Martinez shows humility as Wigan survive final-day drama
Stoke City 0
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
For anybody associated with Wigan Athletic who did not receive a kiss and a hug from chairman Dave Whelan or manager Roberto Martinez, please contact the club for compensation. Love, and a goal from Hugo Rodellega, conquered all when the game appeared lost.
With 15 minutes of the season remaining Wigan's six-year tenure in the Premier League was over. And then in the space of three minutes their world flipped on its axis. Blackpool scored at the wrong end at Old Trafford to lift Wigan to safety, and Rodallega rubber-stamped survival with a thumping header.
Referee Andre Marriner did what he could to shred what was left of Wigan nerves by wringing six minutes and 12 seconds from five minutes of added time. His whistle was the cue for wild celebration. Martinez was given the bumps by his players and Whelan was ambushed.
"Wonderful. We have been bottom all season and on the final day we get this. Look at that," Whelan said, pointing to the tumult erupting around the Britannia Stadium.
Survival was not an outcome that could have been foreseen in a first half dominated by Stoke. Confronted by two banks of four, Wigan could not get a foothold in the game. Jon Walters put the ball in the net for Stoke. Offside. Kenwyne Jones ripped a shot from the edge of the box. Antolin Alcarez cleared off the line.
Wigan, though being pushed and pulled by events elsewhere, at least met the minimum requirement after the break -- to fight for themselves. They had enough possession to at least threaten the goal.
With 24 minutes to go, Connor Sammon made way for Manchester United prospect Tom Cleverley. The move produced Wigan's first genuine chance as Cleverley drove the ball into the shins of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. And then came the goal. It was created down the left, this time Charles N'Zogbia supplying the cross for Rodallega to finish.
Martinez, being the gentleman he is, paid tribute to the teams that went down, Blackpool and Birmingham. But the sun shone on the youngest manager in the top flight. Martinez will turn 38 a Premier League manager, a popular development judging by the scenes that greeted this win.
"Teams that were relegated did not deserve that. We have to remember that. We know how they must be feeling because when we came here we were in 19th place on 39 points. We had to win. We have been written off so many times... Now he have a seventh season in the Premier League, which is a dream. We deserve it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)