Martinez confident of taking Everton to Europe
Martinez says the Toffees are a big club who want to play on the continent year after year
EVERTON v STOKE
(Tonight, 6pm, National Stadium, LIve on Singtel mio TV Ch 102)
Greeting every reporter before he answered a question, Everton manager Roberto Martinez was as gentlemanly as they come.
His responses were articulate and enthusiastic, and it was little wonder that Everton's press conference yesterday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel went on for 30 minutes.
Martinez tirelessly answered more than 15 questions on a variety of topics - from Stoke City, whom Everton face in tonight's Barclays Asia Trophy at the National Stadium, to the club's targets this season.
The 42-year-old looked happy and settled with the Toffees, and he is confident the Merseysiders will improve on their 11th-place finish last season and compete for a top-six finish this campaign.
Asked to assess his time with Everton and what he has learnt, he replied in jest: "How much time have you got?"
The former Swansea City and Wigan Athletic manager, who impressively led the Latics to the 2013 FA Cup, knows what is expected of him at a club like Everton, nine-time champions of the old First Division.
He said: "We've got an incredible history. We're the custodians of a phenomenal football club.
"We want to carry the responsibility of being a winning football club. We've got a good mixture of young talents guided by experience.
"Also, we've got one of the most exciting places in the world to play football - at Goodison Park."
Everton finished fifth in Martinez's first season in charge, but were in the bottom half of the table for much of last season, winning just two of 16 games at one stage.
The Toffees managed only a single win in their first five fixtures and that is an area the Spaniard is looking to improve on.
"There's nothing wrong with expectation levels. The way we went about in the second half of last season, I think we carried those expectations," he added.
"The target is clear. We want to develop competitions for places and have a very good start to the season.
"Our first 10 games are against the top seven teams from last season and we'll see how we go from there."
Martinez has brought in just two new signings - midfielder Tom Cleverley and Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu - and does not expect any acquisitions similar to the club-record £28 million ($57m) they paid for Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku a year ago.
"We are trying to build on what we have done in the last four windows and sometimes you need to spend big to bring in specific players," he said.
"Every year, it gets harder and more competitive in the Premier League for a mixture of reasons.
"There are five clubs challenging for the title and three more looking to win places in Europe. Yes, this is the most competitive season since the start of the Premier League."
Playing in the Europa League, where they reached the last 16 before losing to Dynamo Kiev, clearly affected the Toffees last season because of the congested fixture schedule.
But the aim, Martinez said, is to qualify for the continental competition again.
He said: "It's different when you are playing in Europe season after season. You can cope with it a lot better.
"Psychologically it's very tough, like having to go to Russia on a Thursday and arriving back on a Friday afternoon to face Manchester United at Old Trafford for an early Sunday kick-off.
"But we want to be in those situations, to be playing in Europe year after year."
Big few days for Cleverley's career
FOCUS: Tom Cleverley says the next few days in Singapore will be crucial as he tries to gel with his new team.
Tom Cleverley has travelled around the world in his time as a professional footballer.
Since his promotion to the Manchester United first team in 2008, he has spent the last few pre-seasons on tour in Africa, the United States, Australia and Asia, taking on the likes of Kaizer Chiefs, Chicago Fire, Cerezo Osaka and Kitchee.
This year, the 25-year-old finds himself in Singapore for the Barclays Asia Trophy, after moving to Everton and reuniting with manager Roberto Martinez, whom he worked with while on loan at Wigan Athletic during the 2010-11 season.
Cleverley says the next few days in Singapore will be crucial as he embarks on a new chapter in his career.
"There's no better way to settle into a new team than spending seven, eight days solid with your new team-mates," the Englishman, who was on loan at Aston Villa last season, said yesterday.
"You make new friends and get to know everyone a bit more. As for Singapore, it's somewhere I've never been to before and it's nice to travel to new places.
"It's a really nice city, even though we've only been here for a day."
Cleverley, along with Everton teammates Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry, were at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, where they interacted with young aspiring footballers as part of the Premier Skills Community Festival.
The England international was pleasantly surprised at the reception his new team received.
One thing he is not used to is the weather here, and he conceded it will be a factor when they take on Stoke City at the National Stadium today.
Stoke's Bojan Krkic, Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan, and Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy and Ignacio Monreal presided over the medal presentation at the conclusion of the event yesterday.
And one man who not complaining about the Singapore weather was Bojan.
With a grin, the former Barcelona forward told The New Paper: "It's a bit hot but that's all right because it's usually so cold in England. It's nice to have a bit of a change."