Pleasing early signs, but more of the same required

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesEverton supporters are hoping Arouna Kone and Roberto Martinez can recreate their FA Cup magic for the Toffees.

When Darron Gibson arrived in January 2012, the midfielder became the first cash purchase at Everton in almost a year; 50 weeks elapsed between the nominal transfer of Apostolos Vellios and the Gibson signing.

Fast-forward to the present day and the club has splashed the cash twice in as many days, Arouna Kone and Joel Robles joining in the past 24 hours. Add in the free transfer of Antolín Alcaraz and some Evertonians appear on the brink of spontaneous combustion such is the uncommonness of early transfer business at Goodison Park.

Usually scrambling around in the bowels of the transfer window, this early business is a refreshing change for Everton supporters, with these long-suffering fans often watching their side fail in pursuit of transfer targets at the last minute.

-Martinez excited by Kone renunion
-Alcaraz, Robles also on the way

Everton legend Neville Southall recently said, "For the last, god knows how long, it has been so negative around the club," and few could argue with this sentiment. For any number of reasons, the proverbial black cloud has lingered over Everton Football Club in recent seasons yet there are signs of the cloud lifting.

Whether it is the optimistic musings from the new manager, the quick formation of the backroom staff or three signings in two days, there is a positive feel around the club. Although the off-field grievances rumble on, the playing side of things feels decidedly upbeat at present.

The three additions merely fill the numerical gaps left by Jan Mucha, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Phil Neville; the squad remains short on numbers, but more are expected as the early signs from the new regime continue to reassure the fan base.

Signed Monday, Kone offers a fresh attacking option having outscored his fellow Everton forwards last season; the Ivorian is a player Roberto Martinez knows well from their time at Wigan and the new arrival will look to bolster an attack needing a constant goal source.

As mentioned here, Antolín Alcaraz is a shrewd signing on a free. The experienced Paraguayan provides cover for the established pairing of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, while paving the way for the departure of John Heitinga, his potential exit providing further remuneration for a notoriously cash-strapped club.

Having ended the last campaign on loan at Wigan, the third addition, Joel Robles, is another former Martinez employee. Seemingly creating a lasting impression on his temporary boss, the young Spanish goalkeeper arrives from Atletico Madrid on a five-year deal for an undisclosed fee.

Providing sufficient competition for the unchallenged Tim Howard, with the advantage of age on his side, Robles is sure to set his sights on the previously uncontested number one spot.

Given the links between Martinez, his new signings and his former club, rival fans are quick to mock the acquisition of relegated players; many Evertonians are also questioning the recruitment of players from a team unable to survive in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, though relegation is an unwanted mark on the CV of a footballer, it does not ensure players from relegated sides are lacking in quality. After all, some of the best transfers under David Moyes arrived from the depths of the Football League.

Phil Jagielka joined from relegated Sheffield United in 2007; the Sale-born defender is now an England international. Leighton Baines began his career in the equivalent of League 1 with Wigan, Tim Cahill and Joleon Lescott both moved to Everton from Championship sides.

Credit rests on Martinez for moving early and the much-maligned Everton board warrant praise, however faint, for backing the new boss as promised during his unveiling. However, before the red carpet falls at their feet, the real litmus test arrives on Sept. 1 when the squad assembled for the forthcoming season takes shape.

Plenty will fear yet another false dawn despite this promising start to the summer. Although the early moves are smart ones, supporters wait with bated breath over the attentions cast on their prized assets. Currently maintaining a 'not-for-sale' stance over Baines, deviation from this would threaten to undermine the recent positive steps.

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