BEN Watson will have a double incentive to impress when he takes to the field tonight against Bradford City.
Firstly, the former Crystal Palace man is hoping to keep Latics on the Wembley trail, with a place in the last eight of the Capital One Cup up for grabs.
Secondly, Watson will be hoping an impressive performance will give boss Roberto Martinez a timely nudge ahead of the Premier League trip to Tottenham at the weekend.
Watson has been impressive in both Capital One Cup clashes this term, the 4-1 victories at Nottingham Forest and West Ham that have set up tonight’s encounter.
And Martinez acknowledges the DW encounter is another massive opportunity for claims to be staked for bigger challenges that lie ahead.
“We have many players who are knocking on the door, if you want to use that expression,” Martinez told the Evening Post. “I’ve said it before but I firmly believe that the competition for places is as strong as it’s been since I’ve been at the club.
“The sign of a strong squad is when you bring on a substitute and he is able to have a real impact on the game.
“And that’s been the case so many times this season with different players fulfilling different roles.
“Having so many options to call on strengthens my hand as a manager, and what we have is a squad that is tactically flexible and intelligent.
“I thought Ben’s recent performances have been very, very good - but exactly what I would have expected given the quality he has and the way he has been working.
“And Ben is not the only one - Mauro Boselli is another, as is Ryo Miyaichi, Callum McManaman, David Jones, Fraser Fyvie and Ronnie Stam.”
Watson has had to look on from the sidelines as James McArthur and James McCarthy have cemented the two central midfield berths this term with a series of consistent displays.
But Martinez is equally mindful of the fact Watson brings his own qualities to the table that give the squad something extra.
“Technically there aren’t many British players as stylish in possession as Ben,” Martinez added. “He is a master of that area and it’s a real strength he brings to the squad.
“He was very important in the run-in two years ago, when he came into the team and helped lift us to a different level.
“And his undoubted quality has now been complimented by an extra edge of experience, which makes him even more important to the way we want to play.
“Ben remains a very important member of our squad – and he will show that plenty of times between now and the end of the season.”