ROBERTO Martinez believes his Wigan Athletic side have come of age at exactly the right time.
Latics have eight games to save themselves from relegation, but are still in there fighting after the last-gasp 2-1 victory over Birmingham last weekend.
They showed great guts and character to recover from the blow of going a goal down early to win thanks to Maynor Figueroa’s last-gasp strike.
Although there was plenty of experience in Wigan’s back five on Saturday, the six attacking players in the run-on side had an average age of less than 22.
Ben Watson and Charles N’Zogbia were the veterans of the group at 25 and 24 respectively, alongside Tom Cleverley, Franco di Santo (both 21), Victor Moses and James McCarthy (both 20).
Older heads Conor Sammon (24) and Hugo Rodallega (25) added experience in the final stages, leaving Martinez purring at the huge potential at his disposal.
He told the Evening Post: “We have got the youngest squad in the Premier League, and Saturday was a real test of maturity as well as character.
“I just felt the manner in which we kept playing and controlled the game in the second half was not normal for the age group we’ve got.
“We are bottom of the league for one reason or another, but we thoroughly deserved that result.
“Everyone is available and desperate to be part of the group to help Wigan Athletic – and that fills me with pride looking forward.”
Latics had to withstand a nervy 15-minute spell after Birmingham’s goal before they got a foothold in the game.
Some sections of the crowd were starting to get restless at a perceived lack of urgency in getting the ball forward into the visitors’ half.
But Martinez praised his men for sticking to the game-plan and continuing to play their football from the back.
“The first goal is a clear example of what we are trying to do and why we keep the ball, why we remain composed in possession,” the Wigan manager explained.
“We opened up one of the tightest defensive teams in the Premier League with a great move from the back to the front.
“We then showed great character in the second half to see the job through, which was brilliant.”
Although some of the pressure has been eased following the weekend, Latics remain rock-bottom after 30 matches.
However, virtually the whole bottom half of the table are now realistically involved in the relegation dogfight, and Martinez believes there are many twists and turns to come yet.
“I feel now there are seven or eight teams involved, from which someone could be surprised and dragged in late in the season,” he added.
“Mentally it is very hard when you are bottom three, and some teams may get into that position late in the season – and that’s something we need to be aware of and be prepared for.
“For us it can only get better. We are still bottom of the table, but the next eight games are not just a pressure situation. They are an opportunity to get out of the position we are in.”