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David Moyes believes Everton have the support of neutrals in their FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool after reaching Wembley without the transfer budgets of their wealthier Premier League rivals.
"The neutral would want Everton to win," said Moyes. "The neutrals look at Everton and see the way we have tried to build the club, tried to develop the team. It gives hope to many other clubs. I'm not saying it is the right way but it is our way. It has been done with real hard graft. It has taken a length of period – that's why we have not been in enough semi-finals and finals."
Everton's season has been revitalised by the January signings of Nikica Jelavic, who has scored five goals in seven starts since his £5.5m move from Rangers, and Darron Gibson, a £500,000 acquisition from Manchester United, plus the loan arrivals of Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar. January's business was offset by the £5m sale of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow after the manager had entered the campaign without signing a single player on a permanent deal.
'But the support has been amazing. Roy [Keane] has been great. People are shocked when you tell them stories about what he is like. Brendan Rodgers is another. The consultants at (the) Christie [Hospital]. We have met the most amazing people. I wish we hadn't… But yes, we have.'
Ablett's memoirs, entitled The Game Of My Life, are published on Monday and his story is heart-warming and heart-breaking, inspirational and tragic.
He was a man who gave his life to football and did everything he could to maximise his talents.
'People say "how did you react when you got told?" but for him, the worst part wasn't being told that he had the disease,' said Jacqueline.
'The time when he felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach was when the doctor said to him "you won't be out on the field for a really long time."
'He really struggled with that. I think he thought he would just get on and deal with the disease, that he would tackle anything like he had done through his career. But to be told that he couldn't get out on the pitch was the big deal for him. He was just a genuine guy. People respected him for that.
'Gary was saying when he was finishing the book what it would be like if the two teams met at Wembley. It was like it was meant to be. '
Moyes's team are a point and a place above Liverpool in the Premier League, despite the Anfield club investing almost £120m on new players since January 2011. Damien Comolli paid the price for that largesse by losing his job as Liverpool's director of football on Thursday.
Moyes admits the neutrals' choice would also have been that of Kenny Dalglish, Harry Redknapp and Roberto Di Matteo before the draw for the semi-finals. "If they had the choice, any of the other three teams would have said they wanted to play Everton," he added. "That's fine. I'm a football man. I understand that. They know they will get a hard game, against a tough side. We will have to go and play as well or not better than we are playing if we are going to reach the final."
Everton have not won a trophy since the 1995 FA Cup and Moyes hopes a Wembley showcase against Liverpool, with a return on offer for the final on 5 May, will enhance the chairman Bill Kenwright's prospects of selling the club. New investment, or the lack of it, will be a factor in whether Moyes decides to commit to a new contract at Goodison Park this summer.
He said: "Globally it can certainly help Everton the more we can show we are competing with the big clubs in the Premier League, although I thought that in the last Cup final [against Chelsea in 2009] and nothing came from that day.
"I have always been keen to take Everton back to the days when they were a great football club and were one of the biggest clubs. I keep changing. One year I think we are getting close, the next we drop away. At the start of this year we looked as if we were making little progress – if anything we were fading away. But it's great credit to the players, they dug in.
"When you find a way of winning, you come out the other end, get a bit of form, consistency, then your style improves – and when your style improves everyone talks about your team. We are moving in that direction at the moment."
Wembley Stadium is not the only thing to have changed since Merseyside last converged on the capital 35 days after the Hillsborough disaster. Old footage has circulated this week of the all-Merseyside cup finals of 1984, 1986 and 1989. What strikes you, apart from people risking their lives to leap through open windows 30 foot above ground, is the complete lack of segregation on the transport networks and inside the ground. It wasn't necessary. On Saturday there are separate trains, from different stations, even a guide to different pubs for the Everton and Liverpool supporters attending the FA Cup semi-final. Divided, and yet united still, for this is a cup tie with profound implications for the two men who will be stalking the technical areas come 12.30pm.
As player-manager when Liverpool beat their local rivals in the 1986 FA Cup final and manager when they repeated the triumph three years later, Kenny Dalglish does not require education on the importance of facing Everton at Wembley; a game that falls on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of Hillsborough and will be preceded by a period of silence and floral tributes from the two captains, Steven Gerrard and Phil Neville. Yet he refuses to countenance potential consequences for himself should Liverpool lose to an Everton team whose current form, league position and cost condemn their own. There are plenty, should
Fenway Sports Group decide a Carling Cup is not enough for a £120m outlay on new players, as Damien Comolli discovered after lunch with John W Henry and Tom Werner this week.
How David Moyes would like that problem. Unlike Dalglish, the Everton manager entered this season at his lowest ebb, with money flowing out of his squad and into the banks. Now, his team revitalised by astute dealing in the January transfer window, he approaches a second FA Cup semi‑final in four seasons insisting: "I have total belief in these players at this moment in time. The belief and trust I have got in the players is full, 100%; the way they are playing, the way they are going about their job, the way they are preparing themselves." Though he cannot say the same about his own future at Goodison Park.
Victory over Liverpool at Wembley plus the club's first trophy for 17 years would be a fitting way for Moyes to mark 10 years as Everton manager. It is too early to say whether it would provide a fitting farewell or improve the prospects of Bill Kenwright, the chairman, securing Moyes on a new contract when his current deal enters its final 12 months this summer. The Scot says: "Whatever happens, win or lose, I will have a conversation at the end of the season with the chairman, and we'll see where we are, how the club is. I am really comfortable with that. That's the way I am planning it to remain until a couple of weeks after the end of the season."
Thanks to immediate impacts from Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson, signed for a combined £6m and offset by the £5m sale of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in January, plus the loan signings of Landon Donovan (now back at LA Galaxy) and Steven Pienaar (ineligible for the FA Cup), Everton are the form team ahead of the semi-final. History is against them. The showpiece occasion against Liverpool has unfolded only one way since Everton's success in the 1906 FA Cup semi-final. Three times they have met at this stage since – 1950, 1971 and 1977 – and three times they have faced each other in a final – the 1984 Milk Cup, the '86 and '89 FA Cups – and Liverpool have won every one.
Everton's derby torment precedes Moyes but has not eased under him, with the Scot yet to win in 11 visits to Anfield and often reserving his tactical gambles for the Merseyside derby in a bid to stifle Liverpool's strengths rather than play to his own. Total belief in his players suggests that will not be the case on Saturday.
"I continually get told I lose these games quite regularly. I don't feel that way," he said when it was put to Moyes directly that he had a psychological problem with Liverpool. "If you look at the bigger picture, we have always acquitted ourselves well in the games. They have been tough games for me, I have to say. Games against Liverpool have always been hard. But we have had our results as well. We have not gone without results against Liverpool. I am relaxed because of the form my team is in. My team has made me feel quite relaxed. It comes from how my team is playing. I feel good because my team is playing good."
Dalglish has preached similar belief in his players all season, regardless of a recent league run that was Liverpool's worst since 1953, and received firm support from Werner, the Liverpool chairman, in the wake of Comolli's dismissal as director of football on Thursday. Werner and Henry returned to Boston to watch the Red Sox play Tampa Bay Rays night rather than attend the Merseyside cup derby. All those who remain employed at Anfield, Dalglish included, have been left in no doubt that FSG views the league campaign as unacceptable and will act ruthlessly when and where it sees fit. A Carling Cup and FA Cup double would represent a fine return from the manager's first full season back in charge. The Carling Cup alone, and pressure will follow Dalglish into next season.
"The form hasn't been great and we have all had criticism," Jamie Carragher admits, "but the manager gets it more than most. I think some of the criticism towards the manager in recent weeks has been disrespectful and crossed the line to a certain extent because of who he is. For me, he is the most iconic figure in British football. You have great players and great managers and he is in both camps. Stein, Busby, Ferguson, Paisley, Shankly, Clough, Dalglish – all these great managers and he is in there. And he is in with all the great players as well. None of the others are in both camps.
"I'm not saying that should absolve him of any criticism, but some of it has crossed the line. It goes a bit far considering what he has done since he came back to the club. It is not about judging the last six games. We have to remember where we were when he came in. We had a great end to the season. We hadn't won a trophy for six years, we have won a trophy, we are in a semi-final. OK, we're not in the top four where we would all like to be but it is not easy getting in the top four. It is a lot harder now than the years when we were getting in it. It's a top six now."
Wembley derbies appeared routine to Carragher as a boyhood Evertonian – "Hopefully I won't come back crying this time," he reflects – and the significance of the semi-final cannot be lost on someone from Bootle. He adds: "It's great for the city that we can have a game like this and hopefully we can go show the country what the two supporters are like and make it like it was in the 80s. It hasn't been like that for a while for Everton and Liverpool and we've all got different ideas about why that is but hopefully this is a chance to show the rest of the country what we're about.
"People might say we should beat Everton because of money spent or who we are but that doesn't work. It's not just a derby game, for both of us it's about winning the FA Cup. For a club with the support Everton have got, a great fan base, their history and tradition, it's probably been too long for them. So there's pressure on them too."
Moyes immediately installed Liverpool as favourites following Everton's impressive quarter-final replay win at Sunderland. Dalglish, with his first- and second-choice goalkeepers suspended and third-choice Brad Jones set to make his FA Cup debut for Liverpool, is unimpressed. "What difference does it make who is favourite?" he says. "We're just going out there to play a game. You don't walk out with a plaster across your head saying: 'We are favourites.' What we do on the day is going to be far more important than what we've done at any other stage of the season. The build up is irrelevant." The aftermath is not.
If sport is all about winning, then Juande Ramos, Christian Gross and Claudio Ranieri are all better managers than David Moyes. They have each won trophies of some sort. Moyes has not.
His chairman, the theatrical impresario Bill Kenwright, might console him with the thought that Albert Finney, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole did not win a single Oscar between them.
However, last month when discussing the achievements of a decade at Goodison Park, amid all the praise for the way he has taken Everton back to football's top table on a Little Chef budget, Moyes confessed that the absence of silverware ate away at him.
When he was manager of Preston, Moyes used to see Sir Tom Finney, the greatest English footballer of his generation, around once week. He, too, never won a trophy.
His great chance came in 1953 when Preston lost the title to Arsenal on goal average. The following year, Finney found himself overwhelmed by the build-up to the FA Cup final, floundering amid requests for interviews and tickets. That, too, was lost.
The neutrals were unashamedly behind Finney then and Moyes suspects that they might be behind Everton now. "The other three teams left in the FA Cup would want to play Everton. If they had any choice, they would have picked us," he said.
"That's fine. I am a football man, I can understand that, but the neutral would want Everton to win. The neutrals would look at Everton and see how they have tried to build the club and develop the team in a way that gives hope to other clubs. I am not saying it is the right way, but it is our way – and it has been done with real hard graft."
Increasingly, it has been done with some flair. In September, there was a protest march outside Goodison and someone had baked a cake to commemorate the second anniversary of the last time Everton had paid a significant transfer fee. Four months later, some funds were found. Darron Gibson, Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar arrived to provide that most precious of sporting commodities, momentum.
One of the great swelling choruses that rise from the Gwladys End at Goodison begins: "If you know your history ..." If you didn't know your history, you would make Everton strong favourites for this Merseyside derby.
They approach Wembley in the form of a honed athlete. Liverpool, by contrast, look a shambles. They go there after a vicious period of blood-letting that has seen the firing of the director of football, the head of sports science, the goalkeeping coach – anyone, in short, not directly connected with an abysmal run of results. Should Liverpool lose at Wembley, the lady who brings Kenny Dalglish his cup of tea and Scotch egg might find herself looking for work.
However, it is the fact that it is Liverpool that has doubts swirling around the figure of David Moyes. Liverpool under Dalglish have raised their game on the grand occasions. Moyes' record in Merseyside derbies is poor. He has never won at Anfield; there is a theory he plays Liverpool on their history and reputation, rather than their form.
"I continually get told I lose quite regularly to Liverpool," he said with a hint of a smile. "I don't feel that way. If you look at the bigger picture, we have acquitted ourselves quite well.
"We have tried to make a fist of it, I have to say. Games against Liverpool have always been hard but I am relaxed about this one because of the way my team has been playing."
He is a little less relaxed about Dalglish's suggestion that there is a refereeing conspiracy against Liverpool, which might carry a subliminal message for today's official, Howard Webb.
"A similar thing happened before the first derby at Goodison when we got a player sent off," said Moyes. "I don't know what Liverpool's business is. We are not arguing with referees at Everton. We have had our bad decisions but we have taken them on the chin."
Moyes all but sacrificed the last Merseyside derby, sending out a weakened team at Anfield that succumbed to a Steven Gerrard hat-trick. He wanted to save his major players for the FA Cup quarter-final with Sunderland.
Under those circumstances the only option was to win, and when the first game was drawn at Goodison it appeared an opportunity squandered. It might explain why Moyes was so unusually animated on the touchline at the Stadium of Light as Everton took Martin O'Neill's side apart.
"It meant so much to me and the players," he said. "We have had better performances, actually. I made the decision to rest players because I felt we had to try to get to the semi-final. I didn't know who we were going to get, but the Cup was really important to me and I felt we had to do it."
This match might let Everton escape the shadow of Liverpool that has hung over them pretty much since the last time they met at Wembley, the 1989 FA Cup final. Nevertheless, Moyes is sanguine about what one game can achieve. Three years ago, Everton beat Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final and lost narrowly to Chelsea in the final.
"I thought that would have drawn people back in, brought Everton back into fashion, but nothing came from that day," he said. "But if your profile is high and you get plenty of media coverage, it can only help your club.
"I have always been keen to take Everton back to the days when they were a great football club, something like they were in the 1980s. I keep changing. One year we think we are getting close, the next we drop away. At the start of the year we were making little progress, if anything we were fading away.
"I don't think the semi-final does decide if we are successful this season. I thought at the start that if we finished in the top 10, it would be a good year. We still have to maintain that position but I don't think [today] decides if it's a success now. It's the difference between a good season and a great season."
Sir Alex Ferguson advises his fellow managers to avoid the January transfer window, claiming that the players he is offered are usually expensive and have some ulterior motive for wanting to move. Yet the men who have helped transform Everton's season all arrived in midwinter: Nikica Jelavic, escaping the financial implosion at Rangers, Steven Pienaar returning to the ground where he was happiest, and Darron Gibson deciding that the cachet of being a Manchester United footballer meant little if you weren't actually playing.
David Moyes said that one of the reasons he decided to bring Gibson to Goodison Park was an enthusiastic recommendation from Wayne Rooney. And when Everton swept Sunderland aside to set up this afternoon's meeting with Liverpool at Wembley, Rooney was straight on the phone.
"He was buzzing. At heart he is still an Everton fan," said Gibson. "I spoke to him straight afterwards – he had been watching the game. I am not telling you what he said but he was buzzing."
Gibson said he was not sure what to expect when he left Old Trafford. He knew he had to leave; the Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, had advised him to go but he had been part of the fabric of the club since he was 15, having made his name in the Derry and District League.
There had been a couple of spectacular goals from midfield, especially against Bayern Munich in the European Cup quarter-finals – he said he was around eight years old when he learned how to shoot from outside the box. However, with every new signing, every new academy graduate, Gibson seemed less sure of his place.
"Some people would say I failed at Manchester United by not breaking through," he said. "Towards the end, I wasn't playing my best football. I have come to Everton to start showing people what I can do. I wouldn't say I failed. What I would say is that I never got the chance that I wanted. I would play one game and then miss out on four, five or six, then play another.
"And when a young player comes through, it's just the same as a new player coming in. They both need a run of matches. You are still training with the lads every day, of course, but it is different when you get on the pitch because, suddenly, you have something to prove."
There is a familiar path between Ferguson's training ground at Carrington and Everton's new and very similar-looking facility at Finch Farm, near the Land Rover and Jaguar plant at Halewood, which is one of the great industrial success stories on Merseyside.
Phil Neville, Tim Howard and Louis Saha all came from Manchester United, although Gibson baulks at suggestions that, accents apart, there are any similarities between Ferguson and Moyes.
"They might sound the same but, no, they are totally different." What about their team talks? "Again, completely different apart from the accent. Moyes is a lot more hands on. He wants to do everything himself, whereas in the years I was at Manchester United, Sir Alex used to let the coaches do most of the work. He would do the team talks and the tactics but, on the training ground, it was the coaches who did the work."
Work is a cornerstone of Everton's success and Gibson, who confesses to being at heart, a "laid-back footballer", did not fit instantly into the regime.
"The football here is a lot different to what it was at Manchester United. I was shocked at how hard we worked. It took me a few games to get used to it. The difference is that Manchester United have the ball most of the time, don't they? It is a bit different here.
"In recent weeks, when we have been getting results, we have been pressing teams and working really hard to do it – which is something we didn't do too much of at Manchester United. I am probably the fittest I have ever been in my career."
The one similarity between Ferguson and Moyes is that they are both men you would hesitate to cross.
Gibson found the net with a spectacular drive against Manchester City, a goal that might decide the championship, and which provoked another flurry of phone calls from his one-time team-mates.
However, after last month's game against West Bromwich Albion, Moyes suggested that Gibson might need "the treatment" – which sounds like a Goodison version of "the hairdryer".
"I come across as laid-back sometimes," said Gibson. "That is where he is coming from. He has shouted at me a few times to run a bit harder in training. Sometimes, I need a kick up the arse. I am not saying I don't work hard but when he shouts, 'Run faster!' I run faster."
Even before he had taken off his boots following the epic win at Sunderland, Darron Gibson’s phone was ringing insistently amid the chaos of a celebrating dressing room.
The call was from one of his best friends - a mad-keen Evertonian, who wanted to express his joy and gratitude that the midfielder had steered the club he loved to an FA Cup semi final showdown with bitter rivals Liverpool… and stress how much victory at Wembley would mean to the blue half of the city.
Gibson shakes his head and laughs at the conversation he had that night, because the over-excited fan on the other end of the line was his best pal.
Fella named Wayne Rooney.
“He was buzzing, absolutely buzzing. He was watching the game and when we got through he rang straight afterwards – but I can’t tell you what he said,” the Ireland international says with a smile suggesting the Manchester United striker's advice on the subject of the Anfield side is probably best left unexplored in a family newspaper.
“This will be my first Merseyside derby, but I know all about how big the game is. Wayne is one of my friends and at heart he is still an Everton fan, so I know all about it.
“The phone didn’t stop all night after that, because of what it means to Everton.
"We played really well in the replay at Sunderland, it shows the form we have been over the past 10 or 12 games, and the semi final is going to be massive.
“I’m sure all the Evertonians I know will be on my case as the weekend approaches, but they don’t need to tell me - this is a semi-final at Wembley, the atmosphere will be unbelievable and I am really looking forward to it.”
There is some relish in his voice, which is a surprise for a man who experienced so many big games in his eight years with Manchester United.
Yet there is a subtle difference this time.
Gibson arrived at Old Trafford the same year as Rooney at a similar age, and the two struck up an immediate friendship.
Yet while the former Everton man was an automatic choice from the start, Gibson never truly established himself in the first team.
So despite playing in Champions League and FA Cup semi finals, and World Club Cup and League Cup finals, he always approached the big games with the dread of a peripheral figure about to be overlooked again.
“You know, I don’t miss Manchester United," he reveals.
"I wasn’t sure what to expect when I left. I’d been there since I was 15. But I am really enjoying my football, really enjoying playing.
“It got to the stage at United where I was fed up and I needed to go out and play football for my sake. I was rested by Everton on Monday, and that was a bit different - it was nice to know I was being rested with a big game coming up!
“That’s the complete opposite of how it was at Manchester United, where I’d usually be the one who was brought in for the matches before the big games, when others were rested.
“In a way, this game means even more to me. It is a bit more responsibility being rested and then playing but I don’t think it means I’ll approach it any differently.
"When I played for Manchester United, I gave everything on the pitch I possibly could.”
There is an honesty about Gibson that is refreshing, and slightly disarming.
He left Old Trafford, he admits, because he wasn’t given the opportunities he felt he deserved, but also because he needed to escape the spiral of depression that comes with being a squad player.
It would be harsh to suggest a man who has won a Premier League title and played so many games for United had failed, but it is a description he acknowledges, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
“That’s why I needed to move on. Some people would say I failed at Manchester United by not breaking through. Towards the end, I wasn’t playing my best football,” explains Gibson.
“I have come here to start showing people what I can do. I need to keep going and show people how good a player I am.
“I wouldn’t say I failed, but I would say I never got the chance that I wanted. I was playing a game and then missing four, five or six, then playing another. I would play when people were being rested. It wasn’t enough.”
He has certainly made an impact at Everton since his January move, who have yet to lose with Gibson… even if manager David Moyes has already claimed the midfielder needs the ‘the treatment’, occasionally.
That is nothing new for the Irish international, who survived the original hairdryer at Old Trafford.
“I come across as laid-back sometimes, that is where he is coming from," added Gibson.
“He [Moyes] has shouted at me a few times to run a bit harder in training. That is just the way I am. Sometimes I do need a kick up the arse.
"It is just the way I am. I am laid back.
"I am not saying I don’t work hard, but sometimes when he shouts: ‘run faster’, I run faster.
“In that respect, our manager and Sir Alex are the same – they are both Scottish and you wouldn’t cross them! But in other respects they are completely different.
“The football is a lot different - I was shocked at how hard we work. It took me a few games to get used to it, but I think I have settled in now.
"And I will be reminding the manager the run of form has happened since I came into the team!”
David Moyes believes the entire UK is behind his Everton side’s bid to humble their rich neighbours Liverpool at Wembley.
The Blues' boss is convinced viewers without an allegiance to either team in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final will be rooting for his men, because the Toffees have built a team rather than splurging £100million-plus on new faces as their Merseyside neighbours have done.
“The neutral would want Everton to win,” he insisted.
Bookies make Liverpool slight favourites for the game between two clubs who are worlds apart in terms of money, with the Reds boasting a wage bill double that of their rivals and a record of transfer spending that's on a different planet.
Moyes though, believes that buying power puts everyone outside the red half of the city on his side.
“The neutrals look at Everton and see the way we have tried to build the club, tried to develop the team gives hope to many other clubs," added the Scot.
“It has been done with real hard graft. It has taken a real period of time - that’s why we have not been in enough semi-finals and finals. It may not be the right way, but it’s our way and they appreciate it.”
What remains unspoken in Moyes’ suggestion is the fact many neutrals are turned off by the brusque, challenging nature of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish.
Dalglish won few new friends during the long-running Luis Suarez racism row, and in recent days his attempt at mind games – he piled pressure on semi-final ref Howard Webb by saying some may feel there's a conspiracy amongst officials against his side – have drawn scorn from rival supporters.
Moyes though, has refused to be drawn into his opposite number’s political wranglings.
He insists he has complete faith in Webb, who reffed the 2010 World Cup Final, to rise above such obvious pressure.
“A similar thing happened before the first derby game this season, when we got a player sent off – but we are not going to get embroiled in that,” Moyes insisted.
“We have to go with the integrity of the referee, which we will do.
"If it’s happening from Liverpool then, that would be for the FA to decide if that’s the case or not. It’s not for us.
"We will trust Howard Webb’s judgement.”
For a decade, David Moyes has strived to revive memories of Everton’s glory days. For 10 seasons, Everton’s manager has garnered praise for the shrewd way he has bought players, motivated and prepared them well, but what he craves most is a trophy.
“I would love to get Everton back to something like the club were in the Eighties, back to the days when they were a great football club,” Moyes reflected on the eve of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final. “One year we think we’re getting close, the next we drop away. The start of this year we looked as if we were making little progress, if anything we were fading away.
“It’s been great credit to the players: they dug in, kept showing their characteristics and found a way of winning. We’ve turned our league form round and the Cup is the difference between having a good season and a great season.
“The neutral would want Everton [to win]. Neutrals look at Everton and see the way we’ve tried to build the club, tried to develop the team. That gives hope to many other clubs. It has been done with real hard graft. It has also been done with an unbreakable bond between those in boots and those in tracksuits.
“I have total belief and trust in these players,” added Moyes. New as well as old. Moyes’s talent in the transfer market was seen again in January with the arrival of Nikica Jelavic from Rangers and Darron Gibson from Manchester United, helping inject some vital momentum for only £6.5million.
“Both have really made an impact in different ways,” said Moyes. “Jelavic with his goals and bits of his play. Darron has grown into the games with us as he’s gone on.”
They should relish Saturday’s occasion. “Six months ago, Jelavic was in Scotland, playing in really big games, Old Firm games, finals, so it won’t come as a shock to him. If you said to him, you’ll come here and be in the semi-final of the FA Cup, he would have said: ‘I’ll have a bit of that’.
"Darron came in and probably thought, ‘I’d not really played in any games for the last year or two’ but now he’s playing regularly in the Everton side that is in the semi-final.
“These ones have settled in quite quickly but maybe that was out of necessity because of where the team was.”
Jelavic had to start and be the attacking focus because Everton urgently needed goals while Jack Rodwell’s injuries meant Gibson was immersed swiftly.
“If you look back at the likes of Leighton Baines, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka they took a while to settle in but they are great characters. They were always going to come through.”
Some players do not work out. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov came for £10 million and went for £5 million, but Moyes’s track record is largely good.
“I try to do as much homework on players as I can. But there’s no magic formula, no definitive secret as to why I know why this player is going to hit the ground running and this boy’s not. It’s a bit of pot luck. I talk to people who have been around them, players who have played with them and you get an idea.
"Wayne Rooney gave Darron Gibson a brilliant shout. He said he’s a really good player, good type. David Weir [the Everton coach] played with Jelavic [at Rangers] and gave him a glowing report which probably tipped us over to say ‘let’s go and get the deal done’.”
Once inside the dressing room, newcomers are welcomed and taught about the traditions and expectations.
“It would be hard for a ‘wrong one’ to come in here with Phil Neville especially, Tim Cahill and Tim Howard, who do some job to make sure the players settle in quickly. They tell them: ‘here’s what we do, this is how it works, this is what the gaffer expects, get on with your job’.
“The boys took Nikki out for dinner. They did the same with Darron. They are very good. As a captain and a leader, Phil knows that if he can make things easy early for the players that the team will benefit.” They have benefited hugely. “Competition for places has added to the form,” said Moyes.
There is a momentum to Everton, a hunger that will concern Liverpool, certainly a sharpened eye for goal. Jelavic could exploit any momentary lapse of concentration by Liverpool’s centre-halves. Gibson boasts the occasional long-range shot that could trouble Brad Jones.
“I continually get told I lose quite regularly to Liverpool. If you look at the bigger picture, we have always acquitted ourselves well in the games. We have had our results as well. I am relaxed because of the good form my team is in.”
Mixed into this composure is the usual Moyes edge. He was all smiles when talking at Finch Farm this week yet that longing for a first trophy was unmistakable. The Cup “matters massively”, Moyes continued, explaining why he had celebrated so passionately when Everton won their quarter-final at Sunderland.
“It meant so much to me and the players.” And the club. Around 40,000 Evertonians will throng into Wembley on Saturday, reminding the world, and a potential buyer, of the club’s size.
“If you are getting your name regularly in Europe or in Cup finals, semi-finals where the profile is high, plenty of media coverage, it can certainly help Everton globally.”
Moyes will always be in demand. He will discuss his future with Bill Kenwright “a couple of weeks” into the close season. “Whatever happens, win or lose, I will have a conversation at the end of the season with the chairman, and we’ll see where we are, how the club is. I am really comfortable with that.”
Liverpool are in for a fight on Saturday. Moyes covets that final chance.