Everton ready to embrace Europa League
17 September 2014, 22:54
London - Bucking the trend of most successful Premier League managers, Roberto Martinez will not complain if his Everton side face some fixture congestion this season - in fact the Spaniard is positively hoping for it.
Everton are back in Europe for the first time in five years and begin their Europa League campaign with a tricky home game against Germany's VfL Wolfsburg on Thursday.
That could be the first of many European games this season should Everton go deep into the competition and Martinez is relishing the prospect.
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"Coming back to European competition is what we want and what we worked extremely hard for last season. Everyone is excited at Goodison," Martinez told Talksport radio on Wednesday.
Earlier this week he had said: "We are not a team who want to moan about the number of games or talk about the Europa League in a disrespectful manner.
"It would be nonsense or stupid to say we don't want to be giving everything we've got. It is a priority for us.
"Realistically we need to see how well we can do in the Europa League to see if one day we can get into the Champions League."
It is a refreshing attitude and one reflected among Everton's fans, who have had a somewhat strange relationship with European soccer having first tasted it with an inglorious first-round defeat by Scotland's Dunfermline Athletic in the 1962-63 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
Supporters of a certain age still wonder how they managed to lose to Panathinaikos on the away goals rule in the quarter-finals of the 1970-71 European Cup, but the 1984/85 Cup Winners' Cup campaign holds a special place in the club's history.
The night they came from behind to beat Bayern Munich in the second leg of the semi-final is widely regarded as the noisiest ever experienced at Goodison Park.
Everton went on to overwhelm Rapid Vienna 3-1 in the final to lift their first, and to date only, European silverware.
Two weeks after that Rotterdam triumph came the Heysel Stadium disaster and the subsequent ban on English clubs that twice denied a superlative Everton side a chance to play in the European Cup.
They finally returned to Europe's top table, or at least the qualifying round dining room, in 2005 having come fourth in the Premier League the previous season but lost to eventual semi-finalists Villarreal of Spain and failed to make the group stage
There have been a few forgettable UEFA Cup and Europa League campaigns since but this is their first European adventure for five years and the first under Martinez
"It is 52 years since the first time we were involved in European competition so that shows you the history and how important it is for Everton to be in European competitions again, and we are looking forward to it," Martinez said.
"The squad is big enough, it is something that we embrace.
"We need to develop that winning mentality, we need to develop that desire to be in different competitions. I don't see it as a problem at all."
After a jittery start to the season, having shipped 10 goals despite playing well in most of their domestic league games, the feelgood factor is back at Everton following last term's fifth-place finish and the club's Premier League record of 72 points.
A 2-0 win at West Bromwich Albion last weekend was followed on Tuesday by the news that permission had been granted to begin planning a new 50,000-seat stadium in the north of Liverpool.