Wigan keep faith in Stojkovic

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The Independent Football

Wigan Athletic's manager Roberto Martinez has backed on-loan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to survive what could be a tough Premier League baptism at Blackburn tonight.

The Serbia international made his Latics debut in the 2-2 FA Cup fourth-round draw with League Two side Notts County on Saturday.

However, with regular first-choice Chris Kirkland sidelined for a fortnight with a collarbone injury, Stojkovic - on loan from Sporting Lisbon - is in line to deputise.

If he does, Rovers are certain to try to make life difficult for him but Martinez is confident the player can cope.

"It is important Vladimir played in the FA Cup to get a taste of the English game," he said. "He has been with us for over two weeks now so he knows the players and that allows him to fight for his position with a bit of an insight into the British game.

"You don't want to lose players like Chris but it is important we now have Vladimir and Mike Pollitt giving us competition in that position.

"He is an international goalkeeper and, when you are looking to go to a World Cup, you have that extra bit of experience and knowhow on how to perform in any game you play.

"I don't know if they will look to target him but he is an experienced boy, he has played in four leagues around Europe and to play for Serbia you need to be of a certain assurance. If he plays, I have no doubts he will be ready and be a big asset for us."

Meanwhile, Wigan have played down comments from Spanish club Villarreal that striker Marco Ruben was to sign for them imminently.

The La Liga side put out a statement yesterday claiming a deal was almost done and the Argentinian gave a farewell interview to the club's website. But it seems a deal is far from complete and contrary to claims by Villarreal, the player has not travelled to this country for a medical.

Villarreal's press officer, Hernan Sanz, said: "Ruben is already in England. The clubs have reached an agreement and all that is needed is for the player to put pen to paper."

Wigan view the negotiations differently and Martinez moved to quell reports of a pending £7million transfer. "It is something that is not finalised or concluded yet so we cannot speak about it," he said.