An hour after full time, they were still chanting. Their number had dwindled from a few hundred to less than 50 but those who remained called for the Everton board ‘to be sacked’. A sit-in protest by a section of supporters, largely in the Gwladys Street end, tried to make a stand by remaining in their seats after the team’s latest defeat.
This was meant to be a day of some sort of change. Duncan Ferguson had been made caretaker manager to try and bring a small slice of cohesion to a club that appears to be pulling in all directions. However, it turned out to be another troubling episode for a club which is slipping rapidly into a relegation battle.
A 10th defeat in 14 league matches – courtesy of Emiliano Buendia’s header in first-half stoppage time – means their 19 points from their first 20 games is their lowest total at this stage since 1997-98.
The goal celebrations saw Aston Villa players Matty Cash and recently-departed Everton left back Lucas Digne struck by a bottle thrown from the crowd, with the club announcing after the game that one person has been arrested for throwing a missile onto the pitch and the FA have launched their own investigation.
The protests after the match were more peaceful. ‘Sack the board’ and ‘We want our club back’ were both given airings, and club chairman Bill Kenwright faced the brunt of the supporters’ anger. Before the game a banner was flown overhead and read ’22 years of failure, Bill. Time to go’.
“The fans, for me, can protest and say what they want about the club because it is their club at the end of the day,” said Ferguson, who paid for drinks in two local pubs — the Winslow Hotel and the Brick — for fans before kick-off. “People have demonstrated in the past, at the end of the day the fans are not happy and that is their right.
“They have a right to support their club in any way, shape or form they want. I am gutted as much as them. I’m on the floor, I was kicking every ball out there, trying my very best to motivate the team. [I’m] sick for the fans, that’s the main thing.
“I was so desperate for them to get a win, even a result. I feel for them, because at the end of the day I am one of them. I’ve been here a long time and I know most of them. It’s a bad moment for me but I’m proud of the players, I thought they stuck at it, they kept going, they gave me everything and I couldn’t criticise them for that at all.”
The Everton support had become increasingly despondent as their team saw 15 attempts pass them by and only managed to find the target with one of them. Had it not been for Anthony Gordon’s brief but bright cameo, the afternoon would have fizzled out in even more dismal fashion.
'We had to perform differently'
On the other hand, Villa had taken their chance with Buendia proving too determined when up against a much-changed Everton defence and scoring for the first time in 10 games. This was the visitors first win in four league games and although it wasn’t the most accomplished performance of Steven Gerrard’s short time in charge, it was a highly-valued three points for the former Liverpool player.
“We had to perform in a different way [and I’m] really proud of the players,” Gerrard said. “We were challenged by Everton, who went direct. It was about rolling your sleeves up and standing up and being counted.
“To get a clean sheet I am really pleased. I think we can play better on the ball but we were lulled into a different style of game and we had to react and did that really well. With the change of management, we knew what was coming our way and we had to win a game in a different style.
“We were in a good place from half-time but we predicted Duncan would put more petrol on the fire. They went more direct and challenged us more but to stand up to what Everton did we deserved to come away as winners.”