IT is little wonder Ian Holloway smiles wryly and shakes his head in disbelief every time he’s asked if Blackpool fancy their chances of beating Everton.
He will pause for a moment, then politely remind his interviewer that the Toffees have been a top flight club since 1954, were founding members of the Premier League in 1992, and have beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Fulham in their last three home games.
In other words, his message is that, no matter how well his Seasiders team is playing, Everton are huge favourites tomorrow.
Pool found what a tough nut David Moyes’ men are to crack last season. Despite excelling in both games, they emerged with one point from six – 2-2 at Bloomfield Road, a 5-3 reverse at Goodison Park.
While the Tangerines exited the division, Everton finished a healthy seventh. And despite having little money to play with, Moyes is once again doing a sterling job – Everton sitting comfortably in 10th, and in the midst of a good run of form... unbeaten in six.
“I take pride in the fact that it’s only in the last 10 years that Everton have really come back to life,” Moyes said.
“We have been consistently competing against Tottenham, but the last couple of years that has changed because of the investment they’ve made at Spurs.
“So it’s my belief and hope that I will still be in the building when our time comes to make the same change Spurs have done.
“My chairman Bill Kenwright will need investment to make that happen and he is out there looking.
“I don’t want to leave this club, then see someone else come in and get the chance to do all the things I’ve dreamed I could do here with the right investment.”
In other words, Moyes wants cash. Until that happens, he knows he won’t be able to compete in the very upper reaches of the league – which is why competitions like the FA Cup take on greater significance. It is Everton’s best chance of silverware, and it is why tomorrow’s clash with the Seasiders is a huge game for the club.
Skipper Phil Neville knows that more than most, but he has paid Blackpool a big compliment – saying the tie could be as testing as last week’s visit of Chelsea.
“I watched Blackpool against Sheffield Wednesday, and you forget what they were like last season,” said the 35-year-old, who has made 211 appearances for the Toffees since moving from Manchester United in 2005.
“Tomorrow is going to be a totally different kettle of fish. Blackpool will bring six to eight thousand people here, it is a cup tie and league form goes out of the window. Blackpool have got quality. They will go for goals. it will probably be every bit as tough as we faced against Chelsea.”
Steven Pienaar is cup-tied, but Landon Donovan can play, the final game of his loan spell from Los Angeles Galaxy.
Darron Gibson, signed from Manchester United last month, has been in form, while Nikica Jelavic – another January acquisition, from Rangers – will make his full debut if he can shake off a stomach muscle injury.
Seamus Coleman is also in with a chance of facing his former club. The one-time Pool loanee, who helped the Seasiders win promotion two years ago, made a goalscoring return for Everton reserves earlier in the week after being sidelined with a thigh problem.
Argentinian striker Denis Stracqualursi, a loan signing last summer, looks like he has found his feet in recent weeks, netting against Chelsea.
Phil Jagielka (knee), Leon Osman (knee) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) are out.