Mudhutter editor and This Northern Soul contributor Jimmy T gave a prolonged interview to leading Everton blogger and long-time When Skies Are Grey cohort Mark O’Brien all about Roberto Martinez, the FA Cup and the Championship. For those of you that have missed it, we have reproduced in full here. Get yourself a brew and mull over this lot…..
1. The most telling question – where you sad to see the back of Roberto Martinez?
Yes. He’s taken us to a level beyond that of any previous manager and given us the sort of memories that we never dreamed possible. Beating all the top clubs, coming out on top in heart attack inducing end of season relegation six pointers and of course landing us with our first major trophy. There’s the small matter of relegation and record drubbings but we’ll gloss over that.
He’s raised our profile as a club immensely and only ever spoke positively of us, something which can’t be said about his predecessors Jewell and Bruce and also transformed our passing game and our backroom mentality. Because of his affinity to the club he is the closest thing we have to being a local legend and quite rightly was voted as the club cult hero even before he came back and managed the club. Winning the FA Cup just put the top hat on it.
I actually thought he may have stayed if he gone down but not if we had stayed up. There were talks of him demanding a sizeable transfer kitty off Whelan to get us back up and a significant training ground investment before he went. Again, if true he only goes up in my estimation – wanting to screw the old chap for a few bob for a legacy that will benefit Wigan Athletic for a long time after he’s gone. But if may just be mythology and he was always on his way.
Either way, I’d prefer to remember him as the man who kept us up for three years and won the FA Cup than the bloke who took us down and jumped ship. Maybe he’ll return to retire in thirty years for a third spell at the club to help us get out of the Arriva Trains league?
2. Why is he so highly rated by seemingly everyone in football?
Give me a dreamy visionary over a turgid taskmaster anyday.
I suppose he’s the antidote to the Tony Pulis’ of this world, the only time Roberto ever wears a cap is when he’s strolling down the harbour at St Jean Cap Ferrat and the sun starts burning through his hairline.
Being a nice man can seemingly get you very far so it seems. He is intensely knowledgeable about the game and has devout principles about the way it should be played and has an amazing sincerity and honesty about him. I saw him last Thursday at Wrightington in a corridor when he was off to meet Whelan the first time and for a while I didn’t let on as a little experiment and he called out to me. We’ve met a few times but he didn’t need to do that. Couldn’t resist one last photo, whopper that I am. But again, nothing is too much trouble for him.
But surely Johnny Englander can do all this? Isn’t it just the continental effect? Maybe so but you can’t hoodwink people within football and it seems to be the press not football people who question his credentials. He’s certainly got that enigma about him which means that no-one is quite sure. I’d like to think that this Everton job lark may resolve matters either way about his undoubted genius / emperors’ new clothes effect but you may find that your fans quickly draw up battle lines and within months are scrapping like cat and dog over him.
3. On the other hand, some Wigan fans never seemed convinced – why?
I’ve tried to plot this out in my head many times looking for correlations but which side of the fence you fall seems to have no pattern to it, it simply comes down to playing style.
I think it’s evident already which side of the fence I’m on but the view is that it’s a results business and his results have been terrible. His defence has been terrible. His win percentage has been terrible. And we are slow to go forward with very often no end product just excessive passing.
Some fans would just prefer a more gung ho approach and the divide is so fierce that the internet is full of slanging matches and snidey indirect name calling between the two factions. Sad really that people I’ve known for years will start taking a pop at anything I or anyone writes in support of him and over on Facebook it’s “f*** off and good riddance” from some of my less than eloquent chums. Such a divisive matter and it seems the goodwill of the FA Cup hasn’t lasted long.
The anti-Bob view insist that we should have been further up the table with the resources we’ve got and Bob didn’t help himself by the way we finished the season before last. It had “Top Ten finish” written all over it this year in flashing neon lights and he more or less promised it (Promised something unachievable you say? Hmmm)
Their view is Steve Bruce left him with a mid table Premier League side and he’s turned us into relegation fodder. The Martinez defence mechanism in me quickly points out that team had Heskey, Palacios, Valencia and Cattermole sold from it and was also relegation fodder post January (a 4-0 humping at yours sticks out somewhat). Also, that the wage bill has reduced by 20% from then in a period when wages have increased 65%, if Martinez had the same wage bill last year as Bruce had then it’d be £70m not £35m. All facts – the reason Martinez has struggled is because the tide of money has continued to swing against us.
But then the facts are also that he presided over record defeats, some embarrassing capitulations and results are what matters in football (not to us fanzine type bohemians but I suppose we accept we’re in a minority)
“If he’d have been anyone else he’d have been sacked after that 9-1 defeat at Spurs” is a pretty compelling argument as well. But hey, I found it surreally amusing sat in Wood Green Labour club, an “I was there” type moment, well till the sixth went in.
The consistency argument is also valid. He doesn’t do regular 7/10 performances. There’ll be a few 4’s and then he’ll throw in a mind blowing 10/10 when you least expect it.
And the final criticism is that he’s taken us down and then b**gered off without putting it right (said by people many of whom wanted to see the back of him anyway) Again, I do concur with this somewhat.
And indeed that is the whole Roberto Martinez effect summed up in a microcosm: wins the FA Cup on Saturday, gets relegated on the Tuesday
4. Like Moyes being linked with Baines and Fellaini, the press have lazily got Martinez linked with almost every present Wigan player – are there any you suspect he will be back for?
Again, we have a section of fans who seem to be getting outraged about this on a daily basis and turning against him even more because of it. However, as you say it seems to be those two bob gossip websites picking any number between one to five players out of a player and constructing a few badly grammatical paragraphs around it. I’ve less of a problem with it. Some of our players might want to leave because their cosseted careers are short and they want Premier League football.
I’d much rather they went to Everton than festering away at one of the usual mid-table wage packet fatteners who pick off our out of contract players (Sunderland, Villa, West Ham etc) I’m still quite fond of the way Leighton Baines’ career has gone, there’s a right way and a wrong way to leave and he definitely moved for the better. And at least he won’t be able to t*** in a penalty against us next year, the floppy haired gobsh***.
Four or five might be starting to take the p*** mind you but there’s no harm in one or two and Antolin Al
caraz is a free agent anyway, so you can have him right away.
Obviously, I’d prefer it if we retained all our players, or maybe if you took Gary Caldwell and Mauro Boselli off our hands but I suspect the latter is not going to happen.
To answer your question seriously, James McCarthy is the pick of the bunch but I’d be disappointed if he went for less than £12m given the form and maturity he’s shown the last few months – or I could even say double that if we’re using the Henderson-Torres Scale and I’m not sure whether you can afford that. Whelan’s not getting any younger and I’m not sure he’s keen on this cash in instalment type repayment plans.
The others have all made noises about wanting to stay and Kone in particular would blow the Championship away – but he’s nearly 30 so may want a quick return and will be a target for many Prem clubs. The rumour about Laudrup seems to be around his board not backing him with the money required to meet Kone’s exit clause but that might again be a spurious stitching together of two pieces of similarly smelling bulls***.
I really hope you don’t sign McManaman as I’d just like to see more of him. He’ll move on at some point but I’d love to get another year or two out of him. We get shit for not having any English players but as soon as we do get a decent one, some f***er signs them and we’re back to having those England Youth bells on our case.
5. The Champions League comment that Bill Kenwright attributed to him seems ambitious – do you see him being a success at Everton?
I can see how it could go very well and I can see how it would go very badly. His problem at Wigan from day one is that he never had time to build the way he wanted to, nor sign the players he wanted to play the way he wanted and he was trying to implement it at the highest level, plus he was having to sell his best players every year. And people look surprised that it takes us a few months to get going. At Everton, he is inheriting a team of top half performers and Martinez probably has the ability to get them to do things that Moyes wasn’t interested in. Plus he will probably sign a few players that will tweak your playing style into something more like the way he like to play the game.
That may go brilliantly or it may go badly. His defensive record has been highlighted as a major flaw but it’s all about the personnel. A fit Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis all last year and we would not have gone down. A clearly unfit Gary Caldwell and well, you saw the rest. He is a meticulous manager, a keen student of the game but talks frequently of players being the right character. He spends all week setting things up and once the whitewash is crossed he gives the players responsibility. You can see, what with some footballers not exactly being Eggheads contestants how that can go horribly wrong but he doesn’t turn good defenders into bad defenders, he just leaves the decision making to them, so again the right characters are less likely to get it wrong. This will either give you a warm glow or make you shudder depending on your view of Everton’s back four soon to be back three.
The best case scenario is that he will simply carry on the good work of David Moyes, you Evertonians will love him and demonstrate patience when it doesn’t quite come off and reap the rewards when it does. To know whether he will be a success I need to know what you expect. Would you settle for finishing 11th instead of 6th if you got to a cup final for example? In all honesty my opinion is that Everton have massively overachieved with the financial constraints you have and Martinez is presumably a good fit because he is perceived capable of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or a rayon bumbag at least.
So for that reason to maintain that top six level is a big ask. But as he says, what is football without dreams? And if it goes well, he has a pretty handy set of players, one or two key acquisitions and a decent home crowd behind him it could generate the right kind of momentum. My worst nightmare is that he turns into the patsy that takes you down the table and simply cannot maintain your positions of the last few years, it’s not inconceivable, but he’s backing himself I suppose and I’m certainly wishing him and yourselves all the best.
6. How good was the FA Cup?
Oh. It was OK.
Well actually I don’t mean that, I just don’t want to rub it in. It was f***ing brilliant. Obviously the result at your place was a stunning performance which would have put paid to many teams and I think most of your fans graciously acknowledged that. But you know when there’s a little man in your head with a mallet bashing that dreamy part of your brain every time it pipes up and gets carried away? Well right up until Watson’s ginger bonce glanced one over Joe Hart, looking less than smug for once, that little man was bashing away with gay abandon. I was dreaming but I just didn’t think it possible. All day I was telling myself “there is no way we can win this game” citing City’s embarrassment of riches and comparative strength. Not meaning to be defeatist and after all, we are shamefully responsible for all this “BELIEVE” nonsense that now appears to have transcended from football to other sports and is now probably being spouted on corporate team building events. Basically it was such a huge thing for a club like ours, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The comedown however will take some time.
People might say that the big clubs don’t take it too seriously but with the exception of Portsmouth, it’s been won by the top eight or so clubs every single year since the crazy gang also upset the odds. It’s some achievement. It’s given us a memory to cling on to forever and it’s shook up the town to the extent that even the staunchest rugby fans have had to doff their gravy stained caps at us. For a few days at least and then they reverted to laughing at us getting relegated.
We didn’t get lucky either, we did it with absolute class on and off the pitch and it has quite possibly changed our football club forever.
7. Genuinely, how do you feel at the prospect of the Championship after so many seasons in the ‘best league in the world’?
Intrigued and excited. It’s like we’ve just split up with our wife who we’ve been terrified of leaving but we’re not sure really loved us anyway as she treated us like a doormat and are about to dip our toes into the singles market again. It’s going to be cheap, dirty, exciting, occasionally tinged with regret and the potential to go downhill rapidly but maybe the change of scenery is just what we need to become ourselves again (another Martinez favourite).
It isn’t much fun winning three home games all season and travelling away paying through the nose to sit in some sterile bowl. Of course that might be the case next season as well but there’s lot of unknowns in there. The water cooler banter merchants have been giving it “Enjoy your trip to Yeovil – LOL”. And you know what, I’m going to bloody love it – LOL.
Along with a host of local derbies, seaside away jaunts at Brighton and Bournemouth, new grounds at Donny and Sheff Wednesday (for me personally) and locking horns with big clubs such as Leeds, Forest, Derby et al. Plus we get to go Millwall which me and my chums embrace with masochistic tendencies. Admit it, you’re jealous aren’t you?
See, I’ve not even mentioned the football. Some of our “Premier League only” fans dummies might go and we may see a drop in crowds post-relegation but I think we’ve got a core that is as good as it gets and will embrace the future wherever it might lie. Those who pragmatically understand our place as a club, basically a council estate scruff who won the lottery and is now trying to raid those Icelandic banks for those mis-advised investments to keep the party going for another year or two. It might not seem that way in our soul-less ground but we’ve a lot of heart for the future and some great fans, fans who get the culture, d
o great community work and fund raising, look after one another and are the antidote to the norm in Wigan which is to support the rugby and United and yes [adopts Apprentice candidate voice] I like to think Mudhutter plays it’s part in that. A lot depends as ever on old broken leg.
We’ve half a chance with the right manager, parachute payments and not getting raided for players too heavily but given the upheaval and a European campaign (sorry not rubbing it in again) it might be a bit too much to ask to go back up straightaway. Mid table mediocrity would do me fine but then I think we will lose more players. Hey, its’ football and evolution and we get on with it.
Interview originally published here:
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