Whelan insists he can keep Martinez for 'return' battle
Dave Whelan remains confident he can persuade Roberto Martínez to remain as Wigan Athletic manager despite the bitter disappointment of failing to prevent relegation from the Premier League.
Martínez will meet Whelan on Monday, and his chairman feels that there is still a "big chance" he will stay to ensure Wigan make an instant return to the top flight.
After eight years as a Premier League club, Wigan finally lost their top-flight status following a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Tuesday night, which came just three days after they lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.
That has led to widespread speculation that Martínez will leave in the summer to remain in charge of a club the Premier League, with most pundits predicting he is the obvious choice to replace David Moyes at Everton.
However, the Spaniard had been expected to leave in each of the past two summers, following approaches from Aston Villa and Liverpool, only to remain at Wigan because of the special bond he has with the club.
"I still think there is a big, big chance Roberto will stay at Wigan," Whelan said.
"On the first Monday at the end of every season, I have sat down with him and he has put his cards on the table. We have always been honest with each other and the meeting on Monday will be no different.
"I don't think relegation means he will definitely leave Wigan – he has always been successful here and he knows he has young players coming through who are going to make a big impression on the first team over the next two or three years. That is something he takes pride in and enjoys.
"I have not resigned myself to losing him. We will decide on Monday, and I've always said, if he decides the time is right for him to go, I will not stand in his way, but nothing will be decided until that meeting.
"We will talk it through and be totally open with each other because we always are."
Whatever happens on Monday, Whelan has promised to respect Martínez's decision and "remain friends" with a "unique person and manager".
But if the 39-year-old indicates at that meeting that he is willing to stay, Whelan is adamant that will be the end of the matter and that anyone interested in poaching him after that will be wasting their time.
"Roberto is completely honest and trustworthy," Whelan said. "He is a man of his word, and so am I. Our relationship is strong and whatever happens, he will remain a very close friend.
"But if he says on Monday that he wants to stay, that will be the end of it.
"We're not going to be in a situation where, in two months, he changes his mind. This meeting on Monday will determine the path we take and that's very important because we want to bounce straight back from relegation.
"The message we are sending to players and supporters is this: I do not believe Wigan Athletic will come straight back into the Premier League, I know they will. It is going to be impossible to keep the squad together, but Roberto will know which players he wants to keep.
"There are two or three out of contract and I suspect they will want to stay in the Premier League.
"As for the rest of the squad, I'll discuss things with Roberto first, but then we will speak to all the players to find out whether they want to stay or not.
"If players want to leave and it is the best thing for their careers, we will let them go as long as the deal is also right for Wigan Athletic Football Club."
Whelan's emotions over the last week have lurched from the highest high to the lowest low, but he revealed he had resigned himself to relegation before Wigan lifted the FA Cup following their famous victory against Manchester City last weekend.
"We should have beaten Swansea," he said. "We threw it away that night with some quite awful defending.
"I knew then we were going to be relegated because you don't go to Arsenal thinking you're going to win, and I just knew all the results would go against us, which they did.
"I can't answer the question about whether I would swap winning the FA Cup for staying in the Premier League.
"Winning the FA Cup was magnificent, a wonderful, wonderful thing to achieve, but a bitter pill is never easy to swallow and that's what relegation is." (© Daily Telegraph, London)