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On an emotional semi-final day at Wembley for Merseyside, I'm sure even a little part of every Everton fan will be wishing Brad Jones well.

I played alongside Brad towards the end last season when he was on loan at Derby.

Though we were often at loggerheads in the dressing room during a dreadful run in which we shipped 16 goals in seven games, he knew it was nothing personal - I've been like that with every goalkeeper I've ever played with.

And I was impressed with him as a bloke. A big presence, a tireless worker for charities and a real family man.

Like all of you, my heart went out to him in November when his five-year son Luka lost his battle with leukaemia.

With children of a similar age, I felt Brad's loss keenly and it was hard not to feel something in your eye on Tuesday, when he pointed to the skies after saving Yakubu's penalty and later spoke so movingly about how he still carries his little boy's toys in his kitbag wherever he goes.

His incredible story just adds more emotion to a semi-final being played in the shadow of the anniversary of Hillsborough - which, Alan Davies, should not be a topic for football banter.

Brad has had his ups and downs on the pitch but he is supremely confident in his own ability and that - together with his desire to do his best for Luka - will be a huge strength to him at Wembley.

He will know he can expect to a severe test from Everton, who will target him as you would with any third-choice goalkeeper. Sentiment will not be part of their agenda.

The Toffees are a cagey side who usually like to stifle their opponents and wear them down as the game goes on.

But in this case, having seen Brad's sometimes shaky catching at Ewood Park, David Moyes will probably choose to put Brad under pressure from the start with Leighton Baines' pinpoint crossing seeking out the twin dangers of Tim Cahill and the in-form Nikica Jelavic.

It is a long time since Everton have had a player like the Croatian - a pure finisher who holds the ball up well and then sticks it away.

And though they seem to have something of a mental block when it comes to their city rivals, if Phil Neville or a team-mate can do an effective man-marking job on Steven Gerrard, I'd make Everton slight favourites.

Whatever happens, though, I just hope Brad is still smiling at the end of it. Bill Shankly famously said that football was more important than life and death - but one man in Red on Saturday will know that, for once, Shanks got it wrong.

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williamhill.com

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