Howard has been a fine player for Everton down the years and it’s sad to watch his recent demise; in the midst of a terrible season, the American’s string of poor performances is blemishing the legacy he’s left on Merseyside. But Martinez needs to shoulder some of the blame for the predicament the goalkeeper currently finds himself in too.
The injury to Howard gave the Catalan a chance to take a look at another option between the sticks without going through the fuss of dropping a senior player and apprehensions about Robles being thrown into the team—while he’s probably not the long-term solution to Everton’s goalkeeping issues—were abated by his consistent performances.
But bringing the man Martinez admitted was Everton’s undisputed no. 1 back in at the earliest opportunity was an unsettling decision.
Of course, there are some players who are automatic choices, but Howard isn’t one of them at the moment for the factors aforementioned. It doesn’t send out the right message to other squad members who are striving to make it into the first team either. Especially for a side like Everton, who should have spots up for grabs given the perennially horrendous domestic form.
Looking at the situation from the outside, what incentive do those on the fringes of the squad and up-and-coming stars have to break into the first team if longstanding figures are guaranteed a start regardless of form? And what does it say about the manager that he’s willing to withdraw a player—one he signed, no less—who seized his chance with distinction at the expense of someone who’s hemorrhaged goals for a prolonged period?
While Howard’s one-man mission to drag Everton into a relegation battle has turned many of a blue persuasion against him, it’s an issue that is souring the mood surrounding Martinez too. For a manager who is losing the confidence of a lot of supporters after an immaculate maiden campaign, that’s far from ideal and it’s one of many poor decisions that’s doing little to enhance the toxic atmosphere that’s engulfed Goodison Park this season.
How the Catalan handles this issue moving forward will be tantamount to salvaging something from this disastrous campaign. The Toffees aren’t out of the woods yet in the fight to avoid relegation, but there is still an outside chance of savoring some glory; barring a catastrophic collapse against Young Boys in the second-leg of their Europa League tie, they’ll be in the last-16 of the competition.