The Gwladys Street End roared in approval at the first glimpse of their new manager Roberto Martinez, but you sense the latest remarks from his predecessor were the key reasons for such vehement support throughout this frustrating stalemate.
Everton’s football was tidy at times but a goalless draw with a dogged West Bromwich team, after a draw at Norwich last week, hardly represents a blistering start for the Spaniard.
Yet in dismissively rebuffing the ‘derisory and insulting’ £28m approach from David Moyes for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, Everton and Martinez provided fans with a satisfactorily dismissive reaction to Manchester United’s attempt to prise away the key duo.
Moyes’ hypocrisy in insisting he would have recommended both leave to further their careers – given his anger at Manchester City’s pursuit of Joleon Lescott a few summers ago – and his startlingly low valuation of the pair has sadly tarnished the 11-year bond established between the Scot and Evertonians.
Martinez provided a loaded response to Moyes’ comments after the match. “It [United’s bid] has been a bit of a farce,” he said. “When you put in a bid below what the other team spent, you expect it to be rejected. My feeling is you should never talk about players who belong to other teams. We would be a bit more respectful than that.”
Everton had by far the better of a turgid opening period and a frantic second half, but were unable to find the final touch to give Martinez a perfect Goodison start. If the heads of Baines and Fellaini, who both started here, have been turned by United’s interest, neither showed it.
Admittedly both were largely peripheral figures, but the Belgian once more displayed his knack of finding space in crowded penalty areas when Phil Jagielka’s cross-field ball found him six yards out with eight minutes left. His prodded shot rebounded agonisingly off the far post.
A point at Goodison constitutes a good return for Albion, but with Nicolas Anelka’s future unclear following the death of his agent, finding someone to replace Romelu Lukaku’s 17 Premier League goals last season poses a stark problem for Steve Clarke.
“Nicolas had been injured anyway so our preparation was not too disrupted and there’s been no change [to his situation] that I’m aware of,” said Clarke.
“It would be nice to bring one or two more players, but I think the group we have showed today that we already have a strong Premier League team.”
Kevin Mirallas seemed to spark Everton into life just after the half hour, Ben Foster tipping over a rasping effort over from the Belgian. Nikica Jelavic agonisingly missed his kick from six yards soon after, before industrious full-back Seamus Coleman intelligently cut inside and nearly beat Foster at his near post.
Everton’s tempo was markedly raised in the second half, with Fellaini denied at point-blank range by Foster after Ross Barkley’s initial shot had been saved.
With the game more stretched, James Morrison tested Tim Howard – who first came to the Premier League 10 years ago this month – with a firm shot after a one-two with Shane Long.
Albion lost Foster to an ankle injury late on but their substitute goalkeeper Luke Daniels kept Everton at bay, while Fellaini hit the post and had a header cleared off the line.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Coleman; Osman, Fellaini; Mirallas (Naismith, 72), Barkley, Pienaar; Jelavic (Koné, 72).
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster (Daniels, 78); Olsson, Ridgewell, McAuley, Jones; Mulumbu, Morrison, Dorrans, Yacob; Long (Brunt, 81), Rosenberg (Vydra, 66).
Referee: Roger East
Man of the match: Miralles (Everton)
Match rating: 6/10