Ironic cheers from supporters form a key part of the soundtrack to modern day soccer, but it’s rare to hear home fans direct these jibes in the direction of their own players.
Tim Howard and Everton fans are a special case at the moment, though. Applause and whoops rung out from the Gwladys Street when the United States international came and claimed a cross midway through the first half during the 4-3 loss to Stoke City, having hopelessly flapped at rudimentary ball into the box just seconds earlier.
The response from the 36-year-old, who is one of the most experienced goalkeepers in English game, was to sarcastically applaud the fans behind the goal, then turn and tread back towards his goalmouth, shaking his head in their direction.
It’s not the first time Howard has interacted with the Everton supporters in that section of the stadium in recent weeks. The American reacting slowly or being rooted to his line has been a common occurrence at Goodison Park this season, and the fans, as is the case with any player, will make their frustrations known if errors are made.
Most just get on with the game, but Howard has decided to bark back to supporters, gesturing at some to calm down on more than one occasion. It’s behavior which has only sought to rile supporters further, adding momentum to the opinion that the former Manchester United man is finished as a top-level goalkeeper.
Of course, in an ideal world, supporters would be emphatically behind their own players for the duration of the match, but such is the disillusionment with the man between the sticks. It’s tough to keep emotions in check, especially during a pulsating contest as was the case Monday against Stoke City.
Indeed, we only need to look to the second half for an example of why there are so many supporters who want Howard out of the side. With Everton battling back brilliantly from 2-1 down to lead 3-2, the American parried a cross straight into the path of Joselu, who equalized. It was a critical point in the game and once again, a moment in which the ‘keeper was found wanting.
Over a year ago, I penned an article for World Soccer Talk calling for Howard to be removed from the firing line and still the issue remains unaddressed by Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
Granted, the goalkeeper is not the sole issue in a team which has been hapless in defense this term, but he’s been a key contributor to some of the woeful goals this team has conceded. The list of mistakes made by the American is a long one, and the bald facts show that in 2015-16, whenever Everton have been leading a game by one goal, Howard has yet to save a shot on target.