Everton avoided relegation during Sunday’s Premier League finale, condemning Leicester City and Leeds United to Championship football next season, but they did it the hard way.
The Toffees were staring into the abyss. The proud Merseyside club was in the relegation zone at halftime of the season’s last day; the prospect of its top-flight residency ending after 69 years was very real. The financial implications of demotion, while Everton struggle with the escalating costs of the new stadium being built on Bramley Moore Dock, could’ve been ruinous.
But then Abdoulaye Doucoure bludgeoned the ball home and Goodison Park erupted. The nervy 1-0 win over Bournemouth was enough to keep Everton afloat.
Doucoure is now an Everton icon. The ball bounced toward the midfielder on the edge of the box in the 57th minute, and he smashed it into Bournemouth’s net. It proved to be the eventual winner and effectively made Leicester’s 2-1 triumph against West Ham United redundant.
Leeds dropped into the Championship after finishing in 19th place. Sam Allardyce failed to preserve the West Yorkshire outfit’s Premier League status with a 4-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
“Loads of pressure but overwhelming relief,” Everton defender Conor Coady said after the match. “It’s something where you don’t want to be part of, this giant of a football club and go down.”
“This club has to rise and get better now,” he added after noting the Toffees have endured two seasons of struggle.
Everton finished 16th in the prior campaign, with Richarlison – who left for Tottenham last summer – the main protagonist of that successful survival bid. Doucoure is the latest hero, as his match-winning strike followed his two-goal haul during a win over Brighton & Hove Albion earlier in May.
The hard work isn’t over, but Sean Dyche doesn’t need to plan for trips to Rotherham United and Plymouth Argyle next season. Everton are still a Premier League side.
“It means a lot to me,” Dyche reflected. “I took over what they called a broken club. It’s not broken, it’s had its cracks but it’s not broken. We’ve shown that. We’ve shown the fighting spirit that you need.”