ROBERTO Martinez says Wigan Athletic have to match the “enthusiasm, energy and positivity” of Southampton if they are to be party poopers this weekend.
Latics provide the opposition for the Saints’ first home game back in the Premier League after years in the wilderness.
It’s a situation they are well used to, having played all three promoted sides in a row at the start of last term and Blackpool on the opening day of the previous campaign.
And Martinez called on his men to draw on the experience of those encounters and bounce back from the 2-0 home defeat to European champions Chelsea last weekend.
“The worst time to play these newly-promoted sides is early in the season, because they have reached their dream as a football club and they are full of energy and enthusiasm,” he told the Evening Post.
“That allows them to get extra percentages out of every one of their players, the vibe around the club is so overwhelmingly positive, and it’s something we’ve had to deal with over the last two seasons.
“You have to match those levels right from the start or it can be a long afternoon for you.
“Once you can establish a foothold in the game, then you can be yourselves. But it won’t be easy.
“It will be a terrific football atmosphere, we know that, an incredible environment in which to play our football, and we will have to cope with that.”
The Saints were many people’s tips for relegation, but they proved last weekend – when they pushed champions Manchester City all the way before losing a five-goal thriller at Eastlands – that they won’t be whipping boys.
And Martinez has promised that nobody in the Wigan camp will be taking the top-flight new boys lightly on Saturday.
“Southampton have nothing to lose, and they will be carrying through a very successful momentum from back-to-back promotions,” he added.
“You saw at Manchester City that they got their noses in front and matched the champions for much of the game.
“We know if we are not perfect, we will not get the result we want.”
The Wigan boss also heaped praise on his Southampton counterpart, Nigel Adkins, who like Martinez is a former Latics favourite from two decades ago.
After leaving Latics to become player-manager of Bangor City, Adkins become physio at Scunthorpe before taking the top job – which led to him being head-hunted by his current employers.
“Nigel has done an absolutely phenomenal job, not just at Southampton but throughout his short managerial career,” Martinez said.
“At Scunthorpe he was always renowned as a manager who got the best out of the players at his disposal.
“Since he went to Southampton, he has brought a completely different dimension to the job.
“We are all very proud of his achievements as a former Wigan Athletic player, but we only wish him well after Saturday’s game.”