ONLY an optimistic soul can have believed Blackpool would get to within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League, just a season after exiting it in the most heart-breaking of fashions.
A good job, then, that Ian Evatt is as optimistic as they come.
The big defender was as down as anyone else last summer.
Relegation from a league where he had enjoyed perhaps his best ever season, as well as a hefty wage cut to deal with.
Then he saw team-mates like Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell depart for bigger and – if this is an accurate description of QPR – better things.
It was a gloomy, despondent group of players that regrouped for pre-season training at Squires Gate last July, and there weren’t too many predicting anything other than a long, tough year ahead.
Evatt, though, insists that even back then he knew the team had the mettle to bounce back.
“Last summer was bad, but did I imagine us getting to Wembley again?
“To be honest, yes, because I am never ever going to write off this set of players and I don’t think anyone else should,” the 30-year-old said.
“Everyone keeps putting us down and at certain points of the campaign, the fans weren’t too happy with us.
“But we have just shown the spirit and the backbone of the team is still here.
“We rise to big occasions. We thrive on the big stage.
“And, hopefully, we will go to Wembley and do the same as we did on the previous two occasions.”
Going back to the national stadium is something Evatt has done twice before in a Blackpool shirt.
“And it is getting better each time,” he added.
“We are all big-game players, so we love it.
“I am just hungry for this club to have success. I have been here a while now, and when I arrived we were in League One, struggling at the bottom, and no one expected what has happened.
“It is just fantastic that we have managed to get to Wembley again and I am so proud of everyone.
“This is going to be my third time at Wembley in five years – some of the very top players in the country would be happy with that!”
Getting to Wembley is one thing, leaving it with victory is another.
‘It’s no place for losers’ goes the old adage, something that Evatt has yet to experience, playing the full 90 minutes in the 2007 and 2010 wins over Yeovil and Cardiff.
According to the bookies though, Evatt and his tangerine team-mates won’t be celebrating on Saturday.
“If you read the press, then West Ham are already up, but believe you me we are going to go there and give them a hell of a game,” Evatt retorted.
“We are a match for anybody in a one-off game, anybody knows that.
“It doesn’t needle me that they are big favourites, it just inspires me and drives me on.
“I want more success and good times with Blackpool. Last year, we were unhappy with the way we went down, and we want to get back there.
“There is no point winning the two legs against Birmingham if we aren’t going to go to Wembley and win, and that is what we are going to try and do.
“As long as we go and play like we did for the first 60 or 70 minutes at St Andrew’s, when I just thought we were outstanding, then it will be enough, I’m sure.”