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Everton fans on surviving in the Premier League: ‘This is our life. We cannot fail’

Elation, deflation, blue flares, last minute scares. The tumultuous life of an Everton supporter has been difficult lately.

There have been sleepless nights and hours lost studying the Premier League table for ever permutation of Premier League survival.

As Frank Lampard and his players prepare for one of the club’s most important fixtures in recent memory tonight, the tension among fans has rarely been higher.

At stake is a top-flight status unbroken since 1954. A proud club — one of the founders of the Football League with nine title wins, five FA Cups, and a European Cup Winners’ Cup to its name — is on the brink of relegation.

They must beat Crystal Palace to prevent what many feel is unthinkable becoming ever more likely ahead of the daunting last-day trip to Arsenal, where Everton have not won in 26 years.

The Athletic spoke to a cross section of different Blues — from the wife of a legend, a new mum, a nonagenarian and one of those behind the uplifting scenes before games recently — to prepare a tapestry of messages that underline what staying in the Premier League would mean.

Jim Keoghan, author of Punk Football and How to Run a Football Club

When we stay up — and I’m fighting hard against my inherent Evertonian pessimism just to write that — I’m looking forward to that nagging feeling of dread that has been lurking in my gut every day finally disappearing.

It’s been there for months now, ebbing and flowing, working in tandem with the club’s oscillating survival chances.


Everton fans will rally round the team again tonight (Photo: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Non-football people tell me to chill out, that it’s only a game and, should Everton drop, life will go on. But what do they know? Life will not be the same. How can it be? Survival is everything.

Our club belongs in the top flight. That isn’t “self-entitlement”; it’s just a fact.

The Blues have to rise to the occasion on Thursday — it’s a game as vital as any to have taken place in our long, glorious history.

Lily Kendall, Evertonian and Howard Kendall’s wife 

It is Howard’s birthday on Sunday and I know he would have liked no better present than his beloved Blues being safe by the time they head to London for the Arsenal game.

He’d be rooting for the club and the fans he had such a bond with tonight — and he’d be every bit as nervous as all of them.

Howard believed in the club and believed it should aim for its motto — nothing but the best. If they can take a step towards that by making sure they’re in the top flight again next season, he’ll be looking down with that big warm smile.

Dan Zoeck, teacher

What does Everton mean to me? Everything. From the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep. All that I think about is Everton Football Club. It’s been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

There’s nothing quite like the passion that Evertonians share and have for their football club. This passion is something that has kept us together through the bad and the good.

This season has been a difficult one. The fans lost trust in the club after the appointment of Rafa Benitez. It slowly turned into a huge disconnect with the players. It destroyed our connection as fans with the club itself. It created a civil war among the fanbase. By January I believed that Everton were finished, dead, and rapidly on their way out of the top flight of English football.

This is where I must give a huge amount of credit to Frank Lampard. Since David Moyes and Roberto Martinez, we as fans have had absolutely no connection or relationship with any of our managers.

Martinez had a great understanding of our club and bought into it. The managers who followed him did not care one bit. But there’s something different about Frank Lampard. He understands us as fans: he respects what we stand for, what we expect and everything that we want to see from an Everton team.

He shows his appreciation after every match, regardless of the result. He has built a connection and a relationship quickly with the fanbase. He’s showing that he cares, and that’s something that is so important to me.

He’s given our club a heartbeat again. He’s revived the fanbase. He’s unified us and ended a civil war. For this I thank him.

Mr Lampard has allowed the fans to believe in our club again. He’s allowed us to hope that things will be OK. Most importantly though, he’s allowed the fans to dream that maybe we can become great once more.

That’s something we haven’t been able to do for a long time. The job isn’t done yet. But we have one last push.

My message to the manager the and players is simple: do it for us — fight, fight, fight with all your might. We will be with you every step of the way.

This is our life. We cannot fail — and we will not fail.

Jazz Bal, EFC Fans’ Forum member 

Having been born a blue 45 years ago, I’ve been spoiled to have seen success around the world and an unbroken run in the highest echelon of the English game.

There’s been a few narrow escapes during my time and, in the position we find ourselves at the moment, it’s not a stretch to compare this season to 1993-94 and 1997-98.

Unlike then, our last match will be away from home, and even though I’ll be cheering on our boys from the Emirates on Sunday, we have the opportunity to put this to bed now, in front of the Goodison gang, with our last home game of the season.

We all know how special Goodison under the lights can be. Let’s raise it another notch — bring the noise, flags and banners and show Frank and the boys the fight we expect on the pitch.

This is still in our hands and three points tonight will guarantee our 69th consecutive top flight season and ensure that as many matches as possible are played at the grand old lady before we eventually move to Bramley-Moore.

Charlie Sampson, 90, retired cobbler who has just qualified for a free season ticket

Charlie, left, and son Tony at Goodison Park

I’ve been watching Everton for over 75 years, lived through the highs and the lows and will tell anyone who wants to know why they’re my club and always will be.

Everton isn’t just about watching football to me and my family. It means everything. It’s a way of life. A sense of belonging. Being part of the most special community there is.

As a young man, I had my own cobbler’s shop near Goodison Park, and used to mend the late, great Brian Labone’s shoes. Everton touches your life in so many different ways.

I’ve been lucky to experience some of the most famous nights in our history at Goodison. For different reasons, this Thursday needs to be another one. Manager, team and supporters all together from the start to the last.

My son and two grandchildren live in the US now, but we still have season tickets together. I was made up to get a letter from Everton recently that my ticket will now be free as I turn 90.

We obviously don’t get to go to the game together as much as we used to, but when they next come over I want to be using that ticket in the Premier League.

Hana Roks, organiser of Han’s Tours coaches for Everton away games

Hannah, second left, with her baby and partner

This football club is life. It’s everything to me, my friends and family members. It always has been.

This season has been a gruelling and horrific watch. The decision to bring Rafa Benitez to this football club was something that I will never understand — the fanbase was split, there was hostility in the stands and we were playing terrible football and getting awful results to go with it.

It’s something I find hard to believe happened. My son was born a year ago this Friday. He came home from the hospital in his Everton kit, Carlo Ancelotti was our manager and things were looking OK for the 2021-22 season.

It’s hard to grasp that within that year we’ve had an ex-Liverpool manager take us backwards, fan-led protests against the board, and we stare relegation square in the face.

I run a supporters’ club and myself and other fan groups and supporters joined together to try and create something to show the team they had our backing. Frank came in to a mixed bag of results, but he was a breath of fresh air when we needed it. He alluded to how the fans’ passion helps push the team over the line.

It was decided after the derby that we would try something new — a coach meet was organised for the game against Chelsea with the idea that a couple of hundred people joining would be deemed successful. What followed was immense. Thousands of Evertonians coming together and creating a sea of blue that could even be seen from the waterfront in Birkenhead.

It was something unimaginable, as such actions would’ve been deemed “Kopite behaviour” until this point. In reality, it’s not. It’s easy to show support when you’re winning games and trophies. We wanted to show support when things were going badly. From there the fan-led meets continued seeing the coach off at both of the away fixtures and we were unbeaten in that spell, taking seven points from nine.

Again for Brentford, but this time a win would’ve confirmed our Premier League status. The scenes before the game were the biggest yet — all the way along up to City Road.


Everton fans show their support before the Brentford match (Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

In the days before the game a group of fans that had liaised with the club about the atmosphere and coach meets were invited to Goodison Park to view some flags we had been helping design.

We were shocked when Frank Lampard himself turned up! He spoke to us in an extremely humble manner, told us about how he loves “Spirit of The Blues” and how our fans are like nothing he had ever seen before.

He had so much time for us and he has filled me with hope for the future. We asked if there was anything extra he wanted us to do for Brentford and he said what fans had been doing couldn’t possibly be topped.

Unfortunately, the team didn’t get the result we needed and, luckily, we have another chance tonight to fix that.

It will happen again, a huge coach welcome, from fans, many of who have never seen us lift a trophy.

They’ll be there for this team. We’ve got the team — now we need them to have us. It’s simply not acceptable to go to Sunday without our status confirmed.

There have been sleepless nights all season, but none more so than after the defeat to Brentford. We need this football club, this football club needs us. Just win.

(Top Photo: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

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