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50-50 Challenge: Merseyside derby

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Luke O'Farrell Everton Posted by Luke O'Farrell
Jun 13, 2014

Martinez's renewal should only be the start

Roberto Martinez has been rewarded with a new contract following a fine debut season at Everton.

It was a definite blink and you will miss it moment. As the country quenched their thirst for football, transfixed on the World Cup opener between hosts Brazil and a luckless Croatia, Everton quietly slipped a sizeable dose of positive news into the public domain.

With the second half set to kick off, the club took to social media, announcing their decision to reward manager Roberto Martinez with a new five-year contract, extending his existing agreement by two years.

Whatever the reasoning behind the move, whether (deserved) repayment for an impressive start to life on Merseyside or a proactive business decision from a club whose previous manager burnt their fingers by allowing his contract to expire, it is a shrewd beginning to perhaps the biggest summer in recent memory.

Few, if any, could have envisaged the impact of Martinez in such a short space of time. Embracing the storied history of the club, placing pictures of past successes on the walls of the training ground while leaving space for future ones, Martinez has breathed new life into a club threatening to stagnate.

Pragmatism and an entrenched siege mentality quickly gave way to fearlessness and ceaseless ambition. It became clear from the outset that Martinez was his own man, able to find positives from even the grimmest of scenarios, though very much in the vein of a manager constantly seeking improvement, not one deluding himself with a hackneyed outlook.

- Martinez closing in on targets

Supporters, so well versed in the methods of David Moyes, could hardly hide their surprise when Martinez replaced his left back, Leighton Baines, with then 19-year-old Gerard Deulofeu in the Merseyside derby. It could have been a disaster but it proved a masterstroke; more often than not, such calculated gambles worked in favour of Martinez, lending weight to the notion that fortune favours the brave.

Of the many plaudits landing at his feet, the biggest compliment is the ease with which the players adapted to the stylistic changes asked of them. Credit also to the players for making this transition with comparative ease.

Quashing any doubts about the defensive capabilities of his teams and their ability to marry resilience at the back with creativity in attack, Martinez managed the league's third-best defence last season. Only Chelsea (27) and Manchester City (37) conceded fewer goals (39) in 2013-14.

Hailed by chairman Bill Kenwright as the "best young manager in Europe" -- on this occasion, his propensity for the theatrical rings truer than normal -- Martinez oversaw a remarkable first season, guiding the Blues to a record Premier League points haul, returning European football to Goodison Park in the process. Several other club records in the Premier League toppled along the way.

Nonetheless, once the excitement surrounding this pre-season move subsides, attention will turn to next term and the challenges facing Martinez, his players and in particular, the decision makers in the boardroom.

Improving on a fifth-place finish and record point haul while juggling the demands European football is a tough ask. Quality and quantity are the order of the day when it comes to player recruitment; it is high time the club addressed the lack of depth hindering the squad in recent years.

Speaking to the club's official website, Kenwright has either signalled his intent or made a rod for his own back: "When we find our man, we empower him. We support and provide him with everything at our disposal... We want the best because only the best will do."

Given Everton's chequered past when it comes to empowering managers, this latest sound bite is bound to be met with a degree of scepticism in some quarters.

Likewise, a similar reaction may greet the idea that only the best is good enough. Let us not forget the crest on its way out. Moving forward, this striking start needs to be the first of many signatures witnessed at Goodison this summer.