So we’re back with Roberto in the third and final part of our interview. The final section went a little bit more randomly as various people around the table took turns to fire questions to Roberto about a variety of subjects.
As a keen tweeter, I asked for questions from my fellow tweetees, if there is such a word, no way am I using the odious ‘tweeps’ phrase so popularised by Rio Ferdinand. Yes anyway, at this point some of you will be wondering what on earth I am on about but you can’t have failed to have read about a certain Latics’ player’s faux pas on a social media site a while back so I asked Roberto what does he think about players using Twitter and other social networking sites and is it something he’d have a go at?
‘No, no I don’t have time for that but it is a real issue because players often finish training and they think they’re not players any more, they go home and become human beings but when they use social networking sites, they still represent the club and the dressing room and the whole thing can be very dodgy ground but we have made them aware. We’ve got some great characters at the club but it’s difficult to express yourself as a human being because you always are a footballer and you are representing an institution so it is a concern and they have to be responsible in what they say. You’ve seen it, there’s been players charged by the FA, you leave yourself wide open and exposed and we have to be very careful.’
There is a flip side to this though and the likes of Emmerson Boyce and Ali Al Habsi have been fantastic these last few weeks, speaking to fans and sharing their feelings about big games and it can be harnessed in a good way. Tom Cleverley as well on Facebook has been posting updates before the games and the fans have really taken to him and he’s getting a massive response
‘If it wasn’t natural you’d see through it and with Emmerson and Ali, that’s how they are and it’s great but when you’re a footballer you go through disappointments, all kinds of good feelings, bad feeling and if they catch you at a bad moment and you say the wrong thing, well that’s where you have to be very careful as you are representing the football club. We’ve got no issues with players using Facebook, Twitter or anything so long as they know that they are responsible for it, we don’t want to stop anyone from being themselves so long as they take responsibility for it and be respectful towards the team and the football club. You’re getting to know a human side of the players but they need to be so careful [Jonathan Jackson pointed out that they do keep tabs on what the players are up to]
We had a problem with one of the players, who said something that wasn’t disrespectful or offensive in any way but when it was translated from Argentinian to English it came across as the biggest insult you could ever say to someone and that was a big problem. You have to be a little bit flexible in these situations as he was really upset as it just wasn’t him and he had to cancel his account. [It was pointed out that the same player showed a fantastic reaction to the wins against West Ham & Stoke and showed that it really did mean a lot to him and that it wasn’t like him to put his previous comments online]
There’s a great picture after the Stoke game of Franco [oops] and Hugo just lying flat on the ground while everyone else is jumping around. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to see it. If you think players don’t care about this football club, take a look at those two, players don’t get in that position if they don’t care about the football club!’
On a personal note, he’s worked so hard, has Roberto and his wife managed to book a holiday?
‘Funnily enough, the chairman has just been on the phone telling Jonathan to make sure I get a holiday booked. To be fair, my missus deserves a holiday, we got married two years ago and I still owe her a honeymoon, I’m sure I’ll get something in Denmark – I think the Under 21’s are playing there!’
And after that, what are the plans for pre-season?
‘We’re back for pre season on the 4th July, that is when the Young Pros start and the First Team start back on the 7th July and we’ll give you all the information but we’re going to go away, we’ll have two trips then we’ll play a game at the DW Stadium so that everyone can see the new squad the week before the season against a different side, a foreign team, someone who can play a little bit different but we’re looking at those two or three different trips as well that I think you’ll enjoy.’
When he gets back off the summer, will he be able to concentrate on Diame’s shooting, he can run with the ball but as soon as he gets in the box well…..
And still on that subject is his health better, has his heart problem been sorted?
‘The thing is if that Momo scores ten goals a season, we won’t be enjoying him for much longer because he’ll be gone! But yes, his health is fine. When you do a medical and put players through a fitness test, very often sportsmen haven’t always got a natural rhythm and he’s got such a phenomenal physical condition that his readings are not normal but that doesn’t mean he’s not in fine condition, the doctor’s will always tell you if it’s otherwise but we’ve never had a problem with him and he’s only 23. He had a difficult start to the season but for the second half of the campaign he’s been immense’
Time for Roberto to ask us a question now and his was a simple one: ‘What player would you like to see at the DW next season?’
This degenerated into the sort of freestyle discussion that you’d have down the pub with your mates, with the obvious difference that the manager of Wigan Athletic was sat in the room joining in the lively debate
Apart from Messi…
Scott Sinclair if Swansea don’t get promoted
Roberto: ‘Who would you prefer, Scott Sinclair or Victor Moses?’
A unanimous answer of Moses
What about Scott Sinclair or Tom Cleverley given Cleverley’s gone back to United though? [This one didn’t really get answered, the point I was making is that why would we have one or the other as Cleverley has gone and we could have both Victor & Scott Sinclair in the same team]
Steven Whittaker off Rangers? Right back/right midfield
We heard something last year about Izaguirre off Celtic, was there any truth in that?
‘He’s done really well for them. We saw him play a few times for the national team along with Maynor as you know, and Maynor plays centre half while Izaguirre plays left back. Emilio is probably a better wing back than left back and in the Premier League he could find it a bit difficult, he’s been a great signing for Celtic though and a great left back in the SPL. I think Maynor is better equipped to cope with the Premier League at that level’
Roberto: ‘What about strikers? Any strikers you’d like to see?’
Jay Bothroyd is mentioned, he’s been there before and done it, whether he’s good enough to do it again, I know he had an England call up
I quite like that Jason Roberts….
Roberto: ‘Good experience yes’
What was the actual truth on that one as he actually revealed on his Twitter page (there’s that word again!) in January that we were really close to re-signing him?
let Jonathan answer that one’
Jonathan: ‘We’re always interested in good players and Jason is obviously a good player. He was an option…..’
Where does Roberto want to strengthen the squad?
‘At the moment I’m very, very happy with the squad, so it will depend if we lose anyone. If we lose Tom Cleverley, Ali Al Habsi I count them as part of the squad and those loans have expired now so those are the positions we are looking to strengthen but I don’t think that there is a real weakness in the squad now so there isn’t a specific position where we are looking at improving.
I think one of the best players there is in terms of foreign players arriving into the Premier League is Alcaraz. You look at Chicarito at Man United, Van der Vaart at Spurs, Odemwingie at West Brom, for me, for value for money and he came on a free transfer, Alcaraz has been the best foreign player in the Premier League this year. We are so pleased to have signed him when the reality is that after the World Cup so many other clubs wanted him. He’s 27 coming into the best moments of his career and what he’s done this season for a new player arriving in the Premier League and straightaway he was a leader and he’s been the captain when Gary Caldwell was away, he’s been a phenomenal player’
What about Charles, is it positive that he could start the new season for us or more likely that we’re going to lose him in the summer?
‘It’s impossible to say, nobody knows what’s going to happen, Charles has got one year left with us and we’re planning with him. We’ve spoken with his representatives as you do when contracts get down to twelve months and talked to them about the position of the football club and I think we need to see what happens. What pleases me is that Charles has taken responsibility when the team needed him to take responsibility. He’s scored 10 goals this season which is an improvement on last season. Last season, he found that new role of playing on the right hand side and this year we’ve taken him further and we’ve been playing him in the hole and behind the striker and he has improved massively season by season. Can he carry on improving, I think he can but we cannot be too concerned about what is going to happen. Whatever happens, it’s got to be right for the club’
What about Roberto’s ambitions, with him getting close to retirement?
‘I always go step by step, firstly I am very, very happy with where we are as a football club and all the hard work now which has allowed us to compete in the last fifteen games, that was a real area that I wanted to put right. Last season, we performed really well in some games and we were very poor in others, you cannot achieve anything long term if you carry on performing like that and that was my personal motivation. Now the next one is to finish top ten, that doesn’t mean we have to be top ten to be successful, that is very, very different but we have to have our dream and our ambition and that is my next target.’
When they make this film that Steve Bruce said should be made about Wigan Athletic, who would he like to play himself? [Good question by one of the gents off Vital that!]
‘It has to be Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt maybe? No, it would be a great film and I can imagine the chairman having a …[well it’s not going to be a walk on part…as someone adds]’
Does Roberto have a message for the fans ahead of next season?
‘I just ask them to be very, very proud of Wigan Athletic and the achievement of this campaign as we started this season in the worst possible way and I don’t think many clubs would have got out of the position we were in. You look at all the pundits all saying that Wigan Athletic are going to get relegated and I think it’s time to reflect and enjoy out achievements and we start next season with a huge belief, where we carry on supporting each other and if we carry on doing that, we can keep surprising people.
So the message is clear: thank you for the massive, massive impact you have had particularly in the last two games, the last two cup finals. I told the players that after 36 games, the league was over for us and we had two cup finals They treated them that way and the fans did as well so I’d just like to say a massive thank you because you played a massive, massive part. I know a large section of fans have been very supportive and I know they’ve had to be patient because they’ve been getting used to a different style of football and it can be a little bit frustrating but I hope that in the end, it all makes sense. So be proud of Wigan Athletic when you’re walking around because it’s in your heart and it is your passion.
The story of George [Owen] is such an eye opener [the fan of 50 years who suffered a heart attack at the West Ham game and died the week after]. Everything that we do at the football club is for families like that, because the football club is their life and George had that experience against West Ham and we were all disappointed before the Stoke game with what happened, it just puts into perspective what effect we can have in people’s lives. We wanted to dedicate our performance to George’s family and make sure they and everyone else were proud of Wigan’
He always look so calm and collected on the touchline, whilst we’re all sat in the stands like nervous wrecks – how on earth does he manage it?
‘I stand in the technical area because it’s the only place where I can think. I’ve got no distractions, no people around me and I’m just enjoying the game and looking at how I can help the players. When you do that, I think it’s very easy to be calm. It’s difficult when you start thinking about the referee and how the result is going and you don’t really play the game but I’m very calm at the beginning of the game because I enjoy the game. After the game, it’s very different and I can be very frustrated, like after the Chelsea game. It was one of the best performances we’ve had this season away from home, and we’d got everything taken out of us and that’s when I get really frustrated and I don’t enjoy those moments at all, but during the game I’m fine.’
Given that Roberto has already said that the last two games were like cup finals, what did he say to the players at half time when we were looking down and out to make them go out and perform for the second half?
‘I think it’s important that you just go back to basics and understand why you are two nil down at half time, it’s all too easy to come in and start shouting, I think we needed to understand that yes, we were the better side and maybe were affected by the occasion but we didn’t do too much wrong really. We wanted to win the game so much that we forgot that you have to do certain things in a game, like defend properly especially in your own box. We just needed to give it a bit of normality and come out and take risks, because we had to and allow the players to be a little bit more composed and calm and play the game.
Yes it was a big occasion but the reaction in the second half, it doesn’t matter what the manager says to the player, it was their character that won us that game and the squad to say ‘we’re giving it everything we’ve got here’. I think it’s very important to help the players, sometimes you can get carried away with emotions and it doesn’t help the players, you have to stay composed enough to read the game and translate that to the players, then you can help them but it all goes back to the character of the squad and the talent of the squad and for those moments, forget all the football concepts, the football concepts go out the window, then it’s just you or me out o
n that football pitch and it all comes down to character. You’ll never get a bigger test than the one we had against West Ham. We were relegated at half time and the way we finished the game, we all know that we felt we had stayed up that day and it just shows you how big 45 minutes can be’
What was the thinking on Sunday by bringing Conor Sammon off, there were loads of groans when that happened because he was holding the ball up well and putting Hugo up there instead?
‘Because we needed to score and we needed to win. The game against Stoke was clearly a game where we had be tough and physical enough to match Stoke at what they do good and then play the wind as the wind was a major factor. Conor was great when we were playing against the wind because he was holding the ball up for us. Second half we were finding a bit more space, had a decent shot but Conor hasn’t played all season for us and is new to the intensity of the Premier League. If you think a player is going to come out in one of the most emotional games of the season and last for ninety minutes, well we’re not being realistic.
He did his job, he was fantastic at it but I felt it was time to take a little bit of gamble and I always wanted to use the last half an hour to play Tom Cleverley between the lines and give them a little bit of a problem by getting in between Whelan and Whitehead and getting behind their lines and it allowed Maynor to go a little bit forward and that’s a little bit how the game was planned. Remember that the players, every player plays a massive part in every game but it is very, very unfair to ask players to do unrealistic things. Conor was fantastic against West Ham, he had the intensity in the first 45 minutes and an hour was a great return.
In many ways, it reflects the diversity in the squad. So many times in England people talk about Plan A and Plan B – you’re very limited if you’ve only got two plans. With the quality we’ve got, when you’ve got Sammon, Tom Cleverley, Victor Moses, N’Zogbia, James McCarthy, Momo, all of a sudden you’ve got 23 plans and a strong, unpredictable squad and that’s what we’ve been working towards, to be flexible and that’s where the quality in the squad becomes very important and that understanding between them’
After just over an hour of questioning altogether, that is the last question and the fans’ present give Roberto a great round of applause whilst Roberto wishes everyone a great summer and a ‘see you next season’.
Regardless of your views on Roberto Martinez’s style of football management, there can be no doubt that events like this and the general demeanour of the man marks him out as a first class gentleman who has time for everyone and is great at making people feel at ease. He comes across as a genuine man with real footballing passion and if he can continue to deliver what he plans to at Wigan Athletic the future will be very bright indeed.
As part of this meeting I also took time out with Jonathan Jackson and the other representatives to discuss an end of season event currently being planned for Friday 8th July at the DW Stadium. Roberto is currently taking a well deserved holiday so we’re unable to confirm his attendance just yet but he is very keen to meet a wider group of fans if not at this point then very soon so watch this space as they say.
Thanks also go to CEO Jonathan Jackson, Head of Media Ed Jones, Paul Chialton and Stewart Frodsham for all been so open, honest and accommodating. It goes without saying that relations between the club and it’s fans are as strong now as they have been in years and that is due credit to them all.
Above photo courtesy of Bernard Platt
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