As part of our Everton Classic Game Rewind, the entire site coverage is taking you back to the fateful weekend of 19th-21st May, 1995 (more details here). The pre-match press conference has just ended and the Blues are ready for tomorrow’s FA Cup Final.
The Toffees spent the majority of the season battling against relegation at the foot of the Premiership, with their top flight status only secured in the final week of the season courtesy of a 1-0 win at Ipswich.
Manchester United meanwhile has been battling away with Blackburn for the title, though the Red Devils agonisingly missed out on the championship by just a point on the final day of the season last weekend.
However, Everton’s form under Royle, who replaced Mike Walker in November with the club rooted to the bottom of the league table, is akin to that of a top six side rather than a relegation struggler.
The Merseysiders eventually finished 15th, five points clear of the bottom four, with their successful survival bid including a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in February, courtesy of a towering header from young Scot Duncan Ferguson.
Buoyed by that result and with their battle against relegation finally won, Everton can stride out on to the pitch under the twin towers freed from the pressure they have been under for the past six months.
“We go in with six defeats in 33 games, so we have been hard to beat. We’ve drawn too many but of course we have beaten United 1-0 at Goodison, so we go into without any complex whatsoever.
“When I went there (to Everton) in November, if you promised me then that we were going to survive and go to Wembley I would have taken that. We are here to enjoy it, (but) having gone this far, let’s go and win it.
“This is the first time we have been totally focused on the cup through all the rounds and hopefully if we perform like we did in the semi-final, which is our best performance of the season against Tottenham, it will be a great game.”
Royle is no stranger to relegation battles having conjured up some great escapes during his time as Oldham Athletic boss.
However, he says the pressure is even greater at a club like Everton, who haven’t been relegated for 45 years.
“I’ve had three years going into the last week of the season looking up the table. And with all due respect it was never quite the same with Oldham as this was Valhalla, the marvellous Premier League, and they really enjoyed it.
“But there’s personal pride. You don’t want to be relegated.
“It looked like it was going to go to the last week again this season. And I know people may say Everton were in a bad way when I went there with eight points, but it still wouldn’t have mattered as it was my name on the corpse.
“We have restless public and the bigger the restless public, the bigger the pressure.”
Royle will also be hoping it will be third time lucky in the FA Cup against Alex Ferguson. In 1990, his Oldham drew 3-3 in a thrilling semi-final at Maine Road, only to lose the replay three days later.
In last year’s semi-final, the Latics led going into stoppage-time at Wembley before a spectacular Mark Hughes volley broke their hearts and forced a replay, which United then comfortably won 4-1.
“David and Goliath, they were terrific matches, certain things swayed them in each game.
“The 3-3 game at Maine Road was terrific, as good an advert for British football as you will see.
“The game last year were we played a much more tactical game, we got most things right against United bar one burst of inspiration from Mark Hughes, any other player and the ball would still be in orbit.
“If it was scored by a Brazilian you would be seeing it on TV all the time.”