Lampard's energy, team's togetherness and fans' backing worked - but Everton need more
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The moment was there to get lost in. Only naturally, Everton fans jumped right in and are probably still there, slowly emerging from a drunken haze of euphoria after escaping relegation in their final home game of a tortuous season. In another world, Thursday evening’s game against Crystal Palace could have been Everton’s last top-flight match at Goodison Park.

But it wasn’t, the survival job is complete. And it will most likely take most of the summer for Everton supporters to properly unwind from a taxing campaign: the club’s worst in over two decades. However, equally this is not a time to rejoice unequivocally. A wretched season may be over but work will have to be done to ensure this doesn’t happen again. On the whole it was horror story rather than fairytale.

This is not the time for the Everton board to pat themselves on the back for a job badly done. The club has ploughed through managers and more than half a billion pounds since Farhad Moshiri became the majority shareholder in 2016, and the reward should be more than escaping the drop down to the Championship on matchday 37.

In short, what has kept Everton up has been Frank Lampard’s infectious energy even during desperate times, the team’s togetherness which shone even when quality on the pitch was left wanting, and the vociferous backing offered by supporters. If this scrape with relegation has delivered anything tangible, then it is a stronger relationship between that triage. “When I came into the club there were a lot of splits and we have managed to bring it together,” Lampard said.

However, this has changed how supporters view the board, featuring Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenwright and CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale, and that will not change until there are clear signs that they have learnt from this experience. Perhaps their greatest move was appointing Lampard who has quickly enamoured himself to the locals.

Lampard’s reign starts in earnest now; keeping Everton up was the first — and largest — task sat in his in-tray in February, but with a full pre-season ahead, this is the time to make this his team. He admitted that the past few months haven’t been conducive to trying to create a free-flowing football identity but that is the end goal. The run-in has underlined the work that is needed.

This is a squad that has good players but too few of them. The group’s mentality has been questioned — unfairly, some may say — but they should be emboldened by reaching the other side of this uneasy experience. In adversity, bonds often grow stronger.

'We must take club forward'

Next season’s first team should be built around Jordan Pickford, Anthony Gordon, and a front-two of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. An instrumental cameo in the second-half against Palace may be just the kickstart Dele Alli needs to make Everton feel like home. There’s promise in the form of Ben Godfrey and Demarai Gray. But there needs to be greater quality added in central areas in both defence and midfield.

Injuries have beset Everton’s season, which has featured 20 defeats and 11 wins with the final game against Arsenal to come on Sunday, and making this a more resolute and stronger looking outfit will take up much of the summer months.

[Squad improvements] have obviously been second on the list of priorities because we had to get this [avoiding relegation] done,” Lampard said. “Now we will quickly continue to think about that because we have to take the club forward. We have to improve. I have to improve.

“I didn’t have a pre-season and now I and my staff do. Can we make the squad stronger and more balanced? I believe we can, and there will be things we will look at and it is important that we look at them quickly.

“We have Kevin Thelwell [the new director of football] now, we have the board who are interested in getting the best out of the club. We don’t want to be here next season, but we understand if we don’t make positive moves it could be possible, so we will be ready to move on that quickly.”

A host of players are also out of contract this summer, and Thelwell has a job on his hands to undertake Everton’s transfer business without breaching profit and sustainability regulations. The club has made a combined loss of more than £370million over the last three years and that could force them to raise money before spending. Calvert-Lewin and Pickford are two possible players who could be tempted to a team higher up the division, but Lampard thinks they will stay.

Players want to play in the Premier League, all of those players want to, so now those conversations can start”, he said. “You saw the quality levels of Jordan throughout the season but in the last six weeks particularly of Dominic and of Richarlison. I know it is a big story, I know FFP [Financial Fair Play], I genuinely don’t know the details. If I had my way, let me keep players who perform really well for the club and let us keep as far up the table as we can.

The hope was for Everton to be involved in European competition by the time they move to their new stadium in 2024. That may now seem fanciful but small steps can take you far; just ask West Ham United who have gone on a similar journey with David Moyes. There is an acceptance from those within Everton that mistakes have been made and a more sustainable strategy for success is already being implemented.

There is no right for Everton to be a success, on or off the pitch, but when they start it all over again in August they will long for a season of memorable moments rather than a season memorable for one moment: clinching survival so late in the day.

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