Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Everton v Chelsea FA Cup Final 2009 - The gift that keeps on giving

Come down from Sunday yet?

Nope, neither have I.

I thought by midweek the sheer, thought-clouding euphoria of Sunday will have cleared and I could present a more forthright, thoughtful review of the days events (for example, on second-watching the match was truly dreadful - it didn't seem that bad at the time when I was pacing on the spot, a complete bag of nerves.)

But I think I am still in shock and disbelief - Everton, yes Everton, are in the FA Cup Final - yes the FA Cup Final!

Every time my mind wanders, be it in the shower, or on the way to work - or even at work, It fixes on that moment when Jags tucked home the decisive penalty, the Blue roar like no other I have ever heard (or felt), and the realisation that we are finally back after 14 years of torment. You will have to surgically remove the grin from my face.

Now all that may sound a little over-dramatic, especially to fans of the 'big-four' who, as Fergies team selection showed, don't see the FA Cup as that much of a priority.

In fact it is often seen as a consolation prize. If bids to win the League or Champions League fail to materialise the FA Cup is the final chance for the sky four clubs to show to prospective signings that they can win things - but they will always go for the Premier League the following season.

With that in mind I get the general impression after reading media reports and speaking to mates and work colleagues that most people want Everton to win the Cup and were glad they triumphed on Sunday, albeit after 120 minutes of tedium.

Unfairly priced out of the top four, the Premier League and Champions League is just too far out of reach for Everton so the Cup is our only chance to try and push our way past the cash rich behemoths and win a trophy of our own.

The desire for success was there for all to see, both on the pitch and in the stands, but it wasn't the kind of 'we will enjoy our day in the sun while it lasts' kind of desire. It was a joyful release of 14 years hurt and frustration, and the hope that this should be the norm again, as it had been for the 100 years previous to it.

The club have been building up to a moment like this under Moyes, I felt it was only a matter of time that we would have a day like Sunday under the 'canny Scot' (copyright, The Times, Telegraph, Mirror etc etc....) But I never thought it would end in a victorious penalty shoot-out - we never win penalty shoot-outs!

The Everton end was full an hour before kick-off, with a full repertoire of songs completed before United fans quietly ambled to their seats a few minutes before four o'clock. If they aren't that bothered then they don't deserve to win, that's my opinion and I sense many people agree with me.

We were certainly stung by Fergies team selection. The appearance of the reserves suddenly put the emphasis on us to attack, rather than stifle. But with the nerves of the occasion getting to the players I think they reverted to type, where they were more comfortable (as it took less risks).

But it did have a negative impact on the game as neither side had the creativity to break arguably the two best centre-back pairings in the division down.

Despite fear and nerves gripping the crowd the Blues fans never let it strangle their voices as the chants continued well into the second half and extra-time. Again watching replays on TV made me realise just how loud we were, forcing even the red-tinged commentators to acknowledge our presence.

In the end it went to spot-kicks and I'm sure like many Blues I was preparing myself for the worst, especially when Cahill - the only penalty taker I correctly predicted - blasted into next week.

People talk about a winning mentality, a supreme confidence and knowledge that you will never be beaten. Hidden amongst that confidence is the ability to win penalty shoot-outs. If you are good at them it is a massive get out of jail free card, meaning you don't actually have to win the game to go through. Liverpool are a prime example of this, failure win a penalty shoot-out would probably halve the number of cups they have won (FA Cup 2006 and Champions League 2005 for starters).

So the sight of the Everton players tucking away their spot-kicks with aplomb was the biggest statement of intent by Moyes and his players that they can handle the pressure of a big occasion.

Conversely that lazy good-for-nothing Berbatov summed up United's half-arsed attitude to the game and the competition by rolling the ball off Howard's legs (our Timmy could have dived the wrong way and still would have had time to get back and keep it out)

The playing of Z-cars was a nice touch, and made the hairs stand-up on the back of my neck. I honestly hadn't contemplated reaching the final, but like that bike or computer you never thought you would get for Christmas, Phil Jagielka delivered it with big blue bells on.

I honestly believe we can go on and win the damn thing now, why not as we have knocked out the first, second and fifth placed sides in the Premier League. But it will certainly be a tough one against an in-form Chelsea.

I'm a fan of Guus Hiddink, he seems one of football's gentlemen and an astute tactician to boot. Moyes will have to work more wonders if we are to secure FA Cup number six.

But that's for the future, for now we can bask in the glory of Sunday and the moment the Toffees announced to the world : "Were back!"


Also see:

Everton Battle Through To Break Big Four Stranglehold

and

FA Cup final ticket prices


Toffeeweb and Youtube reaction:

http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/08-09/comment/edblog/edblogitem.asp?submissionID=11486

http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/08-09/comment/editorial/article.asp?submissionID=11495

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