Roberto Martinez insists he has faced more difficult times as a manager as he prepares for an FA Cup semi-final labelled make or break for his tenure at Everton.
The growing anger among Toffees fans at the club’s form reached a peak on Wednesday as Everton were trounced 4-0 by Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
With their hopes of achieving anything significant in the league long since gone, the season now rests on the FA Cup and today’s semi-final against Manchester United at Wembley.
There is speculation defeat could bring the axe down on Martinez after nearly three years at Goodison Park.
The Spaniard’s career took an upward trajectory through spells at Swansea and Wigan, with the Latics’ relegation more than balanced out by a spectacular FA Cup triumph in 2013.
That earned Martinez his chance at Everton but after a brilliant first season things have turned sour, and he faces being sacked for the first time.
Asked if these were the toughest moments of his career, Martinez replied: “I wouldn’t say that. I think when you are in situations a bit more extreme (it’s harder).
“Here of course we are carrying hurt but we’re facing the opportunity of achieving something.
“It’s the third time in 20 years that we’re going to be in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
“I’m a positive person by nature and I can see this is an opportunity rather than something to lose.”
Martinez has shrugged off the growing talk about his future thus far and it was the same again, with the Spaniard insisting his only focus is on preparing the team.
He said: “I wouldn’t be professional if I would be using my time on talking about what people think and what the feeling is around the manager.
“My position is to use the time as well as we can to prepare the team, to get everyone ready for the next game.
“The experience that I had in the last 10 years, I’ve been very fortunate to be in high-pressure situations and I know what my role is and what I have to do in order to help the team.”
When Everton produced an exceptional performance to defeat Chelsea 2-0 in the quarter-finals, the hope was it could kickstart their league campaign.
But the Toffees have not won since that game and were totally outplayed against Liverpool even before Ramiro Funes Mori’s red card.
Victory at Wembley over one of the Premier League’s giants would be the perfect response and would bring some much-needed cheer to the club’s demoralised fans.
Martinez said: “It would bring a feeling of pride and I think at the moment we’re all finding it very tough with the events that we’ve had of late. We’re hurting. The way to get rid of that is bringing a winning feeling.
“We are desperate to get the winning feeling back but to do that you have to play well, you have to be good enough to get that, and clearly we are desperate to make sure we get back to our best level on Saturday.”
To compound matters for Martinez, he faces real problems in defence.
Funes Mori starts a three-game ban while full-back Seamus Coleman is ruled out by a hamstring injury and captain Phil Jagielka looks set to join him on the sidelines.
Midfielder Gareth Barry, who could have deputised at centre-back, faces a late fitness test on a groin injury but Martinez is at least hopeful John Stones will have recovered from illness.
Everton recalled Matthew Pennington from his loan at Walsall and Martinez confirmed the 21-year-old will be part of the squad.
Jagielka’s absence would be a massive blow, and Martinez said: “Medically it’s clear that he shouldn’t be available for the game.
“Knowing Phil Jagielka, he wouldn’t accept no as an answer, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to see if we can get him available.
“I just feel it’s too big of an ask for him and Seamus Coleman but we’ll assess him.
“Clearly the one we need to assess closely is John Stones, who has got a better opportunity.”