Roberto pays tribute to incredible fans

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ROBERTO Martinez admitted the final-day 2-2 draw with Aston Villa summed up Wigan Athletic’s campaign to perfection.

Latics shot themselves in the foot by falling behind to Darren Bent’s fourth-minute goal, but took charge and deservedly led at the interval through Emmerson Boyce and a Nathan Baker own goal.

Latics fans invade the pitch as the final whistle is blown at the last game of the season

Latics fans invade the pitch as the final whistle is blown at the last game of the season

They then created and squandered chances to make the game safe, unluckily hitting the woodwork twice, and paid the penalty when Ron Vlaar equalised on the hour mark.

It means Latics ended the season with only four home victories – only rock-bottom QPR managed to win fewer games on home soil.

“I was disappointed because we wanted to win the football game and we failed to do that,” said Martinez.

“I thought at times we were unplayable – our movement on the ball, our attacking play, was fantastic.

“But we let ourselves down in both penalty boxes – they had one shot in the second half and it ends up in the back of the net.

“In many ways that is a reflection of the season as a whole.

“I also thought we lacked a cool head in their box to make the right decision, and we didn’t react quickly enough when we hit the bar in the second half.

“It’s just little things that mean you get the full rewards for your performance.

“On the plus side, we didn’t cave in after going a goal down early on, and that is down to the personality of the team which is incredible.”

Despite Latics finishing the season in the bottom three, the players were giving a fantastic reception after the game as they embarked on a lap of appreciation to mark the lifting of the FA Cup.

“There was a real sense of celebration at the end, and I have to say the fans have been incredible,” Martinez recognised.

“They have always been there for us, and were a massive factor in us winning the FA Cup which will be there for ever.

“Our fans keep telling us that we can correct our league status, and they are right to say that.

“The disappointment for me is that this team doesn’t deserve to be in the position we are. For one reason or another we have had a lot of things go against us, but the support has always been incredible.

“There is more desire than ever to get Wigan Athletic back where we belong – the Premier 
League.

“And we will correct the league status. It’s not a problem.”

There will be another excuse to celebrate tonight when the players board an open-top bus to share their FA Cup triumph with the people of Wigan – something Martinez believes is well-deserved all round.

“The parade is something to extend to the town, which has been very proud of our achievement,” he added.

“They sent us down to Wembley with a lot of belief, and we want to repay that and share this moment with the people of Wigan.

“After that it is recovery and getting ready for the new season, and making sure we bounce back as quickly as possible.”

Martinez handed a debut to young defender Eduard Campabadal against Villa, alongside fellow Spaniard Roman Golobart, and the boss is adamant the future of the club remains bright.

“As a football club we have always emphasised the need to develop good youngsters,” he said.

“We have seen it with Callum McManaman, who is already an outstanding footballer.

“And there is another group of young players who are ready to help the first team.

“It’s important we keep doing that and keep giving them chances,

“Next year will be packed full of opportunities, and the squad has to be prepared for that.”

Meanwhile, Martinez has dismissed the suggestion that Latics could ‘do a Wolves’ and suffer back-to-back relegations.

Latics lost their fight to stay in the top flight after eight years with the big boys, but the manager has no doubt the club will be a force in the Championship next term.

“I don’t fear that Wigan will disappear without trace because I know we have the foundations,” he added.

“I’m not saying we are stronger than Wolves. I don’t know what they are doing internally.

“Maybe you get so hurt at what happened that it is difficult to react.

“But we are already working on next season and, with or without me, Wigan will bounce back.

“With the parachute money, we should be the strongest team in the Championship.”