Martinez rejected Liverpool move to build a legacy at Wigan
Spaniard chose to repay chairman's faith – but demanded new training ground in return
Friday 16 November 2012
Most managers want more money to stay at a football club. Some want a greater transfer budget. Roberto Martinez wanted a new training ground. The choice this summer between Liverpool and Wigan Athletic, who play each other tomorrow at Anfield, seemed on the surface a nonsensical equation. Sir Alex Ferguson's advice for any manager weighing up a competing offer is go to the highest point of each stadium and look down.
Martinez would not have needed to go anywhere near Anfield to know the view from the Kop dwarfed that from the Boston Stand or anywhere else in the DW Stadium.
As he prepared to meet Liverpool's owners in Florida, Martinez seemed the likeliest candidate to succeed Kenny Dalglish – the young ambitious 40-something club owner John W Henry had been looking for to secure the long term. His chairman, Dave Whelan, appeared to accept he would leave.
If anything was offered in Miami – and Liverpool deny anything was – Martinez traded it in return for securing the long term at Wigan. "What happened in the summer was the right time for it to have happened," Martinez said of a period when Liverpool were not his only suitors.
"I had an agreement of three years with my chairman, who has been loyal and supportive. I had the opportunity to pay back that loyalty after my second season here [when he rejected an approach from Aston Villa].
"The third year was the time to think what it was he wanted to do. I wanted certain things done internally for me to stay. That meant investing in a new training ground, which we are 12 months away from. It meant investing in the structure of the Under-21s and trying to keep the players we wanted to keep."
Did he expect Whelan to agree to his demands? "Oh no," Martinez replied. "It took the chairman a week or two to think about it. Then, he was as excited as I have ever seen him."
On the surface, Martinez's request to build up Wigan's infrastructure appears a strange one, especially because it is often the man who succeeds you who reaps the benefit, just as David O'Leary did with the young players brought to Leeds United by Howard Wilkinson in the 1990s.
"I like to build a football club. I did at Swansea and there is a pleasure in seeing football clubs three or four years down the line even when you are not involved," said Martinez, who argues that the club's new training ground will be as important to Wigan as the stadium was when it opened in 1999.
"Having been in the Premier League for eight years, Wigan have not got enough to show for it. The summer was a key moment to do that and the chairman agreed to have a legacy to leave behind."
By staying on, Martinez acknowledges that he is running a risk. Wigan have a small squad and operate on a limited budget. They have already lost the winger Victor Moses to Chelsea and loss of form and injuries would make the club intensely vulnerable. As Owen Coyle discovered at Bolton, strong relationships between chairman and manager corrode with relegation.
Logic demanded that Wigan should have been relegated already. The last time Martinez prepared his team to go to Liverpool in March, they were bottom of the Premier League, having won just one of their previous 14 games.
It is perhaps no coincidence that there is a picture of Gary Caldwell celebrating the winner at Anfield above where Martinez is sitting. That win, he remarked, produced something he could not teach, not even in a state-of-the-art training facility: belief. They won at Arsenal for the first time and also beat Manchester United the week before, a side that hitherto they had not taken a point from. It was exhilarating but probably not something Martinez's wife would want him to go through again.
"You have the risk of losing any job in football," he said. "That is the nature of the game. What is important is that you understand what you have got and how you can improve it. Always have a plan, not for one season but for the next two, five and 10 years. There is always a right time and a wrong time to leave a football club."
Here's who you could have had: Moves that never happened
Brian Clough to Newcastle United, 1982
Over dinner at the city's Holiday Inn, Clough appeared to agree to join the club as managing director. The dinner was hosted by club shareholder Malcolm Dix. "Brian asked about his salary and we said: 'You'd be managing director, you would write your own salary'... The feeling was Brian would sell so many season tickets he would pay for himself." However, Clough often flirted with other clubs with the aim of bettering his contract at Forest and he killed the deal by leaking it to the press. Newcastle soon got their season-ticket seller with the arrival of Kevin Keegan.
Alex Ferguson to Tottenham, 1984
It was Irving Scholar's knowledge of football trivia that impressed Ferguson. The Spurs chairman and the Aberdeen manager shook hands on a salary that would be more lucrative than anything Man United would later offer. However, there were issues. Scholar said Ferguson's "father-son" relationship with Aberdeen chairman Dick Donald hampered talk about quitting Pittodrie. His wife was also not keen on moving to London. However, had Scholar offered Ferguson the five-year contract he wanted and not the three-year one he rejected, the "glory, glory days" might have returned to the Seven Sisters Road.
Bobby Robson to Arsenal, 1995
On one side were Bobby Robson and his assistant, Jose Mourinho. On the other was Jorge Pinto da Costa, the president of Porto. In the middle was an offer from Arsenal for Robson and Mourinho to succeed George Graham at Highbury. Pinto da Costa brought inducements in the shape of a gold pen, with probably some "loyalty bonuses" and a refusal to enter into negotiations with David Dein and Peter Hill-Wood, who had already agreed the deal in a meeting with Robson in London. Had Pinto da Costa not dug his heels in, it is unlikely Arsène Wenger would ever have set foot in the home dressing room.
Andre Villas-Boas to Burnley, 2010
Nobody doubted AVB's CV which had seen him working for Mourinho at Chelsea and then steering Academica de Coimbra clear of relegation. His presentation was impressive, but it was the jargon they didn't get. Burnley chief executive, Paul Fletcher, recalled: "Tommy Docherty used to say he never said anything to his players his milkman wouldn't understand. I don't think any milkman would fathom Andre's presentation. Would Burnley players have understood if he had told them to 'solidificate'?" They appointed Brian Laws, who lacked the jargon and the ability to keep Burnley in the Premier League.
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