Not a single season of top-flight English football has gone by without Everton.
The first club to play over one hundred seasons at the highest level of English football.
They are legendary. They are respected. They are Everton.
While this past season marked the 118th-year in a row of playing at the highest levels of competition, the 119th season was looking less and less likely. The Toffees first season under new head man and English football legend, Frank Lampard, was trending towards the unthinkable: relegation.
Over the pond, this is a horrifying word. Nightmare-inducing, even. For the casual American soccer fan, it’s like being demoted by the league you play within for not being competitive enough to finish outside of the bottom three clubs in the league. In most cases, no American sports fan has to be concerned with that happening to the team they root for. Can you even imagine the Yankees having a down year and being shipped off to the minor leagues (as amazing as that would be)? Or if after last season, the Lakers would be gearing up to do battle with the rest of the G League (which would also be amazing)?
My own caveat here: I, too, come from one of the places on Earth where football is life, only it’s the American variety. That would be Green Bay, Wisconsin, where loyalty to the team can’t be understated. Much like Everton, the Packers are known for their blue-collar culture and creating a game day atmosphere that is tough to beat. More often than not, it’s about loyalty to a squad with a unique history that is unlike anyone in the National Football League.
That said, I’ve never seen my American football team be relegated to anywhere but getting a higher draft pick during a bad season. But, to even imagine the Packers, Vikings, Bears or Lions being demoted to the XFL or the USFL…well, you should be prepared to see a grown ups cry. And no, that is NOT hyperbole.
Years ago, I started to pay more attention to the English Premier League. Having played soccer for close to fifteen years, I was a knowledgeable fan, albeit casually knowledgeable. I thought I should have a team to claim, to root for, but I didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon and be a Man U guy or go with Chelsea because I like the kit. So, I asked my buddy, Brian, “just tell me which of the Premier League teams is most similar to the Packers here in America.”
Without hesitation, the answer was “Everton."
So, I’ve kept tabs on The Blues over the past few years. And, even more closely this season since the club's standing in the Premier League was hanging by a thread. I tried my best to catch them on Saturday mornings. Thankfully, on the morning of May 19, I was watching as Everton was fighting for their Premier League lives…and the prognosis was bleak. They ended the first half down 2-0 to a Crystal Palace squad that looked to have little to no trouble in defeating the Toffees and sending them on their way down to relegation.
In the 54th minute of that match, everything changed. And, Everton history was about to be rewritten.
Center back Michael Keane kicked off what would become an unforgettable match. The Goodison Park crowd erupted. Then in the 75th minute, Richarlison’s left foot sent the ball into the net, and sent the Goodison Park crowd into an absolute fever pitch. Even just watching from home, I had sports-induced goosebumps. Like, the “Lambeau” kind. And, aside from my favorite squads winning it all, I’m not sure many sports moments compare to what I was witnessing.
In the 84th minute, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s beautiful header would seal the deal for Everton. It was a comeback for the ages. In the course of just minutes, the Toffees would change the course of history by turning 118 seasons of top flight English football into 119.
The most riveting part of the whole experience? The Everton fans. And, it’s no stretch to say they absolutely played a role in winning that game. When I spoke with Everton Media and Publications manager Darren Griffths last week about that very game, he said to me, “I’m hoping you could feel all that through your television screen.” I’m fortunate to say that I did.
Now, let’s remember, this was a match just to continue playing in the league. Not for a playoff berth. Not for a championship, but to simply avoid relegation. But being able to see that Goodison Park crowd celebrate on the pitch after the game, along with their beloved team, was truly one of the best sports moments I’ve been lucky enough to see, either in-person or on a television screen. Fans, both young and old. Congregating on the pitch in what could only be described as English Football heaven. Grown women yelling at the top of their lungs. Grown men crying like babies. Kids sitting on their parents shoulders singing along to every Everton-inspired song blasting over the Goodison Park sound system.
Honestly, you can check out the goal highlights from that game, I highly encourage it. But, if you want to see what love of team looks like, watch the clip below. You will genuinely see just how much heart they have for the team and their proud legacy they continue to uphold. The blue half of Liverpool has the kind of unquestioned loyalty we as American sports fans know, but not quite in the way of a fan base that has lived and died with their squad for 119 seasons and counting.
Oh, and one last thing…GO LOONS!!!