Kirk going nowhere

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ROBERTO Martinez expects Chris Kirkland to stay at Wigan Athletic and go toe-to-toe with Ali Al Habsi for his first-team place.

Kirkland has been forced to assume the role of frustrated spectator since Al Habsi joined Latics at the start of last term.

After paying the price for the poor start to last term – back-to-back drubbings at the hands of Blackpool and Chelsea – Kirkland made just two starts during the remainder of the campaign, both against Bolton with Al Habsi ineligible.

The ex-England stopper spent time out on loan at his home-town club Leicester, before injury forced his premature return to the DW.

With Al Habsi joining on a permanent basis over the summer, it appeared likely Kirkland would move on after five years with the club.

However, with the transfer window now closed, Kirkland has remained a Latics player – and Martinez insists he still has a key role to play between now and the expiration of his contract next summer.

“Chris has not accepted being number two to Ali and I don’t want him to accept it,” Martinez said.

“He has been very important in the past to Wigan, and he still has massive role in our dressing room.”

Kirkland’s absence from the side that travelled to Crystal Palace on Tuesday in the Carling Cup – traditionally a chance for managers to rotate – set tongues wagging about another possible loan exit.

Martinez, though, insists that is not the case.

“In the past we have used a keeper in the league and a different keeper in the cup, but this year I changed that,” the Wigan chief added.

“Ali missed two weeks of pre-season because he was away on international duty, and he needed the game.

“But Chris has a fighting mentality and wants to be the No.1 – and that is why I want him in the dressing room.

“If he did accept being second choice, it would be the time to move him on.

“I have not had any bids for him because we are not activity looking to sell him. We had phone calls in the window, but nothing serious because we didn’t want him to go.”