IT IS the 17-year itch that Everton have been maddeningly unable to scratch. The Toffees, one of the most decorated clubs in England, currently have a generation of fans who have never seen their team lift a trophy.
With each passing year, the halcyon memories of Big Joe Royle’s Army parading the FA Cup beneath the arches of the old Wembley stadium fade that bit further.
Now, in his 10th year in charge on Merseyside, David Moyes is just two games from being able to change that. The Blues manager admits his own failure to add to the Goodison trophy room haunts him, and desperately wants to bring the club its sixth FA Cup.
But standing in his way is the small matter of a derby game, which will be watched, debated and dissected across the globe.
Liverpool have already won one trophy this season, and have been lying in wait for their rivals since beating Stoke City in their quarter-final.
As ever, the Blues had to do it the hard way. Juggling a small squad, riddled with injuries to influential players, Moyes had to navigate another Merseyside derby before his quarter-final test against Sunderland.
He remains adamant he did the right thing by resting six players for Everton’s 3-0 league defeat at Anfield –in fact, he says he should have rested more.
Either way, Evertonians had to wait for the gamble to pay off. A tense 1-1 Goodison stalemate with the Black Cats left them facing a journey to face Martin O’Neill’s men in their own back yard.
But – willed on by a royal blue travelling army of more than 6,200 fans – the away side upset the odds.
Moyes’ men smashed their way into the semi-final with their most emphatic display of the season, to leave an in-form Sunderland reeling, and send a message of intent back across Stanley Park.
Before that game, and in the weeks afterwards, Everton’s manager has been reluctant to discuss the semi-final.
As ever, his focus has remained on the tasks in hand, and that has meant a run of Premier League games which have yielded impressive results.
But there is no stopping the Wembley derby fever now.
Even if Moyes and his players are determined to prepare in utter concentration, and refuse to be swept up in hype and hysteria, they will be aware how much the game means.
Forget bragging rights for a few weeks. Forget a few sarcastic text messages in the ensuing days.
The aftermath of Saturday’s semi-final will go down in the history books; to sit alongside 1986 and 1989.
Both those games saw the Blue side of the city crestfallen, as the Reds got the upper hand. Evertonians will be all too familiar with the prospect of leaving the capital with the bitterest taste of defeat by their rivals.
But it won’t stop them hoping. It won’t stop them dreaming of a final. And painful memories of the past won’t register on a team full of top players like Tim Howard, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini who have already beaten Manchester United in a semi-final at the new Wembley three years ago.
Add the striker they have long craved for, Nikica Jelavic, and the blossoming Darron Gibson to the mix, and Everton will face Kenny Dalglish’s men as equals, with belief this could finally be their year.