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Given the Everton FC motto of “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” — which translates to “Nothing but the best is good enough” — this may seem like an odd question, but is chairman Bill Kenwright setting the bar too high for manager Roberto Martinez?
At Martinez’ introductory press conference last summer, Kenrwight said his new manager promised him Champions League football. It was the sort of galvanizing quote you expect to hear from a club when a new manager is appointed. Sending a bold, confident message to supporters and winning the press conference has become part of naming a new manager.
The problem is that the manager needs to win the press conference, not the chairman. Anyone who has spent five minutes listening to Martinez knows he does not need help energizing a fanbase, and he certainly did not need help on that day.
As it happened, Everton damn near got themselves into the Champions League last season, and indeed were in the driver’s seat for fourth with only a handful of matches remaining to be played. But had they instead been a few more paces behind Arsenal, and for the sake of the hypothetical, also Tottenham, would everything Martinez accomplished in his first year be seen as a disappointment?
Martinez has many goals for Everton FC, only one of which is to reach the Champions League. In short order, he changed the way the team played football and revivified the School of Science. Ross Barkley turned into one of Europe’s finest young talents. Ditto John Stones. The academy seems to be churning out Premier League quality talent. There’s plenty to be excited about.
Looking back, you can almost forgive Kenwright for setting the stakes so high. After all, the man is an Evertonian, too. Maybe Martinez charmed him the way he later charmed all of us.
A year later, with a visible blueprint, surely Kenwright was content to let Martinez’ plan play out over time, right? Well, no, not as such.
After giving Martinez a contract extension and a raise, Kenwright went and told everyone how badly he wanted to see Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry return to Goodison on a permanent transfer.
Look, everyone in football, and probably loads of people out of football who just happen find themselves within earshot of football fans on a regular basis, knows that Lukaku and Barry are Everton’s Plan A this summer. This was no great reveal.
What happens if the club are unable to secure the services of the two loan stars? While failure to succeed with Plan A is more an indictment on the club’s commitment to fiscal responsible than it is on Martinez, it still sends an uncomfortable message.
Every club has a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C and so forth heading into a transfer window. Even David Moyes had one. The trick is for club to convince its supporters is that Plan B isn’t a worse option than Plan A, it’s just a different option. In most cases that’s not propaganda, but fact.
With Kenwright so brazenly broadcasting his desires for Lukaku and Barry, he discredits all other targets as inferior when they may not necessarily be so. It would be much more beneficial to the club and the manager if Kenwright had said something bland about having confidence Martinez would identify the right targets in the market.
With Europe on the horizon and money to spend, it’s easy to get excited over Everton’s immediate prospects. But maybe take it down a notch or two, alright Kenwright?