Gary Lineker is right to say Everton fans shouldn't worry; they'll be competing again soon

The recent spell in the bottom half of the Premier League is just a bump in a road leading back to Europe for the Toffees.

Former Everton striker Gary Lineker told the club's fans earlier on Wednesday not to be worried about their current form, claiming that if the Toffees can keep their squad together then they are capable of replicating Leicester City's rise to success.

The Goodison Park club suffered a disappointing campaign last season in Roberto Martinez's second year in charge of the club, falling from fifth place in 2013-14 to 11th by last summer.

That was the first time in nine years that the Toffees had finished outside the Premier League's top eight, and with the side mired in mid-table once again with just three months of the season to go, Lineker's claim seemed a very bold one indeed.

However, though such a lofty position must seem inconceivable to fans on the blue side of the Mersey, the Foxes' astonishing season shows that anything is possible, and the thing is, Everton remain a club that possesses everything necessary to enjoy the same kind of success as Claudio Ranieri's side.

First and foremost, they have a squad boasting the perfect blend of youth and experience. At 35, Gareth Barry is still a consistent performer in the centre of midfield, whilst players such as Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and Leighton Baines have each played more than 300 games for the club.

On the other hand, the standout players in Martinez's current squad are under the age of 23.

After a slightly disappointing season in front of goal on the domestic front last term, Romelu Lukaku is currently enjoying the most profitable campaign of his time at Everton, and with 16 goals in the league he is just two strikes away from racking up the highest season tally of his entire career.

Another young star performing to unprecedented heights is midfielder Ross Barkley, who has made the step up to become fully-fledged regular at international level and whose goal tally this season is almost double his previous best. Between them, Lukaku and Barkley have scored an astonishing 33 goals in all competitions in 2015-16.

The attacking guile of 21-year-old Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu adds an extra dimension - the former Barcelona man looks a snip at around £4 million - and though John Stones has been in and out of form this season following the will-he-won't-he Chelsea transfer saga, the England international is a top-quality centre-back in the making.

Then there's the manager. Martinez has received criticism from some quarters for the way the Toffees dropped off after his first season in charge, but that initial fifth-place finish was largely achieved with David Moyes' squad.

Since then the former Wigan boss has tried to put his own stamp on the side, and though it is not reaping dividends at the moment, it will do, so long as he is allowed to continue his project in the way that Moyes was at Goodison, but was denied the opportunity to do at Old Trafford. 

Moyes was at Goodison Park for a decade, a virtual eternity in modern football. To follow that, as the Scot himself knows better than anyone, is no easy task and requires patience and support, and Martinez is deserving of both for the long-term.

Everton, on their day, play entertaining, enterprising football and can beat any side in the top flight. More than that, they are a team in the truest sense of the word.

What is of key importance is that the club dig their heels in and emerge in August still with all of their key players, and that any money Martinez is given he spends wisely, primarily on shoring up the back four, and potentially on a long-term replacement for the soon-to-depart Tim Howard.

If that all happens, then Lineker is right: this Toffees side has the potential to replicate the achievements of Leicester and certainly those of Moyes' early Everton side, and be knocking on the door of the Champions League this time next season.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for EVERTON team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch