“our history demands it” — roberto martinez, everton fcBack
This is part three of our three part interview; click here for part one.
Understanding the heritage, and the tradition, and the thoughts of the fans, has become integral to playing for Everton under Roberto Martinez; without the financial power of the Premier League’s top four Champions League regulars, the club has to draw its power from alternative sources. With a history like Everton’s, present circumstances can’t be allowed to alter the overall aim and ambition.
“For Everton, the aim is to have a winning team,” says Roberto. “And winning a title. We have to. We have to get there. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win it tomorrow or this season. But the aspiration and the dream has to be that.
“If you look at what we’ve done, at how our squad is growing from transfer window to transfer window, the way we’ve been giving big roles to young players that are growing very fast, I feel that we are starting to have something really exciting and very special for the future.
“Everything goes back to that dream of winning the title, of getting into the top four, competing with teams for Champions League positions. That’s because we are Everton, and our history demands it, and so you have to find a way.”
Finding a way is a theme that often crops up as Roberto talks; a theme and a belief in the power of creative solutions, of locating your own power, of making a project that will drive a football club to where it needs to be, no matter where it is now.
“I find it very lazy to just look at the finances and say, well, we’re not in the top four budgets in the league, so we shouldn’t be in the top four places,” says Roberto. “I just don’t believe football should be run that way.
“I think there are other ways. You have to be more creative, you have to be more patient, and you need to have a long term strategy, but it can be achieved. I have always felt that throughout the clubs I have been at. We got promoted to the Championship with Swansea with one of the smallest budgets; but by finding the way with a different way of playing, changing the football philosophy, we did it, after twenty-four years. There is always, always a way of achieving in football, without relying on money.”
The way, at Everton, will be found in heritage that money can’t buy. The club is now in a position to spend huge sums on a player like Romelu Lukaku, but when it does, the investment has to continue; investment in making an Evertonian of Lukaku, and of every player that comes to the club. No other team can compete with something that is unique.
“In the Premier League now, it’s such a competitive league, the teams that are getting involved in the Champions League are running away from the other teams. We need to find a way of becoming a winning team without having the finances, and without needing the finances, of the teams that are involved in the Champions League.
“Finding the way. Sometimes in football it’s very different from one club to another. At Everton, I think the power of our history has to be the main ingredient in order to stimulate and inspire players. That brings expectations, but they need to be realistic expectations. If you work with expectations that are not realistic or you don’t understand them, it aggravates the situation and it becomes a lot harder. But if we understand those expectations, that’s going to be powerful.”
Roberto speaks so lucidly about the creative processes involved in finding the way, and with such passion about the heritage and tradition available at Everton for him to tap into, that we wondered if he might be absorbed in management for management’s sake. But he cut that notion short. Roberto, who week by week felt the impact of his father’s management of CF Balaguer in the town, who sees the difference across Liverpool that the weekend’s football results can make, has always known that football is a results business: the results on Saturday afternoon, the results at the end of the season, the results that go down in the history books.
“The pleasure of managing is winning,” he says. “And whatever it takes towards winning at the weekend — that’s a very diverse journey. It means affecting players, affecting ways of playing and preparing games, moments of form, being able to react, having strong people at the football club with hard work in different departments, engaging fans.
“It’s a very important week when you’re preparing a game. It’s not just the manager and the players, it’s the whole football club and the whole set of fans. That’s how significant the margins are now in order to win games. So as a manager that’s the satisfaction; how you get the winning goal, how you get the winning feeling after a game, because there are so many things involved in it.”
And if you don’t win?
“You have to find the answers. I become very bad company until I find the answers. Over the years that’s a key. The advantage of a manager when he loses is that he can do something about it. The disadvantage of a fan is that, unfortunately, he can not get rid of that until the next game. And I understand that. But I tend to find the solutions or the reasons quickly, so I can work straight away for the next game.”
In every game Everton play three points are at stake for the immediate league campaign; in the high pressure world of the Premier League, every game Roberto Martinez manages puts his future employment at stake. If you’re clever, though, and if you’re Roberto Martinez, you can raise the stakes and offer even greater rewards, by playing for the history and future of the club every time you play.
“The position of a manager nowadays makes it very difficult to find stability, because you know that you are three defeats away from being questioned. But the way I enjoy management is managing like you’re going to be in the job for a hundred years, and you need to make decisions that you know the club is going to benefit from. Maybe not while you’re in charge, but even further down the line. It’s building football clubs. That’s what I enjoyed at Swansea, and when you see Swansea achieving something down the line, and you see Joe Allen moving after you put a programme in place to develop him, you get real satisfaction.
“It’s the same at Everton. At Everton, it’s a bit different in the fact that you feel privileged to be the manager, to be the custodian of such an incredible football club. I’m only the fourteenth manager, which is an incredible statistic. And I enjoy managing the football club in a way that, whatever happens, the football club should be the most important aspect of any decision I make.”
Originally published in The City Talking: Liverpool, issue 1