Martinez seeks mature approach to the chaos

Wigan manager believes players and fans will back him like his chairman does
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The Independent Football

Generalisations may by definition be unfair, but it does not seem unreasonable to assert that football supporters are not often noted for having the maturity to see beyond scorelines.

Nor are managers for using the phrase in the first place. For Roberto Martinez, however, it is the key to what makes Wigan Athletic the club it both is and – if all goes to plan – the club it will become.

"In football, you are always one performance away from the danger of players and supporters, how to put it, beginning to question things. The system, the coach, maybe themselves in the case of the players," Martinez said. "What the manager is looking for is the maturity to see beyond that result or performance – bad or good, actually. I think perhaps we have that here."

Judging by the comments of his chairman, Dave Whelan, last week Martinez is unquestionably right, at least insofar as the club itself is concerned. Whelan made it clear that if the supporters had called for Martinez to resign in the wake of conceding four goals to Blackpool and six to Chelsea in the opening two matches of the season, and Martinez had felt it incumbent on himself to step down, the chairman – and benefactor – would have gone with him.

The supporters did not, as it happened, and were duly rewarded with last Saturday's form-defying victory at Spurs. Nor, according to Allan the taxi driver, would many supporters have been completely surprised.

"Not being able to predict how we'll play has become part of the Wigan experience," said the man behind the wheel on the way to the club's unassuming suburban training ground. "But most of us would rather that than putting 10 behind the ball and scrapping for a point week in, week out."

"On the way back you can tell him there is no chance of that," said Martinez. "We had two bad results; it would take a lot more to change the way we want to play. But it's one thing having very strong beliefs about how football should be played, and another being stupid.

"Whatever your style of play may be, if you don't do things well, you're going to lose football games, and that's what we need to correct. You don't need to change the style to be better in all departments.

He added: "Against Blackpool and Chelsea we weren't good enough, but at Spurs we defended well when we had to, we kept the ball well, we created chances, and that's the type of performance that we have to reproduce on a consistent basis."

No doubt painfully aware that Wigan are a byword for the opposite, Martinez expands on the theme. "Against Blackpool we played with our hearts instead of our heads, and we were a group with many changes against a team that had been playing together for 10 months.

"Against Chelsea I was extremely proud for the first 45 minutes, and then there were some poor decisions, but we weren't that far from clicking together and we showed that at Spurs.

"But that does not mean everything is perfect, everything is rosy," he admitted. "We are a long, long way from where I want the team to be. I think there are many things that at this moment we are not doing well and we have to work hard.

"But of course it was great, more than anything for the fans, for the morale, for that mental barrier that we had to overcome after losing there 9-1 last season. It's been a fantastic example of how to overcome an adversity, because anyone can have a disappointment, a difficult situation, whether it is their professional or private life, and it is how you react and fight back that counts. I think it speaks volumes for the dressing room."

That dressing room will have several new faces in it when the Wigan players gather after the international break. The midfielder Tom Cleverley has been signed on loan until January from Manchester United, and Franco Di Santo on a permanent deal from Chelsea, and Martinez does not try to hide his anticipation.

"In my eyes Cleverley is one of the top English prospects in the game, and when you get players from clubs like Man United you know you are getting players who are disciplined, perfectly coached, and who have that vital footballing arrogance, as well as great tactical awareness.

"And Di Santo I feel can be a top, top striker in world football. He probably had to leave Chelsea just to progress his career, and after his loan at Blackburn, he now has the experience of the Premier League not to be fazed by it."

Nor does he believe the obvious rift between the club and the exciting, if inconsistent – that word, again – French winger Charles N'Zogbia cannot be healed. "Charles decided he wanted to leave, but he was the one who decided the move to Birmingham wasn't the right one," explained Martinez. "Personally I think it's been a difficult moment for Charles, looking at all the options and trying to take the right decision, and no doubt getting different advice.

"Now it's up to him to show the other players here how much he wants to give to the team to win football games, because in my eyes he's a Wigan player at least until the next transfer window. If he behaves in the right manner, I think maybe the fans will understand he's been probably badly advised and been a victim of the unsettling effect of the transfer window."

For Martinez, the aim this season is to try to take Wigan, in terms of support very much one of the smallest clubs in the Premier League, to a level beyond that of simply ensuring survival. "With the squad we are building, I believe that over the next two seasons we can aim for the top 10. In that respect it is not all bad to be a team that people say can beat anyone or lose to anyone, because you can work to fix the problems. And I am sure we will fix the problems."

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