As a small army of Evertonians stood atop Everton Brow looking over our magnificent city, Roberto Martinez beamed as he prepared to push a big, suitably blue, button. Once pressed, the 227 year old lock up that has encapsulated blues from the first time they laid eyes on the illustrious badge, transformed from a mere brick and mortar structure that once imprisoned local fiends overnight to a magnificent, defining symbol of Everton Football Club. As the tower was swarmed by blue and proudly showcased the Everton crest, one could not help but think how lucky we are to have Martinez as our leader of men.
From the moment a seemingly shy, yet enthusiastic, Catalan entered his first press conference as Everton manager, he has simply changed the club for all the right reasons. The feel good factor flowing through Goodison and amidst supporters would have been unimaginable 12 months ago. You can’t help but feel that, perhaps, Moyes was simply content with keeping Everton as a steady, plucky team spirited unit that occasionally beat a top 4 team at home. The contrast in approach is unbelievable. I’ll give an example:
David Moyes, 24th Feb 2013 – “Most seasons we’ve tended to finish sixth, seventh or eighth and if you ask the people who know football they would say that´s about as good as Everton can do.”
Roberto Martinez, 21st Jan 2014 – “We’ve won it nine times, why shouldn’t we aim for the title?”
Wow. I think it’s fair to say that no one could have forseen the transformation in attitude amongst the club and supporters or just how ‘infected’ Martinez would become with the Everton syndrome. The first injection of positivity came amidst that first press conference when Bill revealed that Roberto had promised to get Everton in the Champions League. Such a statement may have been dismissed as simply a way of impressing his potential employer;a bold sentence, if not entirely meant. Fast forward to the present day, however, and you suspect he meant every word. Within weeks of his tenure, he had invited Howard Kendall – whose achievements with the club he was well aware of – to Finch Farm. An invitation he never received 11 years previously. Not to mention the sheer dedication he has shown to fully envelop himself into the history of the club, including past greats, the heritage and the values that have been so prominent throughout the club’s lifespan.
Gone are the days when our Captain(!) suggests that 6th or 7th is a success for a club of our stature. It was recently revealed that Martinez issues every new signing with a DVD informing them of the club’s past and its achievements and that he plans to plaster the walls of the Goodison tunnel with images of past Everton greats. He has, of course, already graced the walls of Finch Farm with numerous canvases illustrating the icons and iconic moments from the past. The blank canvas to your right as you reach the last few upward steps serves as an irresistible, tempting challenge for the players to etch their own names into such a magnificent history. Talk of title challenges is unknown around these parts for a lot of blues – save the odd delusional red mate preaching it’s their year – and it’s given us our pride back. Woken from the mediocre mentality we were captured by under Moyes and Neville, this genuinely is a new and exciting era. Many have realized that we are actually Everton Football Club and deserve a chance of success as much as, if not more than, anyone else. Even the signings of Deulofeu and Lukaku served as an indication of where Martinez wants the club to be challenging. Regarded as two of the most promising talents in Europe, you just couldn’t imagine Moyes taking that gamble.
And it’s not just the fans that are happier under Roberto; the whole club has had a fresh makeover. For years, we’ve bemoaned the lack of transparency and involvement with the fans. The change in 12 months is genuinely stunning and leads one to believe how much did Moyes have to do with that lack of transparency? Alan Myers is an absolute breath of fresh air and forms a fantastic partnership with Martinez. The Tea Party was snorted at by some when the announcement was made – it served to be one the best fan interaction events anyone can remember. Similarly, the Umbro announcement was a success (despite some, again, moaning about the underwhelming factor of it all) and didn’t have to invite and look after a select few lucky fans. But they did, as that’s what we do under Roberto. Then, of course, the tower. Such a prevalent part of our DNA, it beggers belief that it wasn’t thought of earlier. During all three of these milestone events, Martinez has personally attended. He lives and breathes this club as many of us do. Whether he’s quizzing players on Everton’s history during away ventures, proclaiming it’s within our right so blues to dream of that, so far, elusive 10th title or merely taking the time to attend fan events and interact with the best, and suddenly more positive, fans in the world, he has outdone all expectations. As a man and as a manager he just fits Everton. He’s proud of our club and knows we belong in the echelons of English football. Gradually, even the most cynical of fans are starting to believe. Even the media seem more endearing to the club, perhaps due to Roberto’s humble, complimentary and ambitious personality.
And there is one last thing I would like to commend him on… ‘The School of Science’ is a term that will always be associated with our club, though in recent times has not been relevant to the modern day Everton. Under Martinez, for the first time in decades, football is being played the proper way – the Everton way. Even as the rain beared down on Anfield that day and the score board read 4-0, you couldn’t help but feel inspired to a degree as our manager stood on the touchline, unflinching and demanding we stay true to our reborn School of Science playing style. Yes it hurt, but the general feeling amongst us is that, under Martinez, that scoreline will, in time, be reversed.
Staying true to his values and them of the club during the Golden years, he must be credited with bringing back a sense of pride, ambition and positivity. Us, as fans, can only dream of a manager that is engulfed by the club and is as passionate and ambitious as us. Martinez is. Revel and boast in the fact our manager is actively seeking to take us back to the top and demolishing the previous inferiority complex…
Roberto has been bitten by the Everton bug and as the saying goes, ‘Once Everton has touched you, nothing will be the same.’ We are amidst a renaissance in terms of playing football and our ambitions. I’ll end by saying that the latest gesture of lighting the tower is, in many ways, apt. A switch has been flicked and Everton are rising under Martinez. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum is finally meaningful again.
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