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Oct 17, 2013

Manager's special

Roberto Martinez
Robert Martinez already has the Toffees looking like a top club.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Sept. 28 NBA preview issue. Subscribe today!

In September, you led a hectic campaign on transfer deadline day that landed several new players -- most notably, striker Romelu Lukaku. What was that day like for you?
Deadline day culminates in a 35-minute period in which the contracts are signed, but it is the product of three weeks of hard work that precedes it. We lost two players [including Marouane Fellaini's move to Man United for $43.8M], and that allowed us to invest heavily in the squad. Lukaku's arrival was a big step forward. Not only has he grown already, but he has helped us get points as well.

With players like Lukaku, Ross Barkley and John Stones each 20 years or younger, how do you ensure that young players bring fearlessness as opposed to inexperience?
Getting the balance right is a critical task. Eleven young players would be a disaster; 11 experienced players would lack legs and be burned out midseason. Young players are among our greatest assets, and we have a golden generation here with the likes of Barkley and Stones, who will be a future England international. Their bravery must be strengthened by the presence of senior players like [U.S. keeper] Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.

Howard is 34 years old. How long does he have left in his career arc?
Tim has impressed me a lot -- not just in his performances but also in his demeanor and leadership in the dressing room. He is physically and mentally in a good moment. I don't see the end of Tim Howard at all. Only he will decide when he is no longer ready to play.

You're in a league that's largely won by the financial might of sheiks and billionaires. You don't have that backing. Is there a glass ceiling on what your team can realistically achieve?
To compete, we have to develop a style that is more creative and flexible and then enable our fans' passion and our club's history to motivate us to grab hold of that top-four place that many would say is impossible on purely financial reasons.

What kind of creativity will enable you to overtake the league's top teams?
Everton have always been competitive and hard to beat. Now we want to break opponents down with a real attacking threat. A big part of our work is to increase the number of passes by 100 a game. We also have to be brave by investing in our younger players to build a squad that is greater than its market value. If you add in the players on loan, we can compensate for our lack of finances.

This year, your team was the EPL's last unbeaten club, with a six-game streak to start the season. Does that matter to you, or is it just media talk?
You care about not losing. But while the unbeaten streak is a good sign, and we were the only team to do it, you know you don't win trophies in October. They are won in May.

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