Roberto Martinez must change his persona if Everton are to lose their ‘prettiest bridesmaid’ image and fulfil their potential, writes Michael Graham.
If ever a current Premier League club was the perfect image of their manager, surely it is Everton right now?
The Spaniard has made a habit of blasting referees and making his eyes go all scary at perceived injustices this season, and the excuses have rolled off the tongue.
“Our young players are learning”; “we didn’t have the luck”; “injuries killed our momentum”; “nothing went in our favour”. It’s becoming a long and, frankly, boring list.
Martinez is a highly likable character. He’s entertaining, he’s pleasant, and we have definitely grown accustomed to his unthreatening presence in the Premier League.
And all that is fine. It’s ‘nice’. It’s ‘safe’. It’s ‘lovely’. In fact, it’s all the things that winners jump all over in life and ruthlessly stomp into the ground on their way to success – and that’s Everton’s problem.
Actually, that’s been Everton’s problem for an awful long time now. They are a great club and are true stalwarts of the top division, whatever it has been at any given point, but they are also one of the nicest and unthreatening ones.
They have quality but you fancy your chances against them, and there is something of a soft centre there when push comes to shove.
They have finished fifth three times since the top four have qualified for the Champions League, and the one time they did finish fourth they blew it in the qualifiers before the group stage had even begun.
Before last season’s 11th place finish and they were a top eight team for eight years straight without being able to win anything along the way. There was a FA Cup final and a FA Cup semi-final in there, but both ended in what you might call typical Everton fashion – conceding a relatively late winner in a very tight game.
They are the Premier League’s perpetual bridesmaids.
So, with all that said, I’m not all that convinced that Martinez and Everton are all that good for each other. Everton need an injection of ruthlessness, Martinez probably needs freedom from too much scrutiny, a club who are prepared to look beyond the sacrifices his philosophies must indulge.
Martinez says that his side cannot be labelled under achievers, but six wins in 23 games this season, just one more than relegation-threatened duo Sunderland and Newcastle and the same amount as newly-promoted Norwich and Bournemouth does not reconcile with that claim.
We are talking about a squad with the Premier League’s second top scorer in it, who cost £28million incidentally, as well as a crop of highly touted youngsters.
Martinez can’t have it both ways on that, either. He can’t, on the one hand, talk up the club’s young players the way he does and then demand little is expected of them.
That is just Martinez, though. All he ever seems to want to be is the prettiest bridesmaid, and frankly Everton should be pushing for far better than that.
They require the ruthlessness to seize the limelight, and that’s something you feel the agreeable Spaniard is never going to instil in them.
By Michael Graham