As we hurtled towards the climax of Roberto Martinez’s first season at Everton Football Club, The Guardian’s sport paper ran with the front-page headline: ‘What’s so special about Roberto Martinez?’
He was described as ‘one of Britain’s best managers,’ and had ‘allowed Everton to dream again.’
The author of that particular, and very long, article, Andy Hunter, reflected upon the ‘first words’ Martinez had said to Kenwright – the now infamous phrase, “I’ll get you in the Champions League.”
Hunter added that the laughter which was originally generated by those words had ‘died now.’ He went on to write glowingly about the Everton manager.
It encapsulated how the majority of Evertonians, myself included, were feeling. We believed we were on the brink of something special.
Prior to the Catalan’s second season in charge, FourFourTwo magazine ran a feature entitled ‘Everton’s future? Pretty bright, I’d say.’
Writer James Maw expressed how ‘you’d be hard pushed to find anyone with a bad word to say about the Spaniard’ and that ‘Martinez was viewed by some as a tactical idealist during his time in charge of Wigan, but is now looking like a man who was on the right path all along.’
Again, the majority of Evertonians would likely have felt the same.
I kept both the Guardian article and the particular issue of FourFourTwo. It’s easy to forget now but the sense of elation after the 2013-2014 season was, because of my age, unlike anything I had experienced before. For older Blues it was the first time for a long time that supporting Everton had been quite so promising and exciting.
Fast-forward two years and the consensus regarding Roberto Martinez could not be more contrasting. After his sacking I dug out both of the articles I had stashed away.
Reading them evoked a peculiar sense of poignancy. It was the regret of what could have been mixing with the bitterness of what did actually happen. The anticipation could not have been more different from the reality.
In and out of love
Most Everton fans, I imagine, will have their own individual moment when they fell in – and out – of love with Roberto Martinez’s Everton side.
Personally, both of my moments involve Arsenal. I fell properly in love during the dramatic 3-0 whitewash of Arsene Wenger’s side during the April of that initial season. I fell properly out of love when Arsenal breezed past a clueless, uninspired Blues side with a 0-2 victory at Goodison in March this year.
That same fixture almost exactly two years apart summed up Martinez’s reign. For me, from that moment on, Martinez was indeed the ‘tactical idealist.’
That nightmarish interview the Catalan later did with Jamie Carragher for Mail Sport merely confirmed it.
His prioritisation of ideological values was, in a sense, admirable. But it didn’t work. Martinez lost his job because he couldn’t see what was in plain sight. Or rather, he could, but refused to address it or change it because it didn’t suit him.
The great divide
The divide between fans and manager grew larger and larger because of this approach. A persistent care for aesthetics that, after that first season, simply wasn’t effective.
And it’s a little sad that the first season now almost seems like a fluke.
Everton seemed so ready to kick on and become the team we all knew they could be. That is why this whole affair has been as frustrating and painful as it has been. We knew what the Toffees were capable of. We were given a brief glimmer of it and it was a revelation.
Everything seemed to suggest that the real success we had all been yearning for was now a matter of when, and not if.
But I won’t lament over what could have been for too long. If anything, it’s worth being grateful that Martinez was, albeit for a limited time, able to inspire an excitement and a dream that was the pinnacle of Moyes’ hard work and a level that Evertonians deserve to watch every season.
Yes, it didn’t turn out as we wished. But that season now becomes a benchmark that Everton should be, especially with the finances and ambition that Farhad Moshiri now brings to the club, matching, and even bettering, year in year out. And that is perhaps the most important lesson of Martinez’s reign.
He teased Evertonians with the bright lights but for the club to achieve that again, he had to leave.
Out with the old
That is why it is now so important that Moshiri and Everton get it right. Now the Blues have a wealthy businessman calling the shots, it is integral Everton move with the times and become ruthless winners.
There is little room for sentiment anymore. Indeed, Kenwright may have been “devastated” that Roberto Martinez had to be sacked, but what would keeping him have achieved?
If Moshiri can fulfil his promises, like Martinez couldn’t, then he may well be the best thing that has happened to this fantastic club in a long, long time.
It is now time to recruit a real winning manager which the sixth most successful team in England deserves and requires.
Over to you then, Mr. Moshiri.