Roberto Martinez faces a crucial week at Everton as he bids to awake the club from their perennial slumbers and successfully navigate a potentially-troublesome transfer window, writes Derek Bilton.
As the referee blew for full-time against Swansea on Sunday, Goodison Park let out a collective groan. There were howls of displeasure from the Evertonion faithful, many of whom of a certain vintage can still remember the glory years when Everton were every inch one of the country’s top sides. Martinez looked ruefully at the soft Goodison turf for a second just after 3:17pm on Sunday and exhaled, before donning his magic post-match media hat and speaking out against bad luck and poor refereeing decisions.
But Martinez is no mug. Everton’s issues are far more pertinent than bad referees and not having the rub of the green on occasion.
The club sits unsteadily, 12th in the table, a full 21 points off the top but tellingly just eight points outside of the bottom three. This is a potentially momentous week for those ensconced in the blue half of Merseyside, for on Wednesday night they try to defend a 2-1 League Cup semi-final advantage against Manchester City, and give themselves a shout of winning their first major silverware since 1995.
Everton go into the game as slight underdogs to reach Wembley and you can get sports betting tips from online-betting.me.uk.
The fact that their Capital One Cup final opponents are likely to be Liverpool adds extra intrigue. For there was a time in the 1980s when Wembley showpiece finals between the two Merseyside giants came along as regularly as the number 437 Liverpool to West Kirby bus. But those days are gone. Long gone.
It’s a brave new world at Anfield of course as Jurgen Klopp tries to stir those other Mersey giants out of their slumber. But across Stanley Park at Everton, it seems the Toffees have been perennially hitting the snooze button.
Should Everton sell one of their young stars?
It’s a massive month for the club and for Martinez, who along with trying to plot a path back to Wembley must also decide whether to cash out on one of Everton’s impossibly talented young guns. At the back we have John Stones, an unflappable and gifted ball-playing defender who looks to be an England mainstay for the next decade. Barcelona have apparently been making overtures and there is talk of a £50million transfer scramble in the summer. Up top there is Romelu Lukaku, with the Toffees rumoured to have slapped a £65million price tag on him in recent weeks. The 22-year-old has hit 19 goals already this term, including the crucial winner in their 2-1 first leg win over Manchester City the other week.
More on Everton:
Then there is the brilliant Ross Barkley, the maverick England have been crying out for and a player whose potential looks immeasurable at this point. There have been the perhaps inevitable comparisons with one Paul Gascoigne. Dangerous comparisons that have weighed all too heavily on the shoulders of other young prodigious midfield talents in recent years. Yet if Barkley can imitate Gazza’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity while eschewing the pitfalls of fame and celebrity then we will have a player.
But I get the feeling Martinez doesn’t know whether to stick or twist when it comes to this divine young trident. Does he sell one of them, swell the coffers and hope to get lucky by bringing in a cheaper replacement? Or does he sit tight, wait for the massive TV deal money that will come next season and hope Bill Kenwright can secure fresh investment at the club?
To satisfy the board will mean cashing in on one of the aforementioned leading lights, if not in this January transfer window then certainly in the summer. To satisfy the fans though would mean showing that Everton do have ambition to get back among the domestic elite by tying down Messrs Barkley, Lukaku and Stones to long term deals and building a team around them.
When he was unveiled in the summer of 2013 Martinez sat side-by-side with Kenwright and boldly predicted he would deliver Champions League football to this once great club. Let’s have it right he’s miles away the minute but if there is new fiscal investment and Martinez can add some quality and experience to the raw talent already at his disposal, then they have the potential to be a truly fantastic side.
The history books and more importantly the fans will not judge Martinez on balance sheets. They will judge him on the team he creates and their collective achievements.
With this in mind now is surely the time for boldness rather than circumspection? To forget the profit margins and try to make Everton – no league title since 1987 – genuine title contenders once again. Big fish in a big pond. Indeed Martinez would do well to remember the words of Patrick Meagher, who once observed ‘Some people are so poor all they have is money’.