ROBERTO Martinez has defended the club’s failure to sell their entire ticket allocation for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
The Latics have sold around 22,000 tickets for the Wembley meeting with Millwall, prompting the FA to make the spare 10,000 available to “neutral” supporters. Yet rather than the sarcastic jibes that have been aimed towards the Premier League outfit, Martinez prefers to focus on the incredible strides made since the club were in the bottom tier of English football following his arrival as a player in 1995.
“It’s not about the numbers,” he said. “The numbers need to have a meaning. Back in 1995, when I arrived at the football club, we had gates of 2,000 people. It’s an incredible turnaround of the fans we had 15 years ago, so for us it is a success.”
He added: “Now we are in the best league in the world, and we are in the semi-final of the best cup competition - for us to take whatever figure it is represents an incredible percentage of the town.”
Wigan are privately delighted with the sale, acknowledging that some supporters have opted not to buy tickets in the hope their team will reach next month’s final, whilst others have been put off by a lack of trains back north on Saturday evening.
Even the figure sold compares favourably with the numbers Super League giants Wigan Warriors could expect to sell for a Challenge Cup final.
“I know from the outside they will compare numbers, but we don’t really care about that,” said Martinez.
“What’s important is that every year we increase our fanbase and we increase the feeling of being attached to our football club.
“Going to Wembley with very passionate fans that care for the football club is part of their lives.”
Martinez confirmed that he had a clean bill of health for the game, with only long-term casualties Ben Watson, Albert Crusat and Ivan Ramis unavailable.