Goodison can be hostile. At its worst it’s hostile towards our own team; at its best it’s hostile towards the opposition. How much the fans can affect the players on the pitch can be debated, and it’s not something that can measured.
One game that is a great example of how the Goodison Park crowd works was the FA Cup quarter final vs Middlesbrough in 2009. The team went into half time 1-0 down and to boos and jeers from the fans who bemoaned a lack of effort in the first half of such a huge game. When the players came out in the second half it was to huge noise and encouragement, the fans put their frustration into that famous Goodison roar. The bear pit. It was a different team, and Middlesbrough started making mistakes that they didn’t in the first half. At 1-1 Goodison was loud, at 2-1 it was deafening. I sat in the Bullens Road that day and looked over to the Gwladys Street and it was literally bouncing. That was the old lady at its best in what Leon Osman described as the greatest atmosphere he’s played in.
This game I think shows the advantages of booing and the advantages of getting behind the team. The team needed to know that they weren’t good enough but walking out to a wall of noise must have been a real experience and turned any anxiety into passion.
After eighteen months of mediocrity I think our fans can be forgiven for not going through the repertoire of songs against Swansea and giving the team a good old cheer when a goalkeeper makes yet another error. This wasn’t an FA Cup quarter final it was against a struggling Premier League team. The players shouldn’t have needed the fans. When the fans are unhappy with certain players, the manager and the board, it’s hard to be enthusiastic.
As for booing, I’m not one who jumps at the chance but I’m also not against it at the right time. Martinez seems to be in his own little bubble and is rarely challenged by local media, booing may be the only way of telling him it’s not good enough. I think a lot more negative than booing is in-game anxiety. The moans and groans from the stands that can have an impact, but when the team is 12th and playing badly, a fan paying around £40 for a ticket to watch the club he lives for is hardly going to clap a mistake, it’s only natural.
Is it the fans that affect the players or the players that affect the fans? Unless it’s a big match then the atmosphere is only sparked by what’s on the pitch, there was nothing negative about the atmosphere until Stones’ pass to Howard. Yes it was quiet, but Everton should be beating Swansea regardless. The fans may not help at times but it’s only ever the result of what is seen on the pitch, and if that doesn’t improve, neither will the atmosphere.