BILL KENWRIGHT has overseen many successful auditions in his other, less colourful life, as a theatre impresario. But none at Wembley Stadium. And none while the ‘actor’ auditioning was blissfully unaware of his presence.
Yet that was the scene played out during this season’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan.
Just three days after David Moyes had delivered his resignation bombshell, the Everton chairman was at Wembley running the rule over a potential successor.
And what he witnessed was akin to Henry Thomas’s legendary screen test for ET. Or the day a dowdy spinster from Scotland made Simon Cowell’s mouth gape with a heart-rendingly beautiful rendition of: “I dreamed a dream.”
“I’d gone to Wembley that day not to watch Manchester City and Wigan Athletic but to look at Roberto Martinez,” explained Kenwright. “I watched him and studied him.
“In the first 10 minutes I thought it was going to be about 8-0 to City. But he was stood there watching and then slowly they started building and City simply couldn’t get through.
“Later, when I met him in my office, he got his iPad out and he showed me the two teams. He used the magnetic counters and he said ‘this is what I did.’
“He went through it tactically and he showed me how he beat City and it was enormously impressive.
“It was a little like watching a director telling actors what to do.
“Of course at the time of the Cup Final he was the Wigan manager, so I phoned up Dave (Whelan) and said ‘I don’t steal managers, but when you’re ready give us a ring.’ thinking two things.
“I thought ‘one’ they were going down and Dave might want to start again, which he didn’t.
“And I thought ‘two’. Would the lad, knowing what little I know about him, feel honour-bound to take them back up?
“So I needed to give them space to sort that out together.”
When they did sort that out, with a parting of the Wigan ways, Martinez sat down on two occasions with the Blues chairman.
And each time Kenwright developed a growing sense of certainty that he’d found his man.
If Martinez didn’t exactly have him at ‘Hola’ – it wasn’t long after.
“I knew I had others to see as well,” said the chairman. “But I work on instinct in my other life and I thought ‘this is great. I’ve met someone who could end the search in my head’.
“I’d seen the three lads, Stubbsy, David Weir and Phil Neville, and was so impressed by that three ... so impressed.
“I went through a period of several days thinking ‘I wonder, I wonder, I wonder’ but I decided that the time wasn’t right for them.
“And then we started interviewing others. But the fear has got to be there that if you don’t get a David Moyes, then you mightn’t find that person.
“It’s like when you’re casting a play, thinking will I find that person? But this is like a hundred times more important because it’s almost like casting the lives of those guys out there, those fans – and you need something that makes you go ‘Wow!’
“Meeting Roberto gave me that feeling of security.
“We did discuss at the first meeting we didn’t want the standards and position David Moyes had achieved to slip: we wanted to build from that and that is the only statement we made. But he said to me ‘What do you want?’
“I told him I wanted to give him what he wanted.
“But ask me as a fan and I want the Champions League, of course I do.
“I want Europe.
“I told him ‘I’ve got to find the way to give you that’ and the way can only be financial.
“Then he said ‘you’ve got a fantastic Academy’ and he rolled off all the kids’ names in the Academy. He said ‘you’ve got to build those’.
“And then he started talking about a few footballers who are around and he said ‘can you hold onto your squad?’ I told him ‘they are all on long contracts’ one has a release clause as you know but they’re all under good contracts.
“So what I got more than anything from him was a sense of security.”
Kenwright also got a sense of a man who understands the Everton psyche – the mindset of football fans who cherish football played in a particular style.
It’s a style Martinez has always embraced, first at Swansea and then latterly at Wigan, and there are few arenas in the Premier League where this approach will be more passionately received than at Goodison Park.
Kenwright admits that the prospect of Martinez building on the platform left by David Moyes – but with even more positive, expansive football – and utilising the club’s Youth Academy even more, excites the fan in him.
“I said to Roberto there’s a certain style of football which bores me rigid.
“At Everton we love men, we love the School of Science. I told him about the School of Science, in my office.
“I pointed up at a picture on the wall and said ‘That’s Ball-Harvey and Kendall. And that’s Roy Vernon and that’s Bobby Collins. My wall is full of it.
“He’d never heard of Dave Hickson so I showed him all my Dave Hickson stuff.
“But he couldn’t just be a nice guy. He had to be impressive too, and he was. And yes, I am really, really, excited.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling for someone who hasn’t had a holiday for eight years, for someone who gets his inspiration from his football.
“I find football inspirational.
“The arena of football is unique and when it’s right it’s inspirational – and I think he could be inspirational.”