Everton and Lampard’s survival could hinge on Goodison Park crunch | Everton
The average English adult in the 1890s was about four inches shorter than today, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than when trying to navigate Goodison Park.
The ceilings are low, the doors and walkways narrow, the seating obviously designed with the more compact late Victorian posterior in mind.
But intimacy also breeds intensity. When the place is full and it fires, the noise builds up and never stops; nothing is lost and nothing is wasted, and if you’re an opposing player caught up in the din, you can sometimes feel like the sidelines are closing in on you.
Of course, and in more ways than one, Everton arguably overtook Goodison a few years ago. Two miles away in Bramley-Moore, a new 52,000-seat cathedral rises from the docks, a towering monument to a club finally ready to shed its past.
Not so long ago, this seemed like a logical next step; now it looks more like a shiny anomaly. With six games to play, Everton are 18th in the Premier League and face the very real possibility of building the most spectacular stadium in the Championship.
Six games to decide and probably much more. As Everton’s plight has steadily worsened, many fans, pundits and media have been impelled to boil this story down to one personal soap opera: a soap opera largely dependent on whether you like Frank Lampard or not.
But relegation from the top flight for the first time in more than seven decades would have much wider implications for Everton, its staff, its people and its city. Everton fan and former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher exaggerates only slightly when he describes the effect as akin to bereavement.
Part of the reason there’s such an ultimate feel to it all is that if Everton do fall into the abyss, there can be no guarantees beyond that. The pandemic has cost Everton around £170m and over the past three years the club have suffered losses of around £255m: well beyond the limit allowed by the club’s sustainability rules. Premier League.
Salaries account for almost 90% of turnover, while the cost of financing and materials for the new stadium has skyrocketed due to inflationary pressures and the war in Ukraine. Alisher Usmanov’s financial support, which amounted to around £10m a year in sponsorships and exclusive naming rights for the new stadium, no longer exists following its sanction by the UK government.
The fact is, Everton were already on the brink of disaster before their Premier League status was threatened. No one really knows what the repercussions of relegation might be. The best-case scenario is for a streamlined and refocused Everton to bounce straight back to the Premier League and move seamlessly to their new stadium with a spring in their step and a sense of rebirth.
Worst-case scenario: Take your pick of administration, decimation, maybe even back-to-back Sunderland relegations. Rival fans will surely note the irony in a club which was instrumental in the Premier League breakaway in 1992 and whose owner Philip Carter once complained of being ‘forced to subsidize clubs lower divisions” becoming dependent on parachute payments.
Meanwhile, current owner Farhad Moshiri has spent over £600million on the club since joining six years ago and despite all his missteps and misjudgements he remains the only real buffer between Everton and oblivion. What if he decides to stop funding a listed ship, throwing money at that giant white elephant?
The club insists the funding for the stadium is secure, although debt repayments will continue to eat away at the club’s finances for decades. But very little else is. In the event of relegation, it is hard to imagine a single player for whom Everton would not accept a decent offer, hoping to chip away at a wage bill which is still the seventh highest in the country.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Anthony Gordon, Jordan Pickford, Richarlison, Yerry Mina, Dele Alli, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Allan, Fabian Delph: naturally some will be more likely to find takers than others, and some will be more than mourned by the fans from Everton. others. Some may have to leave even if Everton survive. But somehow, for better or for worse, this team is about to undergo some pretty major surgery.
And what about Lampard? The temptation will be to stick with him even in the league given his experience with Derby, the club he took from sixth to sixth place after signing Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori on loan. But for all the systemic ruin Lampard inherited – a broken and weakened side that somehow forgot to pass the ball – Everton were still 16th when he took over.
They have 10 points from their last 12 games. The only one of Everton’s last 13 opponents not to have more possession than them was Boreham Wood in the FA Cup. Only the most tenacious optimists – and Lampard is nothing if not one of them – can see this as some kind of progress.
In other words, everyone here drinks in the last chance saloon: Lampard, the players, Moshiri, President Bill Kenwright who remains responsible for… something, presumably. All of this, paradoxically, could generate some clarity of intent. Everton still have those six games. Three of them, in particular, will be at home.
Enter Goodison. Some of Everton’s older fans will fondly remember the last day of the 1993-94 season, the club’s last real flirtation with relegation, when Goodison’s roar helped overturn a seemingly incurable 2-0 deficit against Wimbledon .
Everton have been hopeless away from home all season. It is on those three remaining home games – Crystal Palace, Brentford and first Chelsea on Sunday afternoon – that their future will rest. It would be both bitterly ironic and entirely fitting if the greatest symbol of Everton’s past ended up securing its immediate future.