Final means everything to tidy Tim
© AFP

Tim Howard wrote himself into Everton's record books and then vowed to take his shot-stopping brilliance into the FA Cup final. The USA international eclipsed Everton legend Neville Southall's 13-year-old record on 9 May when he achieved his 16th league clean sheet of the campaign in the 0-0 home draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

The performance against Spurs, which stopped the Merseysiders reclaiming fifth place in the table, may have been disappointing, but Howard is confidently looking forward to the FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley on 30 May. And Howard said: "Now I aim to keep another clean sheet at Wembley. The one shut-out I really want is at Wembley in the cup final. I would give up all the rest just for that.

"We have a couple of league games left and we are still aiming for fifth place. But the thought of Wembley is really motivating us," he said. "We are training hard, everything is very exciting. We aim to end our league programme in style and then really turn it on at Wembley."

On his personal achievement, Howard, 30, said: "I am obviously very pleased with the record for clean sheets, and in some ways this game was a nice way to do it because I barely had anything to do.

"The rapport between myself and the back four has been really good. Anyone can keep a clean sheet when your defence keeps getting the ball away in front of you, it is not just me," said Howard. "Collectively, we have been putting in really good performances. At the beginning of the season we were awful and just couldn't keep a clean sheet, but that was hardly surprising because our performances were not good enough.

"But we have got things together, the lads in front of me know what they are doing and the results have improved." Howard believes the Toffees' backline has developed into an awesome prospect. He added: "It is a great unit. We have every aspect of the qualities you would want from defenders.

"Leighton Baines has a great left foot and gets forward really well. Phil Jagielka has improved immensely and gets in everywhere, it's a real shame he will miss the final," he said. "Joleon Lescott is a thoughtful player who sees danger, and Tony Hibbert is the hard guy who will run through walls for you.

"While Joseph Yobo is one of the most athletic guys I have ever played alongside. All these things together make us a really difficult defence to break down. The record is in my name, but I am humble enough to realise that it is not just all down to me," said Howard.
"And to have taken the record from Neville Southall is also an honour. In his day he was considered the best keeper in the world, so it is nice to be bracketed with him."

Everton struggled to impose themselves on a Spurs side desperate for points to qualify for Europe next season. The nearest they came was a Dan Gosling effort against a post in the second half. But Howard underlined the determination to finish the season in style.

He said: "It has been a long season for me, I have started every game and played a lot for the US. But I have been in the UK now for six years and I am getting used to the physical demands.

"And nobody now wants to stumble near the end. We all feel the physical pressure, but we want to go to Wembley now and put on a real show for our fans. We have lost a lot of important players through injury, but the manager made it clear we were not going to buckle under that sort of pressure," said Howard.

"People have been asked to play out of position for months now, and nobody has moaned or complained about it. They have just got on with the job. Now we are getting the rewards."