Everton come in to the FA Cup Semi-final full of confidence after their recent form, which has contributed to their now customary strong finish to a season. Games don’t come much bigger than a semi against Liverpool in the world’s most famous cup competition. Everyone at the club will no doubt be buzzing about this mouthwatering tie that was pulled out of the hat true to script, the atmosphere will be electric come the 12.30 kick-off. For two Everton players the day will mean something different; for Tony Hibbert such an occasion means everything as a life-long Everton fan, but for Nikica Jelavic it will be just another day at the office…just a very exciting one. These two couldn’t be more chalk and cheese.
The scale of this occasion is no better understood by anyone at Everton than by their cult hero right-back Hibbert who is a local lad who has lived and breathed Everton since his early years. On top of that he is the current longest serving player at the club and will want success as much as anyone at Wembley come Saturday. During his 12-season career at Everton he has had little success – the runners up medal from the 2009 FA Cup is all he has to show from over a decade at Everton.
Hibbert’s will return to Wembley with mixed emotions; the last time he was there was for the 2009 FA Cup final where he was on the losing team as Everton went down 2-1 to Chelsea and he was substituted at half-time after getting rinsed by Chelsea’s left-hand side. For Hibbert there was a major positive that raised a smile as he clocked the banners that hung from the hoardings which read “Hibbert scores we riot” in honour of Hibbert’s awful scoring record. No doubt the banners will be back again and Hibbert himself will be thinking there is no better time to get his first goal for the club. He will be hoping to have the touch of Everton’s new goal-machine Nikica Jelavic.
New-boy Nikica Jelavic has only played 8 times for Everton, but already has 4 goals – a record Hibbert must envy. This will be Jelavic’s first FA Cup Semi-final and it will also be his first start in a Merseyside derby after a short cameo when the two teams met in March. Whilst local-lad Hibbert understands the magnitude of this occasion, no one is quite sure that Jelavic does, but Jelavic will be used to big derbies having played in the Old Firm clashes. The FA Cup semi will be a quick baptism of fire for Jelavic and if Everton win the match he will equal the career achievements of Hibbert in the space of only 5 months – not a bad start to life as a toffee!
Jelavic will be key for Everton, his display could instantly propel him to the cult-hero status of Hibbert if he gets the goals and Everton make the final. But in a cup that seems to specialize in fairy tales and making dreams come true, you can’t rule out Hibbert randomly popping up to score the winner. I checked the betting on Everton’s first goalscorer; Jelavic has the shortest odds and Hibbert the longest going off with Ladbrokes and William Hill at 100/1…well worth a £5, after all this is the FA Cup and we all know magic can happen!