TALKING SPORT - Martinez’s men making it big in the Big Apple

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WHEN the New York Times say about Latics “you could almost think that this was Barcelona in disguise”, you know they’re doing something right.

Sure, Americans aren’t the sacred voice on ‘soccer’.

But the New York Times has won more Pulitzer Prizes than any other news organisation, even the Wigan Observer, and certainly know a good story when they see one.

And what a good story it’s been with Wigan Athletic.

Robert Martinez has called the last month the biggest in the club’s history.

After wins against Man United and Arsenal, what a performance that was against Newcastle.

Everything clicked again and Martinez’s men made the form side in the league look like relegation candidates.

If that wasn’t good enough, it was all topped off on Sunday when QPR and Blackburn were both well beaten, meaning Wigan remained three points clear of the relegation zone.

Their run was best summed up by Gary Neville on Sky Sports last night, after the City v United match. Title-chasing City travel to Toon this Sunday.

And describing the Magpies as “fantastic”, Neville pointed at their recent run of victories before remembering the 4-0 pasting they were handed out.

“That doesn’t count though, Wigan are beating everyone,” he said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league at the moment!”

I’VE met hundreds of people who are convinced – absolutely convinced – there are hot and cold balls in the Challenge Cup bag each year.

They ignore the fact that the guests who make the draws aren’t MI5 spies. They are rugby league people.

Add alcohol, and so often you get good stories and insider secrets.

As the Observer went to Press at 12pm today (Tuesday), it was still unclear as to when and where Wigan would play their home game against St Helens. Talks between the club and the stadium and the BBC and Sky and the RFL were taking place. So I can’t comment on the unknown.

But one thing’s for certain – with today’s draw causing a venue/TV headache, and taking the shine off the Magic meeting between Wigan and Saints, it should at least keep the conspiracy theorists quiet for a while!

THE British Olympic Association has taken some stick for fielding “plastic Brits”, but it deserves applause for its anti-drug stance.

The BOA fought tooth and nail to try and enforce its own life-time ban on athletes caught breaking doping rules, even though it knew the British team’s chances are greater with stars like Dwain Chambers involved.

I’m not sure many other sports would have done that.

ON the drive to Featherstone, I saw this sign on the M62: “For Olympic events, plan your journey and arrive on time.”

Yep. That’s the same event which takes place in three months time, nearly 300 miles away from here!