The Dugout - Royle: Underdogs must have hope

Wed, 13 Apr 10:00:00 2011

Joe Royle believes that his 1995 FA Cup victory over Manchester United with Everton shows Bolton and Stoke that underdogs can win through.

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You led Everton to FA Cup glory against Manchester United. Was that as much of a surprise result as it is looked back upon now?

It wasn't the big upset that everybody thought it was to be honest. We had already beaten United in the league that year, and despite being marooned at the bottom of the league at one point we stayed up.

I didn't really think we were underdogs in the final. I always fancied us quite strongly to win the game, which was proved right on the day.

Is that what you told your players before - that they should not feel inferior?

Exactly. We had won our main fight that year by staying up. We had come back from the dead, as it were. So we went into the final with no pressure on us at all. We just switched off completely and relaxed. In training we just played head tennis and things like that, and we only really got serious about the final on the day itself.

I think that we were a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing, because people did not realise we were quite as strong as we were.

We had beaten four or five other Premier League sides to win the Cup, so we didn't fluke it by any means. We fancied our chances and knew we could compete with United.

We know that one of either Bolton or Stoke will be in this year's final. What sort of thing should Owen Coyle and Tony Pulis be saying to their players?

They will both have their plans of action. They each represent different kinds of dangers. Stoke are quite direct, although I think they play a little bit more football than people give them credit for once they get into the opposition half. Bolton are still happy to play off Kevin Davies, even though they are not as direct as they used to be.

It is going to be a strong game. The ball is going to spend a fair amount of time in the air, there's no doubt about that. As such, I would not be surprised at all to see that game won by a corner or a free-kick. Both managers will be saying that their players have to make sure they know who they are marking.

I think that both managers have done a terrific job. Owen Coyle has got Bolton in the top 10 again after they were struggling against relegation. Tony Pulis has been very pragmatic, buying the right players at the right time without spending fortunes. I don't think anybody at the moment sees Stoke as a relegation outfit. OK, they are still technically in with a chance of going down, but one more win will do them.

Credit to both managers for the job they have done. I am sure they will be looking at the other semi-final between the two Manchester clubs and seeing the winners of that as favourites for the final. Neither Stoke nor Bolton would be seen as the same calibre but, in a one-off Cup game, who knows?

All four of the teams are coming down to Wembley from up north. Do you think it is right that the semis are played there as well as the final?

I would have to be slightly hypocritical here, because I don't think it should be like this. I think Wembley should be kept for the final. But, equally, I was manager of Oldham when we played a semi-final at Wembley, and I know that our fans loved it there. So if it's a small club that would never usually get the chance then I can see the point of it, but you do get the feeling that it is all just a financial exercise, to use Wembley as much as possible..

Some people use that as a reason why they think the FA Cup has been devalued in recent times. Do you think it is still as prestigious a competition as when you won it?

Make no mistake - it is still the biggest cup competition in the world. Wherever I have travelled, people still talk about the FA Cup. The Premier League is obviously massive, but the English FA Cup is held in great esteem all over the world. If you look at the number of viewers and the number of countries where it is watched, then that is clear.

Joe Royle was speaking to Yahoo!’s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association