Date:Friday February 11 2011
A couple of weeks ago I contacted Wigan Athletic media manager Ed Jones and asked him if there was any chance of a get together, a fans forum with the Latics fans sites editors and the boss Roberto Martinez, on a similar basis to the ones that have occurred in the past, Ed Jones said he would speak with Martinez and see what could be arranged.
Well yesterday (Thursday) the proposed meeting took place, over lunch, down at the DW Stadium.
I was there, obviously, along with Migs (Mudhuts), Andy Havoc (Latics 1932), Tall Kenny, and he is (Not a Patch On), Andy aka ATL11 (YOTAC), John Healey (Cockney Latic) and last but certainly not least JayT (Supporters Club)
Roberto Martinez, Jonathan Jackson (CEO) and Ed Jones were present to answer questions on and discuss any topic that was put forward, as always they were open, honest and direct.
The setting was the home dressing room and what a buzz the place gave, or maybe that was the smell of the pizza on the hostess trolley waiting to be devoured, hmm.
Anyway after a bite to eat we all took our seats and the forum began.
Migs got the ball rolling and asked after three transfer windows did Martinez feel happy with the squad that he`d assembled.
All words in italics Roberto Martinez unless otherwise stated
'Yes, absolutely. The performance on Saturday shows that we have the players we need. For a long time we missed Victor Moses, James McCarthy, Franco Di Santo and Tom Cleverley, and that really set us back, but now we have them all back. On Saturday, the average age of the outfield players was the youngest in the Premier League, which is a fantastic sign, and we got the performance we were hoping for.
"I always said I don`t just want Wigan Athletic to survive every season, I want the club to move forward, invest in the youth so that they can be at their best with ourselves rather than signing players that are at the end of their careers'.
"The performance of James McCarthy on Saturday, if he had been at Man United we`d have seen that goal time after time, the skill, the arrogance to do that"
Migs asked was there not a worry that because we have such a youthful side that we could perhaps lack some experience during the run in.
"No not at all, its all about the points and what we need, last campaign, unfortunately we were very up and down, we couldn`t get that consistency, when we had disappointment on the pitch we couldn`t find the character to get back into the game, that then could develop into a very damaging scoreline, as we saw, this campaign has been completely different, but we need to be calm and composed to see games out and not drop points.
My turn, I wanted to know, what if, what if the dreaded 'R` word became a reality, can`t even write here, definitely couldn`t say it, but what if we went down, are we prepared, do we have a strategy in place?
"It`s not going to happen, the same that Everton aren`t thinking about it.
"I think we are in a key moment of the season, the first 2/3rds of the season has shaped the squad, the experience now for the young players is invaluable, the next 12 games, on paper are extremely difficult, I`m looking at the amount of points that we are going to get from those games.
"If we can keep everyone fit and available we will be fine."
"I want Wigan Athletic to be challenging for the European places and we need to get through this period to be able to achieve that and get a completely different outlook in our football club."
"We got into the Premier League and we have been just happy to stay there, I felt the club was just a little bit stale, now the football club and the ideas are completely different. We are no longer happy with that, we want to go into the next level
"You look at the promotions and the Youth Development programmes that we are going to put in place, the football club is ready to take off, but we all agree that the next 12 games are paramount for that."
John Healey stepped in and asked about Ali Al-Habsi, he`s been outstanding, are we going to keep him at the end of the season?
"12 months ago no one knew about Al-Habsi and his capabilities, Ali is really enjoying his role here. The relationship he`s got with the fans is unbelievable, the way he`s taken to the football club has been fantastic.
"Then on the footballing matters he has developed a great relationship with our goalkeeping coach, Inaki Bergara, from day one to now he is a completely different goalkeeper. And he knows that and he loves his time here"
"We will do all in our power to keep Ali here for the bigger future, but that`s down to not only us but Ali himself and Bolton, he has two years left on his contract there"
"Ali though really loves his time here, firstly he enjoys the challenge, secondly he can see himself developing and third he wants to be part of the future for Wigan Athletic, I would be confident that Ali wants to stay with us"
Migs turned the attention round to Mauro Boselli and asked was it a mistake to sign him, Martinez was quick to dispel this.
"No, it was a real statement in the transfer market and lots of eyebrows were raised when he signed for Wigan Athletic. I received phone calls from Spain and Italy from managers asking 'with no disrespect how have you managed to sign Boselli?`
"Mauro Boselli scored 50 goals in one of the hardest leagues in South America, he played in the Copa Libertadores and was the leading goal scorer, and any team in Europe would be happy to have signed Mauro. Had Mauro been young, it might be considered a gamble that hasn't paid off, but it's not like that. Mauro is a goalscorer, and has always been successful.
"He missed the open goal against Sunderland with the header and then the penalty at West Ham, if either of those had been scored it would have helped a lot for him to settle in. It's difficult for him to have struggled here, he has always been the main player at any club he`s been at so it`s been hard.'
"Mauro will come back and be successful but either way we wont lose any money on him"
The conversation turned to Charles N`Zogbia with it being confirmed that a substantial bid had been totally rejected.
"Charlie is a very special player and he has matured a lot this season, in football terms he is still a young man but he doesn`t play as a young man, that is important, you have a player that is fully committed"
"When you speak about Charles N`Zogbia I don`t see any negatives at all, every thing is a positive"
"If we lose him it will be for the right terms, for the right money at the right time, that doesn`t mean we want to lose him, but it does mean that nobody is going to damage this football club anymore, the timing of players leaving the football club is going to be the right one"
Ed Jones joined in and said that "Charlie is a much deeper character than gets perceived or portrayed, he is very intelligent, he reads a lot, he is head strong but committed to the team"
"He takes a step back and looks at his career and knows where he`s at and he`s very focused and a good kid"
Continuing on from N`Zogbia, Roberto spoke about the lazy journalism that surrounds everything Wigan Athletic and he seemed a bit miffed about it too.
"The written press, all they talk about is which player is going to leave next. The lazy journalism, 'I`m covering Wigan, what am I going to talk about?` When Charles N`Zogbia is going, how can this football club be in the Premier League and why is Chris Kirkland not playing, it`s just the three topics that they`ve got"
Andy from YOTAC asked about the pitch and if it might be an advantage to leave it like it is rather than getting it re-laid.
"Last season we re-laid the pitch before the Liverpool game and played them off the park, for the last 30 minutes last week I`d agree with you that the pitch was unplayable, that spell Blackburn put everyone forward and just went direct so the pitch helped them.
"Then you had Ben Watson, a couple of times trying to play backwards to the keeper, you could see the crowd getting frustrated, we need to keep doing the things that we do well and for that we need a good pitch"
New signing Conor Sammon was the next topic, is he going to feature this season?
"He`s been impressive, if you`d have asked me two weeks ago I`d have said no, now I think he`ll have to be involved, I have been very impressed with his approach, he is a fantastic character, physically very professional he has an individual programme because there is a big gap between the Premier League and the SPL, he ticks all the boxes.
"He`s got hunger, power, pace, good finishing that type of player doesn`t come along too often."
"He is a little frustrated at not being involved against Blackburn but he is doing everything he can to earn that place"
Roberto was asked about some of the vociferous protests against himself and also that banner` and how it made him feel.
"Football is a game full of emotion, I understand that, first off I am frustrated with the amount of points that we`ve got, if you care about your football club, you are passionate about it and you get the emotions, that snormal"
"When I accepted the job it was a privilege, it was my football club, to work for a chairman that I knew inside out, who would give me the time to turn things my way, but also I knew it wasn`t going to be easy.
"I wasn`t coming here to just go through the motions, I wanted to change the philosophy, I wanted to take a long term ambition of taking the club into Europe and thats where my focus is"
"Whatever happens in terms of the emotions of the fans I can understand them, as long as I can work my motivation is to change them emotions"
"I feel more hurt when the fans don`t support the players, the fans expressing their opinions towards myself I can understand that completely, its part of your job as a manager, you shouldn`t be affected by whats going on around you, you must stay focused."
"For me to be a manager at Wigan Athletic is a honour and a privilege and the harder it is the bigger the achievement will be and that`s the way I look at it"
At this stage I passed on a few messages that I had received to let Roberto know that they are behind him and he said "I appreciate that"
"For me I see it as a motivation rather than a personal thing, when we suffer a bad result or you look at the table, thats normal I understand that, its natural for the frustrations."
"I know exactly what we have to do to get out of that position, you look at many little signs and I always look at the playing staff, the likes of James McCarthy, Victor Moses, Momo Diame, they are the future of this football club, thats where the work has been behind the scenes and we`ll get the rewards"
"If you think that something has been too easy your not changing much, we don`t want to do ok we want to take Wigan Athletic to the next level and thats going to spoil a few people, its going to ruffle a few feathers, its normal, I understand that but as long as they allow the players to enjoy their football I will take all the criticism."
There was talk about the Latics fan base and what can be done to encourage more fans to support the club and get themselves along to the DW Stadium and Roberto commented on a surprising fact that the Latics are the 5th most popular English team in Spain
'It's a curiosity that Wigan Athletic are the 5th highest profile English club in Spain, yet we barely make that in our own town. It is by progressing and building success, that we will attract more people to the club'
Roberto finished with a bit of a rallying call.
"I think one thing we need to remember, we are privileged to be part of Wigan Athletic, I think we can talk about wanting more fans and this and that, we are unique in what we have done and we need to appreciate that a bit more, it`s not about the extra people that we are going to get, it`s what we are and that`s why now, I can guarantee you that the next 12 games are so massive that they should be treated as just one game, if you don`t love the football club enough then you can come out and express your emotions. If you really love the football club you can act as though its one game, at the end of the 12 games if you`re not happy then you can be as critical as you want about the football club or the players or myself, but now for the next 12 games is the time to make the difference and help the players to get through these, the football club will never look back, never."
Fantastic for the club to allow this to happen, I cant think of any other club that does this sort of meeting never mind a Premier League club, I have missed bits out but they can be picked up with the reports from the other sites, see links below.
See the other reports on Mudhuts and Ye Old Tree and Crown
All photo's and video reproduced with the permission of Wigan Athletic
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Date:Friday February 11 2011
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