Martinez hails ‘incredible’ fans

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Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Everton boss Roberto Martinez expressed his “immense pride” for the club’s “incredible” fans after a turbulent 24 hours building up to Thursday evening’s 0-0 Europa League draw at Lille.

The contest had been preceded by trouble in the French city involving Toffees supporters, including an attack on some of them at a bar by a group of at least 50 men on Wednesday night, and a subsequent flare-up in the main square around Thursday lunchtime which saw French police use gas against them.

The Group H game itself was witnessed by around 5,500 Everton fans in the away end of the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, but there was talk that as many as twice that amount in total had made the trip to Lille.

Martinez did not comment on the specific incidents of trouble that had occurred, saying in his post-match press conference when asked about them: “I heard something was reported, but don’t know any details about it.”

But he also said with regard to the fans: “I can only speak from my point of view and the first thing I feel is immense pride and an incredible feeling of seeing what we are as a football club.

“The support doesn’t stop amazing me day to day – it is incredible.

“I have seen full families coming across, some without tickets just wanting to be near the hotel and wish the players well.

“It really meant something for thousands of them, and you keep getting closer to understanding what the Evertonians deserve.

“I would say this will be an incredible memory and that we will be talking about this trip for a long time.

“It gives even more strength to everyone at the club to keep fighting, making sure Everton can carry on progressing and keep having nights like this and success.

“The support we have is quite unique around Europe.”

Martinez was pleased enough to secure a point that takes his side to five from three Group H games and keeps them top of the pool.

But he was critical of the state of the pitch and admitted he could only really be half-satisfied given his team – like Lille – had not been able to create much in attack.

“For us, it is about performing well and getting a positive result,” the Spaniard said.

“I was pleased in terms of players coming in (he made six changes to his first XI) and performing to a high standard, but I think the pitch didn’t help either side – I think with a better pitch, we would have seen a lot more brilliant attacking football from both. I think all in all a draw was a fair result.

“If you could measure the pleasure at the end of the performance, it would be at 50 per cent because I thought we were fantastic defensively. But I did think we couldn’t be ourselves (going forward) – the condition of the pitch didn’t allow us to take risks.”

Martinez had particular praise for Everton skipper Phil Jagielka, who did a fine job of keeping at bay the likes of Divock Origi, the forward loaned back to Lille after joining Liverpool over the summer.

The manager said of centre-back Jagielka: “Nothing affects his level of performance.

“I think the last few weeks he has been immense. I do think he is a step ahead of where he was before.”

Martinez also confirmed Toffees midfielder Ross Barkley required stitches for a head injury but is expected to be fine for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Burnley.

“It was a cut on his eyebrow and he was bleeding heavily,” Martinez said.

“I think there was a collision – an elbow or forearm.

“The Lille player was trying to block his run and caught him. I don’t think it was anything really malicious, but I think if the referee had seen it, he would have been punished.”

Lille boss Rene Girard, whose side are third on three points, said: “We are satisfied to have been able to compete with Everton. Once again we lacked a goal to get a win, but I was really satisfied with the football we produced.

“Maybe he (Martinez) and his team are used to playing on perfect pitches, on pool tables.

“Maybe it was a little bit rough. But I don’t think it really disrupted the teams playing a technical game.

“The conditions used to be better, but due to the weather lately maybe it was a little bit heavy.

“Maybe we can mention to Everton or UEFA that if we played with a closed roof it would have been less wet.

“We asked for that, but it was refused.”

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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