Evertonians were rejoicing yesterday after the news that Rafael Benitez had been sacked, after a dismal six-and-a-half months in charge of the Blues. Benitez was a man that massively split the fanbase when he was appointed, and the results after September were enough for the majority of Everton fans to want him gone.
Now, Everton should be conducting a long, lengthy managerial process, taking time to assess their options. Should it be Duncan Ferguson on an interim basis until the end of the season? Should they go for a young, foreign manager who has not managed in the Premier League? Or should Everton go for a manager who has previously managed the club, and whose final months in charge were some of the most toxic in Everton’s history?
If all the rumours and stories are true, then it seems that Everton are going to do the latter by bringing Roberto Martinez back to the club. The Spaniard is still currently in charge of the Belgium national team, and the Belgian FA want him to take them to the World Cup in Qatar in the winter. It would have to be an extraordinary offer from Everton to try and prise him away, but it is believed that Martinez is open to a return, and feels he has unfinished business at the club.
When Martinez was first appointed just over eight years ago, he was a manager who had done a remarkable job with Wigan Athletic, keeping them in the Premier League for as long as he did, and even winning the FA Cup in 2013. Ultimately, Wigan were relegated in that same season, and the Blues saw him as the right option to succeed David Moyes, who left to go to Manchester United following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The first season under Martinez was a huge success. Everton achieved their highest points total in the Premier League era – 71, and just missed out on Champions League football, instead finishing fifth and playing in the Europa League. This was the first time the Toffees had played in Europe since the 2009/10 season.
There were also memorable performances from his first year in charge. There were convincing home wins over Chelsea and Arsenal, a first win at Old Trafford in twenty-one years (the double was also completed for the first time since 1969). In the Spaniards first season in charge, Everton also reached the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
His second season in charge saw a significant change in results for the Blues, as Everton went on five-match winless runs, and lost games that they really should not have lost – 3-2 at home to Palace, 3-0 away to Swansea, 1-0 at home to Stoke. The third game of the season also saw Everton lose 6-3 at Goodison Park to Chelsea. Yet, the European campaign was seen as a small success.
Everton dominated their group, beating Wolfsburg twice, beating Lille once and only losing to Krasnodar. They finished the group top on eleven points, scoring ten and conceding three in six games. The Toffees then advanced to the round of 32, convincingly beating Young Boys 7-2 on aggregate. The journey came to an end in the round of 16, when Everton held a 2-1 lead against Dynamo Kyiv, but capitulated in the second leg in Ukraine, losing 5-2, and 6-4 on aggregate.
The second season also saw Everton go out in the third round of both cups, and finishing eleventh in the league, a huge disappointment after the success of the previous season.
With no European football to distract the Blues, Evertonians thought that Martinez’s third season would be like his third. But it was not. There were more embarrassing defeats, 4-3 at home to Stoke, 2-1 at home to Swansea and 1-0 at home to West Brom.
However, the most embarrassing of all was the 3-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light that spelt the end for Martinez. After a run of one win in ten (including six defeats), the Spaniard was relieved of his duties. The football that the Blues played in his last season in charge was awful, and arguably some of the worst that Evertonians had witnessed. In his last home game in charge, many fans stayed behind with banners, demanding that he be replaced as Everton manager. He only lasted one more game.
However, Everton reached the semi-finals of both cups in his last season in charge – a 4-3 aggregate loss to Manchester City, and a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup.
But this was not enough to save his job, as Everton finished eleventh again, their first back-to-back bottom half finishes since 2000/01 and 2001/02.
As an Everton fan, and only being 21 years old, I have not had a lot to celebrate as an Evertonian. But Roberto Martinez’s first season is the best I have ever seen Everton play. On the front foot, playing attacking football, dominating the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United was something I had never seen before. He actually gave me, and I am sure many other Evertonians, hope. Hope that he could be the manager to break Everton’s trophy drought, to actually win and create something special.
He bought into the club completely, arguably the only manager to do so since David Moyes. He understood what it meant to be an Evertonian and had Evertonians dreaming. But it only lasted for eighteen months. Things quickly turned sour, and his third season especially was one of the worst I can remember (and there have been a lot of bad seasons recently).
Furthermore, I always see the argument ‘what could Roberto Martinez do with money?’ The fact he signed Oumar Niasse for £13.5 million should be enough to tell you. He also fell out with club legend Leighton Baines, and Leon Osman wrote in his autobiography the difference between Martinez and Moyes when it came to set-pieces – the short story, Martinez would hardly work on them.
Everton have to get this appointment right, which is why I think Roberto Martinez is probably not the choice. If there were no one else available at all, and he wanted the job, then I would have him back. The nostalgia of his first season in charge would just push me to have him back.
However, the Toffees are meant to be having a big, strategic review of the football club and this appointment, and the fact that Martinez is supposedly the front-runner, shows that the Everton board and ownership do not know what they are doing. Appointing a manager who took Everton to court over compensation and played some of the worst football in recent years should not be considered for the job.
My personal candidate for the job, Duncan Ferguson in interim charge until the end of the season. Someone to unite the fans and the players. This would also allow the board and Moshiri to spend time looking for the right manager for Everton, instead of rushing into another appointment, and appointing a manager who was hounded out of the club over five years ago.
But, if it is Roberto Martinez, then I will get behind him and support him, just like I have done with every Everton manager. I just hope that other Evertonians will be able to do the same.