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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

What The Papers Say - April 12

by Andy Lewis @efc_andylewis

The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.

The Echo

 

And Moyes added: “It’s magical to go to Wembley again. To take Everton to Wembley and to take them into a derby game as well is special.”

He said: “We will go with the referee on the day. We’ll trust his judgement.”

Howard Webb has been given the job of officiating at Saturday’s semi-final and Moyes has no concerns about the choice.

“We have to go with the integrity of the referee in any match – and that’s what we will do.”

“I’ve not made too big a fuss of it. I’ve not called Mike Riley (boss of the referees’ organisation) and spoken to him.

He said: “We are not arguing with the referees at Everton. We’ve had bad decisions here and have had to take them on the chin.

But Moyes says he will not get involved in any criticism aimed at refereeing decisions.

“They may think there’s an agenda against this football club. We don’t see it that way, but I suppose others will.”

Dalglish even hinted at a conspiracy theory, saying: “There will be some people for whom paranoia will set in.

His latest outburst came after Liverpool’s ninth drawn home game of the season, against Aston Villa last Saturday, in which he claimed they should have had two penalties.

The Toffees meet Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday at the end of a week in which Liverpool boss Dalglish has been critical of match officials.

EVERTON manager David Moyes insists he will not copy rival boss Kenny Dalglish by complaining about refereeing decisions.

STAR

“He’s a top striker,” said the Netherlands defender. “He’s settled very quickly. He knows what he can do and uses his strengths to affect the game. He’s been good for us.”

Jelavic’s team-mate Johnny Heitinga is impressed by how quickly he has settled at Goodison Park.

“We’ve not had a boy like him, like the way he plays, with his style. We’ve needed a good centre-forward and he has given us a real boost.”

“I do think he’s made a big difference,” said the Scot. “He’s given everybody the feeling that we can score goals. That was not the feeling at the start of the season.

Moyes feels Jelavic has given his side the goal threat they have missed for the last couple of seasons.

“When you bring a centre-forward in, you want him to score goals and he’s done that.”

Jelavic is in the form to take advantage of the neighbours' vulnerability - the Croatian has scored five goals in his 10 games since a £5.5million arrival from Rangers in January.
 
“I think he’s played very well,” said Moyes. “I think he looks hungry. He looks like a centre-forward.

Jones will be between the posts again at the weekend - his first Liverpool start in 16 months - because No.1 keeper Pepe Reina and back-up Alexander Doni are both suspended.

Toffees manager David Moyes will have sensed an opportunity in Saturday’s all-Merseyside semi-final at Wembley after watching the shaky performance of Liverpool’s third-choice keeper Brad Jones at Blackburn.

Nikica Jelavic has been backed to capitalise on Liverpool’s goalkeeping crisis and fire Everton to the FA Cup Final.

 

Daily Mirror

"We will go with the referee on the day. We will trust his judgment. No doubt I will be shouting if things don't go right, but that's what you do if you're a manager."

Moyes added: "I'm pleased it's Howard. He has handled many big games before and I hope he has a good game and handles it as he sees fit. But we are not discussing referees or the performance of referees here at Everton. We are not going to get embroiled in that.

Riley, the Professional Game Match Officials' general manager, met Dalglish two weeks before the Goodison derby this season following complaints from the Liverpool manager over Mark Clattenburg's performance in their defeat at Stoke City.

"We've had bad decisions here and have had to take them on the chin. I've not made too big fuss of it. I've not called Mike Riley, not spoke to him. We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do."

Asked if Dalglish was seeking to put pressure on Howard Webb, Saturday's referee, ahead of the semi-final, Moyes said: "A similar thing happened before the first derby this season, when we got a player [Jack Rodwell] sent off. I don't know what Liverpool's business is. We are not arguing with the referees at Everton.

Liverpool then benefited from three major decisions in their 3-2 win at Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday when the referee, Anthony Taylor, elected not to issue a second yellow card to Jon Flanagan, booked the substitute goalkeeper Brad Jones for a foul on Yakubu Ayegbeni inside the penalty area and, according to Steve Kean, missed a "blatant foul" by Martin Skrtel on Grant Hanley before Andy Carroll's stoppage-time winner.

The Liverpool manager risked censure from the Football Association after the home draw with Aston Villa last weekend, when he alleged "inexcusable" and "unexplainable" decisions had gone against his team in three successive matches and suggested "people might think there is a conspiracy" against the Anfield club.

David Moyes has claimed Everton take poor decisions "on the chin" and will avoid following Kenny Dalglish's example of questioning the integrity of referees ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final between the Merseyside rivals.

 

The Guardian

DAVID MOYES has refused to turn Saturday’s all-Mersey FA Cup semi-final into a verbal war over referees.
 
Kenny Dalglish raised the issue of a conspiracy theory against Liverpool last week following his side’s 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa.
 
The Kop boss claimed officials should explain controversial decisions and show a “wee bit of respect towards us — or people might think there is a conspiracy”.
 
Howard Webb’s appointment for the Wembley semi has hardly gone down well at Anfield either, after the storm which blew up when he sent off Reds skipper Steven Gerrard at Old Trafford last year.
 
Yet Everton chief Moyes insists he has no problem with Webb and is certain the South Yorkshire ref is more than capable of handling the powder-key tie.
 
Moyes said: “We are not arguing with the referees at Everton. We’ve had bad decisions here and have had to take them on the chin.
 
“But I’ve not made too big a fuss of it. I’ve not called referees’ chief Mike Riley or spoken to him. We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do.
 
“We are not going to get embroiled in that. We will go with the referee on the day and we will trust his judgement.
 
“No doubt I will be shouting if things don’t go right but that’s what you do if you are a manager.”
 
It was a clear example of Dalglish trying to exert a bit of pressure on the official, as he did before the derby at Goodison in October when refs’ boss Riley had a pre-match meeting with the Reds.
 
That game ended with Martin Atkinson dismissing Jack Rodwell for a challenge on Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, although the red card was later rescinded.
 
Moyes added: “A similar thing happened before the first game against them when we got a player sent off. I don’t know what Liverpool’s business is.”
 
West Brom boss Roy Hodgson has also taken an opposing stance to Dalglish, his successor at Anfield.
 
The Baggies chief insisted: “The refereeing standard here is probably the best in Europe. We’ve no complaints at all.
 
“Our games have been refereed very well and I never go into games worrying about refereeing. I only concern myself with the team’s performance.
 
“Of course, the ref will make a mistake now and again, especially when you judge the situation 100 times with slo-mo cameras.
 
“Football by its nature after every match will bring a complaint from one manager or another, that his team has been robbed — and that’s been going on since I can remember.
 
“But I would be the last one to suggest it’s due to incompetence. Refs do make mistakes but you see players making them as well.”

 

The Sun

Dalglish has been critical of referees recently, describing some of the decisions given against Liverpool as “inexcusable” and “unexplainable”, but the Everton manager would not engage in any pre-match sparring.
 
“We are not going to get embroiled in that,’’ said Moyes. “We will go with the referee. We will trust his judgment. No doubt I will be shouting if things don’t go right but that’s what you do if you’re a manager. I don’t know what Liverpool’s business is.
 
“We are not arguing with the referees at Everton. We’ve had bad decisions here, and have had to take them on the chin. I’ve not made too big fuss of it. I’ve not called Mike Riley. We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do.’’
 
As for the game itself, Moyes’s assistant, Steve Round said Everton’s recent goalscoring form had put them in a positive frame of mind.
 
Everton have scored 12 times in five matches, including four by four different players against Sunderland on Easter Monday.
 
“We are delighted with the current form, we are playing well and scoring goals,” said Round. “Goals are ­coming from everywhere. I see the players improving week in, week out and that can only be a good thing at the moment.”

David Moyes, the Everton manager, refused to join his Liverpool counterpart, Kenny Dalglish, in commenting about match officials and emphasised he was happy with the appointment of Howard Webb for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final between the Merseyside rivals.

 

Daily Telegraph

"There is a great unity there," Paul Gardner adds of the two fan groups and theirs is not the only proactive undertaking by Merseyside supporters. The Trust Everton group is currently surveying supporters to measure interest in buying back the club's £15.3m Finch Farm training ground, sold in 2007 to raise funds. This venture has the backing of Supporters Direct and Labour MP Andy Burnham and would fit neatly the concept of an active Liverpudlian "diaspora", to quote a recent report on the Liverpool region by Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy. Exiled Scousers following the lead of a Tory peer; the Mersey derby is back at Wembley but the 1980s revival only goes so far.

Instead, we now have SOS and KEIOC offering a bold vision for a deprived area. It has the support of the local MP for Walton, Steve Rotheram, and Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council and Labour's candidate in next month's mayoral election, and has received positive responses from the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership and Mersey Vision.

There have been other missed opportunities. Lawrenson wishes talks over a shared stadium during Rick Parry's days as Liverpool chief executive had borne fruit. Cannon looks further back and argues that the boards of both clubs were culpable of not thinking big enough as Manchester United began Old Trafford's expansion. Liverpool did rebuild the Kop and redevelop the Kemlyn Road and Anfield Road stands but stopped at their current capacity of 45,000 in 1998. Everton have rebuilt only one stand, the Park End, since the 1980s. "The people at Liverpool and Everton didn't do what Martin Edwards was doing at Manchester United, which was basically investing in a world-class ground," he says, albeit adding in partial mitigation that neither Anfield nor Goodison has Old Trafford's footprint.

It is eight years since Liverpool were granted permission by the city council to build on Stanley Park, and five since George Gillett promised a spade in the ground within 60 days of his and Tom Hicks' takeover. Bill Kenwright unveiled his plans to move Everton to King's Dock in 2001, and Cannon believes that with "a more progressive city council", Everton would now be in that planned waterside home and – as with Manchester City and the Commonwealth Games stadium – a rather more attractive prospect to potential buyers. Instead, as the club's own sale prospectus writes, Goodison has "inadequate capacity, limited and low quality hospitality facilities, poor sightlines and limited accessibility".

The Football Quarter plan is viewed with caution, however, by Tom Cannon, Professor of Strategic Development at the University of Liverpool Management School, and an expert on sports finance. Though he praises the supporters' "very creative response", he understands too the reticence of the two clubs towards "another set of artist's impressions".

"Both clubs have got similar problems," adds Dave Kelly whose KEIOC group opposed Everton's aborted move to a new stadium outside the city limits in Kirkby. "The needs and aspirations may be different but they have similar problems they need to address." The pair are speaking in a cafe opposite the Main Stand on Goodison Road. A few doors down is a boarded-up house with weeds growing from the roof – an all-too-familiar sight in the maze of terraced houses around both grounds.

A small glimpse of the future these fans envisage may come at the first Stanley Park festival on 20-22 April. Everton's game at Manchester United will be broadcast on a big screen, there will be football memorabilia displayed in the impressively restored 1870 Isla Gladstone Conservatory, and coaching sessions run by Everton In The Community. "Stanley Park is the thing that unites and divides both clubs and is there to be utilised," says Paul Gardner of the SOS group, who admits Liverpool supporters have become "very frustrated" with the uncertainty over Anfield.

The most obvious common ground between the two today is their failure to address the shared problem of what to do with stadiums which, though much-loved, leave them trailing their competitors financially. Liverpool's 2010/11 matchday revenue at Anfield was £40.9m according to Deloitte – a sum dwarfed by Arsenal's £93.1m and Manchester United's £108.6m. Everton, despite Goodison Park holding only 5,000 fewer spectators than Anfield, generated £18.4m. It is against this backdrop that two rival supporters' groups, the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) and Keep Everton In Our City (KEIOC), have come together in an attempt to do something positive. In late December they unveiled a proposal for a Football Quarter in Stanley Park, the swathe of green separating the two stadiums, which includes a football museum celebrating the achievements of a city with 27 league titles, a match-day fan zone and improved travel links. It also envisages two "flagship" stadiums and commercial opportunities such as hotels and restaurants.

Today, when Manchester derbies are potential title deciders and the Merseyside teams are scrapping over seventh place, these tales of togetherness sound like ancient history. Some Evertonians still remember how Howard Kendall's champions missed out on European Cup football twice after the 1985 post-Heysel ban but Sharp cites a more general trend. "If you look at football supporters, the culture has changed," he says, noting the increased partisanship prevalent today. Lawrenson adds: "In those days both teams were very close. You could argue they are now [position-wise] but the thing is Everton are crying out for investment and it is something they are struggling to get. Liverpool have got the money and have spent it. I don't think [Rafa] Benitez helped with his statement about Everton being a small club [either]."

If that show of unity was as a response to the city's sense of disenfranchisement in Margaret Thatcher's Britain, it heralded the start of an era when Liverpool had the country's two best football teams and a famously "friendly derby". According to Lawrenson, the former Liverpool defender-turned-BBC pundit, "it was a rivalry but there was no great animosity." Graeme Sharp, the ex-Everton striker, concurs as he recalls how "in those days Reds and Blues went down together" to Wembley; that said, he still grimaces at the memory of returning with Liverpool on the same plane and joining them on an open-top bus tour after the first of Everton's two FA Cup final losses to their neighbours in 1986.

"It felt like it was unique, it had the feeling that Merseyside had moved to north London for the day." Mark Lawrenson is remembering the day in March 1984 that Everton and Liverpool met at Wembley for the first time. It was the Milk Cup final, the first of that decade's three Mersey derby showpieces, and the day that 100,000 supporters sang "Merseyside" and two rival teams performed a joint lap of honour after a goalless draw.
 
It was an occasion captured by a Granada TV documentary titled Home and Away, available to watch on YouTube, which follows a bus-load of supporters, some in red, others blue, travelling down to Wembley. The chants of "Here we go" and the sight of a bubble perm and moustache that Harry Enfield would die for might raise a smile but it is the words of one of the men interviewed which really summon the spirit of the time. As the coach heads south, one unemployed Liverpudlian muses hopefully: "People seeing Liverpool and Everton supporters together, they'll say, 'They can't all be bad, can they?'."

As Liverpool and Everton prepare to meet at Wembley, two fans' groups are urging the clubs to work together for a happier future

The Independent 

"But we can't go into games thinking we need to score four or five goals to win" said Kean. "We need to close the back door and defend better – it is as simple as that."

"We need to go into every game looking to improve, certainly on set-plays because we look as if we can score on a set-play at almost every opportunity but are looking a bit wobbly when set-plays come into our box.

"I thought that in the first five or six minutes we were OK – we were better than we were against West Brom [in Saturday's 3-0 defeat] – but on the first goal we got done on the counter-attack," he said. "But I always felt we could get back into the game, and once we got the second goal we had wave after wave of attacks. I felt we were going to win.

Four successive league defeats have seen Rovers concede 10 goals, but what concerned Kean most was the manner of those defeats against Kenny Dalglish's side, who were 2-0 up early on thanks to two goals from Maxi Rodriguez inside 16 minutes before being pegged back twice by Yakubu.

Liverpool broke their winless run at Ewood Park on Tuesday night, leaving Blackburn Rovers' manager, Steve Kean, with a problem. Kean will focus on tightening up his defence as chances start to run out for his side to save themselves. That last-gasp 3-2 defeat to a 10-man Liverpool kept Rovers in the bottom three and their tough final month starts with a trip to Swansea City on Saturday.

Round, though, feels a Wembley semi-final is a different kettle of fish entirely. "I think the team have massive determination regardless of previous results," he said. "It is Liverpool and when you play them you are right up for the game. Every single player is desperate to play and desperate to try to win for Everton."

Everton have lost twice to their city rivals this season, including a 3-0 defeat at Anfield last month when manager David Moyes rested a number of players ahead of their quarter-final tie with Sunderland, and have won just one of their last six Liverpool derbies.

"I think Liverpool just have the edge and I think the bookmakers will see it that way but our boys have steel in their eyes at the moment."

"I don't think we feel we are underdogs but we do feel Liverpool are probably just slight favourites. But the gap has closed dramatically.

"I have been to many semi-finals and a few finals and it does help you to have that experience because you know what to expect. You are not going in there blind, you understand you have to play the game and not the occasion.

"We have a lot of players with a lot of experience – John Heitinga has played in a World Cup final – and we have players who have played in big games [and] big arenas and that stands you in good stead," he said.

Everton's last trip to Wembley – their first since 1996 – was for their 2009 FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea, while Liverpool were there as recently as February when they beat Cardiff City to lift the Carling Cup – though Round does not think that puts his team at a disadvantage.

"I have seen the players step up more [recently] but I don't think it is with the semi-final in mind, I think it is just the momentum and confidence which has been building. I do see the players improving week in, week out."

"Goals are coming from everywhere. Victor has got a couple in the last two, with the likes of Leon Osman scoring more – we can get goals from other places. We are always a threat on set-plays. Marouane Fellaini is always likely to get one and I think Tim Cahill is ready to start scoring again.

"We are delighted with the current form, we are playing well and scoring goals," said Round. "Nikica has had a great impact for us. He looks a top-quality striker and when we did give him a breather it was good to see Denis Stracqualursi lead the line so well.

During Everton's recent fine run their January signing Nikica Jelavic has scored four and Victor Anichebe two, with goals also coming from Magaye Gueye, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Leighton Baines.

The Toffees have scored 12 times in their last five matches, including four against Sunderland on Easter Monday all from different players.By contrast, Liverpool have found the net seven times in their last five games.

Everton's assistant manager, Steve Round, believes their recent upturn in goalscoring form puts them in a good position for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final derby against Liverpool at Wembley.

The Independent 

Barely a fortnight later, Liverpool benefited from the erroneous dismissal of Jack Rodwell to win the Goodison Premier League derby 2-0.
 
And Moyes said: “A similar thing happened before the first game when we got a player sent off. I don’t know what Liverpool’s business is.
 
“Mike Riley went in to see them (Liverpool). He didn’t come to see us.”
 
Of suggestions Dalglish should be charged for his latest comments on referees, Moyes added: “That would be for the FA to decide if that’s the case or not. It’s not for us. We are not going to get embroiled in that.”
 
With the exception of the hamstrung Jack Rodwell and cup-tied Steven Pienaar, Moyes is expected to choose from a full-strength squad this weekend.
 
Despite having lost only three of their last 17 games, the bookmakers have Everton as slight underdogs against a Liverpool team who, while winning the Carling Cup, are behind their neighbours in the Premier League table.
 
That, though, suits Moyes, who said: “The bookies are very rarely wrong, aren't they? And the bookies will see Liverpool as favourites undoubtedly.
 
“I think because of the quality Liverpool possess and the squad, that's why I think most people who bet will put Liverpool as favourites.
 
“But we do the best we can at Everton. Whoever we bring in always works very hard to try and make whatever gulf there is as little as possible.
 
“Liverpool have got a great history but Everton in the past have had a great history as well. We're going to try to be positive, we're going to try to give ourselves every opportunity to get to the final.”

EVERTON FC manager David Moyes has complete confidence referee Howard Webb will give no cause for alarm during Saturday’s powderkeg Wembley derby.
 
Everton take on Liverpool in their FA Cup semi-final, the first meeting between the Mersey rivals at the national stadium since 1989.
 
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish this week expressed fears supporters may believe there is a conspiracy following a succession of debatable decisions against his team.
 
But Moyes has opted not to crank the pressure up on the Webb and his fellow Wembley officials as he looks to knock the neighbours out of the FA Cup for the second time in four years.
 
“We will go with the referee on the day,” said the Goodison manager. “We will trust his judgement. No doubt I will be shouting if things don’t go right but that’s what you do if you’re a manager.
 
“We are not arguing with the referees at Everton. We’ve had bad decisions here, and have had to take them on the chin.
 
“I’ve not made too big fuss of it. I’ve not called Mike Riley or spoke to him. We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do.”
 
Moyes was referring to the visit of referee chief Riley to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground earlier this season after Dalglish bemoaned the standard of officiating.

 

The Post

There will be a key presence missing from the opposing dressing room at Wembley, and Howard acknowledges how much Pepe Reina means to the Reds.
 
“It will be a blow because he is one of the backbones of that team and that club,” he says. “As talented as he is, they will also miss his presence.
 
“He’s a big character. You are so used to walking down the tunnel and seeing guys you are going to battle with, that they’re like your armour.
 
“Not seeing him will be hard for their players – they’ll be missing a piece of that armour.”
 
Howard insists that he will not be scrutinising his opponents as they gather in the tunnel shortly before kick-off.
 
“I cant speak for everyone but me personally you read the team sheet or you probably know the night before in this day and age,” he says. “I’m not into mind games, I just sort my own pre-game out and say hello to a few friends if they’re there.
 
“The big games are all about management. You have to manage emotions and crowd. Because it’s such a big occasion certain players need to help calm others down, whether with body language or communications. Sometimes it’s a few words, other times its a pass.”
 
Kenny Dalglish’s side have had the better of both meetings in the Premier League this season, but Howard insists nobody in the Blues camp will be looking to settle scores.
 
“Okay from a fairytale aspect yes there’s a score to settle,” he says.
 
“But in reality, keeping a clear head is important. If you’re out for blood or revenge you can allow your judgement to become jaded. It doesn’t matter who scored what or who kicked who.
 
“Afterwards if we walk off victorious it will be that bit sweeter but we will just focus.”
 
Derbies are normally notoriously tight games, and what if the result is not settled after extra time and the penalty lottery ensues?
 
“For me it’s a gamble and a game of luck that can turn so quickly, in takers not being right on form,” he says. “Then you bag one and you bag the next. They’re just a crap shoot – luck of the draw. If it goes we’ll take it, but who knows?”

“Being a derby will make it even more of an occasion. Both sets of players will be tense, and add to that the bigger stadium, the bigger occasion it’ll be huge.
 
“But both sides have top players who have played in World Cups and cup finals so hopefully when the nerves settle down it’ll be a good match.”
 
Howard has been screened by a combination of three top central defenders lately, and he admits it will be tough on one of them to miss out on the starting line-up.
 
“It’ll be very hard,” he says. “Because those three are the alpha males of the team. Your centre-halves are dominant guys with a big presence. They’re top players and I don’t say that lightly. Unfortunately one will be disappointed and we’ll be disappointed for him. Saying that I feel they will all play their part.”

“Saturday will be a one-off. I hate to say the cliche, but form really does go out of the window. It’ll be intense and it doesn’t mater how the teams have been playing. I get the feeling there will be some twists and turns in the game. That’s what big games are about.”
 
Howard knows all about big games, after his penalty saves played a crucial part in getting Everton to the FA Cup final three years ago.
 
It is that experience, which the laid-back former Manchester United man says could be important.
 
“People on the outside underestimate the experience of what things look like and smell like on these occasions,” he says.
 
“The feel of the pitch and the surrounding areas etc. When you do it first time it’s daunting, but having done it before it means I won’t be marvelling at the size of the pitch and enormity of the occasion.
 
“The crowd will be incredible. I’ve played at Anfield and Goodison but I don’t think they’ll measure up because of the sheer mass of people.

SOME Everton players have bristled at the thought, but Tim Howard has no problem with suggestions that Everton punch above their weight.
 
Neither does the USA international care a jot if his team are labelled underdogs by the bookies, ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
 
Because Howard, a World Cup veteran who has already kept goal at Wembley twice for the Blues, has every faith his team-mates can upset those odds.
 
“Does it suit us to be under-dogs? I think so,” says the New Jersey native. “We seem to play better that way and I don’t think it’s a problem. Everyone likes to call a favourite or an underdog, but generally I don’t think either set of players cares much about it. We’re so focused on the task in hand.
 
“We roll up our sleeves and get on with it. We do punch above our weight. It’s how people view us and we have success in the role. If people said we were favourites we’d still play the same way anyway.”
 
Liverpool might have had their woes lately, but the 33-year-old insists nobody in the Everton camp will expect their local rivals to be anything but formidable opponents at Wembley.
 
“Everton will never underestimate Liverpool. You can’t,” he says. “There’s too much respect and history there. We won’t cloud our judgement with what happened for them against Blackburn or two weeks ago. We need to be right for the day.
 
“Liverpool always rise to the occasion. It’s a credit to them as a club, and they have players with drive. When the chips are down they take the team by the scruff of the neck and drag them along. We have players like that too.
 
“Very similar to a few weeks ago before the Anfield game, people would have pegged us to get a result but we got taken to the wood shed.”
 
Howard has kept more than his fair share of clean sheets lately, as David Moyes’ men have gone unbeaten, but that too, he believes, won’t count for too much at 12.30pm on Saturday.
 
“As much as the Sunderland game was important, getting the four goals and feeling good about how we’re playing, on the other hand it means nothing,” he says.

 

The Echo

“He’s got a tremendous shot on him and we expect him to get a lot of goals. They’re there to be tested. If Darron gets the opportunity to shoot he’ll test any goalkeeper.
 
Both feet – left and right and plenty of power. He’s be a match for any keeper.”
 
Round admits Everton have unfinished business with the national stadium, after they went so close to silverware in 2009 only to have their hopes crushed by Chelsea.
 
“The final was terrific,” he says. “To drive into Wembley and see that sea of blue shirts and scarves. All that tradition and history, then seeing your fans.
 
“Once we got into the arena our fans took over and raised the roof. That’s the memory that stays with you.
 
“Then Louis scoring the fastest goal in a cup final, and you think how could we not win?
 
“But football moves fast, and soon we were dwelling on the next season.
 
“We were exceptionally disappointed after the game. We felt it was our time to win, and we had a good record against Chelsea.
 
“A losing dressing room isn’t a nice place to be. It was a case of picking the lads up, thanking them for their efforts and saying we just weren’t quite good enough. There was a meal afterwards, and a resolve that we wanted to do it again.
 
“That ran through all of the players. We finished fifth in the league and we’d beaten some big teams on the way to the final. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t get that result.”
 
He adds: “A taste of it leaves you wanting more. A trophy has been a long time coming for a club as big as this, and we want to join the folklore. The players want to be part of that legendary status in years to come, and the only way to do that is to win something.
 
“If you asked any of the players that would be their dream here.”

A measure of Everton’s optimism will be based on their newfound strength in depth. But while that will boost their prospects of success, Round admits it will mean delivering difficult news to some of their players.
 
“It’s a great problem for the manager to have,” says the 41-year-old. “The unfortunate thing is you can only ever pick 11 and when you’ve got 20 players all vying, all good lads, all working hard, someone is going to be disappointed. That’s just the way it works.
 
“The pleasing aspect of it is that the way the team are playing, and lads are taking their chances when they get their opportunities, shows we’ve built a squad that can compete in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
 
“We had another slow start after selling a few in the summer, we got through to January and managed to recruit a few which re-focused and re-strengthened us. It gave us all a lift and now we’re better for it.
 
“There’ll be difficult decisions but that’s what the managers paid for, and why he’s one of the best.
 
“We’ll have a lot of discussion, planning. David won’t leave a stone unturned, then he’ll make his decision and once he’s made it he’ll stand by it and go with it.
 
“Of course we’ll have a bench and I don’t think any football match now is won by the 11 who start. You usually make two or three changes and we’ve had players come off the bench and score goals which have got us results.”
 
One player who seems certain to be in the starting line-up is January signing Darron Gibson. And Round is full of praise for the attributes which the 24-year-old has brought to the club.
 
“We knew he had great pedigree. Here’s a guy who has played in Champions League semi-finals and has won medals with Manchester United,” he says.
 
“So we knew we were getting a player who had maybe lost his way a bit at United, because he wasn’t getting the regular football he wants and needs at his age.
 
“We could give him regular Premier League football and once we were interested he wasn’t interested in any other clubs. There were other clubs who wanted him but he said ‘Everton is the club for me. I like what they do, the unity of the squad, the way they play, the manager and the crowd’.
 
“He was desperate to come which is a fantastic thing. To get him for such a low fee was arguably one of the bargains of the season. He’s been terrific. He’s a good lad, a good trainer and he’s got that winning mentality.
 
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him either. He’s going to get better and better. He seems to be forming a nice partnership with Marouane and long may it continue.”
 
And with Liverpool fielding their third choice goalkeeper in the game, Round hopes Gibson can give Brad Jones an uncomfortable Wembley outing. “He has a good range of passing from the middle of the park which maybe we’ve been lacking a bit,” he says.

STEVE ROUND already knew Everton supporters were special – but it wasn’t until 2.50pm on April 19, 2009 that he realised how much.
 
He had only arrived at Goodison Park the previous summer, but a trip to Wembley to face Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final left him with some enduring memories.
 
Round was attempting to lead the team through their pre-game warm-up, when things came to an unexpected pause.
 
“It’s my over-riding memory of the semi actually,” says the man carving a reputation as one of the brightest young coaches in the top flight.
 
“I had to actually stop the warm-up, because the fans were signing Z cars that loud the players couldn’t hear me.
 
“We just paused for two minutes and the hairs went up on the back of our necks. We just stood and looked at each other. Incredible noise.
 
“I’ve never heard noise like it. They got behind the team and carried them on a wave of emotion right through the game.
 
“Then obviously the penalty shoot-out and going through. There were not too many celebrations after because we had the final to focus on.
 
“You only have to think what they were like at Sunderland last month too.”
 
Round is hoping for a repeat of such spine-tingling moments on Saturday, even if he insists their opponents, as in 2009, are favourites.
 
He added: “I would say Liverpool remain slight favourites just because of the quality of their squad. But I would also suggest we’re as close as we’ve ever been and that’s testament to the manager, the team he’s put together, and the way they are playing. We go down to Wembley on the most even keel since I’ve been here.
 
“But it gives us confidence to know we can go down there, play them on the day, and hopefully get the right result.
 
“There’s a famous saying within the football fraternity that it’s not always the best team that wins, but it’s usually the best team on the day. We have to make sure we’re the best team on the day, simple as that.
 
“It’s tough because they’re a good team, but we are too and we’re playing with confidence.
 
“We look like we can score goals now, and were going down there with the mentality that we’ll give it a right go.”

 

 

The Echo

Despite having lost only three of their last 17 games, the bookmakers have Everton as slight underdogs against a Liverpool team who, while winning the Carling Cup, are a place below the Toffees in the league.
 
“The bookies are very rarely wrong, aren’t they?” said Moyes. “And the bookies will see Liverpool as favourites undoubtedly.
 
“I think because of the quality Liverpool possess and the squad, that’s why I think most people who bet will put Liverpool as favourites.
 
“But we do the best we can at Everton. Whoever we bring in always works very hard to try and make whatever gulf there is as little as possible.
 
“Liverpool have got a great history but Everton in the past have had a great history as well.
 
"We’re going to try to be positive, we’re going to try to give ourselves every opportunity.”

Two weeks later Liverpool benefited from a controversial, and since rescinded, red card for Jack Rodwell to win the Goodison Premier League derby 2-0.
 
And Moyes said: “A similar thing happened before the first game when we got a player sent off. I don’t know what Liverpool’s business is.
 
“Mike Riley went in to see them (Liverpool). He didn’t come to see us.”
 
Jack Rodwell and cup-tied Steven Pienaar aside, Moyes is likely to select from a full-strength squad this weekend.

DAVID Moyes insists Howard Webb is the perfect official to handle Saturday’s potentially explosive Wembley derby.
 
The Blues take on Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, which will be the first meeting between the sides at the national stadium since 1989.
 
Earlier this week Reds boss Kenny Dalglish expressed fears that supporters may believe there is a conspiracy against his team, following what he claims were a succession of debatable decisions.
 
But Moyes declined to put further pressure on Webb and his Wembley officials, as he looks to knock his rivals out of the competition for the second time in four years.
 
He said: “We will go with the referee on the day,” said the Goodison manager. “We will trust his judgement.
 
“No doubt I will be shouting if things don’t go right but that’s what you do if you’re a manager.
 
“We are not arguing with the referees at Everton. We’ve had bad decisions here, and have had to take them on the chin.
 
“I’ve not made too big a fuss of it. I’ve not called Mike Riley or spoke to him. We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do.”
 
Moyes was referring to the visit of referee chief Riley to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground earlier this season, after Dalglish complained about the standard of officiating.

 

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