ARJAN de Zeeuw reckons the feel-good factor currently surrounding Wigan Athletic will help them hit the ground running next season.
De Zeeuw, voted Latics’ ‘Greatest Ever Player’, is delighted his old pal Roberto Martinez will still be at the helm after rejecting the chance to go to Aston Villa.
The pair were team-mates at the JJB Stadium between 1999-2001, and the Dutchman believes Martinez is doing a cracking job in continuing the Wigan success story.
Latics will find out later today who they’ll be playing and when in 2011/12, with the eagerly-awaited release of the Premier League fixture list.
And while the playing squad may change between now and the big kick-off on August 13, De Zeeuw hopes they can get off to a flier.
“It’s a bit difficult to say how well Wigan will do next season, because we don’t know yet who’ll be coming and who’ll be going,” he told the Evening Post.
“But if Robbie can keep the nucleus of the squad together, and make a few additions here and there, the top half is definitely achievable.
“Look at Sunderland last year – even though I don’t like the way they play – they managed to break into the top 10. Wigan are more than capable of doing the same.”
With Martinez staying, Latics also have stability going into the new campaign – something De Zeeuw (pictured) feels is crucial.
“When I was here first time around, we had so many managers in such a short space of time – there was far too much change,” he added. “The chairman finally decided Paul Jewell was the right man and stuck with him, even though the first season wasn’t great, and that’s when we really got going.
“Robbie also has that backing, and he’s looking to take Wigan to the next level.
“He’s trying to build the club from the bottom up, but you can only do that if you’re supported from the top – and Mr Whelan takes a lot of the credit for that.”
Martinez has the added security of a new three-year deal behind him ahead of his third year at the helm, and De Zeeuw says it’s a reward he thoroughly deserves.
“There are plenty of other managers who would have disappeared off to Villa without even thinking about it,” he recognised.
“It’s so easy to jump ship when a big club come along, but Robbie is a one-off.
“When you hear him talk about Wigan, he is always so positive and so enthusiastic about the club and the people. That is so good to hear in this day and age.”
Steven Caldwell, Daniel de Ridder and Jason Koumas head the list of players released by Latics this summer, while goalkeeper Mike Pollitt, 39, is mulling over the offer of a new 12-month contract.