“Sorry about your dream final, lads, but bollocks to it. And that’s with a double ’l’!”
Those were Joe Royle’s immortal words to the waiting press pack gathered at Elland Road after Everton thrashed Tottenham 4-1 to reach the FA Cup final on this day in 1995.
The usually amiable Royle had been irked in the build-up to the game by the media assuming Spurs would prevail and set up what they thought would be a dream final against Manchester United.
Tottenham had actually been barred from the FA Cup earlier in the season as well as being fined £600,000 and docked 12 points for financial irregularities that occurred during the 1980s. Then Tottenham chairman Alan Sugar appealed against the decision, arguing that the people who committed the offences were no longer at the club. He was successful, with the fine increased but FA Cup ban and points deduction quashed.
Much of the hype about the Tottenham side was due to Jurgen Klinsmann. The Germany international was one of the first big-name foreign players to grace the Premier League when he joined from Monaco in the summer of 1994.
He would go on to score 30 goals in all competitions and be named Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
As a result Tottenham became media darlings and the press were desperate for Klinsmann to reach Wembley and take on Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
That’s where Everton come in.
The Toffees had begun the season dreadfully under Mike Walker, failing to win any of their first 12 league games. Walker was sacked in November with the club bottom of the table and replaced by former Toffees striker Royle.
His impact was immediate, winning his first three games in charge without conceding a goal including a 2-0 win over Liverpool.
Royle immediately sought to tighten up a Toffees side that was leaking too many goals and make them much harder to beat.
His midfield trio of Joe Parkinson, Barry Horne and John Ebbrell were christened the ‘dogs of war’ by Royle after one game and the moniker – much to Royle’s frustration - stuck. He was irritated by the nickname as he felt it did the side injustice to the quality they also possessed.
They would demonstrate that quality in comprehensive fashion at Elland Road.
Everton were still heavily embroiled in a relegation battle but wins against Derby, Bristol City, Norwich and Newcastle had sent them through to their first FA Cup semi-final since 1989.
Despite beginning as outsiders and written off by a London-centric media, Royle’s side were on top from the off.
They took the lead via a familiar route – an Andy Hinchliffe corner. The defender’s unerring left-footed delivery found the head of Matt Jackson, who flicked the ball beyond Ian Walker.
Into the second half and Everton thought they had doubled their lead when Paul Rideout forced home the rebound after Graham Stuart’s shot was saved, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
However, goalkeeper Walker mis-hit the resulting free-kick straight to Rideout and when his effort was only blocked, Stuart was on hand to score the rebound.
The goal sparked a small pitch invasion from the Everton fans, who were housed in three of the four stands at Elland Road, creating an atmosphere akin to a home game.
Nerves would kick-in though when Tottenham were awarded the softest of penalties to get back into the game.
Dave Watson only had eyes for the ball when he leapt above Teddy Sheringham, but the England striker collapsed dramatically to the floor and the referee bought it.
Klinsmann buried the penalty as Everton conceded a goal in the FA Cup for the first time that season.
Then came one of the most defining moments in Everton’s history. With Rideout injured on the far side of the field, substitute Daniel Amokachi readied himself to come on.
Royle had wanted to give Rideout more time to recover but Amokachi wandered on to the field anyway.
It proved to be an inspired substitution.
After Stuart Nethercott’s shot was saved by Neville Southall, Everton broke rapidly down the right wing, with Stuart’s hanging cross headed downwards and into the net by Amokachi.
To put gloss on the result, another Toffees counter saw Gary Ablett cross for Amokachi, who buried his second and Everton’s fourth.
Royle said after the game it was the greatest substitution ‘he never made’ as he lauded the most impressive performance of his tenure.
Everton would, of course, go on to lift the trophy courtesy of a 1-0 win over United as well as successfully avoiding relegation with a game to spare.