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From time to time, the arrival of a new manager will have the desired effect. The so-called ‘honeymoon period’ where a new boss will improve morale, lift the players’ spirits, ultimately leading to better results on and off the football pitch.
We experienced this first-hand when we travelled to the Stadium of Light towards the end of the last campaign to face Paulo Di Canio’s rejuvenated Sunderland. The charismatic Italian was able to install a sense of passion and pride in his players, who responded with a series of impressive performances to maintain their stay in the Barclays Premier League.
Everton Football Club as a whole hasn’t experienced this and as many would point out, we haven’t needed to. Morale was good in the camp as were results and the team ended last season a high.
This summer has been one of transition at Goodison Park and we all accept it will take time for the players to adapt to Roberto Martinez’s style and tactics. However, it seems like one player in particular is already relishing life under the Spaniard’s stewardship.
Refreshed, leaner and with a smile on his face, Nikica Jelavic has returned for pre-season training looking more like the player we acquired from Rangers 18 months ago.
Few can forget the impact The Croat had at Goodison following his arrival from across the boarder, notching an impressive 10 goals in 15 games, including two at Carrow Road, where we get the new season underway this weekend.
Despite a positive start, last season did not follow the same pattern and, bereft of confidence, he found himself playing second fiddle to Victor Anichebe, who enjoyed by far his best season for the Club.
His final strike of the 2012/13 campaign - in the 2-0 win over Manchester City - was met with mass relief by the player and supporters, as it ended his barren run in front of goal. Such was his celebration that day, Jelavic picked up a yellow card but his joy was matched by 30,000 Evertonians who have always cried out for that 20+ goal a season front man.
Martinez’s arrival has allowed for a clean slate for every player within the squad and the 27-year-old has flourished during the pre-season campaign with four goals, including an excellent finish against Real Madrid in Los Angeles.
An instinctive forward, the large majority of Jelavic’s goals in an Everton shirt have been first-time finishes, which leave both defender and goalkeeper with no chance.
A lack of confidence last season led to him thinking more about what he was going to do and before he knew it, the chance had passed him by.
Some players find a new lease of life under a new boss and this definitely seems the case for Nikica Jelavic. While he was always seen as an integral part of David Moyes’ plans, his form neglected him and alternative managerial styles can often bring the best out of certain personnel.
Early suggestions are that Martinez will give a lot more freedom to creative flair players, such as Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar, added to by the attacking prowess of our ‘wing-backs', the Croat’s ploy for more goals can only be aided.
The signing of Arouna Kone, a player Martinez worked with at Wigan, also looks to have spurred Jelavic on to improve his performances, despite many suggesting he would fall even further down the pecking order.
However, the former Rangers hitman looks to be ready to battle for a place in the starting line-up and with Anichebe also in the ranks, Martinez has a big decision to make on who he wants to lead the line on Saturday.
Chris Hughton’s men propose a tough test this weekend and with the summer acquisitions of Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and rumoured Blues target Leroy Fer, the Canaries will be looking to improve on their 11th placed finish last time out.
However, Martinez has cause for optimism and if he can get his strikers firing, there is no reason why we can’t turn the high number of draws in the last campaign into wins to enhance our chances of European qualification.
While we wait for our first taste of competitive action under the new boss, Nikica Jelavic seems to have once again found his feet on Merseyside.
If he can transfer his pre-season scoring form into the Premier League campaign, it may not be too long until his name is being bellowed from the Gwladys Street once again.
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