Pat Nevin says the intriguing opening-day Premier League meeting between Everton and Chelsea will shine a light on the home fans’ ability to sustain the “raucous excitement and positivity” that filled Goodison Park for the final stages of last season.
Evertonians turned their team’s closing fixtures into rollicking occasions, uniting in vocal and defiant and enduring shows of support, culminating with the outpouring of joy after victory over Crystal Palace secured the Club’s immediate top-flight future.
Chelsea were the visitors when supporters introduced the custom of affording Everton’s team coach a fiery welcome on Goodison Road.
Frank Lampard’s team responded with a gutsy 1-0 win to begin the surge for safety. But when the sides reconvene on Saturday 6 August – Nevin sees the potential for both teams to look rather different from those that played on May Day – the onus for Everton will have shifted onto constructing a brighter era under Lampard.
The manager will relish increasing expectations, reckons Nevin, who is optimistic over Evertonians' capacity to sustain their unconditional backing for Lampard and his players.
“If you want to keep that atmosphere, it is really, really hard, it is a complete mind shift,” Nevin told evertonfc.com.
“I played for Everton and watched a lot of Everton over the years, and Evertonians are knowledgeable.
“They’re not daft, shouty people.
“It is not called The School of Science for nothing.
“It is hard to be blithely jumping about and celebrating if it’s not good.
“At the end of last season, it was all about supporting and making sure they could give the players every lift possible.
“We will discover very early on, maybe even during the Chelsea game, if that has continued.
“I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot.
“You can adapt and change, not your personality, but your behaviour.
“Evertonians showed that partway through the season, when the behaviour changed to that raucous excitement and positivity.
“And it’s not just a line to say it genuinely helped the team. It clearly did.
“Another example of supporters changing as a group is the Scotland fans. They used to go and hang on crossbars at Wembley, there would be a bit of violence in the background.
“It has completely changed. It is fun. It is the Tartan Army. There is never any trouble.
“Yes, they have a drink, and if the team doesn’t do well, they get a bit miffed.
“But the support behind the team is stunning.
“They changed the attitude.”
Everton and opening-day opponents Chelsea are waiting for their first acquisitions of the summer transfer window.
Chelsea, says Nevin – who spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge, before four years with Everton following a summer 1988 transfer – “have a backline to rebuild” after Antonio Rudiger left the club and with fellow centre-half Andreas Christiansen reportedly next to exit.
Any new Everton recruits, meanwhile, will be enthused by the prospect of starting at Goodison, insists Nevin, who made his first appearance for the Club in a first-day home thumping of Newcastle United.
“That first game was so magical, we won 4-0 and it could have been seven,” said Nevin, whose excellent documentary reuniting Scotland's 1982 Under-18 European Championship-winning team screens on BBC Scotland at 7.15pm on Sunday.
“I can’t remember many happier moments in my football career.
“I was thinking, ‘I have got where I want to be. I am playing with brilliant players, for one of the biggest clubs there is’.
“In those days, it was a major step up from Chelsea to Everton.
“Everything was perfect and we should have exploded from there.
“I played 850 games in my career but that day is burned in my memory because it was so great and due to what it could have been.
“And that is what any new Everton players will want to feel.
“The place will be buzzing, won’t it, there’s not a doubt about that.
“We are talking two months away from the game and it is possible both teams will look very different from how they do now."
Nevin issues a reminder that two games after his dream Everton debut, he sustained a serious knee injury in a draw with Nottingham Forest.
The Scot, who won 28 caps for his country and at Everton scored 21 goals in 150 appearances, returned ahead of time three months later to a team in a funk and struggling to recapture its early-season form.
The point is that nothing will be won or lost on the first Saturday in August.
And regardless of the outcome, Lampard will tackle his first full campaign at the helm aiming for a notable improvement on the events of last term.
“Frank wouldn’t want it any other way,” added Nevin.
“Everton is a big club and the expectations aren’t bottom half of the table.
“And it is getting harder. There are a lot of big clubs with a lot of money.
“People talk about a top six – and you have to add Newcastle now.
“Frank will be acutely aware, it is about acquisitions now, and it is one of the toughest markets to recruit quality players for many years.
“Chelsea are looking for probably five or six players.
“Newcastle want a whole bunch, Manchester United, too.
“Because of Frank’s standing in the game, he will strike clever deals.
“If some of those are loan players that is fine. They’re a massive part of the game now. A lot of clubs have too many players – you need to explore that and Frank probably will.”
The Lost Final, hosted by Pat Nevin and chronicling the stories of the players and staff responsible for Scotland's only international tournament success, at the 1982 Under-18 European Championship, is on BBC Scotland at 7.15pm on Sunday 19 June.
The documentary will subsequently be available on BBC iPlayer.