Roberto reveals (almost) all at his first fans forum

Bob addresses his adoring fans

Bob addresses his adoring fans

Roberto Martinez hosted his first fans forum as manager of Wigan Athletic in front of 350 supporters at the DW Stadium’s Fitness Lounge last night.

Unfortunately JWAW could not personally make it, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet (as in, the various Latics messageboards) we are able to bring you the general gist of the event.

If appropriating content is good enough for Rupert Murdoch then it’s sure as heck acceptable for a small-time weblog read by about five people (two of which passed away more than fifty years ago). Anyhow…

The evening was a chance for fans to pose questions about anything and everything to do with Wigan Athletic, and by all accounts Roberto was his usual honest self, answering all queries — which addressed a wide range of topics, from his style of play and tactics to Wigan’s status as a ‘selling club’ — calmly and with aplomb.

“There are no difficult questions” said Martinez to Latics Player’s Graham Lovett. “As long as everyone knows what we’re trying to do, it’s easy to find a real answer.”

“I’ve said it before, I want to know what the fans feel. All that we’re doing is for the fans. Unless we are together, we cannot share all our worries regarding the direction of the football club, and that’s vital.”

Amongst numerous other things, Roberto expressed his thoughts on Chris Kirkland and Titus Bramble, who, in his opinion, “should be in the England squad“. In the case of the former, he theorised it must only be a personal issue as opposed to lack of ability keeping Kirky out of the national setup.

With regards to potential signings, Bob revealed that he’s already got four new faces lined up for the January transfer window, one of which is pretty much a done deal. We can only speculate as to whether this is Jackson Martinez, who was seen at the Dee Dubya last week, but we’ve definitely got a juicy Colombian national partnership up front if this is indeed the case.

Roberto revealed that Maynor Figueroa personally turned down an offer from Sunderland in the summer, casting major doubts upon reports he is to follow Steve Bruce and Lee Cattermole to the Black Cats. Figs will also be fit for next weekend’s Premier League game against the North-East outfit, so you get the feeling Erik Edman will be going all out to grab that first choice left-back spot from him with a good performance against Tottenham on Sunday.

I think there’s a marked difference between Steve Bruce during his time at Wigan and Roberto Martinez. You got the feeling that, whilst Brucey was wholly professional about his job, there wasn’t that same spark, flair and passion for Wigan Athletic that Bobby brings to the position. There’s no doubting who the fans prefer, and on a personal level, I’d take Roberto over Bruce even if it did mean the club had to take what looks like a backward step.

Which brings me on to the subject of playing style. A well-publicised comment from the 90-minute session came from former WISH FM commentator Harold Ashurst, who asked Roberto whether we tend to overpass at times, citing the fact we made over 450 passes against Hull and still lost. An unabashed Martinez retorted “it was actually 527″ before eloquently explaining why that wasn’t the reason for the loss.

Talk about knowledgeable! He also brought up the point that Bramble and Boyce were making an average of ten passes per game last season but so far have been making over 150 this campaign.

Under Bruce, there seemed to be a general lethargy in the final months of the 08/09 season, a general ‘oh, we’ve already achieved what we’ve set out to do’ attitude (the exception, of course, being against Manchester United, but who wouldn’t get excited by such a prospect, especially with the pressure off?). Bob was keen to stress there won’t be a repeat of this as, unlike other managers in campaigns past, he has not set an upper limit on what he would like the club to achieve this season.

Roberto reiterated that he understands our position as a ‘selling club’, but denied that is always a bad thing, pointing to Spanish side Sevilla who have executed a similar business model with relative success.

When Martinez took over some months ago, he made a commitment to changing attitudes at the club from grass roots to first team. This has been evident in both the reserve and youth teams who haven’t always been that successful in terms of results but have definitely adopted a more European, passing style that we’ve got going — to pretty good effect — in the first team.

The Gaffer concedes it’ll take a few more months for the players to settle in to this new style and then we can really start going places with the team he’s moulded. All very positive stuff.

A few rungs down, though, he isn’t happy with the current state of youth football at the club. He intends to make it a personal quest to bring a Wigan-born player into the first team, the first since Gary Walsh and Colin Greenall some years ago. There are, however, one or two very good young players we haven’t had the chance to see yet. I would personally keep an eye on Joe Holt.

Other topics that were brought up include:

  • The second goalie position. Martinez heaped praise upon Pollitt, who’s still giving it 10/10 in training, but hinted that we’ll be looking for a young keeper to fill his position because, of course, Polly can’t go on forever.
  • Jason Scotland just needs to “break his duck” and he’ll be scoring freely once again, but could do with the backing of the fans.
  • Remember the Spanish newspaper incident a couple of weeks ago? Well, apparently the club is getting extensive coverage in Marca, which a rival newspaper was not happy with. Bob agreed to do an exclusive interview for the latter, which, as we know, was pretty sensationalist and not massively accurate.

There are a whole load more issues which will perhaps be expanded upon in even more detail in a later post, but these are the main points I can glean from the general talk of the town. Sounds like it was a wonderful evening and I really am kicking myself for not buying a ticket before they all sold out. “Get one next week”, I thought to myself.

The fact the event sold out so quickly is testament to how much Roberto is loved at the club, and indeed he received a standing ovation before taking 45 minutes to mingle with the assembled supporters.

As a player, I always had that relationship with the fans, so it hasn’t been a surprise… We’ll make sure that Wigan Athletic is a club to be proud of and the football we play is recognised everywhere. — Roberto Martinez, interviewed by Graham Lovett for Latics Player

Arsene Wenger, you’d better watch out.

Cheers to Batch_wafc at Wiganer.net, Worbo at VitalLatics and the Official Latics website for their reports on the evening, which were heavily used as a base for this post. Image is courtesy the official Latics website.

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