777 Partners may have just given the game away about Everton takeover at Goodison Park

Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0 during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United at Goodison Park on May 11, 2024 -Credit:Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images
Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0 during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United at Goodison Park on May 11, 2024 -Credit:Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

The absence of any figures from 777 Partners was not a surprise but told a story of its own.

For so much of this season the US group has had a high-profile presence in the directors box of the club it has been trying to take over for eight months. Figures were in attendance as recently as at Luton Town, the club’s last match before the visit of Sheffield United. But after 10 days that have seen the firm hit with a civil lawsuit centred on $600m fraud allegations and its Australian airline entered into administration, the dreams of those who have repeatedly filled seats in L4 and beyond appear to be in tatters.

The most emphatic symbol of that took place in Belgium, not Liverpool, when protesting supporters from one of the clubs already owned by 777 Partners - Standard Liege - prevented the team from reaching its stadium on Friday. The match with Westerlo was called off as a result, the latest drama at a club where late staff payments have become common and which this week received its third transfer ban on the watch of the group that wanted to add the Blues to what lawsuits have alleged is its “house of cards”.

READ MORE: Everton's transfer plan for Jack Harrison confirmed

READ MORE: Dominic Calvert-Lewin future hint as several Everton players say final goodbyes at Goodison Park

Goodison itself has, of course, been the scene of protest and demonstration across recent seasons. But for the final home game of another challenging season, the only sign of discontent was the booing of the Premier League anthem before kick-off. It was one last outburst of a campaign in which this club has defied the odds and thumbed its nose at the authorities that have sought to punish it and the rivals who have sought to kick it while it has been vulnerable.

A threadbare squad consisting of the remnants of troubled seasons and two relegation battles that went to the wire has, under the management of Sean Dyche, overcome late sales, injury crises, ownership uncertainty and eight points of deductions spread across two unprecedented Premier League prosecutions.

That this famous institution is still standing and fighting is testament to the supporters and players who have rallied in the face of adversity. More challenges await over the summer but it will be a summer spent safe in the knowledge that Everton will enter the final season at Goodison Park where it should be - in the top flight. This side has not just stayed up, it has fired back at its critics and landed blows, most significantly by ending the title hopes of Liverpool with that famous win last month.

It was fitting, therefore, that one of the club’s great modern warriors Seamus Coleman was able to lead the team out for a first pressure-free May home game in several years. Although his contract is due to expire in a matter of weeks, talks over extending his stay into what would be a 16th year are ongoing. He wants to carry on playing and this home match will probably not be his last in Royal Blue at this stadium. But it was only right the Goodison crowd had the opportunity to roar him onto the pitch and then sing his name throughout this match, just in case.

This match lacked the intensity and drama that has been a consistent theme of home games across recent seasons. There was little riding on it, so that was of little shock. But Everton were the better team and that was pleasing. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was excellent. In the opening minutes he cut in from the right and shot straight at Wes Foderingham. Later in the first half, he should have claimed an assist when more neat work allowed him to play in Abdoulaye Doucoure.

The midfielder had time to pick his spot but instead blasted at Foderingham. It was an effort that summed up his struggle for finesse since the double hamstring blow that turned his and Everton’s season upside down. But it is welcome he will get the summer rest he needs and deserves with the confidence of a goal after Calvert-Lewin later provided an opportunity he could not miss. Dwight McNeil slipped the striker into the left channel of the box and he tried to round the onrushing Foderingham. When he was forced wide he maintained the composure to check his run and chip a cross over Foderingham’s arms and onto Doucoure’s head.

The Championship-bound visitors were not completely impotent. Cameron Archer and Andre Brooks forced good saves from Jordan Pickford before the break. The Blades’ biggest impact came off the ball, however, when captain Jack Robinson shoved Calvert-Lewin to the ground with little obvious provocation. The incident sparked a brawl and both players were booked. Robinson was lucky that was it, while Dyche, Doucoure and the home crowd were incensed that their man was handed the same punishment as Robinson.

The game fizzled out as a contest in the second half. Sheffield United were the better side and showed more intent for most of it, but were unable to create the clear cut chances to punish Everton. The hosts, meanwhile, needed the introduction of Youssef Chermiti to inject some momentum into their attack. He fired narrowly over from the edge of the box and poked a one-on-one straight at Foderingham from an angle as he again showed signs of real potential. The teenager was a menace following his introduction and deserved better than to see his late pull-back blasted over by James Garner.

After so much nail-biting in the Goodison finales of the Bournemouth and Crystal Palace games that ended in narrow survival-clinching wins, there was a welcome serenity around the Grand Old Lady as Everton saw out this win, Dyche providing youngsters Lewis Dobbin and Lewis Warrington with vital experience to add to the feel-good factor.

After the match, the home players thanked the supporters who had given them so much support during so many difficult moments with the first lap of honour here since 2019. Who will return next season is unclear.

Alongside Coleman, Andre Gomes, Ashley Young, Idrissa Gueye and Warrington are out of contract while Arnaut Danjuma, again an unused substitute, is unlikely to return to Everton after a difficult loan spell from Villarreal. Jack Harrison, absent through an injury that will also keep him out of the trip to Arsenal, could end up back on Merseyside depending on talks between Everton and his parent club, Leeds United.

There is also uncertainty over some of the club’s more prominent names. Amadou Onana and Jarrad Branthwaite are courted by European-competing clubs, while Calvert-Lewin will enter the final year of his contract in the summer.

In his programme notes, director of football Kevin Thelwell made clear the club expected to sell players this summer - an expectation-defining message ahead of off-the-pitch battles against league spending rules and the club’s difficult financial situation. The coming months will see a fight off the pitch, that much is certain.

And the absence of 777 Partners was a clear symbol of the biggest issue yet to be resolved. But at least those challenges will come against the backdrop of a team, fanbase and club that has emphatically won its on-field scrap. That feat deserved the celebration it received under the early summer sunshine.