This week:10 Years Ago

Everton travelled to Bolton in the FA Cup 4th round

David Hardman 28/01/2023 0comments  |  Jump to last

Everton travelled to Bolton in the FA Cup 4th round. The Reebok Stadium (or whatever it calls itself now) was a cold place at the best of times, and it had snowed the day before, so I dread to think how bad it was in the upper tier of the away end that afternoon.

Bolton had been relegated from the Premier League just 8 months earlier, on the last day of the season, when they could only draw at Stoke, making QPR’s result at Man City irrelevant at the bottom end of the table, but certainly not at the top.

Everton had won there the previous season and were hoping for a repeat to make cup progress. With the game poised at 1-1 and time running out, David Moyes replace striker Jelavic with the more defensive Johnny Heitinga. This change was met with vocal discontent from some of the away end. While, on paper, it seemed logical to ensure the draw as, over the course of 2 matches, plus having home advantage in the replay, Everton’s quality should tell. In practise, though, it’s little consolation to those who’d and spent their Saturday travelling to Bolton and braving the elements that afternoon, to endure what was perceived as the manager holding out for a draw against a team from the division below. And there had already been occasions earlier in the season in which a defensively minded substitution had been blamed on them conceding crucial late goals, most notably at Fulham, the theory being that it has an adverse effect as it invites the opposition to attack.

However, on this day, the decision came off in style for Moyes, as Heitinga drilled home a stoppage time winner from the edge of the box. Phil Neville celebrated this goal by appearing to taunt those in the away end who’d expressed dissatisfaction at the substitution. Was there a growing disconnect between the fans and their manager and their team captain? If there was, it’s nothing compared to the disconnect between the supporters and the higher ups now.

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Anyway, Everton were through to the 5th round, where they’d travel to another notoriously freezing ground, Oldham, and this time they did require a replay in order to progress. Unfortunately home advantage made no difference in the 6th round against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan side, who were 3-0 up by half time and that’s how it stayed, with the relegation bound Latics ultimately going on to lift the trophy.

This match against Bolton was David Moyes’ 500th in charge of Everton. For the first time in his 11 years there, he’d entered a calendar year with his contract due to expire. And expire it would, as he agreed to take over at Manchester United as the season ended.

After unsuccessful spells there and at Real Sociedad and Sunerland, he’d since enjoyed something of a renaissance at West Ham (until this season anyway). While I don’t know enough about Real Sociedad, certainly the years that have followed at Manchester United and Sunderland have shown that there’s been deep problems and major rebuilding jobs required at both clubs, which couldn't be fixed by one person with less that a year in charge.

Phil Neville also left Everton that summer, retiring from playing and returning to Manchester United to join Moyes’ coaching staff. He’s had a somewhat sketchy career as a coach and pundit since then, but the surname Neville and his ‘class of 92’ connections continue to open doors for him - even though he wasn’t even in the class of 92.

As for the opponents that day, Bolton, they’ve fallen on much harder times since. Administration, points deductions, falling all the way down to the 4th tier, and in 2019 they were supposedly just weeks away from following the same fate as Bury.

Incidentally, after my 1988 3rd round piece, I was hoping to keep my FA Cup lookbacks to round numbers. However, going in 5 year intervals since 1988, this is the only time Everton had reached the 4th round since then! Their victors varied in quality, but special mention goes to 2003 when they were defeated by a Shrewsbury side on their way out of the Football League. And this in a season where Everton supposedly overachieved.

That was in Moyes’ first full season in charge. While he seems to be on the brink at West Ham right now (or was until last Saturday), don’t forget his early years at Everton followed a pattern of challenging for Europe one season and being in the bottom half the next, while his latter years at Goodison would often see the side struggle in the first half of the season before shooting up the table in spring. Either of these could be happening for Moyes at West Ham now, so his story might not be over yet.

And neither is Everton’s as we hope to avoid the same sad story of Bolton.

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