“That Martinez promised us a top ten finish!”

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Oh no he didn’t…oh yes he did…well it is the panto season after all!!

Anyway, here we go again. The worms are turning.

He promised us top ten this season didn’t he Roberto Martinez? Well, no he didn’t actually he said that as an aspirational target, just as maybe in many other interviews he stated staying up was the aim. Not that people heard this second statement as they are too busy using the first one to beat the manager up with.

Look, let’s start with a simple question: How many football fans, fans of other clubs up and down the country do you think have come out and said “I wish we were more like Wigan” over the past ten years?

I imagine quite a lot. After all since we arrived in the Premier League the likes of Hull, Burnley, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton, West Ham, Charlton, Sheffield United, Reading, Wolves and Derby have been and gone, or just gone or maybe gone and come back. Yet they have all suffered the indignity of relegation put it that way and eight years on, here we still are. A club arguably smaller than all of them. They’re just the clubs who have been in the Premier League during our time here, there are tens of dozens of clubs up and down the country whose fans would love to experience what we have and never got close for hundreds of years – and yes many of them were historically bigger clubs than Wigan Athletic too, they just weren’t fortunate enough to have a sugar daddy giving them a leg up the ladder.


Lots of clubs have come and gone in the last eight years and exhibited wonderful form over the short term and we ourselves have been lucky throughout our Premier League tenure to have got the right results at the right time. We need results now as much as any other time but slating our threadbare team and faltering form serves no purpose. Your job is to support – we’ve been here before and it worked last time didn’t it?


It’s not enough for you though is it? Oh no, here comes moan number two:


Why aren’t we more like West Brom/Swansea/Norwich or whoever flavour of the month is?


Because those three clubs have NEVER been relegated have they…..


Why is it the expectation or divine right of some of our fans to benchmark against every club who just happens to be “doing a Wigan” right now and punching about their weight amongst the upper echelons in the Premier League? Riding high in the table, playing without fear and upsetting the big guns. What right have we got to be that club forever? A club from a small town with a limited support who pay comparative peanuts through the gate at £255 a pop and seem to think we have the right to eclipse clubs who have 20,000+ season ticket holders paying hundreds more each per season, selling thousands more shirts and were in the top flight while we were still in the Cheshire League.


On it goes:


Why didn’t we sign Michu or Anthony Pilkington, we’re more established than those clubs?


Well believe it or not, we’re not the only club out there trying to sign players and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a global market nowadays. I reckon there’s around 15 other clubs in the Premier League who wish they’d signed Michu right now. Again, what gives little ole Wigan Athletic and it’s poor, beleaguered, unappreciated manager the exclusivity on every footballer who turns into a Premier League revelation. We do alright, despite it getting harder and harder to stay ahead of the game as the bigger clubs absorb more and more players at a younger and younger age so that they don’t have to come to us three years later and pay £10m for them.


“Yeah but he wasted £6m on Boselli and never plays him”


So what? He’s human. Bruce wasted £5m on King. Hutchings wasted £5m on Koumas. Jewell wasted £3m on Aghahowa. There are plenty examples of all these managers making good signings as well. The fact is, it is hard to do. Look at what Liverpool have spent on Suarez, Carroll, Henderson and Downing or Aston Villa splashing out £24m on Darren Bent and I shudder to think what wages they are on. We can’t afford that sort of cash (unless you’re offering to put your hand in your pocket that is?) so we’re always going to be a bit hit and miss no matter who the manager is.


“And we let all our players leave for free in the summer again”


Again, not true they are no longer our players once their contract unwinds, some Belgian bloke saw to that. A player is not for life, he’s for the length of his contract. And rather like a car, you’re only ever leasing them for the period of the contract, if you want to keep them beyond that you have to hand over a serious amount of wedge. However, unlike a car if it has run like a dream and never given you any problems, you don’t go back to the showroom and find that if you want to keep it your repayments have tripled. Because guess what, footballers have agents and advisers, who for all their slippery ways, generally know a bit about the industry they work in, what each player at each club is earning, what the going rate is and are constantly in their clients’ ear as to their worth. They play well for us and they are quickly worth what we cannot afford.


Why can’t we afford it? Where does all the TV money go?


Well financial fair play for one which we’ll save for another day but also because one man is still bankrolling us, a man in his seventies who won’t be around forever. We make operating losses every single year and that can’t be on forever. Over 80% of all income including the TV money goes on player wages, the rest goes on the transfer market via player amortisation and running expenses. Transfer fees paid are spread over the contracts whereas profit on sales goes straight to the bottom line – and guess what we make a loss even after that. But then I’ve explained this too many times already to go through it again, plus there are others far more eloquent than me at explaining it


Call me a blinkered Bobby fan all you wish but there is nothing more blinkered than this implied divine right and expectation that “we should be doing better” and comparing us to clubs from big cities who have twice as many season ticket holders as us and generate millions more pounds a year in commercial revenue than us. The fact is that merely by existing in the Premier League we are way excelling what we ever should have been capable of and the list of clubs above is testament to that. Everyone in the football world knows this, it seems the only people in denial are a bunch of frustrated Wigan Athletic fans who can’t see the wood for the trees.


Still if you still feel differently, why not go and moan about it to fans of Stockport languishing near the bottom of the Blue Square Premier. Don’t be surprised to hear the words “SPOILT” and “B*STARD” bandied in your direction pretty sharpish though


Of course we all WANT Wigan Athletic to do better but the moment we start DEMANDING and EXPECTING to do better, then

we become no different to fans of any other Premier League club


Sorry for being harsh – I share and understand the frustrations and I too long as a fan for a season of mid-table relief but you can spin it whichever way you like: we’re always going to struggle and over the long term that is never going to change unless serious money is pumped into the club and personally I think we’ve had more than our fair share for a lifetime given where we are now and the impossible dream we have achieved.


It seems en vogue to beat Roberto Martinez up now because he “promised” or maybe he “guaranteed” a “mid-table” or even “top ten” finish this season. I’d be very surprised if he did. I expect he talked of an ambition, a hope, an aim, an aspiration that he could take this club further with the comparatively meagre resources he has compared to many Premier League sides but then I also expect in one of the other interviews he did – and he does several every week in case you haven’t noticed, he has also said that the first aim is to stay in this division. Note again – AIM not promise or guarantee Mr Shouty Man. You didn’t want to hear that bit though did you and conveniently forgot about it?


I mean what is he supposed to say: “Well, seeing as we get the lowest crowds in the division, have the lowest turnover and have to sell or give away players because we have to constantly reduce the wage bill as we need to slowly stop us losing £10m every season then we’ll probably get relegated


This is the reality, these are facts but can you imagine the uproar amongst the same set of can’t-be-pleased fans if Senor Martinez ever came out with such a negative statement? Ah well it might stop them attempting to ridicule him for his constant positivity at least.


After three years when certain factions have been taking a pop at him only for him to prove them wrong I am saddened that we are in this situation again……it’s like groundhog day as 2012 started with a load of fickle whinging demanding for the manager’s head and seems to be ending that way as well, with no thought of what happened in between.


“He’ll take us down this Martinez”


They cry – as if we have this right to some mid-table utopia for years, neatly placed in 11th or 12th: not quite Spurs or Everton, but just nicely nestled between Stoke and Fulham whilst sneerily looking down at those mis-managed big clubs like Sunderland and Villa, who would never use their bigger fanbase and financial muscle to sign our better players, oh no!


What will be the reaction of the football world if we did go down? I expect most commentators will hail Wigan Athletic – and Roberto Martinez – for managing to survive so long in the Premier League. Not the ficklest fans in football though, they will have finally got their wish; that the four years of mis-management by that clueless Spaniard they have been screaming about has finally come to fruition.


And I always thought that us Latics fans were something special. I’m talking about Progress With Unity. Supporting your team. Celebrating eight years when we thought it was a miracle that we ever managed to get one year out of it. But oh no, now it’s:


“He’s not taking us to the next level”


Even more farcical this one. Paul Jewell resigned because he felt there was no more he could do after the stress of being a lick of paint away from relegation was too much for him. Steve Bruce, oh let’s all hail Steve Bruce, saviour of Wigan Athletic, purveryor of mid-table mediocrity – yet he also admitted he had taken the club as far as he could (after racking up considerable debts in the process). Where the ludicrous Bruce v Martinez arguments falls down is that Bruce left us (twice) and only the most delusional Wigan Athletic fan would suggest that he would have rejected Sunderland to stay at Wigan Athletic, even more so given his track record. Harrods/Tesco analogy anyone?


So maybe it’s time for Roberto Martinez to come out and say the same “I’ve taken the club as far as I can” and let’s get the next man in as his detractors want. And you know where we’ll be in two years’ time (if not the Championship)


Yes that’s right – the next man will be saying “I’ve taken them as far as I can” whilst narrowly avoiding relegation. If we’re lucky


And maybe one day, maybe one day, the penny will drop for some of our supporters – that it doesn’t matter who the manager is – it is not the manager, it’s the club! Nobody can take us further because we are a small club with little financial muscle in a league where the divide is getting bigger every single year. Yes, we can over-achieve in the short-term but in the long term the financial facts are that we are defying gravity by staying up this year and no amount of cry-ar*ing about implied lack of ambition will change what the football world can see, yet our own fans can’t


Maybe in his darker moments, Roberto Martinez knows he has taken Wigan Athletic as far as he can but because he is a Wigan Athletic man he hangs around in the belief that he can work his hardest to try and make this club better, put an infrastructure in place, make progress, embed his footballing beliefs, in spite of the financial restrictions he is working under compared to nearly every other Premier League club. Even his fiercest critics out there in WAFC cyberland cannot question the man’s loyalty to Wigan Athletic. He doesn’t have to do this job at this club, as the last two summers’ have proven…


As it stands, the only stat that matters is as follows:


Martinez 3

Bruce 2

Jewell 2


If he somehow makes it four this year, then isn’t it time some people give him the same respect as the other two names?


We have a decent team which is suffering from lots of injuries and some atrocious refereeing decisions recently, yet we are only a small upturn in fortune away from dragging ourselves clear of it, there are at least two clubs in the Premier League who would love to swap positions with us. What is it about Wiganers who want to be the first on the scene of a crisis instead of helping their team avoid one by turning up and being positive, like we did last season rather than booing players the first time they misplace a pass?


As it stands, those of us who continue to support the manager and the team, silly positive, deluded (?) muppets that we are have proven to be right for three years on the bounce and still we have to deal with this snarling undertone amongst our support who seem to revel in us losing so that they can be – in their mind – proved right that Martinez is just a lucky manager. Yeah cos he’s had loads of luck recently. And you know what, one day they may be right as even a broken clock is right twice a day…..


Anyway, I await the usual 140 character tweet or illiterate Facebook post dismissing me like Giant Haystacks would swat away a tiny fly……but if it’s wrong to put your trust in Roberto Martinez, a Wigan Athletic legend who has worked miracles on a shoestring budget to keep Wigan Athletic where they are, then I don’t want to be right.


So let’s dispense with the mindless bickering and moaning and get on with the job of supporting our team in getting out

of this rut….







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