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El hombre de Wigan

August 18, 2009
A legend in the making?

A legend in the making?

Wigan. Not a club you would generally associate with elegance, beauty, and silky smooth Football. They’re a club you’d put in the physical, route one, bullying bracket, without being unfair or critical. Over the years their style of Football has remained pretty much the same – the ‘Northern’ way if you like. Being from the Lancashire region, in which teams such as Bolton, Blackburn and Burnley come from, you’d expect nothing more and nothing less.

Recent Managers such as Paul Jewell, Christ Hutchings and Ray Mathias have done little to change Wigan’s style of play. Players like Jason de Vos, Emile Heskey, Arjan de Zeeuw and David Unsworth all play into that style – big, bullying, physical men who wouldn’t necessarily think about trying to play the ‘beautiful’ game.

However, Wigan’s answer to Pep Guardiola has something to say about that. Only two seasons ago was Roberto Martinez lifting Swansea City to the summit of League 2, a competitive division in it’s own right. That is no mean feat, don’t be fooled. Martinez’s youth, for a Manager anyway, and hunger for the game was unquestionable. He looked like a man in complete control of his emotions, his tactics, and his general ability as a leader. Wigan saw something in that, and pounced. Had they not brought Martinez to the JJB, bigger Clubs would no doubt have approached Swansea.

Martinez was an excellent Footballer himself. Having started his career at little-known Spanish outfit Balaguer CF, before moving to Real Zaragoza. From there he swiftly made the decision to move to England without so much as scoring a goal for the La Liga side. In a period of 6 years from 1995-2001, Martinez made 188 appearances for Wigan scoring 17 goals, which can be argued doesn’t do his ability and talent justice. He was a fantastic passer of the ball, something that has clearly rubbed off onto his Management style. Set-pieces were a forte of Martinez, something that attracted great praise and acknowledgement from fellow Players and Managers.

Following his long and successful spell with Wigan, Martinez went on to have spells with SPL side Motherwell, and League 2 side Walsall before settling down in Swansea in 2003. In 3 seasons with the Welsh Club, Martinez racked up 122 appearances, scoring 4 goals – again, perhaps not a true reflection of his ability. Martinez ended his career at Chester City, in 2007, a player that somewhat underachieved, particularly in the goals scored column. However, soon after ending his playing career, Swansea snapped him up as their Manager. In his first season, Martinez won 3 Manager of the Month Awards and as I mentioned earlier, gained promotion to the Championship. After an impressive first season in England’s second tier, Wigan signed the Spaniard on a 3 year contract, beating the likes of Celtic to his signature.

Martinez’s style as a Footballer is slowly becoming more and more evident in the way he Manages his teams. When at Swansea, he played an attractive, attacking style of Football and took a very average mid-division side to great success. Now with Wigan, he’s continuing along the same route. Having brought in players such as Jordi Gomez, Abian Serrano, and Antonio Amaya, it seems that the old bullish Wigan way is slowly but surely falling out of place. Whilst we don’t know a lot about those players, the fact that they are Spanish gives us a clue towards Martinez’s thinking. All Football fans will know that the Spanish pass the ball. There’s none of this wacking it up the pitch and letting the bloke upfront barge his way through the opposition centre-backs nonsense. Proper Football is the way forward.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say Wigan are the new 1990’s Middlesbrough, but they’re heading in the same direction. When Brazil fever hit Teeside, with the arrivals of Juninho and Emerson, ‘boro fans everywhere sought after instant silverware. Wigan have to be more realistic in their approach. They’re not a club with a huge amount of money like the much precedented Manchester City’s of this world, but they’re a club with a stable platform, an excellent chairman, and now a talented, enthusiastic Manager and group of Players.

Wigan’s 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend is evidence of Martinez’s impact on the Latics in this short space of time. Beating Villa on home soil is hard enough, but beating Villa AT Villa is even tougher. Martin O’Neill has a well-balanced, well-structured setup at Villa Park, but were outdone by an impressive, young Wigan side. The likes of Hugo Rodallega, Jason Koumas and Scott Sinclair all have wonderful ability. Time is on their side too. Having rebuilt the side with youth, Martinez has plenty of time to work with his players and develop them into a side that can maybe one day press for a Champions League place – perhaps that’s a bit unrealistic, but Europa League is a definite possibility.

Roberto Martinez has really stirred up things at Wigan, and for the good. The only thing Dave Whelan has to think about, is making sure no one goes near his enigmatic Manager. With Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and the likes all approaching the end of their careers, big clubs will have vacancies, and there is no doubt in my mind that Martinez could fill one of those vacancies in the future.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2009 8:40 am

    Great article.

    I hope Martinez succeeds at Wigan keeping his footballing principles. It would be good to see someone succeeding at a smaller club without reverting to the dour, defensive hoofball that we see so often in the premier league!

  2. August 18, 2009 10:59 am

    i was suprised with Wigan’s overall performance at Villa. Martinez is known for playing good football down the divisions but it is brave to set a team up as he has done this season. It may yet blow up in his face, for West Brom played the best football on the eye of any team at Old Trafford last season (and that includes Liverpool) even though they got beaten and relegated. Rodallega may well be able to give them the goals that Zaki briefly provided, so it looks good for them. This years Fulham league table position wise?

  3. September 4, 2009 12:15 am

    Great post! I hope Martínez can make Wigan qualifies for Europa League next year.

    By the way, the title should be “El hombre de Wigan”.

    Cheers.

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