Middlesbrough’s win over West Ham last night ensured that Gareth Southgate’s side will be Everton’s opponents at Goodison in the FA Cup quarter-final on March 8th.
Boro have picked up that habit of winning in the cup yet struggling in the League – remember they reached two cup finals in 1996 only to go down the same year. For that reason they should be respected as without the shackles the fear of Premier League relegation places on them, Boro seem to play their better football in the cups.
But on the other hand they still haven’t won in the league in November and after knocking out Liverpool and Villa in the cup so far this season we should fear no-one.
I’m sure most Evertonians will agree with me that this represents the best chance the club has had of reaching Wembley since 2000. On that occasion in the FA quarter-final we lost 2-1 two Aston Villa, who went on to reach the final, thanks to a couple of howlers from Keeper Thomas Myhre. Another two quarter-final appearances have resulted in heavy away defeats. First at Newcastle 4-1 in 1999 and then, ironically, against Middlesbrough 3-0 in 2002. That game of course resulted in Walter Smith’s sacking and the appointment of David Moyes. So maybe we should thank Middlesbrough for doing us a massive favour.
The difference between now and then is that we our at home, the opposition are struggling in the League and have the best squad of players for nearly 20 years. David Moyes has changed the club beyond recognition in his seven years at the helm but despite several top six finishes the one thing that has been missing has been silverware. To be honest we haven’t even got close until the Carling Cup Semis last season. Some of this is inevitably to do with finances as Moyes has never had the squad to sustain lengthy cup runs, especially when Premier League safety was his priority. Only now we are an established top six side can we look to the cups.
To behonest I suspect even a Wembley semi-final appearance would please the fans. A quick check revealed that every other Premier League side has been either to Cardiff or Wembley since we were last there for the ’95 Charity Shield (admittedly for some clubs like Stoke it was for the Auto Windscreens Shield, but it was Wembley still the same). If the Blues can get past Boro it would finally show that Moyes’ side are ready for the big games, and give us all a day to remember in London. It would also be special to be the first Merseyside team to reach the new Wembley.
The kopites can go to Wales as much as they like.