Master and Commander

Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez

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ROBERTO Martinez is not your average Premier League manager.

It’s fair to say not too many bosses would have stayed put when the lure of a far bigger club came calling, as Aston Villa did earlier this summer.

It’s fair to say not many bosses would be biding their time in the transfer market with the best part of £10m burning a hole in their pocket, as the Spaniard has so far done this summer with the funds from Charles N’Zogbia’s sale.

But Martinez is cut from a different cloth than most other managers.

Unlike his counterparts, the 38-year-old does not concern himself with short-term problems like worrying about the next result, or the league standings.

He is far more interested in the bigger picture – one year, three years, even five years down the line.

Of course, Martinez is only able to do that thanks to the unwavering backing of chairman Dave Whelan – which was reciprocated when Villa and Randy Lerner were sent packing last month.

With a relationship stretching back some 16 years, Whelan always knew he had the right man to take Latics to the next step.

And, likewise, Martinez knows that chairmen like Whelan are unique in modern football.

It’s a partnership that gives you the assurance Latics are in safe hands as long as the duo are at the helm.

And it’s that stability – both on and off the field – that Martinez feels will be Wigan’s greatest strength when the new season kicks off this weekend.

“The group of players we have got now have been through the experience of last season, which will be a real asset ahead of the new season,” Martinez explained.

“I know that fans love to talk about new signings, but that’s not really the key to success. I believe the key to success is developing a core of players who understand what it means to play for Wigan Athletic and in the manner we want to play.

“We have that now, and what we are trying to do is help that group with the odd new player who can give you a little bit extra in the final third.

“I always believe that when you reach your targets, you need to have some financial rewards that allow you to reinvest to allow you to go to a new level.

“We are in that position now, and we need to be able to bring in a couple of new players and also pump some money into other areas of the football club – like the training ground – that will allow us to show what we have achieved so far.

“Long-term planning is very important, and I feel that the group of players that we have – which is very young and very talented – is the real secret of this football club. And we can’t overlook that.”

Not that Martinez won’t be looking for an improvement on last term, when only back-to-back wins – a first under his stewardship – over West Ham and Stoke extended Wigan’s top-flight adventure into a seventh season.

He knows leaving it so late is not good for anyone’s ticker.

“Our first target for the new season is to pick up where we left off at Stoke at the end of last season,” he revealed.

“We can’t be relying on that kind of finish to save us every season, and we all know that.

“It’s quite clear that we need to perform well for the full 38 games and not just a block of games – and that’s the main challenge for this campaign.

“The performance level from the last 15 games or so is where we want to be – and that’s the way we want to start against Norwich.

“But we must also understand that we will be playing the three newly-promoted sides at the worst possible time, which will make for a strange start.”

The word ‘progress’ constantly pops up in Martinez’s vocabulary, so what would constitute ‘progress’ this coming season?

“Simply to improve on every department from last season,” he continued.

“That could be scoring 10 more goals, conceding 10 less, having more wins, having less draws, and carry on getting more points.

“If we can be slightly better again on last season, that would represent real progress.

“It’s unrealistic to go by just the league table – if you look at the top seven from last year, I think anyone could have predicted that.

“Those clubs work on a different line to the rest of the Premier League.

“However, eighth position and down was open, and that shows you the competitive nature of the division.

“Fulham managed to get that eighth spot after spending most of the season in the bottom half, and that has to be the aim for all of the other 13 clubs.”

Of course, most of those other 13 clubs have spent big this summer in the quest for the bigger, better deal.

But money, as they say, isn’t everything, and Latics have what most other clubs in the Premier League would kill for.

Unity of leadership, a passionate desire to constantly improve and – yep, you guessed it – that stability on and off the field that has stood them in such good stead in the past.

Talk of a top-half finish this season may or may not prove out of reach, but it won’t be for the want of trying.

And, as Martinez admits, another season of slow-but-sure progression would not equate to anything approaching failure.

“There is no other league in the world where you have five clubs that will realistically be expecting to win the league,” he added. “And that should make for the tightest title race yet.

“Manchester United should be favourites, and rightly so because they have just won it and have strengthened well.

“But it is an achievement to be just in there fighting – as we are once again.”