Everton's Roberto Martinez has dismissed talk of scrapping FA Cup replays or moving them to midweek dates.
“We should respect the tradition and do what we can to help,” the manager said before today’s fifth-round tie at Bournemouth. “The FA Cup is the best cup competition in world football.”
Without that improbable FA Cup win with Wigan in 2013, Martinez might not be Everton's manager. Instead of being handily placed to fill a vacancy when David Moyes moved to Manchester United, he would have had to cope with more criticism for the relegation in the same season, not to mention sticking around in Wigan to try to sort out some of the damage.
But Everton never managed to win the FA Cup in the 11 years Moyes spent at the club, so such a recent overachiever appealed to Bill Kenwright, especially as he reportedly promised to lead Everton into the Champions League.
Martinez has not yet managed that and after an encouraging first season he is arguably further away from cracking the elite than ever, despite the luxury of being able to call on three or four players of genuine Champions League pedigree.
To say that some Everton supporters are unhappy about this state of affairs would be an understatement –
has just revealed that some members of his family have stopped going to matches and are convinced players such as
, Séamus Coleman and
will move on in the summer – yet Martinez is refusing to seek refuge in the cup and is insisting European football can still be achieved.
“We need to look at the league before we think about the cup,” he said. “We are not far away from the European places and that is what we are going to fight for.”
Though 11th in the table, which is where they finished last season, Everton need to make up five points to reach Southampton or West Ham. Unlike Man United or Liverpool they have no European distractions and if they could put a couple wins together they would go into the final third of the season with confidence.
Yet this is a team who have just lost a sixth home game of the season. Only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa have managed to lose more than that and no one is talking up either of those two sides for a late run. When league football resumes it does so with the Merseyside derby at Anfield, where Everton have not managed a win this century.
It would be easy for Martinez to try to use today’s game and another possible cup run as a useful distraction from league difficulties, though he is probably aware Everton supporters would not swallow that.
If Everton could climb as far as the “European places”, considering their present position, it would certainly count as an achievement. Just like the FA Cup, however, it still might not be enough. Guardian service