Sometimes the prospects of the underdog are difficult to predict. Take the hugely compelling death-match that often takes place in my head between evil Decepticon and scourge of the universe, Megatron and ‘adorable’, corporate shill, Hello Kitty. Megatron should be able to atomise his feline foe in a fight. However, you can never rule out the prospect of the ‘lucky punch’. And on several occasions that irritating, child mesmerising, money magnet has emerged on top.
And that’s what Oldham illustrated the other week when this footballing underdog took on the might of Premier League Everton. Everything pointed to an Everton win. The team has more talent in Leighton Baines beautiful hair than Oldham have in their entire squad and the gulf between the two clubs in the football pyramid is vast.
Yes, Oldham had beaten Liverpool in the previous round but then who hasn’t beaten Liverpool this season? It’s almost a right-of-passage in English football. Everton should have emerged victorious and done so in a relatively untroubled fashion.
But instead, Oldham employed the ‘lucky punch’, giving the underdog a draw and the blues the prospect of an unwanted replay.
At the time, in contrast to other Evertonians I know, I wasn’t that arsed about getting through the round. Back then, only a short week ago, the prospect of a top-four finish for Everton still seemed possible. The FA just appeared to be a distraction, one that comes with the possibility of fitness draining replays.
But now, with Everton’s prospects of Champions League football looking as likely as Brendan Rodgers actually becoming the Shankly figure he believes himself to be, suddenly the FA doesn’t look that bad a prospect.
But to do that we have to get past a determined Oldham, a team who have already proved that they have the measure of Everton. There’s no doubt that the tie being played at Goodison will benefit the home team. In the previous fixture, the state of the pitch contributed to the rather untidy way that Everton played.
Although, despite frustration at the state of Boundary Park, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the ground has a slope. It’s good to know modern developments, such as composite carbon-fibre football boots, prozone statistical analysis and Brendan Rodgers’ style ‘neurologists’ can still be rendered useless by the awesome power of a slight gradient.
Everton go into the replay out of sorts. From being one of the hardest teams to beat in the league, we have become much more vulnerable, and in recent weeks have put together our worst run of form of the season.
As a result, the team’s confidence seems low, with much of the fizz and spark that has been evident this season now absent. When you combine this with the fact that it now seems unlikely that we’ll qualify for the Champions League, a factor which must unquestionably impact further upon the team’s confidence, then it’s arguable that Oldham couldn’t have picked a better time to play us.
A defeat by Oldham would mark a low point for Everton this season. But perhaps more importantly, it could have further ramifications for the club. David Moyes has been at Everton for a long time now and it’s understandable that he might be suffering from ‘itchy-feet-syndrome’. This is probably not helped by the fact that he’s had very little tangible success with the club. Yes, we’ve put in decent performances year-in-year-out and he’s certainly reversed our decline but we’ve only qualified for the Champions League once and made a solitary appearance in a cup final.
For a manager with his ambition and talent, it’s understandable that he might want more success in his day job. This season seemed to promise so much and if we end it with absolutely nothing, then it’s likely that Moyes might start looking around for pastures new. He’s already made no secret of the fact that he’d like to manage abroad and perhaps the possibility that he’s done all he can with Everton might persuade him that this is the time to go.
In light of this, the capturing of some silverware might be enough to convince him to stay, that his tenure at Everton might still be a work-in-progress. And, with its dearth of big guns, this season’s FA Cup represents a great opportunity to do this. With Liverpool out, there are no teams left that the club can’t beat.
And unlike those who fill the Everton forums with venomous bile directed against our manager, believing that it’s his presence that’s holding the club back, I think we need Moyes to stay. He is one of the most gifted managers in the game and Everton are lucky to have him. Yes, he makes mistakes but then what manager doesn’t?
On a personal note, I’d really like to go to another cup final too. The last one I went to, Everton v Utd in 1995, was spoiled by the fact that I might have taken some ketemine the night before. I say might, I definitely took something that both slowed down time but sped up my capacity to produce drool and ketemine seems the best fit.
So the day itself went by in a bit of a blur and I found it difficult to generate much emotion towards our victory because the previous night’s activities had robbed me of everything that made me feel human.
And so, it would be nice to try Wembley again and this time do it while feeling like a fully functioning member of society and not an extra from the Walking Dead.