Everton caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson empathised with fans who protested after their 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa after admitting he was “on the floor” after the result.
A 10th defeat in 14 league matches – courtesy of Emiliano Buendia’s header in first-half added time – means their 19 points from their first 20 games is their lowest total at this stage since 1997-98.
The goal celebrations saw Villa players Matty Cash and recently-departed Everton defender Lucas Digne struck by a bottle thrown from the crowd, with the Toffees announcing after the game that one person has been arrested for throwing a missile onto the pitch, but the protests after the match were more peaceful.
🗣 | "I thought first half we were off it, but I thought the second half we gave everything – just lacking that bit of quality in the final third to stick one in."
Duncan's #EVEAVL verdict:
— Everton (@Everton) January 22, 2022
Ferguson has stepped into the void for a second time as the club look for their seventh permanent manager in six years following Rafael Benitez’s sacking last weekend but with their current form leaving them just five points above the relegation zone, supporters have had enough.
Around 150 fans stayed behind, mainly in the Gwladys Street End, to protest, chanting “Sack the board”, “Bill Kenwright, get out of our club” and “We want our club back”.
Prior to kick-off a banner flown overhead read “22 years of failure, Bill. Time to go” in reference to long-standing chairman Kenwright.
“The fans, for me, can protest and say what they want about the club because it is their club at the end of the day,” said Ferguson, who paid for drinks in local pubs for fans before kick-off.
“People have demonstrated in the past, at the end of the day the fans are not happy and that is their right.
“They have a right to support their club in any way, shape or form they want. I am gutted as much as them.
“I’m on the floor, I was kicking every ball out there, trying my very best to motivate the team. Sick for the fans, that’s the main thing.
“I was so desperate for them to get a win, even a result. I feel for them, because at the end of the day I am one of them. I’ve been here a long time and I know most of them.
“It’s a bad moment for me but I’m proud of the players, I thought they stuck at it, they kept going, they gave me everything and I couldn’t criticise them for that at all.”
Victory was Villa’s first in four Premier League matches but, unlike their hosts, they are looking up under head coach Steven Gerrard.
“We had to perform in a different way (and I’m) really proud of the players,” said the former Liverpool captain.
“We were challenged by Everton, who went direct. It was about rolling your sleeves up and standing up and being counted.
“To get a clean sheet I am really pleased. I think we can play better on the ball but we were lulled into a different style of game and we had to react and did that really well.
“With the change of management we knew what was coming our way and we had to win a game in a different style.
“We were in a good place from half-time but we predicted Duncan would put more petrol on the fire.
“They went more direct and challenged us more but to stand up to what Everton did we deserved to come away as winners.”