FINISHING above Liverpool in the Premier League last season might have left some Evertonians satisfied, but it left Phil Neville feeling empty.
While the Everton skipper realises that Everton’s seventh place finish secured those all-important bragging rights in some respects, he still feels there should perhaps be more ambition on the blue half of Merseyside.
Many 35-year-olds might be secretly happy just to be keeping retirement at bay while playing in the top flight, but not Neville.
Neither is the former England international content with aiming for a top six finish. Instead he is hungry for more.
“It's something that rankles with me, something I've not bought into at all,” he says. “If one team finishes seventh and the other is eighth, you get the bragging rights but with nothing to show for it.
“Liverpool have been so successful over the years and Everton have to had to swallow it. I totally understand that and I can relate to Evertonians when it comes to derby day, but how great it would be if we actually won a trophy. I'm not sure Liverpool have the same outlook. They probably look at the bigger picture, they want to win the League, the FA Cup and the League Cup, and that's the mentality we should have. Last year Kenny Dalglish won the Carling Cup and got the sack, so it shows what the expectations are.”
Neville was able to ponder his dreams for this season during the weekend, with the pause for the international break providing time for reflection.
One thing’s for sure – he isn’t ready to even consider hanging up his boots.
“I want to keep playing for as long as I can,” he says.
“At least one more year at the top level if I can. I still have ambitions. For instance, I've always wanted to sample playing abroad, a different culture and different life-experience for all the family. Time's running out, I know, and if the gaffer comes to me in January and wants me to stay another year then the decision's made for me.”
If Neville is offered a further year-long contract extension it would mean a ninth season at Goodison, and a chance to continue trying to exorcise some lingering demons.
The time Everton he has been closest to winning a trophy on Merseyside was in the 2009 FA Cup, and the 2-1 defeat by Chelsea continues to hurt.
“The cup final defeat was my lowest time at the club,” he says. “It was when I questioned myself all summer as to whether as captain I was good enough to win something with Everton, because we had probably the best team I've played in here.
“We'd beaten Liverpool, Villa, Middlesbrough and Man United and it was like being in the big time again, living on the edge with the sort of pressure I love. But the final was just one game too many.”
A fresh season means Everton have two potential opportunities to win a trophy again however, and it remains Neville’s burning ambition at a club which sometimes has to temper its own targets.
“Finishing fifth or sixth for us is almost like winning the League. Getting into the Champions' League is almost a miracle. So it's an unbelievable achievement to finish in the places that we do,” he says.
“But the worst bit for me is at the end of the season when we finish fifth or sixth or seventh and there's a real sense of satisfaction round the club. But for me success is winning trophies and medals.
“Finishing in that position gives me a sense of achievement but there's still an emptiness inside me because we haven't got anything to show for it. If I leave Everton at the end of my time and haven't got a medal then as captain I'd see that for myself as a failure.
“As I say, finishing fifth is like winning the League and yet it gripes me all summer.”
As one of the original founder members of the Football League, Everton are a club steeped in history and tradition and have played more seasons in the top flight of English football than any other club. Their association with the greatest cup competition in the world has thus conjured some wonderful moments, and this offering from Sport Media celebrates a century of memories since their first FA Cup success in 1906. Celebrate a century of memories with 'Everton's FA Cup 100'. Read