Former Everton goalkeeper Nigel Martyn has backed Frank Lampard as the frontrunner for the vacant managerial position at Goodison Park after weeks of turmoil.
The former Chelsea manager – a former teammate of Martyn’s at international level – has emerged as the lead candidate to replace Rafael Benitez along with Vitor Pereira and it is thought an official announcement could come as early as the weekend.
Lampard has been linked with a number of high profile jobs over the past year – including Norwich, Newcastle and Crystal Palace – despite underwhelming returns while in charge of Chelsea and Derby but is thought to be the preferred candidate to bring harmony back to the blue half of Merseyside.
He has inched above another high profile name and home favourite Wayne Rooney who has won a lot of plaudits for his work with financially-stricken Derby, but Martyn believes Lampard’s brief experiences in the top flight make him the standout candidate.
On Rooney’s claims for the top job, the former Everton keeper told 101 Great Goals: “He will have learned a lot and that is coming to the fore in his management and it’s probably a little too early and I see him slightly behind someone like Frank Lampard, who has had a year of managing in the Premier League.
“Both of them would have contacts that you would need to get players in to improve the squad. Whether an appointment is going to be made with any time left in this window left to make any acquisitions remains to be seen.
“He (Rooney) is learning an awful lot, but I think if I’m being honest he probably needs to see the Derby thing through and continue cutting his teeth where he is, and doing such a good job.
“Ultimately, a bigger job is around the corner, I just feel it’s a little bit too early for him now.”
Given the furore upon his appointment, it is perhaps no surprise in the end that Benitez’s reign at Everton ended in misery.
Despite a promising start to the season, a run of one win since September 25 saw them plummet down the league and become serious relegation candidates before a miserable 2-1 defeat to Norwich finally spelled the end for the former Liverpool boss.
Despite those troubles which now see them just four points above the drop, albeit with games in hand on the teams below them, Martyn is confident they have enough about them to escape trouble once the direction of the club is settled.
“Certainly, this upheaval at the moment is detrimental to the team playing the best football that they can,” he said. “And the uncertainty that’s around the club at the moment with no manager, supporters that are unhappy, with no structure in place to recruit players.
“The scouting system is pretty much gone with Rafa and head recruitment is gone as well. So there are an awful lot of things that need to be put in place to make the club strong again and to pull it back to where it should be.
“At this point, it’s down to the players to step up now because the club is a little bit unsteady of where it is and that’s never usually good for results. So the players have really got to stand up, and be resilient and put in the performances now, individually and as a team, that gain the points they need just to keep out of trouble.”
However he went on to add: “But the squad is good enough now, most people are back and fit, I think it’s just (Abdoulaye) Doucoure and (Fabian) Delph that are out for a month now. That’s a bit of a blow, especially Doucoure, but with (Yerry) Mina coming back and (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin.
“I think he wants to come back and score the goals but ultimately it does take time to come back after a long injury before you start finding your best form again so I think he’ll come strong and get the goals that Everton are going to need just to keep away from that relegation fight.
“They are just a little bit too close to it at the moment and need to get some results in the next four or five games just to move themselves away from it a little bit.”
If Everton are to survive, there is the potential for another of Martyn’s former clubs, Leeds, to be dragged back into the scrap having threatened to climb clear with wins over West Ham and Burnley.
A defeat to Newcastle just halted their progress and leaves them three points clear of the Toffees, but Martyn expects both of his former clubs to do enough to secure Premier League football next season.
“They have struggled,” he admitted. “And I don’t think that they are playing the free-flowing football that they played in their first season back.
“They go from a win at West Ham to then losing at home to Newcastle, just when you think if you can get three wins on the bounce it could give you a little bit of breathing space.
“Looking up the table, what do they need? Fifteen more points? Can they get five wins? Or four wins and four draws or whatever just to keep yourself out of trouble?
“If I’m being honest, I think both teams will survive and be in the Premier League next year.”