Fans have taken to Roberto Martinez at EFC but they will take longer to convince than chairman Bill Kenwright
Forty-five seconds. That’s all it took for Roberto Martinez to convince Bill Kenwright he was the right man to lead Everton into a new era.
However, it’s likely to take somewhat longer for the Spaniard to win over supporters who are approaching life after David Moyes with a mixture of intrigue and apprehension.
That job begins this Saturday when Martinez takes charge of an Everton team for the first time in a competitive match in their Premier League opener at Norwich City.
And improving on what Moyes has left behind will prove just as difficult as imposing his own personality on a club that, for the past 11 years, has been heavily influenced by the departing Scot.
Such a transformation won’t happen overnight. Kenwright, Martinez and his players have all urged patience from the Goodison faithful, who are wise enough to accept such a significant changing of the guard will not be entirely painless.
Martinez, though, has immediately set his sights high, Kenwright revealing the first words spoken by the Spaniard during his interview was: “I will get you into the Champions League.”
Compare that to Moyes’s opening gambit to Kenwright back in March 2002 of: “You will not be relegated.”
It underlines the progress Everton made during the Scot’s tenure, concerns of the drop banished with the club more concerned about how to stop banging their head on the glass ceiling they perceive preventing them from making a concerted push for a top-four finish.
Those obstacles remain. But that didn’t prevent Martinez from making another of his pronouncements that are often as bold and forward-thinking as his preferred playing style.
However, evidence suggests they aren’t just empty promises.
“I do feel you should have a dream in football,” said Martinez on his unveiling in June.
“I started at Swansea and I always said we needed to get the club into the Premier League.
“That sounded obscene when we were in League One. Then, I went to Wigan and said the aim should be European football.”
Of course, Martinez had departed by the time Swansea reached the top flight under Brendan Rodgers, and it’ll be Owen Coyle leading Wigan in their first European adventure next month after the Spaniard led Wigan to an FA Cup final triumph, albeit with the hangover of relegation days later.
Rather than leaving a legacy, Martinez’s job will now be to build on one.
Unlike Moyes, who was thrown straight in at the deep end on replacing Walter Smith, Martinez has had a few months to become acquainted with his new charges, a double-edged sword that has also allowed hopes and fears to be formed among the fanbase before a ball has been kicked in genuine anger.
The insistence on encouraging a more attacking style was the prominent feature of pre-season, Martinez, as at Wigan, urging his players to assume responsibility for bringing the ball out of defence and lessening any reliance on pumping long balls.
Numbers could become a talking point during the opening weeks, Martinez a huge fan of tactical flexibility, Wigan players indicating formations would sometimes change three or four times during the course of a match.
But whether it is 3-4-3 – as the Spaniard would seemingly ultimately prefer – 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, Martinez insists he won’t sacrifice Everton’s renowned substance for unnecessary style.
However, much will depend on how the players already at Goodison take to his system, and it’s likely compromise will be required on both sides.
Concerns over the leakiness of Wigan’s defence under Martinez will surely in part be offset by the fact Everton’s established backline – led by new skipper Phil Jagielka – has been bolstered by the signings of centre-back Antolin Alcaraz and goalkeeper Joel Robles, the latter putting much-needed pressure on Tim Howard.
In midfield, Darron Gibson will be integral in a ‘quarterback’ role, accepting the ball from the centre-backs and spraying the passes from which Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar can provide the ammunition for Nikica Jelavic or Arouna Kone.
Who provides the finishing touch is a problem that has vexed Everton for some time. Jelavic appeared the answer on his arrival 18 months ago, but his travails last year suggested otherwise.
However, with the Croat flickering back into life in recent weeks and Kone behind in his preparations, Jelavic is in pole position for first crack up front with Victor Anichebe also itching for his opportunity.
Elsewhere, Seamus Coleman’s energy up and down the right flank will make him a Martinez favourite, with Leon Osman’s flexibility doing likewise.
Martinez has always been an advocate of youth, and the Spaniard’s pleasant surprise at the depth of talent at Goodison should mean increased opportunities for Ross Barkley, who at the tail end of last season began to demonstrate he was ready to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Defender John Stones, a January arrival from Barnsley, could be another to benefit, not least after gaining popularity on the strength of his cheeky penalty against Juventus in the United States, but centre-back Shane Duffy’s weakness of distribution will see his chances limited.
And on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu’s acclimatisation means it may not be until after Christmas that Everton will turn consistently to the teenager.
A genuine competition for places means Martinez will have some selection posers, although the team that walks out at Carrow Road is unlikely to feature too many surprises.
That said, it hasn’t gone unnoticed the Spaniard brought five of his backroom staff with him from Wigan, and that three of his four major signings played last season for the relegated Latics.
But with almost three weeks still remaining of the transfer window, Martinez will no doubt be twitching nervously over whether Leighton Baines or Marouane Fellaini will be picked off by rival clubs, leaving him little time to line up replacements rather than leave the sale funds burning a hole in his pocket.
A fixture list that has coughed up only two testing matches – at home to Chelsea and away to Manchester City – before November gives Martinez some scope for getting his feet under the table.
Forget the Champions League. As Moyes discovered before him, even finishing in the top four is no guarantee for a club that lives on the financial margins such as Everton.
Martinez’s debut season will inevitably usher in a period of change. But, in terms of on-field achievement, more of the same would satisfy even the most expectant Evertonian.