Martinez set for derby day debut

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Everton's Nikica Jelavic in action against Liverpool's Daniel Agger during the 219th Merseyside derby match at Goodison Park last year. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Everton’s Nikica Jelavic in action against Liverpool’s Daniel Agger during the 219th Merseyside derby match at Goodison Park last year. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Some things remain the same and a fantastic, highly-charged atmosphere is guaranteed when Liverpool visit Goodison Park on Saturday, though for Everton Football Club, this season has been one of change.

It began in June, when Roberto Martinez was announced as the managerial replacement for David Moyes and this weekend marks his first taste of a Merseyside derby.

Martinez joined Everton after a bittersweet season at Wigan Athletic, in which they enjoyed the triumph of winning the FA Cup and suffered the dismay of relegation.

And the Spaniard began at once to employ a new style of football at Goodison , with his emphasis on possession a stark contrast to the pragmatic approach of Moyes.

Fans expecting instant dividends soon realised they would have to be as patient with the new-look Everton though, as the Toffees drew their opening three Premier League fixtures in frustrating circumstances.

The mood was lifted during a tumultuous transfer deadline day. Despite losing one of their key players in Marouane Fellaini, Everton brought in three new names in Gareth Barry, Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy.

McCarthy, who worked under Martinez at Wigan, has impressed with his seemingly endless supply of energy, while Lukaku has earned adulation at Goodison for his rapacious appetite in front of goal.

Meanwhile, any doubts about Gareth Barry – and there were doubts – vanished during his very first appearance for the club. Debuting against Chelsea, he made a goal-stopping interception after a Tim Howard mistake, to the delight of the home fans.

Everton went on to win the game 1-0, sparking their season into life.

As important for Everton as any new signing was keeping the talismanic Leighton Baines, who reminded everyone of his value by scoring two free kicks in a 3-2 victory against West Ham.

Being knocked out of the Capital One Cup has perhaps been the biggest blow of Everton’s season so far, with their quest for silverware now reaching 18 years. They have also been a part of too many stalemates so far; a consistent problem of theirs.

They have only lost once all season, to Manchester City. And during a season that many feel is the most open for years in the Premier League – only six points separate first place from eighth place – such form means that Everton fans are daring to dream of a spot in Europe.

A win in the derby, of course, would take them closer to fulfilling their goal, though just about any victory over Liverpool would cement the burgeoning respect Blues supporters have for Martinez.

About Paul McIntyre, JMU Journalism