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Apr 15, 2014

Martinez: UCL push surprising everyone

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has urged his players to enjoy their football, as the race for fourth in the Premier League goes back into their hands when they face Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez says that even his chairman Bill Kenwright did not think Champions League qualification was possible this season.

Roberto Martinez said not even the club chairman expected Everton to reach so high this season.

O'Farrell: Everton march on

That is despite the fact that Kenwright introduced Martinez as the man to take them into the Champions League after appointing him last June.

The Everton chairman told a news conference at the time how impressed he had been with his new manager, brought in to replace Manchester United-bound David Moyes.

And he revealed that Martinez had told him during his interview for the job: "I'll get you into the Champions League."

The former Wigan boss, sitting alongside Kenwright at that news conference last summer, was visibly bemused that this information had been made public -- as he had not even had a chance to outline his vision to Everton's players at that stage.

But Martinez could yet deliver on his promise at the end of his first season, with his side poised to move back into fourth place if they avoid defeat at home to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday.

He told British national newspapers: "At the press conference, it was a little bit too early to say we would be challenging because I hadn't even told my players about the vision.

"So it was a little bit: 'I don't know how the players are going to react to this!'

"It would have helped if he'd allowed me to say it to the players first!

"I expected to be the one to slowly unfold the plans, not just give it on the first day. My worry was how the group would react."

Martinez was pleased that his players reacted positively, losing only one of their opening 17 league games to sit fourth in the table on Christmas Day.

And according to the manager, Kenwright started to believe that Champions League qualification was possible in early December, when Everton followed up their first away victory over Manchester United since 1992 by drawing 1-1 at Arsenal.

Martinez said: "You always have to be driven by a vision at Everton. There are no excuses in football and you have to have that drive.

"The chairman has reminded me about it as the season has gone on because at the beginning he didn't believe it was possible.

"So I think it was three or four months into the season and he was starting to believe.

"It was the week we beat Manchester United and played so well at the Emirates. Then he said: 'Maybe I can see what you were saying.'"

Everton suffered a dip in form between Christmas and the end of February, dropping from fourth to seventh after collecting 11 points from nine games.

But since the start of March, Martinez's side have won seven league matches in a row, and are now locked in a battle with Arsenal for fourth spot.

The manager added: "When you arrive into a new dressing room, you need to adapt to the players as much as they must start to understand the way you are going to play.

"Drastic changes don't work. I was very much aware when I arrived there were many good things and there wasn't a need to change things.

"I wanted to change many things without losing everything, and that takes a bit of assessing and adapting and slowly giving the direction of how we are going to change together.

"I don't think the statement [of qualifying for the Champions League] would have seemed cocky. I think the reaction from the players would have been mixed.

"Some would say: 'Is that real?' Others: 'I don't mind that.' And then the others would say they were ready for it.

"That's where you get leaders, and the leaders, the senior players, have been terrific in their reaction. Don't forget, we are on new ground, there are no two ways about it.

"The current points tally is the biggest one Everton have had in the Premier League. If the leaders hadn't accepted we would go in that direction, it would never have got the group together. So huge credit goes to the senior players in being brave and saying they will try this."

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