Although his contract was due to run out in the summer, it was always going to be a shock to the system for Everton supporters when news flooded in that their long-serving manager, David Moyes had been hand-picked by Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson to replace him at Old Trafford.
After 11-years at the helm, as the infamous banner the Evertonians proudly raised during his last match at Goodison Park said, Moyes had taken the club in that time ‘From Death’s doors to European tours.’ Tears were shed that day but nobody could begrudge the man for leaving the Toffees to take over the reins at debatably the greatest club in the world. But the biggest question on the fans minds was just who could replace David Moyes?
The club is now built in his image. He’s a tough man to please and values discipline above all. Some people thought he was too strict, but he had to be to get the best out of his players. Every single season, on tight budget restraints, Moyes overachieved with Everton. He admitted himself that the squad was ageing and many supporters felt the style of play was becoming too rigid and too predictable. Although sixth was a great finish in the Premier League table this season, 15 draws was the stumbling block for European qualification, and rising star striker at the club, Nikica Jelavic, saw his goals dry up due to the tactics. Playing Marouane Fellaini up front meant he soaked up the ball and Jelavic, a penalty box player, was forced to run the channels for some service. Change is needed at the club, a new era needs to begin and the man to plot that transition, and make it happen, is Roberto Martinez.
There is no denying that Everton have a solid squad but for how long that squad can actually stay together for, and continue to surprise the Premier League, is difficult to say. You only have to look at the ages of key players in Tim Howard (34), Phil Jagielka (30), Sylvain Distin (34), Leighton Baines (28), Steven Pienaar (31), Tony Hibbert (32) and Leon Osman (32) before it’s made clear that the squad needs to be freshened up,and Martinez can deliver that with time.
The 39-year-old’s first job in football came with Swansea City. Down in League One at the time, Martinez introduced the renowned Spanish style of play, tiki-taka, and eventually guided his side into the Championship by winning the third division title. The Swansea City you’re seeing now, the side that finished comfortably in the Premier League in their first two seasons, the side that won the League Cup this season and will play in Europe next season, is down to managers such as, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup continuing on from the strong foundations Martinez left at the club.
He left the South Wales in 2009 to manage another club he previously played for, Wigan Athletic. In four years with the Latics, the Spaniard struggled to keep hold of players who excelled for him and it was only a matter of time before that caught up with the club and they were relegated. Players such as, Hugo Rodallega, Charles N’Zogbia and Victor Moses all respectively became key men in different seasons, and losing their talent was detrimental for a side that themselves, didn’t have the financial resources to take the club onto the next level and their struggle to survive if they did stay up this season, was realistically going to be prolonged.
Martinez knows all about overachievement, as keeping a side the size of Wigan in the greatest league in the world for three years out of four, whilst also giving the fans the honour of saying they now have a history after delivering their first silverware with victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup final this season, is nothing short of phenomenal.
The biggest doubt Everton fans had on their minds about the appointment of Martinez was his relegation with Wigan this season. But that shouldn’t be a hindrance on saying he’s a good manager, when you consider what he built at Swansea and Wigan. The same thing needs to happen at Everton. A new style of play is much-coveted from the terraces and a different type and quality of player needs to be arriving on Merseyside.
And when you look at the candidates alongside Martinez for the job, it was even more obvious that he was the right man to lead the club into a new direction. Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright confirmed yesterday that an in-house appointment was considered, with Phil Neville, David Weir and Alan Stubbs all being interviewed for the vacancy. As well as they have served the club in the past, this would have stopped Everton from doing what they needed to do and that is to look towards the future and start planning out who is needed and who isn’t upon arrival. Having all worked under Moyes, these candidates would have been scared to change the squad and would have just continued in the same vein as Moyes, which is not the answer.
Porto manager Vitor Pereira, according to reports in Portugal, is increasingly likely not to be offered a new deal by the club, despite winning the league two seasons in a row – something which should have been questioned immediately. There was no doubt that Pereira was a popular choice but the reasons why are unclear. Two Portuguese League titles is success, and it’s more than what Moyes has won, but apart from SL Benfica, Porto don’t have any other significant contenders for the title.
Pereira doesn’t have a history of building any clubs, either. In fact, he is relatively new to football management, after getting the Porto gig when Andre Villas-Boas left for Chelsea in 2011. Would Pereira have known who Steven Naismith, Victor Anichebe, Tony Hibbert or Leon Osman were for example? Plus, the amount of control Pereira had at Porto was understood to be minimal compared to what Premier League managers have. Everton have a number of promising youth players in the academy such as, Ross Barkley, John Lundstram, Hallam Hope, Luke Garbutt and George Green coming through, added with young senior players in Shane Duffy and Apostolos Vellios, and with the fans wanting to see more of these players used in the first team, would Pereira have promised something he doesn’t have great experience in?
The 44-year-old Pereira is also used to having money to work with, as Porto are known for their high-profile profits made from selling players such as, Hulk, Radamel Falcao, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and now recently, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez. The new manager coming in needed to understand the financial side to Everton, which means shopping for bargains is vital. Martinez has brought to Wigan players such as, James McCarthy, Ali Al-Habsi and Shaun Maloney and they all played a huge role in keeping his side in the division last season, just like Victor Moses, Hugo Rodallega and Charles N’Zogbia did in previous years. Working on a small budget was a mandatory box needed to be ticked by the incoming Everton manager, and Martinez can most certainly oblige.
In 1995, under Joe Royle’s stewardship, Paul Rideout headed home the winner for Everton to defeat Manchester United in the FA Cup final. 18 long years later, that memory is still prominent in the supporter’s minds, as no trophy has been delivered since. Moyes came close, leading Everton into the 2009 FA Cup final, but they were beaten by Chelsea. But as the cynics of Moyes have pointed out, in 11-years, there have been many tangible chances for Everton to win a trophy and they have failed to deliver when it matters.
Martinez is arriving at Goodison Park differently to Moyes. He’s a winner. After delivering the FA Cup with Wigan, which also saw his side maul Everton 3-0 at Goodison en-route to the final, it’s plenty for fans to get excited about, as a trophy is the one thing the fans want. European football is fantastic but winning a trophy will also bring a place in Europe anyway. It’s something the club need to address.
Thus it all makes sense why he was appointed. Martinez plays great football, he is a winner, he develops squads and works on a tight budget. Despite Marouane Fellaini’s future remaining uncertain due to a suspected release clause, Martinez has been promised he will have the funds to build his own side, and that no other key players will be leaving, in order to build a much more attacking outfit, with a fresher perspective.
The only other candidate believed to have been interviewed by Bill Kenwright was German Ralf Rangnick, but having been dismissed by two clubs in his career for bad runs of form, his greatest achievements in the game came when he took over Schalke in February 2011, and had a similar impact on the team to what Roberto Di Matteo had at Chelsea the year after. Rangnick took over the squad from Felix Magath who alienated most of the squad, again similar to what Villas-Boas did at Chelsea, and simply re-energized the side, winning the German Cup and also reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. He was a short-term success and despite leaving due to exhaustion, and also rejecting he held talks with Everton, his CV again was not as strong as Martinez’s and he is not what the club is crying out for.
Martinez will need time to carry out what is much-needed at Everton but the most important thing is, he has the credentials to do it.