What happened at final whistle as Everton finally get what they've waited five years for

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Everton;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Everton</a>'s players and their families do a lap of honour at the end of the English Premier League football match between Everton and Sheffield United at Goodison Park -Credit:Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

If anything exemplified how the 2023/24 campaign has been one of progress – on the pitch at least – for Everton it was the fact that their players were able to enjoy the first end of season lap of appreciation in front of a capacity crowd at Goodison Park since 2019.

It’s been five long years since Marco Silva’s expensively-assembled Blues side containing the likes of Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Morgan Schneiderlin, Lucas Digne, Bernard, Kurt Zouma, Theo Walcott, Ademola Lookman and Phil Jagielka defeated a Burnley outfit 2-0 – ironically managed by Sean Dyche and with James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil among their ranks – to close in on eighth spot in the Premier League.

Since then there have been a couple of seasons impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic, ensuring the final home game against Bournemouth in 2020 was played behind closed doors and against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2021 was watched by a severely-restricted attendance of 6,068 home fans.

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Then in the two seasons since crowds returned en masse, Everton have found themselves fighting for their Premier League lives going into their final Goodison fixtures of 2022, when they recovered from 2-0 down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 and 12 months ago when Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goal gave them the 1-0 victory they needed to avoid a first relegation in 72 years. Finally after several years of drama both on and off the pitch, the Blues were able to enjoy their day on this occasion as Doucoure again proved the match-winner in very different circumstances having secured their top flight status with a hat-trick of home wins in a week at the back end of last month.

The fact the team were able to find themselves in such a comfortable position is testament to the laudable efforts of manager Sean Dyche and his staff who steered Everton to safety despite two separate points deductions this term. Indeed as the final whistle blew here, based on their on-field performances, the Blues would have been level on points with 10th placed Brighton & Hove Albion.

We don’t know yet whether this was his Goodison Park swansong after over 15 years at the club but fittingly club captain Seamus Coleman – whose contract again expires this summer – led the way with his children. The Republic of Ireland international was closely followed by Jordan Pickford, his wife, son – wearing an Everton goalkeeper kit with ‘1 Dad’ on the back – and daughter plus all their other team-mates and families.

Both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Tarkowski carried babies in their arms while Idrissa Gueye’s kids seemed almost as ferocious as their old man in the tackle as they took turns to try and chop each other down on the Goodison turf with some full-blooded challenges. Bringing up the rear though was ‘Gaffer’ Dyche, whose level head while many around him might have been losing their own, has masterminded this revival in the face of continued off-the-field chaos that continue to dog this club.

In sharp contrast to the uncertainty over the ownership, this was the best of the Blues and a fitting finale to a season in which Coleman admitted in his programme notes, often felt like “Everton against the world.” It was also a nice moment to take stock as Goodison Park – the ground which has staged more English top flight matches than any other – begins the countdown of its final 20 league fixtures.