Neville glad of wife's warning
Practice pays off for Everton skipper
Last Updated: 20/04/09 7:42pm
Everton: Shoot-out joy
Phil Neville has thanked his wife Julie for helping him send Everton into their first FA Cup final in 14 years.
The Everton captain had not taken a penalty since he was a kid growing up in Bury - and he missed.
Yet the ex-Manchester United defender stepped up in front of almost 90,000 fans to convert the second of four successful spot-kicks in Everton's shoot-out victory on Sunday.
It took a word from wife Julie for Neville to make sure he prepared for the possibility of a shoot-out, in which Everton prevailed 4-2 to book a return trip to Wembley against Chelsea on May 30.
"We played Middlesbrough three weeks ago and when I got home that night my wife said I needed to practise penalties," he recalled.
"She had a feeling that was how the semi-final was going to be settled so, for the last three weeks, I have been practising.
"I was 11 when I last took one and I missed. But I knew, as captain, against my old club, I needed to show my leadership qualities."
Although rarely a regular during his time at Old Trafford, Neville will always be associated with United having come through the youth ranks with brother Gary to win six Premier League titles and make 386 first-team appearances.
The 32-year-old finally quit to join Everton in 2005 and has been a pivotal figure in David Moyes' Goodison revolution.
The Scot has transformed the Toffees into regular European qualifiers but Neville believes it is time to deliver their first trophy since the 1995 FA Cup.
"I signed for Everton because the manager promised me we would be challenging for honours," he said.
"I expect to win trophies - I don't want to see out my career with the cabinet closed.
"That is what the manager has instilled in the club. It has taken him a while but now it's constant success.
"Winning a trophy is better than a good league placing," Neville added.
"What do you get for finishing fifth or sixth in the league, for losing a Carling Cup semi-final to Chelsea or going out valiantly to Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup? As players, nothing.
"Everton have moved forward in giant strides over the last few years. The next step is to win a trophy.
"It's a mammoth task still. We will go into the game as underdogs - Chelsea are a powerful unit - but winning a major honour is something we have just got to do."
Moyes also sold his Everton vision to goalkeeper Tim Howard, who joined from United initially on loan in July 2006.
"David Moyes spoke to me and sold me hook, line and sinker. It was a place I wanted to be," said Howard, who made two crucial saves in the shoot-out.
"All the things I spoke to him about three years ago have come to pass and his honesty has been rewarded.
"He has put together a good squad, which he has been building for four or five years now, and we all believe in this club. The spirit is what keeps us going.
"We have got some guys in the team who refuse to give up and are fun to be around."
The American keeper felt he needed more time to settle at Old Trafford but has no regrets.
"I was thrust into the starting role," he said. "I knew I had a lot to learn but no-one is going to say 'give me some time'. You have to try to take these chances with both hands.
"There is no question I am a better goalkeeper because of the three years I spent at United.
"The best thing in my career was playing those three years at United. I probably learned more from the disappointments than anything else.
"At 30, I am slowly starting to become the goalkeeper I expected and wanted to be."