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Neville Southall exclusive: You can’t beat the atmosphere at the smaller grounds even if you get dog’s abuse

Neville Southall was never afraid to speak his mind as a player and his column for the Paddy Power Blog is no different. This week he looks at Everton’s FA Cup trip to Stevenage and why it's not his favourite place.

by Neville Southall | January 22, 2014

Most Everton fans would have asked themselves where the hell is Stevenage when the draw was made.

Well I know them well because I managed Dover Athletic in the Conference for a few months in the 2001/02 season.

The surface at ‘the Boro’ was brilliant, the ground was decent and I remember saying to myself that if we can’t play on this – we can’t play anywhere.

And I was right. We got beat 5-0. They battered us.

So I don’t have happy memories of Stevenage but I don’t think the Toffees will have the same problem on Saturday (5.30pm).


I love the FA Cup. To me it spreads the wealth down through the divisions unlike the Champions League that just rewards the elite clubs.

But the abuse I got at these games.  The taunts of ‘You’re sh*t, you’re f***in useless’ used to motivate me.  I thrived on it. It was a challenge to perform better.

Dog’s abuse

We played Bournemouth one time and the supporters hammered me for 90 minutes. We won 2-0 and at the end I just turned around and waved. They couldn’t do anything about it and were raging.

The banter was great. The old grounds like West Ham, Southampton and Derby when the crowd was right on top of you was fantastic. I always had a good laugh at Leeds too. I even liked Millwall – and there’s not many say that.

At Old Trafford  I’d go to look at the goal-posts before the game and they’d throw things at me.

Bigger stadiums don’t have the same atmosphere. Manchester United’s ground is huge now – but the atmosphere is worse.

That’s what Roy Keane meant about the prawn sandwich brigade. It’s just a day out for some of them.


Everton will need to be careful in this tie. I suffered some shocks in the Cup. We were dumped out in back-to-back season in the fourth round by Port Vale in 1996 losing the replay 2-1 after drawing 2-2 at home – and we were defending champions that season.

Read all about it

It was even worse the next season when Bradford dumped us out at Goodison Park (3-2) at the same stage. John Dreyer fired a lovely volley into the net for their opener.

I bet the Stevenage players won’t be able to sleep on Friday night knowing they could be headline news if they beat Everton.  I have yet to meet a footballer who doesn’t want to score the winner at Wembley in a Cup Final.


It would be great to get to Wembley again now that Everton are playing so well. We choked in our last semi-final (2012) but the fans think we can put a run together this year.

It would be some coup for Roberto Martinez to take two different sides to back-to-back Cup finals and it would be great for the club if he did.

Broken dreams

There’s a slightly different edge to Everton now – they’re more clinical in front of goal.

An early goal is important. If Everton get the first they can quash the home fans dreams. They’ve then got to lift themselves, lift the team and come out and get two goals. That’s a big ask agaisnt a Premier League side.

The more they come out the more the gaps will open for Everton. If Stevenage score first, the players will feel 10 feet tall.

And there’s a Merseyside derby coming up on Tuesday night so Martinez will have to rest players.

Everton will go through though – and I’ll go for a 2-1 win at 15/2


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