Martinez and Walker: A Match Made in Hell?

The current Everton manager's record may not be anywhere near as bad as his predecessor but there are some disappointing similarities between the two men.

Jim Keoghan 24/03/2016 18comments  |  Jump to last

In the darkest of moments, when the night seems the longest and the outlook bleak, one name emerges from the ether; a haunting sound so terrifying it can chill Evertonians to the bone: ‘Walker’.

Mike Walker is Everton’s forgotten manager. Not forgotten in the sense that we unintentionally fail to remember him but rather forgotten in the sense that as a collective we have wilfully attempted to suppress any memory of the man at all.

But try as we might, he will not be completely erased. Every now and then, when the gravitational pull of the relegation zone starts to exert its influence (however weakly), when form takes a worrying turn, when the side appears spineless; the architect of our darkest moments rears his silver-haired head.

In recent weeks, Everton’s appalling home form and the sense of a side with less backbone than a sea urchin, have led to several people, both in the press and amongst fans to highlight the similarities that might exist between Roberto Martinez and Norwich’s least impressive footballing export.

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But does the comparison of Martinez with Walker hold up to scrutiny?

When the man from Norwich arrived at Goodison, some in the press questioned his experience, suggested that his success, for what it was, had been limited to date. In response, Walker said “People say I’m a flash in the pan. Let them judge me on results.” Well then, let’s do just that:

Played 31
Won 6
Drew 9
Lost 16
Points 27

The Welshman’s league record at Everton was dismal, an eleven month reign of disaster. During his stint in the manager’s chair Walker had a win ratio of just nineteen per cent.

When set against the context of other Everton managers since the Second World War, this ranks him as the worst boss the club has ever had.

Although going through a tough time, Martinez’s comparable league record looks pretty impressive:

Played 105
Won 42
Drew 31
Lost 32
Points 157

With a win ratio of around forty per cent, he is better compared with managers such as Harvey and Moyes. Unlike Walker, he also appears capable of putting together decent cup runs, recognising and signing talent and occasionally making his brand of football click.

And even if you strip out that first impressive season, when Everton under Martinez won twenty-one games from thirty–eight, his win ratio is still significantly better than Walkers, albeit more in keeping with lesser managerial lights, such as Gordon Lee, Billy Bingham and Cliff Britton.

But although ostensibly a more effective manager than hapless Mike from Norfolk, there are some similarities between the two.

Like Walker, the current manager’s sides seem to place more emphasis on playing football the ‘right’ way than getting results. Like Walker, Martinez seems utterly incapable of recognising his own culpability in defeat. And like Walker, he also seems unable to respond to adversity by changing his approach.

There are also similarities to how each publically responded/responds to dips in form. It’s noticeable that Evertonians are becoming increasingly infuriated by Martinez’s positivity after games and the feeling that he has watched the unfolding action through some sort of distortive prism, one that enables him to perceive an entirely different fixture; a match that reflects much more kindly on his managerial abilities.

Walker used to do this. After a mauling, in which his tippy-tappy footballing sensibilities were decimated by the hard reality of the Premier League, Walker would tell the press how ‘in the game’ Everton were, how unfortunate they had been, how there were signs that his philosophy was taking root and yielding results.

His greatest example of self delusion came after he was sacked, when Walker told The Times that:

“The timing does seem bizarre. I'm disappointed at what's happened, particularly as things seemed to be turning round. I would have thought I'd have got a little bit more time to prove otherwise, but it wasn't to be. If it was going to happen I'd have thought it might have been a few weeks ago when the storm was at its height. In the last two games it's the first time we've had two clean sheets. "

At the time Everton were bottom of the league, with eight points from fourteen games. The recent upturn in form that Walker referenced included draws against Arsenal and Norwich and (that rarest of things) a win against West Ham. But none of these games could be defined as classics. The Norwich fixture in particular was something of an invisible match; absent from the Pools coupon, characterised by a woeful lack of creativity (just three shots the entire match) and the recipient of a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ eight second slot on Match of the Day.

But perhaps the most damning similarity for Martinez is the growing sense of a manager who is underperforming with the talent available.

Walker inherited a mediocre squad and with more money than was provided to his predecessor, turned them into relegation fodder. Joe Royle then took over that group of players and converted them into a top seven outfit that also won the FA Cup.

Roberto Martinez inherited a squad that had consistently, and on a tight budget, challenged for the top seven. With more money than was provided to his predecessor he has turned them into a group of players that could conceivably finish in the bottom six.

Roberto Martinez is nowhere near as bad a manager as Mike Walker. If he was then we would be Newcastle or Villa right now. But like Walker, he seems incapable of making the most of what he has and unable to recognise that fact too.

By all accounts, both managers were/are very nice men. But being nice is not enough in the cut throat world of the Premier League. Everton need a manager who understands the pressure to succeed at the club, is capable of capitalising on our potential and who feels the frustrations of the fans.

Walker was incapable of the above and it looks like Martinez is too. And in that sense, their similarity is disappointingly apparent.


Jim Keoghan is the author of Highs Lows and Bakayokos, the story of Everton in the 1990s, which is published by Pitch Publishing later this year.

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Reader Comments (18)

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James Stewart
1 Posted 24/03/2016 at 16:21:31
The year before Martinez took over Wigan, Steve Bruce was in charge and they finished 11th conceding 45 goals. 12 months later they had shipped 79 goals.

Subsequent league finishes for Wigan under Martinez;
16th, 79 goals conceded
16th
15th
18th (relegated).

So he took over a team in 11th place and by the time he was finished they were relegated yet he then lands an even bigger job. Utter madness. Martinez's record absolutely stinks.

Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 24/03/2016 at 16:40:25
I'm sorry, I don't remotely see the relevance of a comparison to a manager who served very briefly more than 20 years ago, in what was then a completely different league and with a completely different team, alignment and strategy.

If the only true resemblance is in their press quotes, then I'd say this article is quite a stretch.

Tony McMullen
3 Posted 24/03/2016 at 17:44:57
I disagree, Mike. Walker is regarded as Everton's lowest point, so whenever a manager falters, the comparison is inevitable. And it's been mentioned already in both the national and the local press. This article looks at whether such a comparison is warranted.
Nick Page
4 Posted 24/03/2016 at 18:33:32
What does his record look like without the Moyes hangover season? I bet like Wigan.

Thanks but no thanks, Roberto. It's not working mate. Do the honourable thing and walk away. Please.

Niall McIlhone
5 Posted 24/03/2016 at 19:02:17
I think I went to pretty much every game when Walker was in charge at EFC, and I can't remember to this day what his team looked like. All I remember was that we kept losing, often by a late goal, and fans had concerns for fitness/motivation of the players etc – nothing new there then, eh?

Conversely, Roberto's teams will have left some impression on me, and we've seen some stellar performances, but, ultimately, the results will judge him harshly. It sort of puts in perspective what a good job Joe Royle did picking up the Walker squad at the time.

Anthony Dwyer
6 Posted 25/03/2016 at 01:49:29
Why do a gang of idiots run our club, that's what we really need to know.

Martinez has proven incapable of doing his job for two full seasons, every man and his dog can see this.

Can Bill or the new owner please give every fan what we most want, a new manager, a reason for hope.

Amit Vithlani
7 Posted 25/03/2016 at 04:41:06
When Walker took over we were already on a long winless run and sliding down the table.

What did for him was his off the pitch behaviour. As Mark Ward noted in his autobiography, the players lost complete respect for him, with Big Nev accusing Walker of being lazy – "Boss, you must have the warmest bed in Liverpool".

The team stopped playing for him and despite big signings in the summer, the start of 94-95 was dreadful. Results turned once the players started battling – and my theory on the win over West Ham (Walker's last game) was that the dressing room knew Walker was going to be sacked and found the motivation to start battling. Once Royle was appointed, the rest is history.

Mark Ward also noted that Royle should have been appointed in 1993 immediately after Kendall departed. That the board plumped for Walker was a case of being dazzled by a flash in the pan – and Norwich's Bayern result in particular / demolition of Everton at Goodison.

The apparent seduction of Wigan's win at Goodison and subsequent cup win point to similarities in this regard.

Phil Walling
10 Posted 25/03/2016 at 09:01:06
Well, at least it makes a change from the repetitious comparisons with bloody Moyes!
Matt Williams
12 Posted 25/03/2016 at 13:48:07
Mike Walker was doomed from the moment he was spotted sporting a pair of bright red keks on the pre season tour. Can't remember were it was now. Might have been Holland.
David Hallwood
13 Posted 25/03/2016 at 14:06:44
Like comparing chalk and cheese. As Amit (#7) points out the team Mike Walker inherited was on the slide not a top 6/7 side Martinez took charge of.

Secondly there has been a levelling of the pitch since Walker's days and the big money teams don't monopolise the trophies like they did back then.

Thirdly, and this is IMHO Martinez only plus point, is that the players that he can call on are almost on a different planet to Walker's squad These days half of the outfield players if the media is to be believed are coveted by the likes of Barca, Real, Citteh etc, and as it has been pointed out not by us wearing blue-tinted glasses but by respected journalists, we have got some of the finest young talent in Europe at the club.

Factoring all this in, Martinez is THE worst manager the club has ever had in my time watching Everton-and that goes back to the Catterick era, by a distance. It takes a particular type of genius to take statistically the best defence in the EPL, all internationals, and all on the radar of the 'bigger clubs' and manage to ship 41 goals in the league (47 in total)- and there’s still 9 games left so we can match or surpass the 50 shipped last season, with a resulting position of 11th last season, 12th this season and back to the days of not having the magical 40pts tally by Easter.

Mike Walker was a mistake but at least the board recognised that and acted quickly. Personally, I have a dilemma with Martinez in that I don’t agree with the revolving door approach to managers and it’s been proved that clubs that change managers end up being in a constant state of upheaval. But enough is enough; his record at Wigan was disastrous, his record at Everton despite having superior players is disastrous.

Finally, everyone keeps banging on about us being a top 6 side (myself excepted because I had us down for CL spot). But how have we fared against the top 6 in the last 2 seasons, both results and performance wise?

2014-2015
P 12 W1 D4 L7 F12 A19 (-7)

2015-2016
P10 W0 D4 L6 F6 A16 (-10) with Man U (a) & Leicester (a) still to play
Overall it’s P22 W1 D8 L13 F18 A35 (-17)

So results shocking, how about performance; this season we’ve played poorly/been outclassed by City (h) away we did a backs-to-the-wall almost Moyesesque 0-0, with the ref missing a stonewall pen. Battered by Spurs home and away but came away with 2 points, outclassed by Man U. Arsenal, nuff said. Which only leads WHU (h) which we deserved all the points but Bobby Soft Bollocks managed to throw it away with the weirdest substitutions I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something). WHU(a)an even game got what we deserved-but no more. And finally Leicester; Russian roulette anybody?

Whichever way you look at it, both performances and results against the top teams have been abysmal, it was Martinez himself who promised CL football within 3 years so by his own standards he’s got to go. To reiterate THE worst manager Everton has had

Denis Richardson
14 Posted 25/03/2016 at 14:40:02
Mike Walker, now that's a trip down memory lane I really didn't want to take.

We were so bad then it was truly embarrassing. Having the feeling you'd likely lose before every game, just hoping the team would somehow scrape something. These days I thankfully don't have that anymore but the fear of losing has just been replaced by apathy as I know that win, lose or draw, we're not going to be consistent enough to achieve anything league wise.

I may not be at the fear stage yet (only cos we can't go down this year) but thats not to say things can't change next season.

Bit chalk and cheese to compare the two. Different time, era etc but as pointed out above, Matinez has somehow managed to make the team perform far lower than the sum of its parts. Then again I gave up on the league around xmas time so if Martinez manages to get us the cup, I'll be happy.

Rob Hooton
16 Posted 26/03/2016 at 09:59:49
Niall, #6 – the fitness and motivation of this team have been a very worrisome factor for 2 years now, truly poor and plain for all to see unfortunately

David, #13 – those stats say it all, pathetic really. The games against Man Utd and Arsenal this season were real low points in the last 20 years IMHO. The team didn't show up for either game and put in such a gutless performance, I hung my head in shame.

Neil Steele
18 Posted 26/03/2016 at 16:54:37
There is absolutely no similarity or comparison between Walker and Martinez whatsoever. Not many people would actually know, as there weren't many of us actually there when Mike Walker was in charge, but it seems to have become a bit of an 'in' thing to make the link.

Odd.

Tony McMullen
19 Posted 26/03/2016 at 19:28:10
There is a tonal similarity between the two, as the article makes out. Both have the capacity to make Everton operate at the bottom of the club's parameters.
James Newcombe
21 Posted 29/03/2016 at 12:28:01
There's a great, eye-opening chapter in Southall's book about the Walker era. Seems like he lost the players pretty quickly!
John Louis Jones
22 Posted 29/03/2016 at 16:56:26
I think this a little bit unfair on Walker, Smith and Moyes, this article.

First off, not one off those was given anywhere the money the Martinez had or the squad to step into.

His record is on par with Smith; however, he was sold the golden fleece and then it was pulled from under him. (Still the football was Draconian.) Never really had the luxury to sign a couple of strikers for a combined £49 million.

I don't think I got to see much of Walker's Reign of Terror as my Uncle Terry stopped taking me the game and my Mum stopped letting me watch the highlights as I would cry myself to sleep. (A little bit like now.)

Moyes, for all the dire stuff that is banded about, he saved Everton in my eyes – and I told him that when a meet him at Stoke/ Swansea last season (he was a really nice guy). But look at what he did with the budget he had and we didn't lose that many games, He was another one that didn't get anywhere near the money Martinez got. The best deal he did was Johnson – bought him for £13 million, ran him into the ground, and sold him for the same price!

Martinez for me has to go; he is the worst manager we have had in my living memory.

Any Manager that says, "We don't want to see games out and run the clock down, we want to be brave and play football" hasn't got a clue.

Reading ToffeeWeb and any other Everton related story makes me sad at the moment. Martinez Out!

Seb Niemand
23 Posted 30/03/2016 at 04:05:04
Martinez is nowhere near as bad a manager as Mike Walker, but he is nowhere near as good a manager as the next worst Everton manager in living memory. Even Walter Smith did better, given his circumstances, than this pompous buffoon has.
Simon Bell
24 Posted 01/04/2016 at 08:45:08
I think a lot on here miss Jim's main point. There's a lot of call on here and many other sites for Martinez to be replaced, no matter how this season turns out. The facts stand at this present time that since the '80s Martinez's win percentage is only beaten by Howard Kendall's '80s winning team. There's been rumblings of wanting Dave Moyes's dire football back, however, Martinez's win percentage is better than Moyes (over considerably less games).

Win Percentage Facts are:

Howard Kendall 54.1%,
Roberto Martinez 44.5%,
Colin Harvey 42.4%,
David Moyes 42.1%,
Joe Royle 39%,
Walter Smith 32.4%.

Sometimes I think we have to be careful what we wish for. Football under Martinez when it's good is REALLY good; however, you always get the flip side to every coin.


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