“There’s only one Bob Martinez.”
So sang a group of Wigan Athletic supporters on Saturday, after their team had gained a massive three points from the trip to the Hawthorns. Once again they were starting to believe that what the charismatic Spaniard had been saying had been right all along.
Who else but Martinez could put a positive spin on a 6-1 win by relegation rivals, Aston Villa? He had been saying for weeks that other teams would get dragged into the relegation mire, although at the time most of us were looking no further than overtaking the Villans.
Martinez was quoted as saying: “We wanted Aston Villa to have a very strong ending to the season. The reason for that is I don’t think it would be healthy for any of the teams go into the final game of the season as a final, a showdown, where one of the teams has to get relegated. I think that would be very dangerous.”
There certainly is only one Roberto Martinez. He is the man who turned down lucrative offers at much bigger clubs to continue to work miracles on a low budget at Wigan. Martinez is the most positive and optimistic of football managers. He is the one who maintains his calm in the fiercest of storms.
His critics will say he is a spin doctor of the highest order. His fans will say that his positivity shines through and he is passionate about the club. Together with chairman, Dave Whelan, they are the ultimate “believers”, dedicated to steering their unfashionable club towards permanency in the higher levels of football.
An article in the Daily Mail on Thursday drew derision from neutrals when it quoted Martinez as saying that Paul Scharner was one of the best centre halves in Europe.
Looking into the article more closely one found that Martinez’ original quote had been qualified with the proviso of “when he is fully focused”. When referring to the Austrian’s likely return to Hamburg at the end of the season, Martinez suggested that Scharner would return a better footballer “because he’s a very mature player who has a strong desire to help the team keep a clean sheet rather than helping in an attacking sense like he used to.’
It was a clear example of “Martinez-speak” – publicly backing Scharner – but also letting him know that defence is what he is there for. Unfortunately the big Austrian didn’t seem to have been listening. After 29 minutes of the West Bromwich game he lost the ball when out of position in the opponents’ half, the subsequent breakaway leading to a goal for the home team.
Roberto Martinez thinks Scharner’s best position is at centre half and most Wigan fans would agree with him. But then again – will the eccentric Scharner ever learn from his mistakes?
Despite the wonderful result at West Bromwich there is still a mountain to climb if Wigan are to avoid relegation. The Swansea game coming up on Tuesday is huge and only four days before the FA Cup final.
Jean Beausejour’s injury is another bitter pill for Latics to swallow. Can Martinez continue to fire-up his players, given the demanding schedule that is coming up and injuries continuing to weaken his squad?
One thing is for certain – Roberto Martinez will continue to believe.
Being a Wigan Athletic supporter can be a stressful experience and sometimes we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. The win at West Bromwich has helped us to see that light.
The dream of Premier League survival and winning the FA Cup remains alive. Like Martinez, Latics supporters can continue to believe.