THE MARTINEZ INTERVIEW - Wigan forever in my heart

Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez
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IT’S just over a month since Wigan Athletic shocked the football world and lifted the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium.

And a week since Roberto Martinez was unveiled as the new manager of Everton.

Even by Latics’ standards, it’s been eventful month that also saw them lose their place in the Premier League after eight years, as well as the town centre being brought to a standstill by a cup-winning parade which drew 30,000 well-wishers.

Since his decision to leave Latics after four years at the helm, Martinez has kept his own counsel.

At the press conference to kick-off his Goodison Park reign, understandably most of the questions and answers concerned his new club, rather than the one he’d left behind.

But from the comfort of his new office at Everton’s Finch Farm state-of-the-art training complex, Martinez invited me in to lift the lid on his Latics departure.

A reign that took in the highest of highs as well as the lowest of lows – culminating in the crazy 72-hour period in mid-May when the club lifted its first major trophy before being relegated back to the Championship.

One thing’s for sure, though.

You can take the man out of Wigan. But Wigan will always occupy a sizeable portion of Martinez’s heart.

“After 10 years as a player and then a manager, Wigan will always be a very special place for me,” Martinez told the Evening Post.

“Wigan opened the door to the British game for me, and I’ll continue to be the biggest Latics supporter looking in from the outside.

“I hope there is still that mutual feeling from the fans, because it’s been a special time for us all – and that will never go away.

“Once you are a part of the Wigan Athletic family, you are in for life.”

As a former Latics player with six years’ service, Martinez knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he returned as Steve Bruce’s successor four summers ago.

In the end, the Spaniard was powerless to prevent the club dropping out of the top flight after eight years at the top table of English football.

But he insists the work done under his stewardship has placed the club on a sound overall footing – not to mention with enough memories to last a lifetime.

“Probably the biggest achievement over the four years was the football philosophy we introduced, to change the way Wigan played and give us a clear identity,” he assessed.

“When people watched Wigan Athletic, they knew exactly what to expect. And that was a massive change from when we started.

“Winning the FA Cup was down to a team that had a very strong way of playing and a strong style of play, and that was very satisfying. Injuries hit us hard last season but I hope the fans enjoyed the style we played, and the way the players gave everything for the football club.

“We also have the big memories of beating Manchester United for the first time, winning at Liverpool and Arsenal for the first time – big memories of the big games. When you look back 10 or 15 years, it was just a dream that we could even compete against those sides, let alone actually beat them.

“Behind the scenes, the way we have managed to develop the youngsters and balance the books to put the club into a strong financial position is something that will reap rewards in the future. Overall, it’s a huge bag of emotions with massive memories that none of us will ever forget.”