Roberto Martinez Speaks to GrandOldTeam

Roberto Martinez has been chatting to GrandOldTeam about all things Everton, from his relationship to Bill Kenwright, to his “lucky” brown shoes…

Seven months to the day since Roberto Martinez took the job as manager of Everton and he admits that he is still finding out about the club, but he says he knew Everton was a special football club with an incredible tradition and is everything he expected it to be, although he says it hasn’t exceeded his expectations, he is clearly excited to find out more and it is the current players we have here that excites him most:

“There is a special feel around Goodison when you play your football, I always felt as an opposing manager it was an intimidating place to come and I won’t say its exceeded my expectations but it excites me to find out more and what excites me more is that the group of players we have are ready to take us into the next level.”

It’s no lie to say that the playing style has dramatically changed since Martinez took over in June and one thing that has probably surprised most fans is how quickly the team have adapted to this change, especially the defence and that’s all down to the manager and the influence of Johan Cruyff and Barcelona. It’s the same philosophy that he has previously taken to Swansea and Wigan and admitted that it has taken him a lot less time to change Everton into a possession team.

“When I started managing I started at Swansea, when I took the team it was a straight lines 4-4-2 and it took me six months to change the philosophy and become a possession team. When I went to Wigan because of obviously the financial implications that we had it took probably two and a half years and five transfer windows to be able to change the whole style and be effective with it, at Everton it took me seven weeks,” he said.
Martinez says from the first day that he was impressed by the way things were being done and admitted that the game against Juventus in America during pre-season was the game that proved to him that Everton were ready to be flexible tactically to change things quickly in the Premier League and says that after a few frustrating games which finally evolved into something special against Newcastle the squad have never looked back.
Everton is the only team who Martinez has managed that he hasn’t previously played for but says it was excitement from day once and didn’t see taking the job as a leap of faith.

Although many people don’t see it from the outside, the Catalan believes that the relationship between the chairman of the board and the manager is essential nowadays and he says the relationship between himself and Bill Kenwright was special straight away.

“I knew I could trust the chairman, he’s an incredible Evertonian, just the amount of stories he told me about the club on the first day we met amazed me and I always felt excited. Every department that you meet in the football club is very professional, everyone makes you feel very welcome and we are a unique football club in that respect,” he told us.

Although, overseas investment from billionaires is something many fans would like to see happen at the club, Martinez says that this would have maybe made him think twice about taking the Everton job as he understands that any football must be based on the long term ambition of the football club and believes it is very easy to work when you have got a chairman that feels the same way and says that for him it’s not just about having a blank cheque book to assemble a squad it’s about being able to enjoy his job by being able to make football decisions. Martinez says that this is always something very important for him, having good relationships with Dave Whelan at Wigan and Hugh Jenkins at Swansea.

“The transfer window in August was a real test, we got through that window I feel with leaving the football club in a very strong place financially as well as having a strong squad and that’s down to having a chairman and a board that are true Evertonians and they make decisions based on what’s best for the football club. Unfortunately now, that’s not the case, it becomes a financial decision and people are maybe in control of football clubs for the wrong reasons without having that history and that background.”

It is clear that the manager shares the fans passion for the club and although he has come from Wigan which is another club with very passionate fans he says that the history of Everton is an advantage that is part of the tradition of the football club, whereas with Wigan, they were very much a new club making history.

“At Everton it’s very much different because we’ve got an incredible history and we should be proud of that. I always felt that having won trophies in the past and having that in our history is an advantage. I’ve been at a club were we didn’t have that, Everton is more than just a football club, it represents great memories. It’s a different set up I think, in Liverpool you can see the real rivalry with the neighbours in the city but it’s a different proposition. Wigan very much was a new club making history every weekend, making different things that would stay there forever in the history of the club but I think with Everton it’s been part of the tradition of the football club that for me is very very special.”

Roberto does not see this as increased pressure, but as a challenge as he feels the pressure for him to win with Everton is the same as when he was at Wigan. He believes that as a manager you need to concentrate on having a team who knows what they are doing and win as much as they can whilst enjoying it at the same time.

“You should be able to enjoy it, if you don’t enjoy playing your football there’s something wrong, I want the players to understand that they are the ambassadors of an incredible football club but in the same way they should enjoy that role while they do it.”

Part of the improvement we have seen in the team so far this season could be down to Martinez’s training methods. He says the season is divided into pre-season training and then the competitive part of the season when there are games.
Many teams in pre-season focus on physically and just working to try and get the athlete of fit as they can, then introduce the ball later, but this method is something Martinez has never believed in.

“I believe to get the footballer fit, footballer means you need to work with the ball if just thinking if you’re going to do a run, running action without the ball, is going to use different muscle than you do with the ball so for me it’s pointless to run and run and run or to do an exercise that is not linked to football.”

This is something that the manager has learnt from his own experience as a footballer from when he first came to England in 1995, where they spent the time in training doing fitness exercises that had nothing to do with being a footballer which meant they had to get fit by playing games and Martinez believes for him it is something that hasn’t evolved enough.

“As a footballer you need to get fit playing football, that’s just the straight forward answer if your kicking the ball you’re not using the same muscles as if you are just running in straight lines so it’s a completely different type of fitness so the players were very surprised that they had the ball straight away, its tiring but its’ enjoyable.

We worked around 60 sessions during pre-season at the end of the 60 sessions the players were fit and I think they got a shock when they were showed the fitness stats, they were the fittest that they’ve ever been after a period of pre-season.”

Although Martinez enjoys being a manager, he says it’s the second best feeling in football. He says the best feeling is being on the pitch and being able to make decisions even though he does enjoy seeing the football and watching the players performing well as a team as a manager. He believes that the biggest strength we have at Everton is that everyone is able to both defend and attack during a game making it a team effort.

Over recent years, Everton have always struggled to win away against the top teams at the likes of Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates but Martinez’s positive mentality seems to be changing this, masterminding Everton’s first win at Old Trafford in 21 years – something Moyes failed to do in his eleven years in charge.

Following this was the deserved 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates in the same week with Gerard Deulofeu grabbing the equaliser late on. But Martinez believes that you can be talking as long as you want but unless you get onto the pitch and really get successful with the top teams, playing eye to eye with them you don’t really believe it.

“I think the incredible experiences in the week that we played Manchester United away and then we played Arsenal away the performances were magnificent, we got four points out of it but we should have got six. Since that point and probably the Liverpool performance I thought the belief grew into the squad, everyone knew that we can outplay anyone as long as we are good at what we are doing we are ready to compete against anyone and I do feel that those experiences of those three games gave us the belief we needed to be able to be ourselves throughout the season.”

“It was a little bit of a feeling that maybe we couldn’t play eye to eye with these sides, that it was more of a different type of game and then just try to win every opposition apart from the top four and then we would have been a bit more cautious. I think we’ve changed that mentality now, clearly I think when we went to Arsenal the first 40 minutes is as good as I’ve seen us play and that mental block of playing against a top side has changed,” he told us.

When Roberto Martinez first took over at Everton there was the whole situation regarding the club’s crest being changed and the fans were continuously outspoken with their own views on the new crest and in the end it was down to the fans to choose the crest they wanted to be the new badge from the 2014/15 season onwards. Martinez believes that the fans are the most important people in any football club and he said he really liked the fact that the fans never accepted it.

“As you can imagine the first person that was really really upset about it was the chairman and he’s the one who made sure that it was going to be taken into consideration, it was inevitable by the end that the fans were going to be happy. I believe that football should be run by managers and players understanding what the fans want”

When then asked about teams like Cardiff changing not only the club crest but their kit colours, he said that this is something that really disappoints him but sees being brought up in the Spanish game as an advantage and although he says that nowadays finances dictate a lot of things he still believes the aspect of tradition should never be compromised.

“I followed all the other leagues around the world and what I love about the British game is that tradition and that of strong values and everything we represent at Everton when you see that is not followed through by other football clubs that really hurts and that’s an example that is disappointing and obviously marketing decision again gets above the history and what the fans believe they should be representing,” he said.

The incident that led to Tim Howard being sent off against Sunderland on Boxing Day saw both fans and media pundits accusing Everton of over playing and there have been incidents in other games, earlier on in the season in which there were a few close shaves, which could have led to us losing players to red cards but Martinez says that it is vital that the fans remain both calm and supportive when little mishaps like these do happen. Forgetting about the style, he says that football is a game of errors – whether it be errors from the referee, a player or from a manager but feels that you need to be able to react to it.

“I’m looking at the Sunderland game and the second half. We had ten men and we had fifteen shots on target. You saw a real spirit and I was very proud of that performance, as I fan I would be proud of my team performing in that manner. It cost us three points on the day but I’ll tell you from that point until the end of the season, we will get three times those points just because of the way that we play.”

Although he does admit that they need to learn and get better at stopping the mistakes which then lead to these actions, in the same way he feels that these actions sometimes give us the opportunities to score in the games against Stoke and QPR:

“You get a lot more from it than you lose but I accept that obviously the fans don’t understand it and they feel that it’s a mistake and its cost you. You’re going to feel frustrated but as a fan you need to see that, that is for a reason you want to stretch the other teams, you want to find pockets, you want to be brave in possession, and that will give you many goals from open play which is the hardest thing in football. We’ve been very pleased with the way that we have been opening teams up, and the way that we are creating so many chances, so that’s part of the process but from that performance I would prefer to lose 1-0 against Sunderland and play in the way we played in the second half than scraping a 1 – 0 win from the 33rd cross you got into the box which hits someone’s back and goes into the net which means you’ll get three points but you will never get anything less because you’re relying on luck, so you don’t rely on yourselves so the fans should know that we want to rely on ourselves to achieve things and to do that we need to go through a process.”

Going back to the Tim Howard incident, Martinez says that Howard was disappointed as he didn’t feel there was enough contact with the player to be given as a penalty and says fans need to understand that it is a reaction, thinking that you are going to save the ball.

“He never went down to bring him down, he tried to save the ball and the contact believe me is minimal. I can’t understand how the player went down in that situation because he could have just scored. I think it was an action were there were three mistakes in one, it was a reaction from Tim and we’ve spoken about it, and Leon knows we’ve got certain triggers, things that you can’t do and things you can, and there are three things that we didn’t do and that’s why we got punished but we’ve learnt from it. The second half performance, I don’t care who we’re playing against in the premier league, if you have ten men for 45 minutes and you can have 15 shots on target in the way that we did, it just shows you the spirit of the group and the tactical awareness that they have.”

The manager sees this rule as a double punishment and says that you are punished with a penalty and that should be enough. He believes it forces a player to say I haven’t got enough by scoring a goal; I want to get him sent off as well. But if the rule changes there is a risk of goalkeepers going at players who are clean through on goal. However, Martinez still says he doesn’t agree with that rule:

“I think as long as it works for both teams, do we want to see sending offs, not really, we want to see eleven against eleven and you think it’s going to be the same in both boxes. I know that FIFA always looks at we want to see goals but you don’t want to see sending offs in that manner, I don’t agree with that rule, I think its double punishment.”

Something that has often been reported about in the media is Martinez’s praise and utilisation of young players both at Wigan and now at Everton and he says he has been surprised at the quality of the youth players we have here. Although he does not call them young players in age but in the number of games they have played. In particular he says he has been surprised with Seamus Coleman and believes that the defender has gone to the next level. He does however say that he felt Ross Barkley was a bit cagey during pre-season and was afraid to make mistakes, something that he has obviously changed now. He also talked about John Stones – who he tried to sign himself at Wigan but missed out to Everton in the last seconds and says he always knew that he would be a top centre-half. He is even looking at the Under 21’s, as another two were sent out on loan on Tuesday making the total number of youngsters on loan nine, the manager only sees this as a positive:

“To be able to send nine players into the professional game with the work we do in the academy is terrific and we need to carry on developing the youngsters. When you’ve got a young player being able to perform in the manner of the Ross Barkley’s, and all the youngsters that we have, it’s down to the senior boys, because in many dressing rooms, you could create an environment where the young boys are going to be blamed for making mistakes, here it’s the opposite, everyone is encouraging them to make mistakes but to take responsibility and just react well and that’s down to Phil Jagielka, Tim Howard, Sylvain Distin, Gareth Barry, Leighton Baines because those players allow you to produce good youngsters so what I’m excited about is to keep that culture of the senior players and I think that as a football club we can create an easy conveyor belt of talent from the academy throughout.”

Martinez certainly has a great eye for young talent but he also knows what a player needs in order to be ready to take that step into the first team even if that means sending players out on loan to another club which he feels is a really good opportunity:

“I love George Green because he’s again a player who relies on his talent, we need to help him a little bit because to get into the first team, he needs to master the position, and at the moment he is someone who will win you the game for the under 18’s but he’s a bit of a free spirit and that’s just the talent that he has, but he’s in stage one. We’ve got players now, who I would say Tyias Browning for me is a centre half who is ready to play in the first team, he’s going to go out on loan to the championship and we’ve got a talented winger, Matthew Kennedy who needs to go out on loan and learn.”

“Chris Long is another number 10, second striker, who is developing really really well. We’ve got the two boys in Yeovil on loan, Shane Duffy, that has done really well and John Lundstrum, who again is a very talented midfielder. Conor Grant is a bit injured now but has got a great future ahead of him. All these players, they are going to be professionals so now it’s down to them really, we give them the right environments to see if they can get into the first team and that’s what we are going to create if they do the right things they will get opportunities so they are going to be challenged step by step now going out on loan and if they do well they get opportunity in the first team and then its down to them but we are going to create that environment. We’ve got those like Mathew Pennington on loan to Tranmere and he did really well as a right back in his debut even though he is a centre half, Hallam Hope has gone to Northampton and scored in his debut, so we have got a beautiful group that is flourishing well.”

It’s great to hear the manager speaking so highly about some of the youngsters we have here at Goodison, as in the past three to four years, fans have heard names and knew that there were youngsters coming through, who we then seen for a bit but then they would disappear. The likes of Conor McAleny came on and had a couple of substitute appearances and then we didn’t see much of him again until he was sent out on loan to gain some first team experience and even though he is injured now, fans always had a perception that there wasn’t a great link between the first team squad and the younger players despite being all based at Finch Farm but despite this Martinez believes that it is nothing to do with Everton as a club.

“I think that’s not us as a club. In the past it has been and I’ve been a big voice on that. The boys all the way into the under 18’s is probably the best development structure we got in the world. The under 21’s is not a league that is going to develop players, you need to concentrate and send them out on loan, when you send them out on loan they are out of your control, some will work others they won’t so that gap has been a killer for the British game and I think now we’ve changed a little bit the premier league, the league is a lot better, more competitive, it allows the players to play six months, and develop as a group and I think that’s what we’ve been very fortunate with this season. We work with a group for six months, we work tactically, technically and now they can go out. I can guarantee you that out of those they will become professionals. I don’t know if they are going to get into the first team but at least now we’ve bridged that gap. Before it was such a gamble, and I think that’s just the British game but you know we’re getting stronger.”

Some clubs set specific targets for their young players, however Martinez says Everton do not look at specific targets but use statistics:

“You look over the years and how it’s been working out, I think obviously at the moment, you’re looking at the Ross Barkley situation, he’s unique, for me he’s the best English talent we’ve seen for years, but we should be able to produce two players in the first team every two years – that would be the target and we’re well on the way to achieve that,” he says.

Martinez is trying to take his philosophy all the way through the youth teams and believes that it is going to help young players break through not just in attacking positions whatever their physicality or statute.

“We’ll never judge a player on the physicality they can bring; from our point of view with Alan Irvine we’re trying to put a lot of attention on the technical ability. Remember as a team we want to be the team in possession, we want to be the team who has got the ball more than the opposition and that includes every player coming from the keeper to the striker. They need to be able to be technically good for that it’s not that you need a specific talent you just need to work hard at it and the development has to be guided into that so we put in a lot of hours, playing a lot of 4 v 4 games which includes technical ability in small spaces and it’s important that we develop the players from this point of view. We want the players to understand different systems and different ways to play, but always with having in mind that we want to be the team in possession and technically you need to be able to control the ball so the physicality it doesn’t play a big part.”

Although with Ross Barkley, the manager does see his stature as a bonus and says he doesn’t know another player who has everything. The praise for Ross Barkley from Roberto Martinez has been very well documented both by the media and pundits and it is refreshing to hear a manager speaking so highly about a player who many fans may have knew was a talent from the very beginning and you can just tell how excited Martinez is about Barkley’s future just by hearing him speak about him.

“Ross is unique; I don’t know another player who has everything. Ross is just, normally you don’t get what you get with Ross, with Ross you get the physicality, the technical ability, anything you want to highlight as a player and then you’ve got the mentality. I’ve never seen such a talented player that is such a great listener, normally the good players of the outstanding talent don’t listen, because nobody can tell them things because they’re just so natural that you tell them you want the ball in the net and they’ll do that, I’ve been impressed by the way he listens, the way he wants to improve, the way he takes things on, I’ve played him in different systems and he always finds a way to be effective. His personality will make him as good as he wants to be.”

“I want to believe that his upbringing with his family is given him the way he is but maybe him not having it easy and not having it straight forward with injuries, with having two loan experiences is making him enjoy every minute he’s got now. I want to believe that it’s more genetic. He’s just a great guy, with a great character and a great personality.”

One thing that often annoys Everton fans is the constant media reports that come every transfer window about our players moving on to perceived “better” clubs and that hasn’t been any different leading up to this January transfer window with it being reported that Manchester United will be making an offer for Ross Barkley. Usually under David Moyes, the majority of fans would be resigned to losing our top players to teams like United, however under Martinez that seems to have changed and when speaking to us guaranteed us that he will be keeping hold of his unique talent and we have absolutely no problem at all in regards to losing him.

A lot of stick has been given to Everton about our loan signings, with some pundits saying we have relied on them too much and wondering how we will cope when (or if) they return to the parent clubs. But this doesn’t worry Martinez at all, and feels that it is the modern game that has changed that.

“I think in the past it was about you having players on the loyalty of a long term contract and that would give you security because you can count on the player, that’s gone, nowadays unfortunately you can have a player on a five year contract and if he wants to go in the next window he will let you know and I just feel that that doesn’t worry me at all. I think there’s something about the loans that I like, it brings a freshness about the player that comes in and he has a point to prove, what is always important for me is to have a really strong core of players that represent the football club. We’ve got that and then all the add ons. It doesn’t worry me I just want to have the strongest squad that we can have from season to season if we lose the loans, all I want is to have the memories of them representing and doing the best for the club, helping the club to move forward and then there will be other loans coming in, positions as loans, no individuals and then positions as core.

“Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines, James McCarthy, Ross Barkley, John Stones, Seamus Coleman, Bryan Oviedo, Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, that’s what matters then the other ones are the players that want to come in and bring something different, Gerard Deulofeu is as talented young man as you’re going to see in world football. It doesn’t matter if we have him for one year, two years, five years or ten years, well we want to have him but the question one year or ten years – that’s not a question, the question is one year or nothing – the answer is very clear, and I’m excited, we’ve got the recruitment department which is terrific, but I’ve got no problems of replacing young players. For the Evertonians, from the outside a jealous comment because of our loan players, they are going to go and then you won’t have them, it’s the other side, its more exciting, if one goes another one equally exciting is going to come in so as long as we don’t lose the core players I’m not worried.”

Whilst fans focus will be on who will be brought into the club instead of worrying about who we will be losing, Roberto Martinez says it is a special feeling that they have in the dressing room and thinks that he only needs to bring one or two in but he has to be very careful that he doesn’t bring the wrong ones in to unsettle the special dynamics in that group.

“We got to use it in our advantage, we know exactly what we want to do and it’s just a matter of doing it and making sure we are ready for the second half of the season in a stronger position than we were. I know that sometimes you read in the press, we’re not going to lose any of the top players, I will guarantee you that.”

Obviously, the interview couldn’t go on without talking about his uniform and those lucky brown shoes:

“It’s good to see that people have picked up on the uniform they are the lucky brown shoes. I can’t say where they are from as they won’t be lucky then. I’ll give them for charity at the end of the season.”

While Roberto Martinez admits that he’s more of a dreamer not a realist, it might just be his dreams that bring something special for Everton – whether now or in the future. One thing for certain now is that the magic really is being brought back to Goodison Park and Everton Football Club

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