The writing was on the wall following that FA Cup victory. How much further could an ambitious young manager go at Wigan? Four years working on a shoestring budget, developing players keen to leave at the ends of their contracts. It was an uphill task for Roberto Martinez.
One thing is for sure – if Martinez goes to Everton we will see the Toffees playing better quality football next season. They will not be as dogged and hard to beat, but they will be more admired for their style. But there is an outside chance that Martinez will not leave Wigan. For the purposes of this article I am assuming he is going.
Despite being relegated, Wigan Athletic now have a reputation for playing good football. Martinez has built a club culture around his methods and philosophy. It has taken four years to produce and will serve the club for years to come, providing Dave Whelan can find the right man to continue build on this strong base.
Every manager has his own ideas on how his team should play, but the danger is that someone could come in with a diametrically opposed philosophy, ripping everything apart in the rebuilding process.
Latics need evolution rather than revolution. Swansea provide the prime example of how that can be done.
Roberto Martinez built up a culture of good football at the Welsh club, taking them from League 1 to 8th place in the Championship. Martinez was replaced by the Portuguese, Paolo Sousa, who imparted a similar footballing style, even if the ex-Juventus player was more defensively minded than his predecessor.
After a year Brendan Rodgers came in and built on what was already there, taking his team into the Premier League playing good football. When Rodgers went to Liverpool, Michael Laudrup brought in exciting talents such as Michu to boost the squad. The result was a mid table league finish and a League Cup final victory, achieved playing that same brand of skillful football.
So who is the man going to be who can continue the evolutionary process at the club?
The Oddschecker site shows Rene Meulensteen to be the favourite, followed by Graeme Jones, Owen Coyle, Gus Poyet and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
I must admit I had never heard of Rene Meulensteen since yesterday. It appears he is leaving his current position as first team coach at Manchester United and is keen to get back into management. He is a 49 year old Dutchman who spent 18 years managing teams in Qatar. He went to Old Trafford as “skills development coach” in 2001, then moved up to reserve team coach, being first team coach since 2008. In between he had a brief spell at Brondby In Denmark in 2006-07.
Wigan Athletic have a huge commitment towards improving their youth system. Meulensteen is impeccably qualified to oversee the transition needed. His coaching skills cannot be doubted. However, there are going to be question marks as to his ability to manage a club desperate to get back into the Premier League.
Meulensteen is clearly a wild card and Dave Whelan could be taking a big gamble if he recruits the Dutchman
He could also represent another exciting chapter in the continuing evolution of Wigan Athletic.