AT the tender age of 39, Roberto Martinez is about to become the second longest-serving Wigan Athletic manager since the club won promotion to the Football League in 1978.
For much of those 34 campaigns, the priority has been survival – in the early days, both on and off the pitch.
But thanks to the Spaniard’s steadying influence, there is a quiet confidence at the DW that Latics are now ready to look up, not down.
Okay, the famous Easyjet terminal that Steve Bruce used to joke about being built at the bottom of King Street for European trips might have to wait for another year or so.
But the security of Premier League mid-table – maybe even, whisper it quietly, the top half – might not be out of reach this year.
No one understands the complexities and realities of football more than Martinez, a student of the game who switches off in his down-time by watching more football.
But he is also a dreamer, and fiercely ambitious.
He sees no reason why Latics can’t take the next step and put down some real roots among the elite.
“It’s been a fantastic three years, a tremendous emotional experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world,” Martinez told the Observer.
“We have had some incredible games, some incredible achievements, some incredible memories.
“But the challenge now is to push on again and build on the strong foundations that have been set.
“Behind the scenes there’s been progress with the training ground, the facilities, the structure of the youth set-up. And at first-team level there have been great strides, and the belief of the fans in getting behind us showed the unique strength of the football club.
“So we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made, but excited in the future and knowing that only continued hard work will see us reach our goals.”
FULL STORY IN THIS WEEK’S WIGAN OBSERVER LATICS PULL-OUT