Everton enjoyed a successful season last year, but ultimately fell short in their quest to qualify for the Champions League. Brian Bowler discusses the bright future of the club and believes they will not suffer second-season syndrome under Roberto Martinez.
There are a number of reasons why so many supposed “second tier” clubs often struggle to break into the elite group of Europe’s top tier teams. These factors can be difficult to overcome with lack of ambition, lack of financial power and the role of feeder clubs being amongst the most restricting.
In England, teams such as Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa have in recent years threatened to break into the Premier League’s upper echelons before ultimately falling back into the cluster of also rans.
However, after a hugely impressive first season under Roberto Martinez’s guidance, along with some shrewd business in this summer’s transfer window, the time might be right for Everton to make a break from the rest of the pack and take the final step to becoming one of the Premier League’s top clubs.
If we are to consider two of Europe’s surprise success stories over recent seasons, we immediately think of Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid. While both these sides have put together strong sides, on very limited budgets, perhaps the primary reason for their respective successes is that, at the helm, they have young, charismatic and ambitious managers.
Both Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone have followed similar paths in their managerial careers, building a reputation with lower league clubs before eventually taking over teams often wallowing in their rivals shadows and ultimately enjoying great success.
The similarities between Everton’s Roberto Martinez and the two managers mentioned above are plain to see. During his spells at Swansea and Wigan, Martinez earned a reputation of being a modern European style manager and, despite significant struggles with the latter, took over Everton at a time when the club was ready for change.
The David Moyes era at Goodison had seen the Evertonians firmly establish themselves as a top eight Premier League side but there was a sense that their ceiling had been reached.
Under Martinez there is the potential for Everton to progress even further and though the Spaniard may ultimately end up in one of European football’s most prestigious jobs, Barcelona has already been touted; he has the opportunity to build something great with the Toffee’s.
As mentioned previously, lack of ambition is often cited as being a major factor when clubs lose their marquee players. Last week Everton put to bed any talk of their ambition being in question with the permanent signing of Romelu Lukaku for a club record £28 million.
The Belgian striker was seen as one of the club’s most important players last season but it had been doubted whether the Everton board could, or would be willing to spend an inordinate amount of money on one player.
Their bid, and perhaps more importantly Lukaku’s willingness to join them, has shown that the club are ready to try and attract some of Europe’s most talented players and if the big Belgian striker can become a marquee player then his presence may convince others that Everton are a team on the rise.
While Lukaku’s signature has understandably been the focus of much of the media attention surrounding the club it was not their only piece of shrewd business. The contract extensions of the duo of Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman, along with the permanent signing of veteran midfielder Gareth Barry have ensured that Everton have kept the key components of last year’s team together.
Securing Barkley and Coleman to long term contracts has guaranteed that two of the league’s brightest and most sought after young stars will be at the club for at least another year, and in Barkley’s case it also guarantees a major windfall if he is to leave in the near future.
Once again the fact that these players, along with Leighton Baines last season, have pledged their futures to the club obviously suggests that they see a future at Everton and do not want to simply jump ship at the first opportunity.
The Gareth Barry signature is important for different reasons. While Barkley and Coleman will be pivotal players for years to come, the former Aston Villa and Manchester City stalwart’s role is a more immediate one. With such a young and talented group of players now in the squad, Barry’s experience will be crucial, and his is an example which Barkley and company will be encouraged to follow.
Despite having a hugely influential role on the pitch last season, Barry is 33 years old and is well and truly in the twilight of his career. He may not have the legs to compete seriously for more than a year or two but his role will be crucial in the maturing of Barkley and James McCarthy in particular.
All in all it has been a hugely encouraging summer from an Everton perspective. While those they will be competing with have also improved, notably Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, the Toffee’s have at least ensured that they have not weakened since last season and thus can be quietly confident of further improvements in this coming campaign.
With a strong chairman in Bill Kenwright and an ambitious manager in Roberto Martinez the structures are in place and if they manage to keep the key components of their team together for another few seasons then progress can definitely be made.
Finally, the likes of Seamus Coleman, John Stones, James McCarthy, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku can form a talented and strong backbone to a team which are moving in the right direction.
It is early days of course but if the right steps continue to be taken then the future could be very bright indeed for Everton FC.
Brian Bowler, Pundit Arena.