Friday 2 December 2016

Martinez loyalty to the Wigan cause knows no bounds

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Ian Herbert

Published 11/06/2011 | 05:00

On the face of things, Roberto Martinez did not have much to turn his back on at Wigan. The club's training ground is in a place called Lower Standing and there's a rather harsh irony about that because Premier League clubs just don't stand much lower than Wigan on a number of key criteria.

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This is the side with the lowest revenues in the Premier League (£43m) and the second lowest average attendances (16,812 -- better only than Blackpool) last season.

Yet Martinez has decided it is an environment he cannot walk away from. For loyalty and conviction, decisions don't get much bigger than his resolve to give his chairman Dave Whelan one more year. Though the decision has been characterised as one that was wrestled over, he has been fairly sure of his path for some days now.

"Over the last two years the chairman has been very supportive to me and loyal, and now I feel I need to be loyal and supportive back to him," Martinez said yesterday. But the really significant part of his explanation came second: "I haven't finished my job at Wigan Athletic. There is much work still to be done. I don't know how long that will take, but such is the belief that I have always had, I would only ever decide to move when the club is ready for a new manager."

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which Martinez has overhauled Wigan, culturally and philosophically, in the two years since Whelan appointed him.

It is his utter conviction that the overhaul of the club is about to reap rewards which strengthened his resolve not to leave, when he weighed up Villa's overtures.

His inheritance was a club that had been blessed by Whelan's eye for a good manager. Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce had, between them, mined a rich seam of Central American talent, one of the last untapped areas of world football.

But Martinez wanted more for Wigan, a club that had been in his veins ever since he arrived from Spain as a player in 1995 and formed the 'Three Amigos' with Jesus Seba and Isidro Diaz.

He knew that it had always been Wigan against the world in rugby league territory and he wanted to build a philosophy at the club around that smallness.

"I want the players to be brave and I want them to believe that, yes, we are Wigan Athletic, this modest club in the Premier League, but we are a fantastic story," he told me amid the club's desperate relegation fight last month.

To fulfil that aim he has introduced what marketeers would call brand values, which are written on the giant sign that greets players when they walk up to the dressing rooms and the club's modest little Christopher Park training ground. It reads: 'Courage, Possession and Arrogance: Welcome to Work.' (© Independent News Service)

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