Why did Martinez stay? Because he is a man of integrity and philosophy

Comment

On the face of things, Roberto Martinez did not have much to turn his back on at Wigan. The club's training ground is in a place called Lower Standing and there's a rather harsh irony about that because Premier League clubs just don't stand much lower than Wigan on a number of key criteria.

This is the side with the lowest revenues in the Premier League (£43m) and the second lowest average attendances (16,812 – better only than Blackpool) last season. Yet Martinez has decided it is an environment he cannot walk away from. For loyalty and conviction, decisions don't get much bigger than his resolve to give his chairman Dave Whelan one more year. Though the decision has been characterised as one that was wrestled over, he has been fairly sure of his path for some days now.

"Over the last two years the chairman has been very supportive to me and loyal, and now I feel I need to be loyal and supportive back to him," Martinez said yesterday. But the really significant part of his explanation came second. "I haven't finished my job at Wigan Athletic. There is much work still to be done. I don't know how long that will take but such is the belief that I have always had that I would only ever decide to move once the club is ready for a new manager."

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which Martinez has overhauled Wigan, culturally and philosophically, in the two years since Whelan appointed him. His inheritance was a club that had been blessed by Whelan's eye for a good manager. Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce had, between them, mined a rich seam of central American talent, one of the last untapped areas of world football.

But Martinez wanted more for Wigan, a club that had been in his veins ever since he arrived from Spain as a player in 1995 and formed the "Three Amigos" with Jesus Seba and Isidro Diaz. He knew that it had always been Wigan against the world here in rugby league territory – a 6-2 home thrashing by Mansfield in the old Third Division is a memory of his first season – and he wanted to build a philosophy at the club around that smallness.

"I want the players to be brave and I want them to believe that, yes, we are Wigan Athletic, this modest club in the Premier League but we are a fantastic story," he told me amid the club's desperate relegation fight last month.

To fulfil that aim he has introduced what marketeers would call brand values, which are written on the giant sign that greets players when they walk up to the dressing rooms and the club's modest little Christopher Park training ground. It reads: "Courage, Possession and Arrogance: Welcome to Work." That's arrogance as in looking bigger clubs in the eye and not flinching. Martinez is rather keen on his aspirational messages. "Encouragement is the best form of criticism," reads one inside the training ground canteen. "Winning your personal battles is the first step to victory," yet another.

Martinez wants his Wigan to be a place with its own footballing soul, not one clinging on for grim life. The club academy system which had yielded one Premier League player in the past 10 years – Everton's Leighton Baines – has become integral, as he has sought to rectify a terrifying wages-to-revenue ratio of 91 per cent.

Four players from the elite development squad made the first team last season and all the talk is of 20-year-old forward Callum McManaman, who understands the passing game Martinez preaches because all levels are now taught to play the Martinez way.

Wigan fans have taken some winning-over to the passing style, incidentally, but they're a small enough band for Martinez to feel he can communicate with them. Live webchats are routine.

Wigan has such belief in its adoptive Spaniard, in fact, that he finds himself straying way off his brief. Martinez was asked to attend a council knife-crime launch a month or so back and did not expect to be asked actually to speak on the issue. No one, least of all his astonished communications staff, has forgotten the way he delivered on the hoof that day.

This is Martinez's world – a rich one in unconventional ways – and it is his utter conviction that the overhaul of the club is about to reap rewards which strengthened his resolve not to leave, when he weighed up Villa's overtures.

What a gamble he has taken; foresaking Villa for a club carrying the ninth highest level of debt in the Premier League and which cannot even be sure Charles N'Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega and James McCarthy will share his principles this summer.

Martinez's convictions will not be dented if the stars leave, though. He carries himself with a calm, understated confidence which makes it hard to believe that an Upper Standing does not still lie ahead. Sin miedo (no fear), as Martinez likes to say.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before