Roberto Martinez will tell you he was never in doubt that Everton would be where they stand tomorrow night – ready to make another big stride towards displacing Arsenal from the Champions League by recording an eighth successive Premier League win, over Crystal Palace at a bouncing Goodison Park. He could just have done without his chairman, Bill Kenwright, proclaiming the fact quite so early.
The Spaniard reflected on Kenwright's revelation at Martinez's inaugural press conference last June that his job interview had included the promise from the candidate of a top-four finish.
"When David [Moyes] first came to see me 11 years ago we were in a bad state and he said, 'You won't go down'," Kenwright declared back then. "Roberto's first words were, 'I'll get you in the Champions League'." Martinez joked at the time that Kenwright "has not put any pressure on me" but he did feel anxiety about how his dressing room would perceive it.
"It was a little bit too early to say we would be challenging because I hadn't even told my players about the vision, so it was a little bit like, 'I don't know how the players are going to react to this!'" Martinez said. "I expected to be the one to slowly unfold the plans, not just give it on the first day, and my worry was how the group would react. It would have helped if he'd allowed me to say it to the players first! I didn't say anything, no, because I have great respect for the chairman. When you meet him you realise his life is Everton and he has a genuine love for the football club."
That disquieting moment seems like ancient history as Everton, who with 66 points have surpassed their record Premier League points haul of 65 set in 2008, seek further progress against a Palace side Martinez considers the strongest defensively in the top flight.
The manager, who will rotate his strikers to deal with three games in 11 days, said that Arsène Wenger's suggestion that Everton would drop points was "a footballing compliment". He added: "There are five games to go and when you have a team like Arsenal looking at where Everton are, that is a good sign. It is."
The psychological component is as significant for Martinez as it is for the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, though the Spaniard rejected the idea that his armoury included the use of visualisation techniques. "Not really. It's been a common sense approach," he said.
Martinez insisted Everton were playing without pressure. "We have nothing to lose. I think the pressure comes when you have something to lose," he added. "We are in a position where we have everything to gain. We have already gained the club's highest points tally in Premier League history. So from this point on, we have everything to gain and the only things I am focusing on is maintaining our standards and the competition for places."