Well, it’s over and done with. The 2021/22 Premier League season is now officially over – bar the whinging from across the park that will carry on through the RS-infested media for weeks to come – and so ahead of the GOT Player of the Season, we need to catch up with the result for the May Player of the Month as voted for by you.
May saw six crucial, vital fixtures and it was you, The Fans, that truly went the extra mile to try to see our beloved Boys in Royal Blue over the line and ensure top flight footie at the Grand Old Lady again next season.
We started with Chelsea and a tumultuous welcome for the team with Goodison Road thronged with fans singing, waving flags, blue flares and smoke, a welcome that Frank Lampard himself said he’d never seen the like of even when winning trophies as a Chelsea player. The pre-game atmosphere built and carried on relentlessly through the first half, something good was happening. And it culminated with Chelsea faltering and our Brazilian ace Richarlison taking full advantage with a cool finish. Leading by that goal, the defence needed to stand firm as Chelsea pressure grew and now it was time for Englands’ Number One to rise to that challenge. Jordan Pickford gets a rough ride from so many sections of the media but, Evertonians know his value to the club. And he proved it with some outstanding saves including nearly getting knocked out when a full-blooded drive from Rudiger hit him in the face. The game was won and May was off to a flier.
Leicester away was next on the schedule and less than three weeks after a draw against the Foxes at Goodison, the Blues and their raucous army of fans descended upon the King Power. And how!!! Vitalii Mykolenko got the ball rolling with a spectacular volley from an Alex Iwobi cross and after Leicester had countered at pace to equalise, Mason Holgate popped up to put the Blues back in front and once again, the travelling support hailed their heroes. The support was relentless and spurred the team on with Jordan Pickford again in sparkling form with top class saves, in particular from Harvey Barnes, to seal a tremendous and much-needed victory on the road. But the real story of the King Power was you, The Fans. The post-game support didn’t just last a couple of minutes, it went on and on, Spirit of the Blues echoing around the stadium and luring Frank Lampard out from the dressing room to applaud and receive more applause from the fanatical supporters – magnificent scenes that drew praise from around the footballing world.
Two games played, two victories, six points won – things were looking up.
Three days later and the Blues travelled to Vicarage Road to face already relegated Watford. Maybe the effort expended in beating Chelsea and Leicester caught up with the players as they couldn’t raise their game enough to overcome a stubborn Hornets side. With their fate already decided, Roy Hodgson’s players played with more freedom and confidence and largely took the game to the Blues. Once again, magnificent travelling support was on hand and helped the team take another valuable point. Three would have been better but, given our away form this season, that could have been construed as being greedy.
The games continued think and fast and another noisy, smoke filled welcome all the way down City Road and around the Holy Trinity statue preceded the Brentford game. Another blistering atmosphere was assured as the teams took to the pitch and when Richarlison put the Blues ahead on eleven minutes, all looked set for survival to be achieved. Fate then took control as Richy was denied a clear penalty after nearly having his shirt torn from his back and Brentford countered and contact from Jarrad Branthwaite on Mbeumo saw him shown a straight red card. Less than twenty minutes played, Everton ahead but, down to ten men. Wissa, with his shot deflecting off Seamus Coleman, pulled the Bees level before right on 45 minutes, Everton were awarded a penalty as Richarlison was fouled and he smashed the Blues in a half-time lead. Brentford came out organised for the second half and passing the hour mark, headers from Wissa and Henry in a three-minute spell saw them level and go ahead. And the Blues goose was well and truly cooked in the final minutes as substitute Salomon Rondon got a straight red card for an agricultural challenge and it needed an excellently positioned Mason Holgate to deny Eriksen from adding a fourth goal… and we were back to fretting again.
Game Five of May will go down in Everton and Premier League history. A Thursday night under the lights at the Grand Old Lady, top flight footie on the line and Crystal Palace the visitors. A Palace side who had already given the Blues two painful losses this season, outscoring us 7-1 in the process. Another tumultuous welcome, Goodison Road full of fans, flags and even thicker clouds of blue smoke – if ever a crowd could lift a side, surely it’s an Everton crowd. All four sides of the Grand Old Lady were as one as the team took to the field, the noise deafening, what could possibly go wrong?
Palace were what went wrong, they clearly hadn’t read the script as they took a first half stranglehold over the midfield and took a two-goal lead into half-time on the back of markers from Mateta and Ayew. In the view of many watching, Ayew was lucky to be on the field as moments before he scored, he’d could have been red carded for an awful challenge on Anthony Gordon but, dipstick referee Taylor thought otherwise, not even referring to VAR.
During the interval, Dele Alli appeared in kit to warm up, a clear indication he was coming on at the start of the second half, arguably the most important 45 minutes of football in recent Everton history. The former Tottenham midfielder was to play a pivotal part in what was to follow as once again, Goodison raised its voice to encourage the Blues forward. A little under ten minutes into the second half and a free kick from the left, after a foul on Dele Alli, saw Vitalii Mykolenko find the head of Mason Holgate who nodded the ball perfectly towards Michael Keane who took one touch and then smashed a left foot volley past Butland.
One-Two and the roofs of the stands were loosened by the noise as Evertonians regained belief. Everton were now pouring forward in search of an equaliser and with fifteen minutes to play, Seamus Coleman crossed to the back post, Dele Alli saw his shot blocked and the ball broke for Richarlison and his shot took a slight deflection before settling into the far corner of the Gwladys Street goal… and the roofs of the stands were lucky to stay on as Goodison erupted even louder than for the Michael Keane goal.
Two-Two, and now Goodison was baying for a winner. Everton hadn’t recovered a two-goal first half deficit since beating Derby County 3-2 way, way back in 1977 and it was going to take something special, everyone could feel it, it was coming but, when and who from?
Five minutes to play and Zaha fouled Seamus Coleman wide on the right… Everton prepared on the edge of the Palace area as Demarai Gray took a deep breath for the free kick. Gray swung the ball over, Dele Alli with a great little block on Milivojevic won a sliver of space that Dominic Calvert-Lewin exploited to launch himself full length to meet the cross with a header any of our great Number 9’s of the past would be proud of. Butland dived, the ball beat him, the net bulged and the roofs came off.
Three-Two – Absolute bedlam ensued, limbs, scenes, some fans poured onto the pitch, Richarlison nose dived into the pitch in a display of sheer joy. The noise was incredible, no other word for it.
The pitch cleared, the game re-started and Everton saw out time to spark scenes of wild celebration and emotion as thousands made it onto the pitch. Singing, dancing, hugging – all the emotions that depict football were on display and for some considerable time.
Premier League football for season 22/23 had been secured and Frank Lampard celebrated on the roof of the executive boxes, dancing and singing along with the fans – the Spirit of the Blues had seen the Blues over the line and boy, did Goodison celebrate.
Arsenal away on the last day of the season was a massive anti-climax. The players probably mentally and physically drained after Thursday night, could only offer token resistance against an Arsenal side harbouring dreams of a top four finish if Spurs were to come unstuck at Norwich. Donny van de Beek bagged his first, possibly only, Everton goal just before half time but, on the day we were well beaten as the Gunners went nap with a 5-1 score line.
Six games played, three huge wins, a draw and two losses but those ten points in May had done the job. Frank Lampard used a total of twenty two players through those six games – injuries and suspensions playing their part and stretching resources about as far as they could have been. Five players – Mason Holgate, Demarai Gray, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Alex Iwobi and Anthony Gordon – appeared in all six games with just two, Mason Holgate and Alex Iwobi playing every minute of those final six games.
To the individual Man of the Match vote winners and with stellar performances against both Chelsea and Leicester, Jordan Pickford picked up back to back awards. Alex Iwobi won the poll for the draw at Watford and Richarlison for his brace of goals clinched the Brentford game poll. His crucial second half display and involvement in all three goals saw Dele Alli cruise to victory in the Crystal Palace game poll and that left debutant Isaac Price to notch the poll win for the final game at the Emirates.
As we always say, GrandOldTeam.com takes great pride in offering (hopefully) the quickest match report service and we encourage all Blues, everywhere to sign up to the forum and vote in our Man of the Match polls. Every vote goes towards these Player of the Month awards and the ultimate accolade at seasons end, the awarding of the GrandOldTeam.com Player of the Season trophy.
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May was the final month of a season we hope never to repeat as too many low points outnumbered the high points, even though these last six games saw high points like we haven’t seen for far too many long and barren years.
Many have commented in the match threads that we should include The Fans in the voting, given the outstanding levels of support throughout this turbulent season and especially since The Fans took it upon themselves to unite and energise the players – the club seemingly incapable, unable or even unwilling to do so.
The manager and players drew strength from the passion displayed by you – The Fans – and responded, you – The Fans – truly were the proverbial 12th man and ever single one of you should be inordinately proud of your contribution to the club maintaining top flight status.
Enough of the eulogies, let’s get to the result…
In third place and gaining his first podium place after that influential second half against Palace – Dele Alli.
In second place and a completely different player since the arrival of Frank Lampard – gaining his second podium place – Alex Iwobi.
And that leaves top spot on the podium and the clearest monthly winner of the season with just under 41% of the total votes cast, and in particular for his amazing saves against Chelsea and Leicester, your GrandOldTeam.com Player of the Month for May – Jordan Pickford.