The gravity of the situation has provoked unity, not division. When asked what role the fans have played in the recent upturn in results, Lampard said: “I was aware [of the fanbase] when I came here – I knew the club’s history.
“Playing against Everton as a player, it was always a difficult place to come. I knew that this is a region of the country where football is life for people.
“So, I understood that. But to feel it first hand, it’s been extraordinary. The backing of the fans in this moment has played a huge part. It can’t help but endear you to the club and take it into your heart. It drags you in and you want to do it for them, to a big degree.”
Everton manager Frank Lampard says the seven points his side picked up out of the last possible nine have ‘changed the story of the season’ but knows they are not safe from Premier League relegation yet.
Tension has eased, but that feeling can be fleeting. Everton are unbeaten in their last four home games, scoring one goal in all four ties, but any misconceptions of safety would be extremely premature.
A twist in the tale is bound to arise at some point – fans of a particular generation will remember Everton’s great escape of 1994, as relegation was staved off with a dramatic comeback victory over Wimbledon on the final day.
Prior to this season, the club’s recent motivation has been more concerned with how to break the top four, than how to avoid the bottom three, but history details occasions where Everton have flirted with the idea of relegation, if not succumbed to its pull.
As manager, Lampard is happy to shoulder that responsibility: “From my experience, this is the most intense pressure you can get. I’ve played at the top end, I’ve managed in and around the top end, but the threat of relegation to a club is such a huge deal.
“What it means to the club, to the fans, to the people who work here at the club and the people who care about the club. You feel that responsibility as the manager.”
A huge crowd of Everton fans gathered to welcome the team ahead of their match against Chelsea
A huge crowd of Everton fans gathered to welcome the team at Goodison ahead of their match against Chelsea
He added: “The fans are due their grievances. When you ask them to love a club so much, you can’t then ask them to not have an opinion. But what I have seen is how much of a positive impact they can have on us. It certainly helps the players.
“You’ve seen the team grow in a short time with that backing. So let’s hope we can keep that together. I’m not asking for anything as a written rule but if we can keep that together it shows how strong we are.
“I am very happy to hear how they [the fans] want this team to play. I think you have to tap into that and give the fans a team they want to support and are a reflection of how they feel.
“Everton, particularly, is a club that demands passion, drive, sprints, tackles and fighting for the badge. We have to deliver that.”
Richarlison celebrates with a blue flare after putting Everton in front (AP)
Richarlison celebrates with a blue flare after putting Everton in front against Chelsea
On the pitch, results have changed for the better, with Everton structurally sounder. Playing with three centre-halves has offered a solidity that was previously lacking. At home, they have conceded just once in their previous four clashes – a Harvey Barnes strike in a 1-1 draw with Leicester. This weekend, the Toffees can go four league games unbeaten for the first time since their first four under Rafael Benítez.
It’s a far cry from the destitution felt at Turf Moor in early April, where a resurgent Burnley overturned a first-half deficit to score three times past Everton’s otherwise unflappable goalkeeper.
When asked if he thought it possible for Everton to reach a point of safety with games to spare this term, Lampard remarked honestly: “Possibly not. It felt like a game we were in control of, and it turned on us, which can bring a momentum swing if you’re not careful.
Burnley came from behind to beat Everton in a crucial game at Turf Moor
Burnley came from behind to beat Everton in a crucial game at Turf Moor in April
“It’s credit to everyone that we’ve got ourselves in the position we are now from that moment [against Burnley]. Because there’s no doubt it was a tough night.
“The players have now found a growth in their own confidence. I came into the club off the back of some difficult results, that’s why I’m here I suppose.
“We’ve been working against that, developing the team’s confidence. When you come in mid-season, you must learn very quickly about your players.”
So, has Lampard abandoned a possession-based philosophy in favour of a ‘needs must’ approach? Defensively, it seems to be working – three clean sheets in the last four at Goodison and Everton reduced Watford to zero shots on target midweek – but debate has since risen over their potency at the opposite end of the pitch.