SHAUN Maloney has been tipped to pick up where he left off after blasting back into the Latics side at the weekend.
The dynamo Scot, 29, came off the bench against QPR following a short spell on the sidelines, and Roberto Martinez was pleased to have him back in his team. Maloney’s strong start to the campaign was derailed by a groin injury he suffered against Reading, and Wigan lost both their Premier League matches in his absence. Martinez said: “Shaun has been very frustrated after picking up the injury, because he started the season in great form. His professionalism has got him back earlier than expected, and it was great to see his quality once again which I felt was going to bring us three points.
“It was great to see he and James McArthur back out on the pitch.”
While Maloney marked his return from injury, it was another midfielder stealing the headlines.
James McCarthy ended his goal-drought in spectacular fashion, netting a double against QPR on Saturday to salvage a point.
The Irish international opened the scoring against Harry Redknapp’s rejuvenated basement battlers with a fine, first-half volley, and then pounced late after the visitors had taken a surprise 2-1 lead.
And Martinez is delighted to see him reap the rewards of his hard work over the past two campaigns - suggesting he wouldn’t have developed at such rate if he was a bit-part player at a bigger club.
“If you don’t play you’ll never fulfil your potential,” he said.
“James has been through two very intense seasons, being very successful and having a massive role and the way he’s developing as a player is something he would never do if he wasn’t playing regularly.
“This season is an important moment for him. He’s starting to have a big role with the Republic of Ireland and you could see (against QPR) he took responsibility, he drove the team forward and at 22 it shows the future for James is really impressive and that’s why we put such a big investment in him from a very young age.”
While Martinez wants to keep the former Hamilton virtuoso at the DW Stadium for as long as possible, he admits he will not stand in his way when he feels ready to follow the likes of Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) and Victor Moses (Chelsea) in joining one of the world’s elite outfits.
“That’s the nature of the game,” the Spaniard added. “I’m pleased to see him improving, enjoying his football, taking responsibility and putting in performances to get good results for Wigan Athletic.
“James McCarthy’s got the potential to play anywhere in the world and whenever he’s ready we’ll never stop him.
“But James McCarthy is at a very good club now and we want top players to stay here for as long as we can.
“That’s why I invested a lot of money when he was young. I think technically it is difficult to find a better player.
“ At 22 to have the tactical awareness that he has and to be so consistent week in week out, James knows he needs another period of improvement.
“But from a technical point of view he can play in any team in the world and he will do one day.
“We just enjoy seeing him grow and seeing him enjoy his football and being important player for us and at international set-up.”