16th March, 2012
Everton resume the priority of securing a tangible memento for manager David Moyes’s decade of service when they host Sunderland tomorrow in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Moyes celebrated 10 years at Goodison Park this week and has been lauded for his longevity in the hire-and-fire culture of the Premier League as well as for his ability to create a reliable team on modest resources.
What he has not done is brought a trophy to the club whose glory days of the 1980s are getting ever more distant.
The closest he came was in 2009 when he led Everton to the FA Cup final where they were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea and this season the Scot is determined to go one better.
By effectively sacrificing Merseyside bragging rights by fielding a weakened team for Tuesday’s 3-0 league defeat at Liverpool, Moyes made it clear what took precedence this season.
“I think you have to juggle your squad and decide where you prioritise,” he told reporters.
With Everton staring at mid-table security in the league, lying ninth on the same points as Sunderland, booking a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final is enticing.
“The boys have been doing really well and hopefully we can continue the decent cup run we have had,” said defender Phil Jagielka.
“After Tuesday’s result, it puts a bit more pressure on the cup because 3-0 is not good enough.”
While Moyes has been praised for his work at Everton, with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson hailing his “grittiness” in doing an “amazing job”, trophies are not the only thing lacking.
They have managed only 28 goals in 28 league games but have also been miserly at the back by letting in just 31 goals, suggesting Saturday’s encounter is likely to be a tight affair.
There are two other all top-flight quarter-finals this weekend as Tottenham Hotspur host Bolton Wanderers on Saturday (1730) and Liverpool entertain Stoke City on Sunday (1600).
The only non-Premier League side left in the competition are Championship (second division) Leicester City, who head to Chelsea on Sunday (1405).