Football: DAYDREAM BELIEVERS; PREMIER LEAGUE Sleepless Everton players rekindling glory days Chelsea v Everton, Premier League, tomorrow, 2pm.
IF losing a few hours sleep is the price to pay for improving Everton's reputation in Europe, Phil Neville is more than happy to miss out on his forty winks.
The growing momentum of David Moyes' side gathered pace in Bavaria on Thursday night with an accomplished Uefa Cup victory over Nurnberg.
A Carling Cup quarter-final date with West HamUnited already assured, the Goodison outfit are now within one positive result of extending their European adventure into the New Year.
The sheer volume of supporters that made the journey to a chilly Germany on Thursday was evidence of the mushrooming belief that this Everton vintage is capable of challenging for honours and improve on a record that has seen just one trophy lifted in the last 20 years.
And, as skipper Neville reveals, the fantastic backing forced the players to give up on their pre-match nap - and instead daydreamabout the possibilities that are now opening up for Moyes' side.
"Usually in the afternoon before gameswe have some sleep but there were about 5,000 Everton fans outside our hotel singingMikel Arteta songs," said the England international.
"They were there all afternoon and if there was any doubt about what it means to the fans it was laying in bed thinking about how this was going to be a special night.
"But there is definitely more to come from the teamaswe have players to get back to full fitness.
We are keeping our feet on the ground but are quietly confident we are going in the right direction."
Neville added: "Our Uefa Cup run is fun. Our pressure game was the Kharkiv game and we were very lucky out there. But now it is all about enjoying the competition and you can tell the manager and the fans and the players are all liking being in the cup. It is exciting.
"Everything went according to plan in Nurnberg. The game was there to be won and we got a really good footing in the game before our flair players came into their own.
We really counter-attacked well and they couldn't live with us at times."
Thursday's triumph was a fifth successive victory for the Goodison outfit, the ideal response to the controversial derby defeat to Liverpool last month.
Although, duringMoyes' first full season in 2002-03, Everton embarked on a seven-game winning run, one of those was a penalty shoot-out triumph in the League Cup at Newcastle United following a 3-3 draw after extra time.
The last time Everton won six successive games inside 90 minutes was in the 1986-87 season, when of course they went on to claim the most recent of their nine championship crowns.
Keeping their position among the top six clubs in the Premier League is the more immediate goal, and a buoyant Everton have sights on reaching a 20-year high when they journey to in-formChelsea tomorrow afternoon. Certainly, Stamford Bridge will hold no fears.
"There is a confidence andmaybe a bit of a swagger developing about the teamand I think that comes with winning games," said Neville. "In the first couple months of the season we didn't play that well but we still won games and now we are getting our players back into form and there is a real toughness and solidness about us.
"The team spirit has never been in doubt and the more games we are winning is helping that as well. There are positive times ahead as the club is going forward in a big way.
"We are really looking forwardtoChelsea as it is a game we can just go there and enjoy it and really have a right good go.
"It has been a long time sincewe have been able to do that down at Stamford Bridge and we are looking forward to it."
Those returning players are helping build a competitiveness in the squad, the fruits of which can clearly be seen in the fortunes of the strikers.
Yakubu has netted in successive Premier League games, James Vaughan stepped off the benchtoscore against BirminghamCity lastweek and Victor Anichebemade an explosive impact as a late substitute in Germany in midweek.
Both Andrew Johnson and James McFadden have alsoplayed their part this season, andNeville said: "At the moment I can't think of another team outside of the top three of fourwho have asmany strikers as us.
"Even though we are only playing 4-5-1 at the moment our strikers are all getting good amounts of football and looking fresh.
"Andy Johnson and Vaughan are coming back to fitness and Victor at the moment is showing everyone he wants to carry the fight. He has been outstanding for us.
"The 4-5-1 formation suits us perfectlywithTim Cahill in the hole it reallygivesus a good solid base to go and counter attack.
"Wehad four strikers at ManchesterUnited and we have five here! It is a sign of howfar the club has come when we have such competition for places all over the pitch.
"In attack in particular we have two young strikers and three proven Premiership footballers. Yet theyare inspiring eachother and all doingwell and enjoying it."
Blues captain Phil Neville
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Nov 10, 2007|
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