Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez positive Europa League will be the perfect introduction for his ambitious Blues
It’s perhaps telling that those clubs and supporters who turn their noses up at a place in the Europa League have either secured a place in the competitions big brother or have simply failed to qualify themselves.
Those Evertonians who have been fortunate enough to sample the atmosphere of following their beloved team on a European tour will certainly not fall into this category of Europa League snobs.
There is also a younger generation of Blues who will be following the Toffees on the continent for the first time next season. No doubt after having their appetites whetted by tall tales of far away cities and other shenanigans from those lucky enough to have witnessed Everton playing abroad.
Not to mention the opportunity to experience European nights under the floodlights of The Grand Old Lady.
One man who is ready to embrace the Europa League is Everton FC manager Roberto Martinez. Under the stewardship of the ever positive Catalan, Everton, with one game to play, have virtually guaranteed themselves a shot at a trophy the Toffees have never won.
If that fact alone is not enough incentive for all Evertonians to grasp the Europa League nettle, for the first time in the history of the competition the 2014/15 Europa League winners are guaranteed a place in the 2015/16 Champions League.
Those who have followed Roberto Martinez in his remarkable first 10 months in charge at Goodison Park will not be surprised the relentless Spaniard sees Europa League qualification as a positive step – and not a hindrance – for his players and Everton Football Club:
“What we aimed to do was to get in to Europe,” explained Martinez.
“I’ve seen too many negative comments about the Europa League as a competition and I don’t agree with that at all.
“I think it is the perfect introduction for us as a club to test ourselves in Europe and being able to cope with the demands that it brings.”
“It means we will be in a situation where we don’t want to drop our levels in the domestic league so from that point of view it will be a fascinating season.
“The Everton fans expect the team to give everything on the pitch with real style, a swagger and real quality football and that will always be our focus.”
Those who worry of a lack of squad depth to cope with fighting on two-fronts need only go back to the beginning of March as the meticulous Martinez gave an insight in to his plans if Everton were to qualify for the Europa League:
“It would be very easy for us to say we don’t want to qualify for the Europa League,” said Martinez.
“Qualifying for Europe would be a massive step forward for us, it would bring big footballing occasions that I feel we need to able to develop into the type of team we want to be.
“Clearly, getting into Europe is a big, big objective and something that would allow us to grow as a football club.”
“What you need to do is plan the campaign at the beginning of the season, bearing in mind you are going to be playing in Europe and the extra demands that brings.”
“The answer is very clear; if you’re asking me can we get into Europe, well the answer is we are going to fight with everything we have to try to achieve that.”
Due to the amount of extra games the Europa League brings, the competition has gained a reputation of being something of a millstone. And when club’s such as Tottenham, whose squad dwarfs that of Martinez’s Everton, regularly cite the Europa League for below average league performances, the Toffees boss knows his summer transfer plans would have to be tweaked accordingly:
“It is not a big secret; when you are involved in Europe the demands are big and you need a bigger squad. But that is something we will have to look in to this summer if we can achieve that aim.”
“What matters now is the next nine weeks and to stop talking about the issues that are nothing to do with the next eleven games. The only thing that matters is all the work we’ve been doing on a daily basis and the standards of the players which has been phenomenal.
“All the individual issues, contract situations, what’s going to happen with the World Cup influence – is something we are currently not interested in.”
“We have to make sure that together with the fans we are a strong football club and as a club we can finish as strongly as possible in these last eleven games.”
For those who remain skeptical of the Europa League a quick glance at previous recent winners will at least allay any fears of Europe’s other club competition being a trophy of the Mickey Mouse variety.
The likes of two time winners Atlético Madrid (2010 and 2012), Porto (2011) and current holders Chelsea are certainly not clubs to be categorized as small-time.
And, if Roberto Martinez’s Everton can emulate Atlético Madrid’s use of the Europa League as a stepping-stone to greater things, it will not only be Evertonians who will be treating the competition with the respect it deserves.