The outlook was bleak for Everton for quite some time after Harvey Barnes gave Leicester City a first-half lead against West Ham, vaulting the Foxes above Everton and out of the relegation zone.
However, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s crisp volley just before the hour mark clinched three of the most important points in Everton’s history to maintain its Premier League status and condemn Leicester to the Championship, despite a 2-1 win over the Hammers.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford pulled off a huge save late in the game to keep the Toffees’ lead intact, before a bellowing roar from the fans almost blew the roof off Goodison Park when the referee blew the whistle for full time.
Leeds United will join Leicester in England’s second tier after losing 4-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, with Southampon’s relegation already confirmed weeks ago.
Defender Conor Coady said the overriding emotion was “relief” after Everton avoided relegation from the Premier League for the first time, but admitted the club needs to avoid these relegation battles “becoming a bit of a thing.”
“It was last season and now this season,” he told Sky Sports after the match. “This is where we need to improve and we need to reset, but it’s relief – I’ll be honest, it’s been the hardest season of my life, of my career.
“It’s something you don’t want to be part of, this giant of a football club and going down, you don’t want to be part of that and we’ve reiterated that all season. We’re not, but what we’ve got to do now is not make this a common theme because that’s now the last two seasons.
“This club has to rise and it has to get better now.”
It’s going to take some serious work and investment over the English summer if Everton is to win back the fans.
Throughout the season, supporters have continued their vociferous backing of the team, despite its consistently poor performances, but have now regularly been voicing their displeasure with the club’s board.
Many point to a lack of direction from ownership and some wayward investment in the playing squad as the root cause of a second successive relegation battle, with protests against the club’s board taking place before every game at Goodison Park for the last couple of months.
The relationship between supporters and Everton chairman Bill Kenwright appears beyond repair as fans have continually called for changes at the boardroom level this season.
The board of directors were even told to not attend Everton’s home game against Southampton in Janaury due to a “real and credible threat to their safety and security,” the club said at the time.
Club majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has spent hundreds of millions of pounds since purchasing a stake in the club in 2016, but that outlay has yielded little to no success.
At least for tonight, those problems will pale in comparison to Leicester, Leeds and Southampton’s woes as the trio now face at least one season in the Championship.
England’s second tier is a notoriously difficult league to earn promotion from, however, so returning to the Premier League is by no means certain.
With some talented players and a healthy transfer budget from the inevitable sales of its stars, Leicester is perhaps best placed of the three relegated teams to earn promotion back at the first time of asking, while Leeds and Southampton struggle to find a direction and an identity.