienced, trophy-winning manager, who should never have been appointed in the first place, became too much for the club’s incompetent board.

Yet still they delayed, flirted with a Portuguese maniac, but thankfully read the writing on the wall, and undertook an interminable interview process before giving Frank Lampard little more than 3 months to prevent a sporting disaster with far-reaching consequences for one of England’s oldest clubs.

We saved ourselves when, at several different times, all looked lost and we appeared to be sitting ducks for the likes of Burnley and Watford, teams apparently better equipped for a relegation fight.

The coaching team seemed to realise our limitations and took a more pragmatic approach from April onwards. Key players (Richarlison, Pickford and Gordon) maintained high levels for most of the season. Others (Coleman, Holgate, Iwobi, Mykolenko) found form at just the right time.

Regulars in the treatment room (Delph and Mina) got themselves fit for just enough vital games in the run-in, and our international centre-forward found his goalscoring touch 5 minutes from the end of the decisive game. (I'm not counting his Brentford goal, that's Richarlison's.)

There were many wobbly moments on the relegation tightrope. For me, a 40-second snippet against Chelsea stands out. Just before the hour-mark, Mount’s shot hit the inside of Pickford's right-hand post. The ball ran across the face of the goal, hit the other post and bounced back.

In the following action, Pickford made two near miracle saves, the first of them surely the best by an Everton goalkeeper since the days of Neville Southall. 5 actions in 40 seconds. All fell our way. If any one of them had gone Chelsea's way, I think we would have gone down.

Less than 24 hours before that, Burnley's comeback win at Watford left Everton 5 points adrift in 18th place. There were games in hand but, had the gap remained at 5 points that weekend, I doubted that our players had the mental toughness and survival would have been impossible. Closing the gap at the earliest opportunity was crucial.

Then there was the crowd. From the Newcastle game onwards, it seemed as if a collective decision had been taken that the team could not save themselves so the fans would have to do it for them. Ironically, perhaps it was the hated VAR that kicked that off; the injustice of Allan’s red card, followed by Iwobi’s late winner lighting the blue touch-paper.

The intensity, noise, passion and determination of 38,000 Evertonians then surpassed itself week after week, culminating in one of the most memorable Goodison matches of all of those 68 years. The regular opposition fans chant, “Is this a library?” wasn’t heard from that Newcastle game onwards.

We were lucky to survive. Despite those baffling VAR decisions that never seemed to end, we were undoubtedly lucky. The margins were narrow and survival opportunities were passed up, notably against Watford and Brentford.

Had the second-half revival against Crystal Palace not happened, Burnley would have needed just one more goal to send Everton down. Two vital Richarlison goals in the final few games were scuffed shots that hit defenders before spinning just out of reach of the keepers.

For the future, at least we seem to have a professional, determined team in place with Lampard and his coaches who can set about the rebuilding, but it's going to be a long job. It might be a struggle next season but there will be no illusions.

Further financial problems might yet surface and this successful battle against relegation might only be Round One. But hopefully we will see a fresher, younger, hungrier, more modern team starting again in August.

The one big positive in all this (besides the obvious)?

Amid the swirling blue smoke down Goodison Road, the fans reconnected with their club, even cynical over-60s in the Top Balcony (me) who thought they had seen it all.

From chanting against the manager and board a few months ago, fans took back control in a raucous exhibition of all-out support, demonstrating to millionaire owners and out-of-touch, self-satisfied directors exactly who has the real power.

Opposition managers and fans commented on the incredible atmosphere match after match. I feared it couldn’t be sustained and would blow itself out but it didn't. One last remarkable evening brought an end to a series of 6 memorable home matches and the job was done – cue pitch invasion.

It doesn’t matter that all this excitement was down to survival and not winning things. Others can sneer at that if they want to. Perhaps it’s only when things look bad – really bad – that you find out how much it matters.

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Reader Comments (36)

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Paul Kernot
1 Posted 10/06/2022 at 00:15:03
Good summary, Peter. Now the dust has settled, we can all be a bit more objective and, dare I say hopeful and cautiously optimismistic about the future. For me, that hope & optimism is tempered with a dose of reality re finances, transfers & the ability of our current board members.

Given the above, I'm expecting a more comfortable, mid-table finish next year and, for once, a more positive pre-season than of late. Is that too much to ask?

Paul Birmingham
2 Posted 10/06/2022 at 00:28:04
Paul, good points, and that’s the minimum, zackly, Evertonians, deserve.
Don Alexander
3 Posted 10/06/2022 at 00:45:50
40 points next season is the limit of my expectations given the repeatedly totally proven duffers who still run us.
Barry Rathbone
5 Posted 10/06/2022 at 10:20:18
I find the whole "Everton thing" very dispiriting. As a realist I understood the demise was terminal mid Moyes we were wishing for miracles in that era – bar a fleeting single season since, it has remained that way.

It's money and huge money at that. Moshiri has never had it and his shady friend who might have it is a pariah consigned to history.

We are effectively back to Kenwright economics so presumably the best we can hope for is a return to mid-Moyes mediocrity.

Think I've just made myself sick.

Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 10/06/2022 at 10:34:38
Enjoyable read, Peter.

A lot has been said, but you draw out the important part that Jordan Pickford played. The Chelsea saves were unbelievable but there were others in the run-in.

I said at the time, I don't think I was able to breath during that entire sequence of play.

I was also impressed with the improvement in Iwobi and think that Mykolenko has settled in well.

Stu Darlington
7 Posted 10/06/2022 at 10:39:28

Thanks for reminding me what a knife-edge we were on for the last 6 or 7 games, just when I thought it was safe to come out from behind the couch!

But that's all behind me now. Looking forward to the new dawn. Positive mental attitude, faith in our manager and owner. After all, it can't be as bad as last season… can it?

Wait, what am I saying?? I'm depressed again now.


Trevor Powell
8 Posted 10/06/2022 at 11:34:35
Well, I am 70 in a few weeks so technically, I was a babe-in-arms of the last relegation!

As recent events unfolded, I just kept thinking that it would be such a blow to me personally if Everton were relegated in my lifetime! Three times, I have almost suffered that fate and I fear, if there is a next time, it will be the one that does for me.

My son-in-law is a lifelong Gunner with a season ticket. I live in Rushden, Northants and so any time his mate is away, Mal phones me up to have his seat at The Emirates.

His friend has been away in the USA and Mal was going to offer me the seat for the last game of the season until my daughter stepped in. She told him firmly not to offer me the ticket unless the Blues were safe as she genuinely feared for my health on that last Sunday.

Well, I went and, being well away from the Everton section, just loved the day for the explosion of colour and noise that greeted the stunned Gunneries when Man City scored the third and destined the Gobshites to Premier League gloom!

Phil Gardner
9 Posted 10/06/2022 at 11:49:15
Great article, Peter. My uncle, who is 80 years of age and has followed Everton home and away throughout his life and still holds a season ticket (Upper Bullens by the halfway line) said that he had never seen a crowd or heard a noise like it at that Palace game… ever.

He freely admitted that he was crying like a baby at the end. Mind you, my late dad, his elder brother, always maintained that his tear-ducts were too close to his bladder…

Tom Bowers
10 Posted 10/06/2022 at 12:03:27
It was one hell of a roller coaster ride which had us all feeling nauseous for quite a while.

Thank God they had the wherewithal to scrape together the necessary points and avoid the drop.

Many faults puts us in that poor position and many things got us out but that has to be the final wake up call after several seasons of poor managers and signings.

If Lampard can solidify the defensive side of things then that will be half the battle and then they can work on the offense.

Goals win games but schoolboy defending will lose them and that happened far too often with points being thrown away.

Her's hoping the bad taste of last season can quickly become a distant memory.

Joe Green
11 Posted 10/06/2022 at 13:10:12
Yes, great summary Peter.

I was sure we would be going down for the first time in my over 60 years of lifetime, a very sad prospect for me and those I have brought up to be Evertonians.

It was close, but we didn't and I thank the players, Lampard and the fans that didn't allow it too happen.

For me the alarm siren was losing at home to Watford 2 - 5. A new manager should have been found right then, but the club didn't react quickly enough. Then the club was late appointing Lampard only hours before the end of the January transfer window.

Like many I hope Farhad really has learnt lessons, but cynic in me says that letter just flannel, unless I see Boardroom changes. It's really with Lampard and Thelwell now with no money to avoid a repeat next season, I wish them luck and give them support.

Mike Gaynes
12 Posted 10/06/2022 at 14:29:07
Good stuff, Peter. That save really was the key point of the season, wasn't it? Two posts, a miracle and a face job. We will likely never see a moment like that again.

And consider the sheer unlikeliness of so many of the occurrences you describe. If you'd told people back in December that Iwobi would become a Goodison hero, that the fans would begging for Delph to play more, that our foundational left back would be replaced by an unknown Eastern European kid who'd be better, and that the Blue faithful would be inspired by Frank effing Lampard of all people, they'd have locked you away in the looney bin.

David Vaughan
14 Posted 11/06/2022 at 22:04:33
The best piece of writing I've seen on TW, and that bar was already set high. Thank you, excellent read. COYB.
Bill Gall
15 Posted 11/06/2022 at 22:49:27
Funny I will be 82 in a couple of months and have not missed a game home or away for the last 2 years. Unfortunately they have all been on TV.

And though I can relate to the atmosphere as I was a supporter and season ticket holder from 1954 to 1976, the emotions may be similar, but there is no way you can experience anything around the ground or inside the ground on TV.

When I come back home (funny – I have been living in Canada for 46 years and I still call Liverpool 'home'), I always come in the football season. The difference I find in games live compared to TV is you can see more of the off-the-ball movements.

It is writing like yours, Peter, that gives you better reality of the games and the lead up to them and makes me proud to be an Evertonian.

Mike Kehoe
16 Posted 11/06/2022 at 23:41:58
I struggle with those who decry Moyes as he fashioned a slick outfit with quality on a shoestring; looking at the waste that has resulted in signings of gobshites like Delph, Tosun and all the rest is an absolute scandal by comparison.

I truly hope this can be a new start, that Lampard can take the loaded automatic weapons away from the toddlers in the boardroom and an actual adult can take charge.

Since Moyes left, the scope of my ambition has been for a manager who isn't an idiot narcissist to take the reigns.

Eddie Dunn
17 Posted 12/06/2022 at 08:00:12
Peter, very well summed-up. We live to fight again.

Lampard reminds me of Bobby Robson during his England reign. In Mexico, injuries forced his hand and it clicked.

I am far from confident for the coming season. I think Frank was making selections as baffling as Benitez. His subs were usually too late and like-for-like.

Hopefully a few new faces and a few out the door will give him a wider palette. We need to find goals from somewhere.

Joe McMahon
18 Posted 12/06/2022 at 08:56:11
A good and realistic summary, Peter, and I also agree with Danny that Iwobi and Mykolenko deserve some credit. Iwobi gets some stick and some were moaning about Mykolenko after 1 game.

I felt the energy and drive from Richarlison got us over the line. And yes, certainly Spurs would want him. Kane is a striker; Richarlison would be on the left.

Peter Carpenter
19 Posted 12/06/2022 at 16:36:06
Holgate too, Joe. He came in just before kick off at Anfield and stayed in the team while all the other centre backs were disappearing one by one. He largely cut out the mistakes and contributed a goal and an assist.

I had high hopes of him when he first came into the team and still hope he might fulfill them. And thanks for the compliments on here too - much appreciated. Stu, sorry! Hope you've recovered again.

Paul Birmingham
20 Posted 12/06/2022 at 21:53:57
Peter that's a fine summary of last season.

I reckon one day soon, that the events of the last 3 months of last season, could contrive to be a mini-series, or one-off TV programme such is the magnitude of the potential relegation of Everton last season. You inquest events and never has a club's supporters done so much to drive their team to believe and inspiration, the will to win on the pitch.

Hopefully never again, 3 times in less than 30 years is too often.

Time to be build stability and hopefully the dawn of a new era, lessons learned and better tines for Evertonians.

Our time will come, and let's believe, as after last season's great escape, it hopefully will get better.

John Guy
21 Posted 14/06/2022 at 21:04:20
Brilliantly written, Peter, I could not have summed it up better. I'm still looking forward to the fixtures being released on Thursday, and the new season of 'Everton, that'. Crazy, or what ?
Dale Self
22 Posted 14/06/2022 at 21:25:45
Nice closing, Peter. If there is one thing I can take from the experience of last season, it was a deep assessment of what it means to be a part of this club and whether it is all worth it. It is and will continue to be because of people who care enough to bitch at each other over any issue involving Everton FC. Long may it run.
Simon Dalzell
24 Posted 16/06/2022 at 19:32:43
Top job, Peter. Summed up perfectly. That Palace game. Never experienced anything like it in my 57 years. Despair to complete joy in one half.
Allen Rodgers
25 Posted 16/06/2022 at 19:54:58
Simon @ 24 I just knew we were going to win that game even when were 0-2. But the 7 minutes of added time was purgatory. So glad I was there.
Rob Halligan
26 Posted 16/06/2022 at 20:05:01
If you're under 68 years of age, then chances are you will not remember the last time Spurs won the Football League Championship.

In fact, I doubt very much that there are many TW contributors who do remember the last time Spurs won the Football League Championship!!

Spurs, a big club...? — Don't make me laugh!!

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 16/06/2022 at 20:16:06
If I recall Rob the first time I'd heard of them was when they got promoted to the top flight in 1977 and got battered 7-0 on Lucifer's Field on the first day of the season.

Big club? Like Newcastle. It's self-proclaimed and Sky fuelled.

Rob Halligan
28 Posted 16/06/2022 at 20:25:29
Danny, the last domestic trophy Newcastle won was the FA Cup in 1955. They did however, win the old UEFA Fairs cup in 1969, beating the mighty Ujpest Dozsa!!

Newcastle a big club........ Hilarious!!

Will Mabon
29 Posted 16/06/2022 at 20:29:36
You have to remember, being in London adds in an automatic 1.5 factor to the "Bigness" equation, in the media.
Tony Abrahams
30 Posted 16/06/2022 at 21:25:37
A brilliant read, Peter, very accurate, and looking back, that Chelsea victory was possibly our biggest win in years.

I remember a couple of Liverpudlians asking me at the start of April, Did I think Everton would go down? I answered honestly saying I didn't really know, but continued by saying that I wasn't giving up hope, simply because of Goodison Park.

Looking back now, and thinking I've seen most things, but nothing can compare to the way our younger generation galvanized the whole club, and this is something I will be forever grateful for.

A scary, but beautiful memory, four weeks ago around this time: Michael Keane briefly turned into Dennis Bergkamp, and when Dominic Calvert-Lewin's goal produced the greatest sea of emotion witnessed since Andy Gray scored our third against Bayern Munich (I wasn't at the Wimbledon game), there are no other words!

Brian Murray
31 Posted 16/06/2022 at 21:25:58
Mina seems to be written off on here but, if we don't get a proper bid, he's vying with the rest of the centre-halves. The worst scenario is we get 15 games out of him and he keeps us safe at least.
Dave Abrahams
32 Posted 16/06/2022 at 22:04:01
Rob (26), not arguing the merits of Spurs as a football club but that 1961 team was a really outstanding one they not only won the league but also the FA cup, the first team to do so in the 1900’s with brilliant players in all parts of the team, Dave McKay, Danny Blanchflower, Cliff Jones, Terry Medwin, John White and Bobby Smith but I don’t think Jimmy Greaves was with Spurs then, managed by Nicholson who was underrated in the same way Harry Catterick was, both quiet men who preferred to stay out of the limelight.

However you are correct they had won the league in 1951 after winning the second division the previous year but those two titles were many years ago and although they have won a lot of cups it’s been an awful long time since they won the league.

Brian Murray
33 Posted 16/06/2022 at 22:19:01

The Spurs push-and-run title winners were before my time but did our '60s team, especially '67 onwards, play the same way? The one-touch Alan Ball type?

Brian Murray
34 Posted 16/06/2022 at 22:22:04
Must add our football was a joy to watch and so smooth albeit I only remember 1969 in my head. Did Spurs sign Jimmy Greaves after that title win? Bit like us that they never built on success except for the odd cup.
Derek Thomas
35 Posted 16/06/2022 at 22:41:41
Great piece, Peter - When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Keeping with the '68 thing... in the manner of The Scaffold:
"Thank U very much for Pickford's goalposts, thank very much, thank u very, very, very much..."

Don Alexander
36 Posted 16/06/2022 at 23:20:51
No disrespect at all to the author, Peter, but even justifiably eulogising the likes of last season, crowd-wise, will be music to the ears of those in charge.

They divine succour from such published posts.

They need to be got rid of.

We're in terminal decline with the present "leadership" from the boardroom and, from the 5% of his time he can be bothered with looking after Everton, our ludicrous owner.

Next season? 15th at best. Those in charge have royally fucked us, as everyone without Goodison Park sees.

They've placed us spread-eagled over a barrel folks - so get used to being rodgered next season, at least.

Peter Carpenter
37 Posted 17/06/2022 at 08:25:39
Don, I doubt they read anything on here.
Dave Abrahams
38 Posted 17/06/2022 at 09:40:20
Brian (33), The Spurs push and run style was perfected by the manager Arthur Rowe with the 1950 team which ran away with the second division title, Everton knocked them out of the FA cup that season by the way, a rare defeat for Spurs.

The push and run style was based on the way football was played on the streets of England using the walls and kerbs of the street as an extra man, there was some of this style used by manager Bill Nicholson in the 1961 team.

I’d say there were elements of this way of playing football by Everton with the late sixties and 1970 winning title holders, non stop exciting football like on the football street game, end to end with the first team to score twenty the winners and everyone playing ENJOYING the game, going to bed tired and getting up the next day looking forward to the next game, none of this endless bleedin’ passing back lark.

Rant over Brian but I bet you and all your mates enjoyed playing those football games growing up and learning your skills at the same time.

Bernie Quinn
39 Posted 30/06/2022 at 07:58:55
I just despair over the future of football. In the years between 1950 and 1990, the game was enjoyable. The Top Division of the English Game had wonderful players such as Frank Swift, Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews, Nat Lofthouse, Len Shackleton, Billy Wright, and so on (all English players, note). I said those without even thinking and I know older posters can mention even better players...

And in the '50s they were only paid 20 quid a week. Then things changed in the 1990s – the Premier League arrived, together with Sky Sport and vastly inflated player salaries and transfer fees. Since that time, I have mainly watched games on TV and it's hard to believe how the playing standard has fallen so much, especially on the salaries they are collecting.

I am convinced that given the same conditions re footwear and footballs, any team us oldies picked from the 1950s era would hammer any present day team. That Harry Kane, for instance, wouldn't have a chance against Jackie Charlton. What upsets me is that I just don't see any signs of future improvement.

Have a go at me if you like – I'm in me 'ole with me tin helmet on!

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