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Everton’s ‘sack the board’ chants expose a rift even Premier League safety cannot heal

Everton 1-0 Bournemouth (Doucoure 57’)

GOODISON PARK — Fans of several clubs, Aston Villa and Newcastle to name but a few, will tell you going down to the Championship for a season or two isn’t such a bad thing.

It is a perfect time to have a reset, restructure a squad and enjoy that winning feeling on a more regular basis again.

Relegation for Everton, however, wouldn’t quite have worked like that. Fans are at the end of their tether with how the club has been mismanaged under Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri – dropping down a division would do lasting damage to what is left of the relationship between supporters and the hierarchy.

A fire sale of the few talented players in the Everton ranks would also surely follow, given the club are already under investigation for an alleged breach of profit and sustainability rules. And where would relegation leave the stadium move?

Everything was on the line for the people’s club against Bournemouth. The very existence of Everton as we know it. But somehow, having seemed to possess a Premier League cheat code to keep surviving relegation by the skin of their teeth, time and again, for so many years, they did it again, edging nervously into what will be their 70th year as a top-flight team. Just.

Strolling across Stanley Park en route to Goodison you would not have known a footballing institution was on the brink of falling into the abyss, with families basking in the sunshine enjoying picnics, but the ramifications of what was about to unfold just a few hundred yards away was not lost on all on Evertonians as they trudged to their spiritual home one last time this season.

Looking to finish a fine campaign on a high, chasing a fourth successive win at Goodson, Bournemouth were taking things seriously. To negate being kept up by fireworks outside the team hotel they stayed in Manchester the night before.

While the atmosphere was red hot, the air thick with blue smoke from flares and a rendition of “Spirit of the Blues” to get even neutrals in attendance tingling with excitement, you could cut the tension with a knife. Even though their destiny was in their own hands, not many trusted this Everton team to win a football match.

The message on a Park End Stand banner was simple – “Fight For Us”. A Sean Dyche team was always going to do that, but with no Dominic Calvert-Lewin, where was the quality going to come from to extend their 69-year top-flight stay?

The answer to that question remained a mystery in the first half as other than a fine Mark Travers save to deny Idrissa Gueye and a James Garner effort that was tipped over, Everton looked like a side who had only scored more than one goal once at home all season.

Long balls up to lone, diminutive front man Demarai Gray were unsurprisingly not bearing fruit. As news reached fans’ transistor radios of Harvey Barnes’ goal at Leicester, the mood got palpably darker.

Everton fans
Everton fans have endured another miserable season in the top flight but clung on to survive (Photo: Reuters)

Graham Stuart, goalscoring hero from the 1993-94 great escape, looked like he was limbering up to come on in the press room at the break, such was Dyche’s lack of options to get that all important goal.

What was it going to take? A deflection? A ricochet into someone’s path? Even an act of God to get these desperate supporters the goal they needed? Abdoulaye Doucoure’s bolt out of the Merseyside blue was just as unlikely as any of the above.

The midfielder’s strike rocked Goodison to its core, leaving supporters winding up several rows in front, with grown men brought to tears with 33 minutes still left to play.

Tensions rose between Jordan Pickford and Dominic Solanke as the latter came close to crashing the party, but the rest of those in blue kept their heads to see out the win, as those on the terraces were losing theirs.

Despite warnings not to do so, flare-wielding supporters stormed the pitch upon the final whistle. Amid the scenes of jubilation, there remained an overriding feeling of angst – “sack the board” being the victory song of choice.

Such scenes acted as a reminder that living to fight another day as a top flight club does not mean Everton’s problems are going away. Far from it. This club remains a shadow of the grand old team to play for that supporters profess it once was.

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