That question was answered succinctly at Goodison Park as League One Oldham humbled their Premier League hosts.
In the case of John Sheridan’s team, victory amounted to a €120 win bonus for the Latics’ players, some of whom earn in the region of €300-400 a week.
For Everton’s manager David Moyes, the FA Cup was a competition in which he could field a half-dozen fringe players, resting his more established “stars” for tomorrow’s Carling Cup semi-final visit to Chelsea.
Having been beaten at Shrewsbury at the same stage of the competition five years ago, Moyes should perhaps have been aware that the FA Cup is a trophy that demands respect, one that does not take kindly to being trifled with.
Of course, if Moyes’ intention in naming his weakened line-up was to exit the FA Cup as quickly as possible to concentrate on the Carling Cup, Premier League and UEFA Cup, then he should congratulate himself on a job well done.
But as Oldham take their place in the draw for the fourth round today, surely Moyes will reflect upon an opportunity for his previously in-form side to enjoy an extended run in the competition.
Oldham’s veteran goalkeeper Mark Crossley – who saved a penalty from Gary Lineker when starring for Nottingham Forest against Spurs in the 1991 “Gazza” FA Cup Final – certainly believes the cup is still the stuff of which football dreams are made.
“I have been in the game a long time. I played in an FA Cup Final and I want to get my point across to the lads that if you want to get to the top then you have to work hard at it,” said Crossley.
“My career is running out. This probably tops things off for me. I have had a fantastic career which I am grateful for.
“I have had a lot of ups and down. It is not very often I have played in an FA Cup tie and been such an underdog. But to see the joy on the faces of the fans, the owners, the manager, who works so hard, and the lads in the dressing room it is a pleasure to still be involved.
“I thought days like this had gone for me. It’s a special day. Obviously, my career is winding down, but to be fair I thought we earned it.
“To come and win at a Premier League club with Oldham is something else. Long may days like this continue.”
Crossley set the tone for this upset inside the opening minute when he dived smartly to save low from James Vaughan, the Everton striker who was all of two years old when the Oldham keeper played in that FA Cup Final.
But Crossley was a rare veteran head in a young Latics team who fed off the guile and stature of their goalkeeper to record a deserved victory that is probably still being celebrated in the town this morning.
“I am definitely going out tonight!” smiled Crossley before leaving Goodison. “These times are running out so I’m going out and I will probably be legless by midnight. That’s the honest truth.
“I will probably be buying because I think there are four lads in the dressing room on £200-300 a week. I think they have got €120 win bonus today. It goes up in the third round and everyone is on the same. It means a lot to them. It will probably be double in the fourth round — €240.
“We want another big club now. Finance is important to the club. We need to bring players in to improve. We want Manchester United away because financially for the club that would be fantastic and who knows we might win 1-0.”
In a game of few chances, Scottish midfielder Gary McDonald settled the tie in first half injury-time with a dipping left-footer from 25 yards.
However, Everton’s stand-in goalkeeper Stefan Wessels had to shoulder responsibility for the goal as he capped a nervy first half performance by being caught badly out of position.
There was a predictable late grandstand flurry by the home side, which featured substitute Yakubu striking the post deep in injury-time, but anything less than an away victory would have been an injustice. “Any defeat in the FA Cup or any other competition for that matter is a big disappointment but for this to happen at home, in front of our fans, makes it worse for me,” said Everton defender Alan Stubbs as he turned his attention to the Chelsea meeting.
“I’m hoping that if we can take anything out of this game, it will give us a kick up the backside for Tuesday. Maybe it’s what a few of the squad needed to bring them back down to earth again.
“We have been on such a great high recently that, up until this game, no matter what we did, things went right for us. I’m hoping this is just a little kick up the backside to kick us on again. There can’t be a hangover.
“This is the biggest couple of weeks that this club has faced for a long, long time. We have got a massive game on Tuesday which is a great pick-me-up for this result. I’m sure there will be a few changes and I don’t think there can be any complaints if that happens.”
And, on this occasion, Moyes will be forgiven for making those changes.
Wessels 4, Hibbert 5, Stubbs 7, Jagielka 6, Baines 6 (Lescott 74, 6), Pienaar 5, Carsley 7, Gravesen 6 (Anichebe 63, 5), McFadden 5, Vaughan 4 (Yakubu 63, 5), Johnson 8.
Subs Not Used: Anderson, Ruddy.
Crossley 9, Eardley 8, Hazell 9, Stam 8, Lomax 9 (Thompson 84), Smalley 8, McDonald 9, Kalala 9, Allott 8, Davies 8, Hughes 9.
Subs Not Used: Pogliacomi, Wolfenden, Alessandra, Black.
Uriah Rennie (Barnsley) 8: Everton’s lacklustre display meant the tie was not played with the tempo and ferocity one might have expected in the circumstances. Rennie kept the tie flowing nicely.
**** David Moyes’ selection policy and the sheer guts and spirit of Oldham turned this into a truly memorable game, as long as you were not an Everton supporter.
Mark Crossley is not the only goalkeeper to have made the FA Cup his own.
Bert Trautmann Earned lifelong fame by helping Manchester City win the 1956 final against Birmingham, despite breaking a vertebrae in his neck following a 75th-minute collision with Peter Murphy.
Jimmy Montgomery Produced one of the all-time great cup final performances in Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Leeds in 1973. His extraordinary double-block from Peter Lorimer is still remembered as one of the greatest saves in Wembley history..
Dave Beasant Achieved two notable firsts in the 1988 final victory over Liverpool. The Wimbledon goalkeeper became the first No1 to captain his side to a Wembley cup triumph and the first to save a penalty in the final when he palmed away John Aldridge’s effort.
Peter Schmeichel Won three FA Cups with Manchester United during the club’s 1990s heyday, but his most memorable moment was saving Dennis Bergkamp’s stoppage-time penalty in the 1999 semi-final replay. It kept United’s treble hopes alive.