Roberto Martinez has warned his Everton players they will not get away with “going through the motions” in the final three games of the season.
Martinez knows some fans are calling for his head, with protests planned during’s Saturday’s visit of Bournemouth, but he has yet to seek or receive any official backing from the board.
Any further fall from the Toffees’ current position of 11th in the Premier League table could seal the Spaniard’s fate, but he will not shy away from blooding home-grown talent in the coming weeks.
Tom Davies and Callum Connolly both made debuts from the bench against Southampton last month, and with injured trio Phil Jagielka, Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry joining the suspended Ramiro Funes Mori in the stands, there could be more chances.
Matthew Pennington, recently recalled from a loan spell at Walsall, could feature at the heart of defence, while a debut for 18-year-old playmaker Kieran Dowell appears imminent.
Dowell scored a hat-trick for the Under-21s against Leicester in midweek, watched by Martinez, and is being primed for his senior bow.
“Kieran has been outstanding in his performances, I don’t think you could find a better adjective than ‘outstanding’ to describe the consistency he’s had with the Under-21s and the quality he brings,” he said.
“He was involved with the first-team (squad) earlier in the season but picked up an injury and I feel he’s ready now to be given an opportunity in the first team.
“Every young player at Everton has a specific programme and path to get into the first team. We’ve already seen Tom and Callum make their debuts and they were very impressive in the manner they did.”
John Stones and Ross Barkley are two recent examples of inexperienced players rising to prominence – and full England honours – through the Everton ranks.
Both are regularly linked with moves away from the club and Martinez is clear he demands the very best from anyone he picks between now and the end of the season – be it Dowell and Pennington or their highly-coveted colleagues.
“Whoever is on the pitch needs to reach a level of intensity or responsibility or drive or quality,” he said.
“It’s no good going through the motions or expecting you’re going to have the opportunity to represent Everton for the rest of your career.
“Whoever is on the pitch for different reasons – and there are certain players who deserve opportunities or need to show what they can do – needs to show that sort of level every single minute between now and the end of the season.
“Every position in the table matters and every point matters.”