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Premier League

Roberto Martinez heaps praise on Wigan defender Paul Scharner

The Latics have an FA Cup final to look forward to, but appear destined to be relegated

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has heaped praise on his Austrian defender Paul Scharner.

Scharner returned to the DW Stadium in January having left the club for West Brom in 2010.

Martinez was then knocking on Scharner’s door, to which he answered with open arms, despite only being six months into his two-year contract after moving on to Hamburg.

And, with fellow defenders Antolin Alcaraz and Faynor Figueroa out with injury, Scharner is at the centre of another relegation dog fight.

“Paul has been a very good influence so far,” said Martinez.

“He brought a real experience at the back and has taken a lot of responsibility in helping the team to get results.

“Obviously he had prior knowledge of the club, which meant he didn't need any adaptation or transitional period.”

The Latics’ battle for survival is overshadowing their first appearance in an FA Cup final, and Scharner’s popularity could prove the difference with Wigan supporters getting behind their team.

The club is urging supporters to make the trip down the M6 for their clash with West Brom on Saturday to spur on another great escape.

“The relationship between the players and the fans is crucial at this stage of the season,” said Martinez.

“Paul has always been an admired player by the fans and he brings that chemistry.

“It is important we are closer than ever because of the magnificent year it can be.

“We need to make sure we keep playing our football and use every opportunity in the league to get the points we deserve.”