Wigan feels like home

Ali Al Habsi
Ali Al Habsi

ROBERTO Martinez finally landed Ali Al Habsi on a permanent deal – then backed him to be Wigan Athletic’s number one for the next 10 years!

Al Habsi put pen to paper on a four-year deal yesterday after a hugely-successful season-long loan from Bolton.

While Al Habsi was desperate to join Latics, the two clubs were unable to agree a fee – with Bolton holding out for £4million and Latics only offering £3m.

A compromise was reached with Latics paying £3m plus performance-related add-ons, and Martinez believes Latics have got themselves an absolute steal.

“Ali has proved himself to be a true ambassador for Wigan Athletic, and someone we have signed for the long term,” he said. “I would love to see Ali grace this club for the next 10 years. We have all worked very hard to make this deal happen and everyone should be very proud. It’s a great day for the club.”

The 29-year-old stopper first joined Latics last summer to provide competition for Chris Kirkland, but soon made the No.1 position his own.

After getting his chance in the third Premier League game of last term at Tottenham, Al Habsi never looked back and missed only two of the next 36 matches – both matches against Bolton when he was ineligible.

Al Habsi, who admits to feeling ‘at home’ at Wigan since his first day at the DW, returned from holiday yesterday morning to complete the formalities of a medical and agree personal terms.

“I am very happy,” he said. “I want to thank everyone at Bolton for helping me get established in this country, but I need to be playing first-team football.

“Hopefully, if I can stay fit and keep doing my best, I will get the chance to do that again at Wigan.

“I think the gaffer is building a really exciting young team here and I am thrilled that I can be a part of that again. I am so grateful that the gaffer gave me the chance to prove what I can do, and now I want to repay him, and the Wigan fans, for making me so welcome last season.”

The Wigan boss also admitted the impact Al Habsi made off the field last term – when he was voted ‘Player of the Year’ by the supporters – made his acquisition a must.

“Goalkeeping is a very specific position, and we are very pleased that we are going to be very strong in this department, going into the new season,” Martinez added.

“Being voted ‘Player of the Season’ reflects the huge impression that Ali had on the pitch, but also the feeling of the supporters towards him.

“After making it really clear that he wanted to play for Wigan Athletic, we’ve done everything possible to make this happen – and we’re delighted with the result.”