NO sooner had the shrill peep of Kevin Friend’s final whistle pierced the Goodison air on Saturday, when the sounds of Everton FC discontent began to rain down from the stands.
A home defeat to Queens Park Rangers was the nightmare start to a campaign for Everton following a controversial week in which the club’s financial plight was laid bare.
The fallout from Bill Kenwright’s conversation with supporters’ group the Blue Union, and the manner in which it was made public, has polarised opinion among an already disaffected fanbase.
But Phil Neville, who this week extended his Goodison career until 2013, has sent out a reassuring message the players and coaching staff remain as united as ever in the midst of growing external unrest.
“There is no discontent coming out from within the camp,” says the skipper. “There are no players fighting. There is no manager fighting with this, that or the other. Everything that is coming out of the camp is positive.
“I don’t think we’re any different to 70% of the Premier League. Not many clubs have money these days, purse strings have to be tightened.
“The main thing with Everton is that everybody knows our situation, we aren’t bluffing anybody. Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get on with it and enjoy ourselves.
“I can understand the fans’ frustrations but I’d ask them to stick with us. If I didn’t think this club was going forward I wouldn’t have signed.
“I’ve signed a new contract, hopefully Felli (Marouane Fellaini) will sign one soon, and we’ve not sold any of our best players. Hopefully that will give the fans food for thought. It’s a strong squad.”
Of course, fans have heard it all before about the indomitable spirit within the Everton camp. And Neville admits it’s the end result, not the morale of the players, which is the ultimate barometer.
“If I was at the game on Saturday as a fan, then I would have probably reacted in the same way as every other supporter,” he admits. “You wait two or three months in the summer, every Saturday you aren’t going to football and having waited so long for the first game and it ends like a damp squib.
“When you don’t perform and don’t win the game, it affects your life. I’m sure the fans understand that because we all feel the same.
“But I look around the dressing room and think I’m glad to be playing with this group of players.”