Joe Royle, who steered Oldham and Everton to Wembley finals, says he can't lose when they meet in the FA Cup fifth round
It is a mantle Joe Royle holds dear but is anxious to lose. For almost 18 years he has been the last Everton manager to win a trophy and that is not a cause for celebration for someone who spent his formative years on the terraces at Goodison Park. If he is usurped this season it will come at the expense of the club he revitalised over 12 years and 608 games as manager, Oldham Athletic. He is content to be torn.
"It's no-win and no-lose for me," says Royle, who will be at Boundary Park for Saturday evening's fifth-round tie. "I'll have a smile for one of the clubs although I've never denied that Everton is where my heart is and always has been since I used to stand on the paddock watching Alex Young and Alan Ball make their debuts. I remember exactly where I was stood for both their debuts."
Royle took Young's first-team place as a 16-year-old against Blackpool in 1966 and it is part of Everton lore that Harry Catterick was accosted afterwards by an irate fan for dropping "The Golden Vision". There are weightier issues confronting Catterick's and Royle's successor as Everton manager, David Moyes, as he approaches the end of his contract this summer having restored pride, ambition but not silverware in his 11 years at Goodison. That is why Moyes will not repeat Brendan Rodgers' mistake with Liverpool in the fourth round and field a weakened team against the League One side.
"David Moyes has said it himself, he is desperate to win something to crown his ten years at the club and to have a 'W' on his CV. I would be delighted to see that," says Royle. "I am proud of my record but I would be delighted to see that go."
Royle enjoyed FA Cup success at Everton and Oldham, beating Manchester United to win the competition in 1995 with the former and twice taking the latter to the semi-finals, in 1990 and 1994, only to succumb to Sir Alex Ferguson's team on both occasions. Everton's FA Cup triumph came only six months after Royle returned to his boyhood club yet he does not consider it the highlight of his all-too-brief reign.
"In the season we won the Cup I consider our bigger achievement was staying up," he states. "I had been asked to manage Everton and said yes without giving too much consideration to the implications. I knew they were bottom of the league but when I saw the games they had played, and the games they had coming up, I suddenly thought I may have been a bit hasty. We were bottom with eight points from 14 games.
Bottom after a third of the season exactly (it was a 42-game league season) with only one win. "Quite honestly, staying up was the bigger achievement for me. We never took the Cup too seriously. I saw it as a possibility of injuries and suspensions and was worried about that until we beat Tottenham [4-1] at Elland Road. We didn't have it easy in winning the Cup but I can honestly say I wasn't too bothered about it until we beat Tottenham. I still think that semi-final was one of the best Everton performances in modern history."
The final was settled by Paul Rideout's goal and featured a commanding display from Neville Southall, although Royle stressed it was no backs-to-the-wall job. "We had chances to score a second or a third goal before we came under pressure late on," he says. It also ended his torment in the FA Cup against Ferguson.
Royle recalls: "It didn't mean more because it was United. Alex is a good friend of mine. We met up in the first week he came down from Aberdeen and have got on well since. He was always gracious about Oldham. After Everton stayed up [with a win at Ipswich in the penultimate game of the season] we switched off completely. We were in easy-mode before the final. We played head tennis the day before and those who wanted to play golf played golf. About 30 minutes before kick-off I said to the players: 'We have come this far. We may as well win it.' I never had big team-talks anyway.
"We had already beaten United in the league, when 'Big Dunc' [Ferguson] scored that towering header and wheeled away with his shirt off, and had gone from the easiest team in the league to beat to one of the hardest. United had a respect for us. Alex said afterwards it was an ordinary final. It wasn't ordinary to Evertonians. It was exceptional."
It is hard to imagine today, given that Oldham have no manager, a vast open space where a stand should be and the threat of relegation to League Two upon them, but their treatment of Liverpool in the last round was once the norm for well-heeled visitors to Boundary Park.
As well as the FA semi-finals there was a League Cup final appearance under Royle in 1990 (a defeat by Nottingham Forest), followed by promotion and three seasons in the top flight from 1991-94. "It is a quiz question that a lot of people get wrong but Oldham were one of the founder members of the Premier League," their former manager says with understandable pride.
Royle adds: "It saddens me to see where they are. I have a son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren still [living] there so we are over in Oldham a lot. I still see a lot of Oldham fans. I went to see a lot of them the night before the Liverpool game. They were looking forward to it but were also worried. I was asked if I thought Oldham had a chance and said no, but then again neither did Bradford against Arsenal and Aston Villa. Oldham have got the same chance against Everton as they did against Liverpool – no chance but …"