As soon as it became clear Gerard Houllier would not return to manage Aston Villa, rumours about who should replace him began to fly. One of those in the running was Wigan’s own Roberto Martinez, who was immediately instated as the bookies’ third favourite when chairman Randy Lerner expressed an interest in the Spaniard.
It has emerged today that Dave Whelan has given Martinez the opportunity to speak to the Villans, placing his future in the balance. On the one hand there is a contract extension offer from Latics, which he has been mulling over for some time, while on the other, the Midlands outfit will no doubt table a tempting proposition to bring Bob to Villa Park. Will he remain at the club that introduced him to British football or opt for a new challenge? Though Whelan reckons he’ll stay, I estimate the situation to be 50:50.
Despite Roberto’s strong affinity with Wigan, I very much doubt his decision will be clouded by nostalgia, and creative freedom may well be the determining factor. However, should Villa stump up the cash, I find it hard to see any other outcome than him leaving. It’s a nasty thought, as minds will be cast back to just over two years ago when Steve Bruce opted to leave for Sunderland. The Latics foundations began to crumble as a result, even if you could well argue that deterioration started as early as Christmas; whatever the case, his successor did a decent job of steadying the ship.
Big Brucey’s immediate departure after the 2008–09 season was somewhat inevitable. Roberto is in a different situation, having revived Wigan’s fortunes in the latter part of the season and finishing on a real high. Ever the professional, he may feel an obligation to honour his contract at the DW.
When Martinez was appointed Latics’ boss, one had the feeling his relative inexperience at the highest level could possibly mean disaster for Wigan. Dave Whelan placed total faith in his man, sticking by Roberto 100% through the tough times and never once intimating his position was in any danger. Even as other, seemingly more successful Premier League managers fell by the wayside, Roberto remained. This could edge the decision in Wigan’s favour, as he may never again find a chairman as patient as Uncle Dave.
Personally, I’m looking forward to another season under Martinez and am confident we can improve on our 16th place finish this coming campaign. Hopefully we shall see the continuation, or perhaps the culmination, of two years’ hard work rebuilding the team from the ground up. If Roberto leaves, we’d better get a decent replacement in there sharpish or else a mass exodus may result and we could be back to rebuilding once again.