We've got an axe to grind at Wembley, says Neville
Friday 17 February 2012
Defeat in the 2009 FA Cup final still eats away at the Everton captain, Phil Neville, and he is determined to put it right. David Moyes' men lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Wembley almost three years ago but the disappointment of that reverse still rankles with Neville.
Hopes of earning another shot at the trophy they last lifted in 1995 have been raised in recent weeks, with Everton odds-on favourites to come through their fifth-round meeting with Blackpool at Goodison Park tomorrow.
It is the memory of being a losing finalist that most spurs on Neville towards securing a Wembley return. "Wembley is not a place for losers, it is a place for winners," the 35-year-old, who won the FA Cup three times with Manchester United but played in only two finals, both at the old Twin Towers, said yesterday.
"There is no worse a feeling than losing a game at Wembley so that still rankles with me – that is motivation. It is my favourite competition out of them all and if you get to the fifth round you are nearly at that stage of getting to Wembley for the semi-finals. The carrot is there for us, we just have to take the chance."
Surprisingly for two clubs with such long histories Everton and Blackpool have never met in the FA Cup, and their two matches in the Premier League before the Seasiders' relegation last season were their first encounters since a two-legged League Cup tie in 1981.
Blackpool have not beaten Everton since 1966, in the old First Division, but Neville will take nothing for granted. "I watched them against Sheffield Wednesday in the replay [in the last round] and they looked every bit as good as they did in the Premier League," the former England international said.
"And it looks like they have got over the hangover of their relegation – it wouldn't surprise me if they bounced straight back up. We are the team expected to win but they will come and attack us."
Neville believes the FA Cup has given his team a kick-start this year as since their third-round tie in early January Everton's form has taken a turn for the better. "When we got drawn against Tamworth we weren't playing well at the time and, to be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me," he recalled.
"I thought 'banana skin', FA Cup third round... we had been beaten by Shrewsbury and Oldham in the past. I thought, 'Please not this time, not to a non-league team'. We got through that but didn't play particularly well and Tamworth gave us a really good game. In the next round I was pleased we got a home draw against a Premier League side so at least it wasn't David versus Goliath.
"Fulham took the lead but that game [which Everton won 2-1] was the turning point in our season because it gave us the confidence and belief because we had not been playing well at home. We started to show a few signs of getting back to form that night."
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