Rob not phased by ‘tough’ start

Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez

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ROBERTO Martinez insists Wigan Athletic could not have been handed a tougher start to their 2011/12 Premier League campaign than back-to-back fixtures against all three newly-promoted sides.

Latics kick-off the new season with a home game against Norwich this Saturday, and then travel to South Wales to face Swansea before returning to the DW Stadium for the visit of QPR on August 27.

Some pundits have labelled this a ‘dream’ start, while some Latics fans will be dreaming about the possibility of their side being top of the Premier League come the end of August.

But Martinez is taking absolutely nothing for granted – especially after the 4-0 home drubbing by Blackpool on the opening day of last season.

“We have the experience from last year of playing a newly-promoted side up first, and it is so much harder to play these sides when they have that extra bit of energy and emotion,” Martinez told the Evening Post.

“But on the plus side we know exactly what to expect, and we’ll be ready for the emotion of the day.

“It’s also important to get our home form up and running as soon as possible.

“We saw a real difference in performance levels at home during the first and second half of last season.

“To be able to start the season at the DW is a great opportunity for us to reach new heights early on, with help from the fans, and we need to make all of that count on Saturday.”

Norwich have already sold-out their 4,500 allocation for the game, while Martinez knows the trip to Swansea the following week will be even more of a passionate atmosphere due to his time in charge at the Liberty Stadium.

“I have very strong links with Swansea City – not just because I was manager there, but I was also one of the first foreign players to captain the club,” he acknowledged.

“Obviously now you are looking at the culmination of a lot of very hard work over the last few years, and you have a very strong group of players that has been together for a long, long time.

“And it’s great to see them in the Premier League.

“People from outside the area don’t understand the passion there is for football in Swansea.

“From my point of view, though, I have to make sure we are as prepared as we can be to take on not just Swansea but Norwich, QPR and the rest of the Premier League.”

Latics will certainly need all of the early points they can lay their hands on with a horror run of fixtures awaiting them just before Christmas.

“December is shaping up to be a real month of death,” he added.

“But at the moment we’re just really excited at the prospect of getting started again and picking up where we left off.”