Nev: We've Got To Stay Positive
Captain says Blues must overcome cup hurt.
Captain Phil Neville says Everton’s unbreakable team spirit can see them through their Wembley heartache.
The Blues skipper cut a disconsolate figure as he spoke to evertontv following Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool but promised the players wouldn’t let the hurt lacerate their recent rich vein of form.
David Moyes' side currently sit seventh in the Barclays Premier League table and are well-placed to finish above the Reds for the first time since 2005.
“We're obviously disappointed - we're distraught,” said Neville. “It's hard to take, a defeat at Wembley, especially against your local rivals.
“But we've got to lick our wounds and bounce back. We're in seventh position and if back in October someone had said we’d be in seventh position above Liverpool I think we'd have snapped their hands off. So I think we've really got to kick on now.”
Neville admitted the pain was made all the more galling as he and his teammates truly believed the Blues’ 17-year wait for a trophy was coming to an end.
“We honestly thought this was going to be our year,” he said. “And that wasn't just us being bullish, that was the confidence that we'd built up, the momentum that we'd accumulated. But we just didn't perform in the second half.”
Some tawdry defending from Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger led to Nikica Jelavic putting the Blues ahead at Wembley, but an undercooked back pass from Sylvain Distin led to a Luis Suarez equaliser before Andy Carroll headed the winner four minutes from time.
“I think when you have a team like Liverpool on the ropes at one-nil and you're controlling the game, that's when you've got to score, and we didn't,” said Neville. “We knew second half they were going to throw everything at us and we thought we'd withstood that pressure and obviously the two goals were a blow for us.
“The key message was pass the ball and be brave. That's what we've been doing recently, that's what we did at Sunderland [in the quarter-final]. But we weren't brave enough to pass the ball in the second half and we maybe sat back and hung on, every single one of us. Sometimes in life you have to take your punishment. We have to do that now and then bounce back."
Though Distin admitted the mistake may have ultimately cost his side a place in next month’s final, Neville said nobody would be blaming the Frenchman for the exit.
He said: “Big games are won and lost by small percentages. Sylvain has been magnificent for this Club. I don't care what anyone says about his error today, he's been magnificent and he's a real leader and warrior in the dressing room, someone I look up to. The beauty about playing for Everton Football Club is that we win together and we lose together, and today we lost as a team, not as individuals.”