One year ago today Roberto Martinez was announced as Everton’s new manager and without hesitation in his very first press conference he sat alongside Bill Kenwright and said he would get Everton into the Champions League and how very close he was to delivering his promise.
How many fans this time last year would have thought we would be battling for fourth spot until the last few weeks of the season? Probably not all of us!
But what a first season Roberto Martinez has had breaking four club records and equalling two as well as qualifying for the Europa League next season and he is relishing the chance to lead Everton into Europe next season and he senses his players share the same excitement as him.
The Blues take their place in the 2014/15 Europa League after a five year absence from involvement in a continental competition and they will be joined by heavyweights such as Sevilla, Fiorentina, Dynamo Kiev, Inter Milan and Wolfsburg. But Martinez insists the Toffees can leave a major impression in the tournament having deservedly secured their qualification by finishing fifth.
Speaking to evertontv in the latest instalment of his feature length end-of-season interview, the manager said: “I think we are ready for it. I do believe that it arrives at the right time. It feels like a real achievement and it’s not like we got European qualification through the back door as a consequence of being fortunate.”
“We worked really hard and wanted to finish in the top four but we just missed out. But we had the right numbers – 72 points would have guaranteed Champions League in eight out of the last ten seasons. So we are very excited and the young players will be looking forward to experiencing that for the first time. The experienced players, I think they are ready to be tested and be part of a very demanding season.”
Due to the demanding fixture list now including the Europa League, it is very likely that we will see the youngsters get the chance to show what they can do and with some of the talented youngsters we boost that’s probably not such a bad thing. With Barkley and Stones two of the latest players to impress under Roberto and the likes of Ryan Ledson and Shane Duffy looking to breakthrough into the first team, I feel the squad is a lot stronger to cope with the European fixtures. The last time we were in the competition we had the likes of Dan Gosling, Jack Rodwell, Louis Saha and Jo in our starting eleven. Obviously we still have plenty of time to get some new signings in and I’m sure Roberto will be looking to bring quite a few in.
Martinez continued: “So all in all, as a football club we are ready to travel around Europe and show how far we can go.”
As we have automatically qualified for the group stages of the competition it means there will be at least six Europa League fixtureson a Thursday evening before Christmas. Plus is we have an extended run in the Capital One Cup too we would see the Blues playing twice most weeks throughout the first half of the season. But Roberto says both him and his players are aware of the demands:
“I am aware of the demands and I think its important that we are aware but that’s what we wanted. We do want to put ourselves under massive pressure in terms of performing week in week out in every competition that we are involved in.
“We need to be a team who can cope with those expectations and demands in European football and I have always said that as long a we embrace it, prepare well and give everything we have got, I know that our fans will support us whatever the outcome is.
“That’s a big advantage we have and it comes as a consequence of a very good season. Now we need to build on that and the best possible way is pushing ourselves even further and to do that we need the European challenge.”