Off-field blows but Moyes fights out of blue corner

Even on Merseyside and even in what is officially now a recession, the rich get richer and the poor do the other thing. In the case of Liverpool and Everton, of course, poverty may be considered relative; ask Tranmere Rovers, the region's third club, about that. Yet it was particularly galling for Evertonians to wake up on Friday morning to headlines about another potential multi-million-pound takeover of their closest rivals in a week when their own plans for progress had been hampered again.

The city council's refusal to grant planning permission for housing at the former training ground at Bellefield has led officials in the blue corner to hint at a conspiracy against their club, who want to develop the site to help fund a badly needed new stadium outside the city limits in Kirkby. The manager, David Moyes, who believes they cannot compete long-term with the acknowledged Big Four clubs from the cramped confines of Goodison Park, added to the row ahead of today's FA Cup tie at Anfield, saying: "That's a real disappointment for Everton. It's a blow and it sounds absolutely ridiculous. There's something not right."

In six years at the club, Moyes has reluctantly accepted the financial constraints under which he is forced to work. On Friday he proudly insisted: "We're not a selling club". But he felt it necessary to add immediately: "We might not be a buying one either".

Two loan signings is the very best that can be hoped for in this transfer window for a club who finished in the top six in three of the past four seasons and are back there again at present after losing only twice in 15 games.

That run includes draws with Manchester United, Chelsea and, best of all, Liverpool in last Monday's first leg of the double-header that concludes today. The signs at present are that Everton are running a happier ship than the one on the other side of Stanley Park and, while leaving others to make direct comparisons with Rafa Benitez, Moyes was quick to point to an excellent relationship with his chairman, Bill Kenwright.

"I have control of the club, with the chairman. I have a chairman who would never do anything without my say-so. It's important that managers have control. That's something you earn by how you work within the club and how you deal with people. Bill Kenwright gives me every penny he can and like me he's doing everything he can to make Everton better."

Finding £15 million for the young midfielder Marouane Fellaini in the summer was only possible after selling Andy Johnson for more than two-thirds of that fee. The sort of sums Moyes is more used to handling were £2m for Mikel Arteta and £1.5m for Tim Cahill, which have proved to be two extraordinary pieces of business for players who give Everton followershope for any game.

"Tim's been a great servant for us," Moyes said. "He comes up with impor-tant goals in big games. We missed him with injury and I think he's only just getting back to the form he'd been in. It's the third time he's done the same metatarsal, so it's been a long haul, and a slow rehabilitation. The goal the other night [against Liverpool] was a pure goalscorer's instinct," he added. "But whatever role you ask him to do he does to the best of his ability, which makes him a diamond."

With Victor Anichebe their only fit striker, Everton have been fortunate to have a player of Cahill's ability adding a scoring threat as well as the sort of spirit that seems to come ingrained in all Australian sportsmen.

At the other end of the pitch, keeping six successive clean sheets before Steven Gerrard muddied one on Monday has contributed to the feeling that if they can only come through this tie, Everton are quite capable of restoring their fading reputation as an FA Cup team; all the more so when so many other sides at the top and bottom of the Premier League haveother priorities – today's opponents included. "You saw Portsmouth and Cardiff have great runs to the final last year," Moyes said. "But the draw's always vital. It's the hurdles you have to jump before you get there, and the one we've got to jump is a big one."

Today's games

Cardiff City v Arsenal (1.30pm, Setanta Sports 1)

Lukasz Fabianski, given a chance in goal, may need a history lesson as to why no Arsenal goalkeeper ever wears a brand-new jersey since poor Dan Lewis fumbled a shot over the line to give Cardiff the Cup in 1927. Arsenal should administer a lesson of their own if they weather an early storm.

Liverpool v Everton (4pm, Setanta Sports 1)

The home side will refresh their team after Monday's League meeting, which is hardly an option for their badly stretched visitors. Whoever steps up their game should secure the desired result. The fifth-round draw will be held after this game at 6pm on ITV1.

Steve Tongue

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