Fourth is the dream, FA Cup the reality

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

David MoyesPA PhotosDavid Moyes eyes success before his contract expires in the summer

Announced earlier today, the impending tasks facing Everton in the FA Cup are crystal clear. Should the Toffees cement home advantage against Oldham, the reward is another home clash; this time against fellow Premier League occupants Wigan. Successfully negotiate these two favourable fixtures and a return to Wembley waits in the shape of a semi-final date.

Everton last lifted silverware in 1995 and that is not good enough for a club of this stature. Plenty overlook David Moyes' side, due to the trophy famine, financial paucity and historic but ultimately dated stadium. However, while the barometer for judging success appears skewed in the modern era, it is worth noting that Everton remain the fourth most successful club in the country.

For the third time in five seasons, Wembley is in touching distance, providing professional performances are the order of the day, and fans are daring to dream of ending the trophy drought.

Since the unexpected 1995 defeat of Manchester United, Everton have fallen at the closing hurdles on several occasions. The words 'League Cup' and 'Walter Smith' should be avoided and, whilst he managed three FA Cup quarterfinals, his sacking followed defeat in the third quarter-final. Despite improving, the League Cup record remains disastrous. One semi-final run aside, Moyes' League Cup record reads 3-4-3-4-3-4-3-4-4-4.

The FA Cup has offered closer glimpses of success. Whisper the names of Shrewsbury, Oldham and Reading quietly, but the FA Cup record has started to improve in recent seasons. Liverpool and Manchester United were disposed of in 2009 before Chelsea deservedly won the final. Last season, Everton looked set for another final appearance until a second half capitulation saw Liverpool progress.

As the silverware drought closes on 20 years, fans yearn for success. However, given the choice of Champions League football and the FA Cup, the Champions League can do far more for Everton Football Club. Year after year, the moneymen search behind the Goodison Park couches, but they find less and less each time. The Champions League has the potential to inject cash life into the club.

FA Cup success would allow the trophy cabinet to reopen, boost the immediate profile of the club and provide a route into the Europa League. Nevertheless, even though the record books remember trophies, not fourth-placed finishes, the Champions League can transform a club almost instantly.

The dangling Champions League carrot can attract a higher quality of player whilst boosting the club’s finances. For all the potential excitement of Europa League football or an FA Cup triumph, these competitions cannot compete with Europe's premier tournament on the financial front. Speaking last week, this is a fact not lost on manager David Moyes.

"Qualifying for the Champions League means more because the financial rewards are far greater," said Moyes. "We can think of a lot of teams who have won the FA Cup and it's not desperately changed their fortunes, whereas qualifying for the Champions League does."

Given those comments, it is clear where Moyes’ preferences lie. Unfortunately, on current form, the reality is that Champions League football looks to be slipping away. The FA Cup appears far more attainable and ending the trophy drought is the more realistic target for the months ahead.

ESPN Conversations