Following a summer of seismic change at Everton in 2013, the club’s long-term ambitions were unclear. Reeling after former manager David Moyes and former star player Marouane Fellaini traded Merseyside for Manchester, plenty anticipated a Toffees demise.
But just over 13 months into his reign as Everton boss, Roberto Martinez — the man who succeeded Moyes — has transformed the club for the better. And there has been no greater indicator of the progress made than the beaming smile on the Catalan’s face as he unveiled Romelu Lukaku in a club record £28 million deal.
Typically, when the terms “£28 million” and “Everton” have been thrown around during summer breaks gone by, it’ll be a paper reporting a story — albeit, usually an unreliable one — about the Toffees selling one of their premier talents. So it’s easy to see why the supporters can’t wait to reach the end of the window with their squad intact.
These days though, there’s a different aura lingering around Goodison Park. For long spells of Moyes’ tenure — while he did a very capable job — supporters were accustomed to tempering their hopes and managing expectations. But ahead of the 2014/15 season, refreshing positivity and ambition anew emits from every pore of the club.
It’s a massive shift in mentality that has left many Evertonians feeling a little vulnerable, it must be said. After all, the club has never spent £28 million in a transfer window in their history, never mind on a single player. A statement signing like this is a very un-Everton thing to do, truth be told.
But after coming so close to a return to Europe’s elite competition last season, Martinez has replaced the stifling aversion that has long accompanied Everton’s transfer windows with his invigorating and infectiously upbeat stamp. The club have acquired one of the brightest young forwards on the planet after all, just a day after tying down a young midfielder of comparable quality and potential (Ross Barkley) to a new long-term deal.
Ultimately, it’s the manager who has played the most pertinent role in facilitating these bold changes in mentality. During his time in the Goodison Park hotseat, he has implemented an enthralling and adaptive stylistic mantras, reduced the average age of the squad and afforded young players a chance to make an impression in the first team.
Martinez has also challenged the narrative of “plucky little Everton” and irritantingly clichéd tags like “consistent overachievers”. He’s chosen to immerse himself in the fabric of the club, embrace its glittering history and draw on that for inspiration. He’s not treated Everton’s rarely mentioned nine league titles and five FA Cup wins as an unattainable, intimidating totem, but a benchmark for the current crop to aspire towards.