The FA Cup has reached the quarter final stage and the weekend kicks off with an all Premier League clash at Goodison Park as Everton and Wigan Athletic go head-to-head.
For David Moyes, this game takes on huge significance for his career whether it lies on Merseyside or elsewhere, as speculation continues to grow about his future beyond the current season.
Moyes, whose contract expires this summer, has been making uncharacteristic noises of late regarding his intentions. The Toffees’ boss has been traditionally unequivocal in his loyalty to the club who gave him his Premier League break back in March 2002, and as he fast approaches his 11th anniversary in charge, doubts are now surfacing about whether he has the will or energy to work more miracles with one hand tied behind his back under the current Everton board.
As more top jobs in England and abroad become either available or increasingly speculated about, the one thing conspicuously missing from Moyes C.V. is a major trophy and as the League is an impossible dream for the likes of Everton currently, he has quite obviously thrown all his eggs in the FA Cup basket.
This season’s competition provides another great opportunity for Wembley glory. In 2009, Moyes’ side took an early lead against Chelsea before tamely losing the final 2-1. Last year, when going into the semi-final in superior form and as favourites in their all Merseyside meeting with the old enemy from Anfield, they capitulated to a Liverpool side who played without the fear and constriction which afflicted the Blues in their moment to shine.
Moyes and his players were heavily criticised for that performance and the fans expect some sort of retribution this year as they see a path to the final open up should Everton have the guts to take it.
After a poor spell of league form, Everton bounced back with two consecutive 3-1 victories, firstly in the 5th round cup replay at home to Oldham Athletic, and then in the league against Reading, where their performance was more akin to their convincing displays of earlier this season.
Everton’s other main target of fourth place in the Premier League is now seemingly out of reach as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal edge away as the season enters its closing stages, so it is expected that Moyes will put out a full strength and fully charged line up for the visit of Roberto Martinez’s Wigan.
Martinez, whose name could be in the frame for the Goodison job should Moyes decide his future lies elsewhere, faces the decision of whether to field his best eleven with Premier League survival his undoubted top priority yet again this year.
The Latics have made a happy yearly habit of pulling off their own Houdini act to avoid the Premier League trap door and this season is no exception as they are yet again gripped by the threat of relegation. With this in mind, Wigan’s thoughts may understandably be elsewhere.
The Everton fans expect victory this Saturday and although Moyes enjoys popularity amongst the majority of supporters, even some of them are beginning to feel that this regime must achieve something soon or perhaps it is time for a change for the benefit of both club and manager.
If Everton have put their recent blip behind them, they should be too strong for Wigan, particularly at home. Another Wembley appearance beckons as Moyes aims to move one step closer to adding that elusive piece of silverware both he and the long-suffering Evertonians yearn for.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Wigan Athletic