The Blues go into the game unbeaten since the last time the two sides met, but derby matches tend to be all about who wants to win most, and not about who has been playing the better football recently.
The difference in form will, however, give Everton a boost in that their confidence will be right up there, and that they know that by winning their battles early on they can beat anyone.
When Everton played Liverpool in the FA Cup semi final in 1977 I wasn’t in the side, but I watched from the sidelines, so I have some sympathy with those of you travelling to Wembley. You get to see things build up and develop so much quicker when you’re on the bench, but you can scream until you’re blue in the face and nobody listens! You quickly realise though, that the only way you can affect the game is by playing, but then you lose the vantage point. It can be incredibly frustrating!
I’d picked up an ankle injury at Derby the week before the first game at Maine Road, and despite trying everything we could, there was no way I could play in that game. Given my scoring record for Everton against Liverpool maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, but the Reds were having a real off day and I’d like to think I could have made a difference. Not that we should have needed a difference in playing staff.
Bryan Hamilton had scored a perfectly legitimate goal, but – and not for the first time – Clive Thomas ruled it out. The Welshman has never given his reason for denying us that goal, but he gave Liverpool a free kick instead of us a goal.
As I said, it wasn’t the first time Thomas had denied Bryan a goal. Two years’ earlier, again in an FA Cup semi final, he’d scored for Ipswich against West Ham, but it was ruled out for an unspecified infringement. Maybe he just didn’t like the lad, or maybe it was just another example of his eagerness to court controversy. He certainly enjoyed the limelight, in fact I’d go so far as to say he had an ego the size of the mouth of the Mersey!
I spoke with Dai Davies a few years ago and he said he had been at a dinner and Clive Thomas had also been a guest. A reporter had suggested the idea of having two referees on the pitch in order to keep up with play easier, and Thomas had apparently replied “But who would be good enough to referee with me?”
David Moyes‘ comments on Howard Webb’s appointment for the game have been measured and wise, in contrast to his opposite number’s comments on Tuesday night. It’s never a good idea to wind a referee up before a match, especially one as experienced as Webb. They all have some form of favourites, either teams or players, and they’ll make themselves evident eventually. There’s no point in pushing your luck before a ball is even kicked!
His preparations seem to be going well, but it is impossible to treat this as “just another game” because there will always be the thought in the back of the players’ minds that they are just one step away from a final. They won’t need too much motivation or geeing up for the game, but could need reigning in a little and keeping their emotions in check.
Nikica Jelavic will be fired up after a week’s rest, and he’ll be aiming to continue his rich vein of form and bag himself a goal at Wembley in what we all hope will be the first of many games there for Everton.
I’m really disappointed I can’t be at the game with you all, but I’ll be glued to the TV here in Germany hoping we can all book ourselves a trip back to Wembley in a few weeks’ time.