Roberto and the Next Trophy

By Mike Owen 12/04/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]
In 2013, Roberto Martinez was appointed manager of a football club with the motto Nil Satis Nisi Optimum – Nothing but the best is good enough – that in the 67 seasons from the end of the Second World War had won the grand total of eight trophies.

Supporters of this wonderful but exasperating club brought up their children to believe that it was one of the greatest in the world, with a proud tradition of playing attractive football. Sometimes – in fact, all too often – things did not go according to plan. After the Second World War, it was 18 seasons before Everton won a trophy, the League Championship in 1963.

Some people, notably Jimmy Greaves, claimed that we bought the title, on account of the financial power of our major shareholder John Moores. The press called us the "Mersey Millionaires". But despite having what was perceived to be a financial advantage for the best part of a decade, we only won three trophies under Moores's choice of manager, Harry Catterick – the League in 1963 and 1970 and the FA Cup in 1966. Perhaps it should have been more than three.

We should have been in the European Cup Final in 1971 against an Ajax Amsterdam team that included Johann Cruyff. But we messed up in the quarter-final. Then we went downhill like Eddie the Eagle. Eventually, in May 1973, the job of uplifting our fortunes went to Billy Bingham.

During Martinez's time at the helm, I have often thought back to the Bingham era. Both took over from men who had been manager of Everton for more than a decade. But the striking parallel has been the style of football Bingham brought to Everton; a possession-based style that was sometimes described as "Continental". This term may also have owed something to the two years he had previously spent as manager of the Greece team.

As I recall, the build-up of Bingham's Everton was too slow for many fans. Similarly, some Evertonians have never been over-fond of Martinez's patient pass-pass-pass policy. I don't think the emphasis on possession is an easy one to sell in a footballing hotbed where the game is possibly played with more aggression than anywhere else in the country. Having said that, I do seem to recall some of the successful Liverpool teams patiently knocking the ball side to side.

Under Bingham, however, we looked like winning the league in his second season, 1974-75, but fell away in the final straight. Bingham spent three and a half seasons as Everton manager before being dismissed in January 1977. Now aged 84, Bingham would later prove his managerial acumen by taking Northern Ireland to the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain where his team caused a major shock by beating the host nation.

Between Bingham and Martinez, I think we have had seven different managers: Lee, Kendall, Harvey, Walker, Royle, Smith and Moyes. Only two won us trophies.Throw in those who went before them – Catterick, Johnny Carey, Ian Buchan and Cliff Britton – and that's a grand total of 13 managers since 1948, of whom only three have won us trophies.

Howard Kendall was our most successful manager, winning us four trophies. But it was only after calls for his dismissal that we won a trophy – the FA Cup at the end of his third season in 1984. And Catterick won the FA Cup in 1966 when possibly our best squad in nearly 30 years finished 11th in the league.

Everton can win the FA Cup this season. But I believe that if players run out on to the pitch to see banners saying things like "Martinez Out", it is a distraction that reduces our chances of winning, worsening any issues of morale or confidence. A lot of sport is "played in the head". Positive thoughts, positive vibes are essential.

We are one of just five clubs that can win the FA Cup next month. The outcome of the semi-finals and the final may be decided by the finest of margins. A team surrounded by, to use the words of a key player, "a lot of negativity" will have the smallest chance.

There is a whole generation of supporters who have not known us win a trophy. They deserve to see an Everton captain with a trophy glinting in the sunlight. But what has happened to the buoyancy among Evertonians that normally accompanies a good FA Cup run? I've never known it like this. Some of you may say: Martinez, the recent run of form, the no-trains-home kickoff...

I ask: Is it something to do with social media, the internet and the ways that people interact these days? Oh, for the pre-internet bliss of the 70s and early 80s when supporters' public dissent was mainly confined to those sitting in the stands hurling cushions towards the pitch. Their aim was often no better than the players they were criticising, with many cushions falling on those below on the terraces. And that was that, basically, apart from a few letters in the Echo. And the dissent was generally confined to people who actually went to the game.

Now, even before the players have got back into the dressing room, people who have watched the game on screen are punching away on a keyboard to let off steam and criticise the usual suspects. A head of steam builds up, creating what at times seems like a mob fervour. Would Kendall have survived until 1984 if the Internet had existed then?

And where does this worldwide, 24/7, click, click, discussion end? If we end up with a new manager in the summer, is there going to be an outpouring of dissent over the choice? All sorts of names are being put forward: Jose Mourinho, Manuel Pelligrini, Guus Hiddink . But Everton have never appointed a big name manager, not unless you count the return of Howard. Or possibly Joe Royle.

As a general rule, we appoint a former Everton player or an up-and-coming bloke. Some have ticked both boxes: Catterick, Bingham, Kendall and Harvey. But I suggest that the nearest we have ever had to a big name appointment was in 1958 when we appointed the former Manchester United and Ireland captain, Johnny Carey.

I don't envy anyone the responsibility of selecting a new team manager at any club. There are so many variable factors, you just cannot tell how it will pan out. I have been generally supportive of Martinez, confident that here was a squad that could put a bad spell behind it and win six or seven games on the bounce to leap up the table. It hasn't happened. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that while we have our best squad in 30 years, the same applies to most other Premier League clubs, due to the TV money they have received.

Yes, he has made decisions with which I have disagreed. But I certainly believe we can win the FA Cup this season. However, I fear the negativity undermines our chances.

I saw a post before, on Grand Old Team, I think, seeking opinion on banners at future games. Please, no more, say I. The point has been made and the call for a change has been covered all over the media. Now let's see if we can win this FA Cup. As James McCarthy has said, we need to go into the semi-final with at least one win under our belt.

I'm wondering if the announcement on February 27 of Farshad Moshiri now owning 49.9% of Everton shares has been a factor in the level of supporters' unrest. Is there an eagerness for the commencement of a "Moshiri era", one in which it is anticipated that we go on a big spending spree and start picking up trophies again?

Sorry, but I would suggest that we wait and see what transpires. My bet is that we won't be seeing an input that gives us a financial advantage over many of our Premier League rivals, not with the even bigger TV deal kicking in next season, spraying money to clubs left, right and centre. I don't think anyone is going to be calling us the "Mersey Billionaires"... I may be wrong, of course. But let's do all we can to win a trophy while one is right in front of us. We can't afford to wait for another opportunity. Let's give Martinez a break for a while. For the sake of the chance of winning the FA Cup.

I'm not saying "Martinez In". I'm not saying "Martinez Out". That is a decision for the board. But I do wonder ... If we do get a new manager this summer, how long does he get? Everton usually give a manager a full three years to allow them to work their ideas through. Quite right too. But following the Leicester sensation, will that three years be down to 18 months? In this age of 24/7 instant comment, are we going to start going through managers like a dose of salts?

It will certainly be interesting to see how Leicester get on next season, especially with European games to play. Likewise, West Ham at the Walford Superbowl. Leicester may still win nothing this season. Everton may yet win a trophy this season, if supporters get behind the team.

How I'd love to see glorious Evertonian celebrations at Wembley this month and next. How I'd love to see us win our ninth trophy in 70 years. How I'd love to see the smiles on our under-30s. It's there, waiting for an old-style, collective Everton effort. COYB.

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