CHARLES GRAHAM - Refreshing sportsmanship

IN the couple of weeks since the whistle blew on another season, there has been an inexorable wave of bad publicity about our national game.

Footballers cheating on their partners is nothing new (and probably no more endemic than in most other walks of life), but the stream of allegations, some of dubious provenance, do nothing for the sport’s reputation.

Then there has been the farce of corruption claims amid the Fifa presidential elections. So many stand accused now we have reached the point of “he who is without blame cast the first stone.” But there clearly needs to be a root and branch investigation into this organisation if it is to regain a shred of credibility.

Mind you, the game of top level professional football has struggled to rid itself of accusations of greed for some while now. All very well Roy Keane sneering about the prawn sandwich brigade a few years ago, but its those Rolex-wearing corporate toffs who pay the players’ exorbitant wages. So much for the working man’s game when some club’s supporters are having to pay four-figure sums for season tickets.

Which is why Wigan Athletic and Roberto Martinez come as something of a breath of fresh air at the moment.

The club’s famously low season ticket prices have now been complemented by the manager’s act of loyalty in the face of interest from another, bigger club.

Whether Aston Villa waved a big cheque in his face, we will perhaps never know. But so brief were the discussions that it looks like this honorable man had decided to reward the faith of his chairman (who spared him the axe mid-season when some were baying for blood) by not even entertaining the idea of a move to the Midlands.

His chance of a bigger club will no doubt one day come and be accepted by DW, but for now he can gain just as much experience and respect by staying where he is.

It is a decision which should further endear Martinez to the Latics faithful and if a few of the players show a similar loyalty to their boss this summer then next season could be a prosperous one.