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Don't need this crowd trouble the best news .co. LIVE; relationship with fans needs to be strong as '84 on road to wembley.

Byline: DAVID PRENTICE Deputy Head of Sport dave.prentice@liverpool.com Prenno @

OOTBALL supporters don't blindly support any more.

FThey question, they query, they post messages on social media, ring radio phone-ins -and they can be cruelly cynical.

Like at Everton on Sunday, when Tim Howard collected a routine catch and was greeted by a handful of ironic cheers from the Gwladys Street End, or when John Stones dribbled the ball around his own six-yard box in the dying minutes of a tense 1-1 draw, and was met by howls of anguish and hollers to leather the ball into Row Z. Both players reacted. Howard stupidly, with an affronted and unnecessary glare at the Street End, Stones with a more impassioned plea for the fans to "calm down."

But it was clear that they were aware the crowd weren't with them.

It isn't just happening at Everton. At Anfield Jurgen Klopp tried to address a disconnect with supporters with his comments of "feeling alone" against Crystal Palace, and insistence on saluting the part the crowd played in inspiring a 2-2 draw with West Brom.

Whether it was a stunt or a sincere thank you, it seems to have worked.

Anfield atmospheres have markedly improved.

The Goodison "bearpit" of popular folklore will be needed more than ever when thirdplaced Manchester City visit tomorrow night with a Wembley place up for grabs in the final of the Capital One Cup.

Evertonians have unsettled Manchester City before.

In January 2010, when Marouane Fellaini gilded a dominant demolition of City with a peerless pirouette, I wrote: "Saturday teatime saw fan and football machine in perfect harmony. The home supporters got behind their team impressively, and the players responded in style."

And the League Cup competition has helped Everton forge a rapport with its fans before.

When The Toffees reached their first League Cup final in 1977, the fans played a significant part.

The ECHO's Charles Lambert wrote a stirring piece the day after the League Cup final replay ended 1-1 at Hillsborough, an article which is just as relevant today as it was 39 years ago.

He wrote: "This League Cup final, this incredible story of sweat and effort and some of the most committed tackling I have ever seen is the vehicle through which Everton are forging a communion with their supporters. "So many times in the past Goodison Park has worn an air of detachment, the spectators looking on politely like ancients watching the youngsters at play. Goodison would hardly have recognised the scenes at Hillsborough last night, just as it would not have recognised those at Wembley on Saturday.

"There is a new spirit on the terraces - and in the stands too, for last night the chant of 'Everton are Magic' a chant which looks like becoming their new theme song, came from the stands as much as from other parts of the ground.

"It is a spirit which is not easily related to the days, not so very long ago, when Goodison echoed not to hymns of adulation, but to the thuds of cushions landing on the turf.

"The point is, Everton have still not won anything. The fans are not waiting for success before making themselves heard; they are weighing in with their contribution in a bid to achieve that success.

"Last night proved it. They outshouted the Villa clans from before the start, but did they pack up when they went a goal down? Did they sidle away when the last seconds were running out? Did they hell! They kept up the chorus of 'Everton are Magic!' and Bob Latchford proved they were right.

"It was a united effort we saw last night, fans and players rooting for one another from the word go.

"When the team came out, Mike Lyons raised clenched fists above his head in acknowledgement of the crowd's roar as if he was saluting victory. Before the kick-off Bryan Hamilton was encouraging the fans near him with waves and thumbs up signs. And when at last it was all over, the whole team ran to their supporters in spontaneous salute. Only when Villa saw what they were doing did they follow suit.

"So the communion was celebrated. It could mark the start of a new era in the relationship between Everton and their fans. Win or lose, this League Cup series will be remembered for more than just the football that was played."

Likewise in 2016.

Tim Howard could start by acknowledging pre-match applause from the Gwladys Street.

It used to be a tradition on Merseyside that all goalkeepers - home and visiting - were applauded when they took their places in their goalmouth, and the majority would acknowledge the applause with a wave.

On Sunday Howard received warm applause as he trotted into his goalmouth. The cheers were ignored as he went straight into his prematch ritual.

There was a stony silence at the start of the second half from the Park End cynics when he took his place in that goalmouth, but then it's been a long time since Evertonians enjoyed a rapport with their goalkeepers like they did with Georgie Wood or Gordon West.

Against a team as talented - and as occasionally flaky as Manchester City tomorrow - you sense that Everton will need players and fans in perfect harmony.

After all, they all want exactly the same thing... Everton at Wembley.

CAPTION(S):

Reactions...John Stones and (inset below) Tim Howard
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2016
Words:908
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