Every vantage point was taken on Goodison Road. They climbed lampposts and stood on bins, they set off pyrotechnics that billowed out thick plumes to turn the air blue. And they made noise, the kind of noise that leads to goose-bumps.
Here, on this tight little thoroughfare at the top of streets of terraced houses, a mass of humanity arrived at lunchtime – in the region of 3,000 fans, probably many more – and imposed their love of Everton on the players who must salvage this stomach-churning season.
There has been much anger in these parts for much of the campaign, there have been protests at the board and fury vented at dreadful results, but ahead of Chelsea’s arrival, there was a common goal and unity was required. Here, then, was an inspirational outpouring of emotion.
Everton fans gathered in huge numbers before the game in a show of support for their side
Toffees fans are urging their team in a big push in a battle to avoid Premier League relegation
Goodison Park, perhaps, is a relic in this modern era. Its features have barely changed in the last 30 years, other than cosmetic enhancements, and it is why Everton are committed to moving to a new stadium on the banks of what their supporters call the Royal Blue Mersey.
But on an occasion such as this – when there is synergy between the management and team and fans – there are few better places to watch football. It can lift Everton players to different heights and scramble the senses of opponents who are usually so measured.
A force has emitted around Goodison for the last six weeks, it began the night Frank Lampard’s team were roared to a 99th minute winner against Newcastle and was again evident against Manchester United – 1-0, against the odds – and Leicester, when Richarlison scored a 92nd minute equaliser.
Flares were let off as supporters ensured an incredible atmosphere as the Chelsea team arrive
Once inside Goodison Park, fans continued to show passionate displays of support
This frenzy, however, was another level. Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea’s head coach, might have known what was coming his way but doing something to turn down the volume that had been pumped up was an altogether different challenge.
‘It is special; it is not the norm,’ said Lampard. ‘Coming in, driving up and receiving the fans as we went through on the bus, it was important for the players to understand and feel what it means to the fans is special.
‘If it doesn’t give you goose-bumps, if it doesn’t get you ready to go out and give everything, then there is something wrong with you. You shouldn’t be playing the game. They were the 12th man, they were the people of the match, the men, the women, the children that came and did that.
‘It continued in the warm up, then at the start of the game, also to get us over the line late in the game. When the club comes together at Goodison that is amazing and that is why results have been so good here. The negative is when we go away and can’t replicate what we do here.’
Everton fans have taken to Frank Lampard as manager despite the team’s tough season
Some will dismiss this, perhaps, as being trite and overly sentimental but it really should not be underestimated the influence a fan base can have on a team’s fortunes. Lampard nodded in agreement when it was put to him that, without this fervour, the result wouldn’t have been possible.
It could easily have gone the other way. Burnley’s come-from-behind success at Watford was the kind of ingredient that may have led the faint-hearted to crumble and fear that relegation now looked inevitable, particularly with Everton being five points adrift of safety.
Lampard, though, sees things differently. He was enticed to Goodison in January by the potential of the club and the rich history but the situation he inherited was nothing short of a hospital pass, the environment a consequence of years of bad decisions.
Whatever happens from here, whether Everton fail in their quest to stay up or beat the drop, they must stick behind Lampard. Yes, he is still learning and has things he can improve, but he needs the opportunity awaken this club and put his stamp on things.
Lampard’s arrival has helped improve certain players including midfielder Alex Iwobi (right)
He is the first manager Evertonians have truly connected with since David Moyes. He speaks in a way that makes them feel connected, he is getting good performances from those who were previously questioned – look at Alex Iwobi – and is here because he can see the potential.
Crucially, Lampard isn’t afraid to speak the truth. He knows the fans have done their bit and it is up to him and his group to do the rest. Beating Chelsea was an outstanding start but there is still more to be done.
‘You can keep telling the players to believe,’ he said. ‘Then there are other times when the demands are this. To be good lads is not enough to stay in this league. It is clear what the table looks like. We can’t control anyone else. We can only look after ourselves.’
And at Goodison – as was gloriously proven once more – the fans will look after the team.
Roared on by fans, Everton defeated Chelsea on Sunday 1-0 as Richarlison celebrates opening the scoring just after half-time by throwing a flare from the pitch