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 By Mike Whalley

Martinez sets goal of title challenge

Roberto Martinez believes that Everton's long-term goal should be a first Premier League title.

Roberto Martinez has kept faith the the team that drew at Norwich.
Roberto Martinez spent most of his time at Wigan Athletic fighting relegation.

- O'Farrell: Pienaar a loss
- Gibson ready to end exile

The manager acknowledges that his team are not ready this season for a tilt at top spot – but feels the club are big enough to return to the summit of English football. Everton have been champions of England nine times in their history, last winning the old First Division under Howard Kendall in 1987.

Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, their highest finish has been the fourth place they achieved under David Moyes eight years ago. But the club have achieved seven consecutive top-eight finishes, ending last season in sixth place, and Martinez wants to see the club continue to improve.

Wigan –- last season's FA Cup winners under Martinez –- begin their Europa League campaign against Belgian club Zulte Waregem on Thursday. And asked if Wigan's European qualification should act as an inspiration to Everton, Martinez said: "Every football club is different. You can't compare. We are in a situation, with the history we have at the club, that we don't need to get inspiration from elsewhere.

"We look internally. Remember, we've got nine league titles. That's what we need to try to continue working on –- developing that history and making sure that we are a team the fans can be very proud of.

"We need to be competing to try to win titles and effectively be one of the best teams in the British game."

Martinez's side, who visit West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, laid down a marker by beating title favourites Chelsea 1-0 last weekend –- but the manager is not getting carried away with his long-term plans for the club.

He added: "You're realistic about the way the game is now. There are six clubs who are working in a different financial market. But that's where you need to be creative enough to find a way to bridge that gap and compete against anyone. That's what we need to do. It's not going to happen overnight.

"It's not going to happen this season. It's something that needs time and patience. But I thought what we showed on Saturday was that unity as a football club, from the crowd to the players. That chemistry is what could help us to bridge that gap."

Midfielder Darron Gibson is in contention to make his first appearance of the season at West Ham after recovering from a knee problem. Arouna Kone is also fit again after knee trouble kept him out of last Saturday's victory -– while fellow forward Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea and ineligible to play against them under the terms of the deal, is available to make his debut.

Martinez has refused to rule out the possibility of a quick return for midfielder Steven Pienaar, who missed the win over Chelsea with a hamstring problem sustained in training. "Steven Pienaar will be 50-50," the manager said. "He's recovered really, really well. But we need to be careful with his condition."

Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz, though, remains out of action as he recovers from a hernia.

Striker Nikica Jelavic will be hoping to keep his place against West Ham despite the availability of Lukaku and Kone. Jelavic has gone 13 games without a goal for Everton, scoring just once for them in the Premier League in 2013. He did, though, set up Steven Naismith's winner against Chelsea, and Martinez insists the Croatia international should not be condemned for his lack of goals.

The manager said: "Niki's been working extremely hard, and is someone who shouldn't be judged by the amount of goals that he's scored. There's more to it than that. If you look at the goal we scored against Chelsea, that was as good as an assist, and it was a technically perfect header back into the six-yard box.

"So his contribution was perfect on the day, and it's about maintaining those standards, because we've got really good competition for places."


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