With their heads above water ahead of the last two fixtures of the season, Everton will remain hopeful that they can avoid what would be a first relegation in 72 years. But regardless of whether they stay up or not, this is now officially the least-successful season in the club’s entire history from a statistical standpoint.
In terms of their immediate future, Sean Dyche’s side should take encouragement that their destiny remains in their own hands and if they were to win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday and both Leeds United and Leicester City were to lose at West Ham United and Newcastle United respectively then Everton could potentially secure their top-flight status for another year before their final game at home to Bournemouth on Sunday May 28.
Whatever happens to the Blues in another potentially nerve-jangling run-in though, there is no escaping the hard facts behind just how bad 2022/23 has been for them.
The 3-0 defeat to Manchester City at Goodison Park on Sunday marked the first time Everton have ever lost 10 league matches at home over a season and ensured what with 32 points from 36 matches, they now cannot catch their 39-point haul from last term, which itself was the joint lowest equivalent points total in the club’s history.
Based on the three points for a win system first implemented in 1981, the Blues have never had a season where they averaged less than a point per game but they must now win both of their remaining matches if they’re to avoid that fate.
But here’s a look back at their worst 10 previous seasons in terms of points per game.
Record: P42 W12 D10 L20 F64 A90 Pts 34
Equivalent points total = 42
Incredibly this was the season before Dixie Dean’s record-breaking 60-goal campaign when Everton would secure their third League Championship but while the young centre-forward was already showing great promise (he’d net 21 goals in 27 Division One matches this term) it seems obvious that the Blues’ problems were at the other end of the pitch. They leaked an incredible 90 goals over the course of the season, with 60 of those coming on their travels.
The leaky defence was on show in a 7-3 loss at Newcastle United plus a 6-2 drubbing at Leicester City while they conceded five in a game on no fewer than four more occasions in a campaign in which they were always playing catch-up having been beaten in their first five matches and lost seven of their opening eight games.
Position: 22nd (Relegated)
Record: P42 W12 D11 L19 F80 A92 Pts 35
Equivalent points total = 43
Just two years after being League Champions, Everton finished rock bottom of Division One and were relegated for the first time in the club’s history. A truly ‘Blue Christmas’ saw four straight defeats between December 21 and 28, culminating with a 5-0 mauling at Bolton Wanderers that would see the team slip into the drop zone.
Everton then suffered a five-match losing streak between March 5 and April 12 that left them propping up the table. Along with an even more porous defence than in 1926/27, the team were hampered by a series of injury problems for talisman Dean. He scored 23 goals in the 25 Division One games in played in but suffered from leg and muscle problems throughout the campaign and missed the final five fixtures of the run-in.
Position: 22nd (Relegated)
Record: P42 W12 D8 L22 F48 A86 Pts 32
Equivalent points total = 40
Some 21 years on from when they previously went down, Everton suffered relegation for the second and until now – most recent – time in their history, again finishing bottom of the Division One table. Although the Blues started the season with a 3-2 home win over Huddersfield Town, they’d lost 12 of their next 17 matches with a 2-1 loss at Chelsea leaving them bottom as early as September 30.
Unlike in previous times when Everton could rely on a prolific centre-forward such as Dean Tommy Lawton or previous penalty box predators like the aforementioned Parker, the lacked a spearhead to the attack which was evident by 11-goal Jimmy McIntosh finishing top scorer. The Blues had climbed to 15th in the table by the end of February but a nine-match winless run which included six defeats – five without a goal – left them in desperate trouble. Despite their fate remaining in their own hands going into their final fixture, requiring only a point against Sheffield Wednesday, Cliff Britton’s side bowed out with a whimper as they were thumped 6-0 at Hillsborough.
Record: P42 W9 D17 L16 F43 A51 Pts 35
Equivalent points total = 40
Evertonians trying to figure out how a team who challenged for Europe in 2020/21 and were second in the table as late as Boxing Day last season only to finish 10th, can now be left fighting to stay in the division might cast their eyes back to how Gordon Lee suffered a slump going into the 1980s. The Blues had finished third in 1978 and fourth in 1979 but with the manager bringing in significant changes in personnel, his new-look side struggled to settle and produced the necessary results.
Roger Kenyon and Terry Darracott, the last survivors of the Harry Catterick era had by now departed even recent arrivals such as Mickey Walsh, Peter Eastoe and Martin Dobson had all left and were soon followed by the likes of Colin Todd and Dave Thomas. Everton ended the decade in 17th place having won just five of their first 23 league games and with Bob Latchford netting just six top- flight goals that term, the team failed to get into double figures in the victories column, signalling a downward trajectory from which Lee was unable to recover. Just a point better off the following season, he made way for Howard Kendall in May 1981.
Record: P42 W12 D8 L22 F42 A63 Pts 44
Equivalent points total = 40
The season that climaxed with the first of Everton’s two last-day ‘Great Escapes’ of the 1990s and the dramatic 3-2 comeback victory at home to Wimbledon after the Blues had trailed 2-0. Despite Kendall having made the same mistake as Graeme Souness and prematurely dispensing of Peter Beardsley going into the campaign, victories in the first three matches showed no indications of the troubles ahead.
In search of a new focal point to his attack, Kendall ended his second spell as Everton manager in December following a 1-0 victory over Southampton at Goodison Park after the board failed to back his attempted move for Manchester United’s Dion Dublin and the team drifted under caretaker boss Jimmy Gabriel, losing six out of the Scot’s seven matches in charge. Mike Walker would replace Kendall but he struggled to halt the slide. While he and the club would survive the Wimbledon game, he was out of the door by November with four points from his last two matches not enough to paper over the cracks from a 12-game winless streak at the start of the 1994/95 Premier League campaign.
Record: P38 W9 D13 L16 F41 A 56 Pts 40
While the class of 1993/94 were actually a talented bunch but poorly led after Kendall’s departure – as their FA Cup win under Joe Royle the following year showed – the team of 1997/98 are widely-regarded as being Everton’s worst in living memory and the fact they only stayed up on goal difference above Bolton Wanderers highlights this suggestion.
With Royle having departed the club the previous March, the build-up to the season had proven chaotic with owner Peter Johnson searching for a world-class manager and claiming Evertonians would be “pleasantly surprised” by the calibre of bosses coveting the job. However, after spending a prolonged period on a fruitless search to try and land Bobby Robson, he ended up being turned down by a rookie in the shape of Andy Gray and having to take Kendall from second tier Sheffield United for a third stint in the Goodison dugout.
With funds tight, Kendall had to wheel and deal in the transfer market but his once Midas touch for bargains seemed to elude him and there was little appetite for another final day nail-biter as despite Gareth Farrelly putting Everton ahead early on against Coventry City, Nick Barmby had a late penalty saved before Dublin’s headed equaliser left the Blues clinging on and thankful for Chelsea – playing in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup final just three days later – defeating Bolton 2-0.
Record: P38 W11 D9 L18 F45 A59 Pts 42
This was the season of Everton’s humiliating 3-0 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup but they also suffered greatly in the Premier League. Going into the campaign, manager Walter Smith had been forced to completely rebuild his midfield with Nick Barmby (Liverpool), Don Hutchison (Sunderland) and John Collins (Fulham) all departing. In their place Smith brought Thomas Gravesen, Paul Gascoigne, Niclas Alexanderssson and Alex Nyarko, with the Ghanaian infamously demanding to be substituted during a 4-1 loss at Arsenal in April after an irate fan ran on to the Highbury pitch and offered to swap shirts with him.
There were other new arrivals in the shape of Steve Watson, Alessandro Pistone and the returning Duncan Ferguson, from Newcastle United, but the Blues struggled for consistency throughout while just about keeping their heads above water. Their winter of discontent contained a seven-game winless sequence between December and January with the nadir coming in the shape of a 5-0 thrashing at Maine Road to Royle’s newly-promoted Manchester City.
Record: P38 W11 D10 L17 F45 A57 Pts 43
With home-grown heroes Francis Jeffers and Michael Ball both sold going into the season, the parlous state of Everton’s finances that would eventually contribute to their failure to build their proposed new stadium at King’s Dock was evident as Smith continued to struggle turn things around on the pitch. A New Year gamble to sign David Ginola, PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year as recent as 1999 but by now past his best (the Frenchman would retire that summer) proved a final throw of the dice that failed to come off.
Suffering five consecutive defeats between December and January, Smith failed to win his last seven Premier League games in charge and was replaced by fellow Scot David Moyes after a painful 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-finals, broadcast live to the nation on BBC One. His young replacement steered the Blues away from trouble and brought the prospect of better times ahead.
Record: P38 W9 D12 L17 F45 A57 Pts 39
Moyes would remain Everton manager for over 11 years, steering a club who had finished in the top half just once over the previous decade to no fewer than nine such placings but his second full season in charge remains a curious anomaly. In terms of equivalent points per game, it remains the worst top flight campaign in the club’s history. But despite suggestions the boss might have ‘lost the dressing room’ at the time, he and his team would recover from it to secure the Blues’ highest-ever Premier League position to date of fourth just a year later.
The black and white figures of Everton’s final position also fail to tell the true story as incredibly the team were never really in any genuine relegation danger. Having got themselves safe with a 3-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur on Good Friday which moved them up to 12th in the table, they failed to win any of their last six fixture and plummeted down the table, finishing with a 5-1 loss at Manchester City on the final day.
Record: P38 W11 D6 L21 F43 A66 Pts 39
Everton had finished 10th the previous season – mostly played behind closed doors because of coronavirus-induced restrictions – and even that had been a disappointment after they were second in the table at the turn of the calendar year but their preparations for this campaign were rocked when manager Carlo Ancleotti defected to Real Madrid. Owner Farhad Moshiri replaced him with arguably the most-controversial managerial appointment in the history of the most-passionate city in English football by bringing in former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who over a decade on from his Anfield departure, remained a Kop Idol.
A promising start under the Spaniard eased fears with Everton fourth in early October but the wheels quickly fell off after a 5-2 capitulation at home to Watford later that month – which remains Moshiri’s last visit to Goodison Park – after the hosts had been leading 2-1 until 12 minutes from the end. Benitez would pick up just one win from his last 13 Premier League matches in charge, a run chairman Bill Kenwright would later describe as “unacceptably disappointing” and was sacked after a 2-1 reversal at bottom club Norwich City on January 15.
In his place, Goodison Park’s power brokers were united in their choice of Frank Lampard as Benitez’s successor and although a 2-0 Merseyside derby defeat at Anfield saw Everton finally drop into the relegation in April, back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Leicester City saw them climb out again. The Blues ultimately stayed up with a dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Crystal Palace in their final home game after trailing 2-0.