Boos can’t lift blues but Everton fans’ spirit of defiance can rouse team

Say what you like about the crowd at Goodison Park, but they are really good at booing. They’ve had plenty of practice in recent years, of course, but, still, there was something viscerally impressive abo ut the boos before kick-off. It began as a low moan, like the agonised groan of a brontosaurus dying in a distant valley, then built slowly, rumbling mournfully through the old stadium, gaining in depth and plaintiveness and volume to finally break in a mighty foghorn of despair summoned from the guts of all Evertonians.

They had already booed the two blokes in dark rain-jackets who brought out the Premier League signage, as well as the six ballboys who, with an understandable degree of hesitation, unfurled the Premier League flag.

Related: ‘Power, greed and money’: Everton fans vent anger at Premier League – in pictures

Poor John Brooks, the referee, was booed as a representative of the evil empire that has done Everton down before even blowing for kick-off. By half-time, he was being booed and denounced as unfit to referee for the more conventional reason of booking Abdoulaye Doucouré but not Scott McTominay or Bruno Fernandes. And within 11 minutes of the start of the second half, the boos directed at Brooks blended gloom with fury, as he overturned the yellow card given to Anthony Martial for diving to award a penalty.

They booed in accordance with the pre-game plan on 10 minutes, as the stands – as they had been as the teams took the pitch – bristled with the lurid pink cards bearing the Premier League lion and the single word “Corrupt” that had been distributed outside the ground. No one should be in any doubt about the unanimity of anger against the 10-point deduction.

As was always likely, the mood was of standing against a common enemy. County Road had to be closed to traffic as fans gathered to protest, demonstrating a fervent togetherness not usually seen at Goodison until the threat of relegation really begins to bite around Easter. A barrage of fireworks was let off in the street outside after about 13 minutes, presumably part of the protest, although its precise relevance was unclear.

Everton fans ahead of the march towards Goodison Park.
Everton fans ahead of the march towards Goodison Park. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The chants against the Premier League were many and varied, although the general message was consistent: “Premier League, what’s the score?”, “Premier League, corrupt as fuck”. Manchester United fans responded with, “You cheating bastards, you know what you are”. As they should: banter about the regulatory enforcement of financial caps is the very essence of the modern game.

One banner in the Gwladys Street End read: “Where there is power, greed and money … there is corruption”, while another made seemingly specific reference to the suggestion in the statement from Andy Burnham, the Everton‑supporting mayor of Greater Manchester, that the Premier League had discussed the sanction against Everton in relation to the coming independent regulator, the implication being that the penalty was exemplary and political rather than deriving from pre-existing principle.

However robust Everton’s defiance, there has been a sense this weekend that things are just running against them. The one consolation of the points deduction was that it pushed Everton back into the dogfight when in other seasons it might have cast them adrift. But then Luton chose this weekend to claim their first home win of the season and Bournemouth their first away. The situation looked far worse at kick-off than it had done on Saturday morning.

It soon got even worse. Within three minutes Alejandro Garnacho had thrashed a bicycle kick into the top corner: it’s been a while since anyone at Goodison had such control of their overheads. It quickly became apparent that this was one of those days when nothing would go right. In his United career, André Onana has been a curious mix of sharp reflexes and inopportune dematerialisation. Here it was the former to the fore as he made a fine double save before the clearance was completed by Kobbie Mainoo.

Fans make their feelings clear during the match at Goodison Park.
Fans make their feelings clear during the match at Goodison Park. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The 18-year-old Mainoo impressed in the summer but injury meant this was his first appearance of the season. He looks an enormous talent but why, Everton fans were entitled to ask, did he have to announce himself against them? Why did it have to be today that Marcus Rashford scored his first club goal in almost three months? Or that Anthony Martial scored his first league goal since May (even if he is a specialist, having scored more against Everton than any other club)? That goal happened to come in United’s last league win by more than a single goal – before Sunday.

And that’s without mentioning all the chances that Everton spurned in the first half. In the end they were beaten comfortably enough but, before the penalty, it could easily have gone the other way.

That’s what they have to hang on to. It would, obviously, have been better to have begun the resistance with a win, particularly given the difficulty of the fixture list over the next month. But they will not have many games in which the fates are so decisively against them.

The improvements under Sean Dyche should still be enough to keep them up if they can maintain the galvanising spirit of righteous fury. Win or lose, they have to be on the boos.