Moyes unconcerned with underdog tag
Everton manager David Moyes says he has no problem with the fact that his club are huge underdogs for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.
Moyes will take his team to Wembley with his preparations affected because South African winger Steven Pienaar is a potential doubt for the match with a hamstring injury, although sources at the club are hopeful he may recover in time to feature.
Regardless of Pienaar's fitness, Chelsea will be expected to win the encounter having finished the season two places higher than Everton in the Premier League as well as reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-final. However, Moyes is unconcerned by the calibre of Saturday's opponents as Everton try to win the competition for the first time since 1995.
He said: "We know we will have to play well to beat them but we have come close. I think games against them have been tight recently and hopefully it will be much closer than people expect. Without doubt they will be the favourites and we will be the underdogs for this game."
Everton's last piece of silverware was that 1995 victory when a Paul Rideout header was enough to beat Manchester United 1-0. The club went on to struggle after that win, narrowly escaping relegation on several occasions, but Everton have undergone a resurgence since Moyes took over as manager in 2002 and the Scot believes the time has come for Everton to once again be a prominent footballing threat.
"I think it is not just me but everybody at this club has longed for Everton to get to an FA Cup final," he added. "We have got the opportunity to win the FA Cup now and we have to do it. I think we are a side that is moving forward and that has grown.
"We are climbing a big hill and we are not at the top of it yet but I can see us doing that. The FA Cup final is another step in the right direction. This is only the first of many finals and we will have the opportunities to win many more in the future."
Everton's season has been one of the most injury-plagued of any club in recent times with the likes of Mikel Arteta, James Vaughan, Ayegbeni Yakubu and recently Phil Jagielka all suffering from season-ending injuries. But that has not prevented the Merseyside club from finishing fifth in the Premier League as well as making it to the final of English football's most famous showcase.
And Moyes praised the resilience of his small squad for having the ability to grind out results when required. He said: "The players have a great deal of confidence and are playing well but when it comes down to it, the players can still dig in and they can still keep the ball out and help each other out and that has got us far as well.
"There is a real desire and sharpness and hunger about these players. Physically and mentally they are in the best shape since I've been here and they are all ready to run the big race now."