Toffees stop singing the blues and glimpse a brighter future
Everton 3 Norwich 0
Manager leaves. Team start to play well. They win impressively.
It's become a familiar routine and the only regret for Everton, as it has been for countless others this season, is that they did not produce this form when a job was at stake. Roberto Martinez, the champion of youth development, may come to lament allowing his successor to reap the rewards of a legacy below the first team.
Whispers around Merseyside have said for a while that the Everton academy has a crop of youngsters who will soon invade the Premier League, and the performances of teenagers Kieran Dowell, Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny in a comfortable win provided compelling evidence.
Dowell was involved in two of the goals and played 69 exquisite minutes, leaving to a standing ovation. Alongside him, Davies helped Gareth Barry run midfield. A timid opposition and the nature of this occasion will be taken into account - Norwich bid farewell to the Premier League with a whimper - but the teenagers showed bravery in possession so lacking late in Martinez's reign.
Caretaker manager David Unsworth said on Friday they were ready and his enterprising team selection was vindicated. "The young lads were terrific," he said. "Kieran Dowell showed his quality flashes of genius and Davies was probably man of the match."
Dowell could claim an assist as James McCarthy hit a brilliant opening goal, neatly rolling the ball into the midfielder's path.
The lead doubled ahead of half-time when Leighton Baines stroked in his spot kick just before the break after Romelu Lukaku had been dragged down by Robbie Brady. The third goal followed shortly after half-time.
Davies stole possession, Dowell knitted the play in midfield, McCarthy found the overlapping Kenny and the subsequent cross was tapped in by Kevin Mirallas.
Everton were at ease, malcontent replaced by appreciation as Tim Howard said his goodbyes. Norwich have work to do if they are to mount a promotion challenge next season.
Their consolation is Alex Neil intends to oversee the revival. "It looks like I will be here for next season," said the manager. "The powers-that-be will look at my contribution and have a judgment, it's not about me making a decision. But since I've been here the club has shown me nothing but support."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)