Forward not backward was the message from Everton's players as they absorbed Saturday's FA Cup final defeat. Phil Neville and Tim Cahill, the team's most dominant personalities, spoke as one when they demanded the club build on reaching Wembley.
Neville, the captain, said: "I agree with the boss [David Moyes], who said it is only a matter of time before we start winning trophies, I do feel that too. We are heading in the right direction. We have our top players all tied on long-term contracts and we all feel we can achieve something together. We have to come back for pre-season after a summer break determined to go again, to make sure we do better than this, but it has been nothing short of a miracle season."
In view of that last comment, Cahill added: "Hopefully, there will be the investment needed to improve the squad. We have a good platform for next season. We have a lot of great youngsters to come in, a lot of fresh talent, and I just pray to God that all the lads stick together and stay here, and next season we can all come back and give it another good go."
Although Joleon Lescott has been linked with a move, notably to Arsenal and Manchester City, Everton do not have to sell, but there is not much cash for recruitment either. The club have been linked with Michael Owen on a pay-as-you-play deal, as well as the Leeds youngster Fabien Delph. Cardiff's Joe Ledley has been a long-time target. Also said to be of interest is Borussia Dortmund's Yugoslav-born American defender Neven Subotic and Roman Pavlyuchenko of Spurs.
Cahill (right), who will have a hip injury assessed before flying out to join Australia's World Cup qualification campaign, added: "I'm very proud of the lads, proud of the club and everyone involved here. The fans have been amazing and, considering the injury problems we have had with a very small squad, what we have achieved is tremendous for Everton. We beat some really good Premier League sides to get to Wembley and we finished fifth in the table. That makes us the fifth-best team in the country and we pushed Chelsea into a very good performance to beat us."
Neville added: "Before this season the last time Everton were at Wembley was in 1995. Now we have been here twice this time and next season we have to make sure that we come to Wembley at least twice again. Our fans are crying out for it, the manager is too. We must keep moving on."