Everton Women Aiming to Repeat 2010 FA Cup Success After a Decade in the Wilderness

Jodie Handley
Everton produced a famous upset to win the 2010 Women’s FA Cup | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Everton will go into Sunday’s FA Cup final with Manchester City as underdogs – but they have previous when it comes to upsetting the narrative in women’s football’s showpiece event.

Had you predicted the Toffees would face Manchester City in the final of the 2019/20 FA Cup at the start of the 2020/21 season, Everton would have been considered rank outsiders.

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Women's FA Cup: Quarter FinalEverton FC v Chelsea FC - Women's FA Cup: Quarter Final
Everton stunned Chelsea en route to the 2019/20 FA Cup final | Lewis Storey/Getty Images

However, the combination of Everton’s flying start to the season coupled with Manchester City’s struggle for consistency as they continue their transition from the Nick Cushing to the Gareth Taylor era means the gap between the two sides has narrowed.

Everton can aim to do more that just park the bus at Wembley – the Toffees can have aspirations of going toe to toe with their illustrious opponents, a testament to how far they have come in the last year.

Such is the gulf between teams in the women’s game, upsets are few and far between – even more so in cup finals.

You have to go back to 2010 for the last time there was a really outrageous shock in the women’s FA Cup final. The team responsible? Everton.

Arsenal v Everton - Women's FA Cup FinalArsenal v Everton - Women's FA Cup Final
Everton’s FA Cup final win was one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s recent history | Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Toffees came up against the might of Arsenal – the 10-time champions vying for their fifth successive crown. The Gunners boasted the very best talent in the British game and would routinely embark on unbeaten streaks that would last years.

Put simply, this was an Arsenal side that did not like to lose.

In contrast, Everton were very much always the bridesmaid, never the bride. They had finished runners up in the league to Arsenal five years on the bounce. The Toffees had ended Arsenal’s four-season long unbeaten league record during the previous campaign, before heartbreakingly missing out on the title on the final day of the season on goal difference.

With a team boasting established internationals Jill Scott, Fara Williams, Rachel Brown and Rachel Unitt and a young and up and coming Toni Duggan, they had the talent to challenge the Gunners – but had spent half a decade falling just short.

Arsenal v Everton - Women's FA Cup FinalArsenal v Everton - Women's FA Cup Final
Everton’s 2010 cup winning team | Clive Mason/Getty Images

But one May afternoon at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, Everton finally broke Arsenal’s spell of dominance and served up one of the most entertaining finals in women’s FA Cup history.

The Toffees led twice in normal time – first through Natasha Dowie’s close range effort and a Faye White own goal – but they were pegged back on both occasions by Scotland internationals Kim Little and Julie Fleeting.

With the clock ticking down and penalties all but inevitable, Dowie produced a fabulous dinked finish in the 119th minute to trigger scenes of near unrivalled joy.

This was an Arsenal side who were accustomed to having it all their own way, but the Toffees had produced a gutsy, determined, quality display to stand up to the Gunners and earn their long awaited day in the sun.

Natasha DowieNatasha Dowie
Dowie was Everton’s 2010 cup hero | Clive Mason/Getty Images

It was a victory that should have been the catalyst for years of success for Everton. As the WSL formed and the women’s game entered the professional era, the Toffees should have been at the forefront. Instead, they were overtaken and left behind.

Scott, Duggan and Williams all moved onto clubs with more ambition than the Toffees, while the likes of Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris also slipped through Everton’s fingers.

They even had a brief spell in the second tier following relegation in 2014, and only regained their place in the WSL in 2017 after Notts County folded. It was a bleak few years for a club who had once led the way in the women’s game.

But 10 years on from that famous FA Cup triumph, the Toffees are back.

By recruiting Claire Emslie, Ingrid Moe Wold, Valerie Gauvin, Hayley Raso and Izzy Christiansen over the last 10 months, they are building a side to rival the one they had a decade ago and showing they have the ambition to stay at the top.

Everton have the infrastructure to do things better this time, to use the FA Cup final as a catalyst for more success, regardless of whether the result goes their way on Sunday.