Goodison Park is reflective of Everton Football Club at this moment in time. Mismanaged, tired and left behind. But still, this famous old ground has a sense of magic inside its four stands that new stadia just don’t produce.
Some of the true greats of the game honed their craft here, from Dixie Dean to Howard Kendall, and the modern apathy towards the club at the minute has them sleepwalking towards relegation. In their final night game of the season under the lights, Everton need some Goodison magic more than ever.
We saw it last season under Frank Lampard. The Toffees could well have got relegated without Goodison Park. In the crucial home match against Crystal Palace at the end of the last campaign, Everton fans rallied outside the stadium. Flares greeted the team coach and the players and coaching staff were made fully aware of just how much survival meant to those in blue.
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That game was a perfect summary of what Everton Football Club has become over the past decade, but also why Goodison remains special. The Toffees were not used to being in relegation battles, but circumstances have now placed the club towards the bottom of the top flight, rather than in the European places.
In that 90 minutes, they were second best for the opening stages but came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in extraordinary circumstances. It was a win that kept them in the top flight and now they might need something similar against Newcastle in their final home game under the lights this season.
“It’s special. It’s not the norm, coming in today to see the fans,” Lampard reelected last term.
Everton took Bayern Munich apart at Goodison Park in the Cup Winners Cup semi-final, second leg.
“The understanding and feeling for the players to understand what it means to the fans is special. If it doesn’t give you goosebumps, it doesn’t get you ready to go out and give everything then there’s something wrong with you. You shouldn’t be playing the game.
“They were the 12th man, people of the match - the men, women and children who came and done it before. Also, during the warm-up, at the start of the game and to get us over the line at the end of the game.”
This season has a slightly different emphasis to last campaign and it’s all based around Goodison itself. 2023/24 will be Everton’s last season at the place they have called home since 1892, and it would be an unfitting ending should that season take place in the Championship, for a club that has only spent four years outside the top flight since 1888, and have been in the first division since 1954.
Everton are one of Britain’s truly great clubs, it just doesn’t feel that way at the moment. But Goodison remains one of the most iconic stadiums this country has to offer. From Eusebio scoring four in a World Cup quarter-final to the Toffees beating Bayern Munich in 1985, this is a ground that has seen it all. A final season in the Championship just wouldn’t be a fitting finale.