ROBERTO Martinez admits he’s looking forward to seeing the ‘new’ Callum McManaman when the youngster returns from his loan spell at Blackpool.
McManaman has another month to go at Bloomfield Road before re-joining Latics just in time for their FA Cup campaign.
The England Under-20s ace has made a real splash on the seaside, with a series of illuminating displays.
On his ninth appearance against Reading last weekend, McManaman scored the only goal of the game – a wonderful effort – to see off the promotion-chasers.
And Martinez believes Latics are set to reap the fruits of McManaman’s labour in the New Year.
“It’s been great to see Callum enjoying his football and growing while at Blackpool,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“It was important for him to get regular minutes under his belt, and we’ve all been admiring his progress from a distance.
“He’ll be returning to our club as a more mature and confident player, ready to fight for his place in the first team.
“And we’re all looking forward to seeing him back here in the first week of January.
“His time with Blackpool has been exactly what he needed at this stage of his career – and his goal against Reading was a great example of his footballing arrogance and belief as a player. I’m delighted Callum’s been able to show his undoubted ability, and challenge for his place in a great competition like the Championship.
“His quality has really come to the fore – and that was the whole reason for the exercise.”
McManaman returns to the DW in the first week of 2012, ahead of the FA Cup third-round trip to Swindon.
And Martinez accepts the draw could have been kinder to his side, who exited the competition to Notts County at this stage two seasons ago.
“We all know these kind of cup-ties are always tricky, because they are very big occasions for the lower-league team,” he added.
“In any cup draw, all you ask for is to be at home because it gives you a sense of normality.
“When you’re away, especially against a lower-league side, the opposition is usually hyped up and determined to show what they can do against a big team.
“From our point of view, we need to learn from the negative experiences we’ve had in the past and make sure we’re ready to face a very good Swindon side.
“I’ve seen them a few times this season and they’ve hit some really good form in recent weeks. They’ll be a very tough team to play against and we’re all aware of that.”