It’s a match so many supporters dread already, let alone in these dire circumstances.
Everton are set to welcome Liverpool to Goodison Park on Wednesday. One side is flying high towards the top of the league, the other is the most out-of-form team currently in the division.
Unfortunately, we all know which way around it is – and it doesn’t look good for Rafa Benitez’s squad heading into this latest game.
That was the case even before the animosity that occurred at the final whistle of the Blues’ most recent defeat, a dismal 1-0 loss away to newly-promoted Brentford.
As Everton’s players trudged over to the corner of the stadium on Sunday in apology, standing a good 20 yards away from the fans, the message coming back from those that had travelled was clear.
To put it in the most simple terms, they were not happy. Not with the players, the manager, the board – essentially anything to do with how the club is being run and performing at this moment in time.
Realistically that’s not the feeling you want to be battling against when heading into a match against your old city rivals, but this is a problem of the Blues’ own making.
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The relative silence that has followed the defeat to Brentford has been very interesting to note.
Benitez and Abdoulaye Doucoure’s respective post-match comments, both recorded inside an hour after the final whistle, have been the only real word from the staff or squad in the immediate aftermath.
The manager has since addressed the media once more for his pre-match press conference obligation, but it’s clear that the build-up to a derby hasn’t quite been the same.
There’s been no rallying cries, no words of encouragement. Even on social media the club’s official account has been noticeably much more quiet than usual, tweeting just twice between Benitez’s post-Brentford and pre-Liverpool comments.
Perhaps some of the message from supporters got through. They demand much, much sure than what they have been seeing – especially against Brentford.
That boiling point felt like a really defining moment in the club’s recent history. Years of failings at all levels had led to an unquestionable release of anger.
The club surely know what’s at stake on Wednesday now.
Much has already been made of what the atmosphere will be like at Goodison Park when Liverpool come to visit. Even at the beginning of the campaign people wondered how every fan in the stadium would react to Benitez’s dugout position.
Matches such as those against Southampton and Burnley at the beginning of the campaign showed how influential the fans could be in times of need, when the players show them the right attitude on the pitch.
There’s no doubting that ahead of kick off on Wednesday night, Goodison Park will be a cacophony of noise.
You don’t need to ask Evertonians to get up for a derby, they will create a bear-pit. Just think back to 2019, when the Blues were on a similarly poor run of form heading into a clash with their fierce rivals.
It’s not down to the fans though, it never has been.
The banner from those supporters against Brentford wasn’t aimed at just the players or the manager – it was addressing the wider issues at the club as a whole.
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For Wednesday though, that briefly gets pushed to one side. The pressure is solely on the squad and the staff to put in a performance and pick up a result.
If the side don’t start well, if they maybe even concede an early goal, then Goodison could turn into a toxic atmosphere. It’s certainly a possibility.
But given the length of exasperation these supporters have had to endure for an extended amount of time, who could blame them if that were the case?
Now is the time for action from these players. They were the ones who faced the brunt of Sunday’s anger, rightly or wrongly, and now it’s their time to show a response.
There hasn’t been the usual platitudes and empty comments about rallying together for a victory against Liverpool – no doubt because we’ve all been here too many times before.
Words don’t matter, actions on the pitch do.
After what was seemed like a defining moment against Brentford, now is the time for any sort of response to give these supporters something to cheer for.
They’ve waited a long time for that honour.Internet Explorer Channel Network