May 12, 2016

As the crescendo to every Premier League campaign, "Championship Sunday" can be absolutely riveting or rather mundane if few clubs have much to play for by the time match day 38 rolls around.

But rarely do they include a managerial sacking in the days leading up to the final fixture of the season - such is the case for Everton heading into their finale at Goodison Park on Sunday following their firing of Roberto Martinez on Thursday with "immediate effect.

"Everton Football Club regrets to announce that Roberto Martinez has left his position as first team manager with immediate effect," the club said in a statement. "The Chairman and the Board of Directors would like to place on record their thanks for the dedication and commitment Roberto has shown during his three seasons with the club.

"Roberto has been a great ambassador for the club, conducting himself, at all times, with the utmost integrity and dignity."

Under-21 manager David Unsworth and club legend Joe Royale will be on the sidelines for the Toffees (10-14-13), and oddsmakers have already installed Frank de Boer as a heavy favourite to be the next manager. De Boer was denied a fifth Eredivisie title in six seasons with Ajax after being pipped by PSV Eindhoven in the final day of the season.

Martinez, 42, took charge on the blue half of Liverpool in 2013 following David Moyes' exit, guided the club to a fifth-place finish in his first season, but even with semifinal appearances in both the League Cup and FA Cup this season, the shine has come off as the club has slipped and currently find themselves in 12th place with 44 points.

Following a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa on March 1, Everton have won just one of their last 10 league fixtures (1-3-6) and heavy defeats to Merseyside rivals Liverpool (4-0) as well as champions Leicester City (3-1) and most recently Sunderland 3-0 on Wednesday were too much for a side expected to at least contend for European play given their talent and silky offence.

That offence almost always produced, totaling 56 goals, but the 55 shipped are the worst of any team not in the bottom five of the table, and a back line that was supposed to be anchored by 21-year-old centre back John Stones - also widely considered to be a fixture in England's defence for the next decade was instead constantly pulled asunder.

At the Stadium of Light, Patrick Van Aanholt opened the scoring and Lamine Kone added a brace to effectively seal Martinez's fate. Now the players must pick up the pieces and produce a good performance for the home fans, but Goodison has been far from a fortress this season.

Everton have sustained eight home defeats this season, their highest total in the last 10 years and a far cry from Martinez's maiden voyage on the touch line in which is troops lost only once at home.

While Norwich City manager Alex Neil still has his job, his club suffered a far worse fate than the sack Wednesday as Sunderland's victory ensured the Canaries, along with Newcastle United and Aston Villa, will play their football in the Championship in 2016-17.

It was the second one-and-done performance in the top flight for Norwich City, who were relegated in 2014 and returned after winning a spot in the Championship playoffs last season. Despite a strong performance in a 4-2 win Wednesday over Watford at Carrow Road in which Dieumerci Mbokani scored on either side of the break, Neil's lads fell short of their season goal of securing Premier League football for next term.

The fans, though, gave the team a rousing send-off following the final whistle, an act that left Neil humble and gracious.

"I hope they recognise that I've worked extremely hard this season to try and make us as successful as we can be," he told the team's official website Thursday. "... I'll share the good times, I will feel I've played my part but when I feel I've let people down I'll be the first to say and accept my criticism.

"Without question, it hurts."

Neil appears ready to stick with the Canaries in the Championship, though the team does need a new chief executive after David McNally resigned Monday. The manager wants to make sure there is a common direction with ownership before plotting another return to the top flight.

"We haven't got a Chief Executive at the moment, so there are certain things that need to be resolved within the club," Neil said. "I want to make something clear, I'm not suggesting at any stage that I'm leaving the club ... I just think we need to have a clear direction in which we're going. That's important."

The win over Watford stopped the rot on a four-match losing streak in which the club failed to score.

These sides drew 1-1 in December at Carrow Road as Wes Hoolahan scored two minutes after halftime to cancel out a 15th-minute goal by Romelu Lukaku.

The Toffees also put Norwich out of this season's League Cup back in October in a penalty shootout. Sebastien Bassong and Leon Osman scored in the second half before Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond missed penalties for Norwich. All four Everton players that stepped up to the spot scored, and they advanced 4-3.

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