Roberto Martinez denied that Everton need an FA Cup run to save their season.
The Toffees have flattered to deceive and saw a promising little run ended by last week’s defeat against West Brom, their sixth at home in the Premier League.
They travel to Bournemouth in the fifth round of the FA Cup tomorrow, but boss Martinez insisted qualifying for Europe through the league remains the focus. Everton sit 11th in the table, five points behind seventh-placed West Ham and six adrift of Manchester United in fifth.
Asked if the cup could be the club’s salvation, he said: “No, not at all. First of all we need to look at the league.
“We’re going into the final third of the season. That means 36 points to fight for, and we are not far away from the European places. That’s what we’re going to fight for.
“The team is mentally ready. I think we showed so far what we can achieve. In the League Cup, we got into the semi-final. I thought we had a really good, brave, double-leg semi-final with Manchester City. We were disappointed not to get through and I think it shows how far the expectations have grown and how far we’ve come.
“In the FA Cup we are in the fifth round, facing another Premier League side away from home, understanding the difficulties that brings but in the same way very much looking forward to that opportunity.”
Martinez has felt the heat from some supporters over Everton’s results. Frustration has mounted that, in a season that has seen the usual suspects struggle, the Toffees have not been able to take advantage in the way that the likes of Leicester, Southampton and West Ham have.
Everton fans were unhappy to see Aaron Lennon substituted against West Brom, but Martinez said of their reaction: “It’s not concerning because we are all sharing the same feeling. We were the first ones to be frustrated and disappointed with what we were seeing.
The game will be refereed by Martin Atkinson, the first time he has overseen the Toffees since the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
Defender John Stones will be fit for tomorrow’s clash after a hamstring injury but new signing Oumar Niasse is likely to have to wait for his debut.
Martinez refused to comment on reports linking Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic with an £8million summer switch to Goodison Park.
Former Manchester United and Ireland midfielder Liam Miller has signed for the Wilmington Hammerheads in the third tier of the American League.
Miller, who endured an indifferent season with Cork City in 2015, joins the North Carolina team for the 2016 season. “I am looking forward to the season and to success with the Hammerheads,” said Miller. “It will be a new and exciting challenge for me.”
Cork native Miller, 35, has 21 Republic of Ireland caps, and also played for Celtic, Sunderland, QPR, and Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar in Australia.
“Liam is a fantastic addition to our club,” said Hammerheads head coach Mark Briggs.
"He brings a wealth of experience from a glittering playing career. Adding a player like Liam shows the direction the club wants to head in.”
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