The season may have been over for two weeks but for Wigan Athletic in all honesty as soon as that Charles N`Zogbia strike hit the back of the Arsenal net 93 minutes into the game at the DW Stadium on the 18th April giving us a 3-2 lead and 3 points that would ultimately secure Premier League football for another season that`s when the curtain fell for 2009/10 for the Latics. Mission accomplished.
When Roberto Martinez took over back in June last year there was quite a bit of hysteria, it was certainly a mixed reception, the feeling that he would fail and the fervour that feeling was put out by some sections of Latics fans was only matched by the euphoria of another section who almost proclaimed Martinez has some sort of Messiah who was having a second coming.
In reality what we got was a young manager desperate to succeed at a club that was close to his heart.
Latics owner Dave Whelan first gave Martinez a taste of English football back in 1995 when a very young Spanish football player was instilled as the corner stone to making Whelans vision become a reality and becoming a focal point of the club for the next few seasons.
Martinez` allegiance and affinity for the Latics were built back then; he has a genuine fondness for the club, similar to what Neil Warnock has for Sheffield United, fans becoming managers and his passion for Wigan Athletic is infectious.
Martinez of course made his managerial name and built his widely renowned reputation over the previous two seasons whilst in charge of Swansea City, changing their playing style, winning the League One title comfortably and then narrowly missing out on the Championship play-offs the following season.
He was linked to the assistant manager`s job at Manchester United, actually turned down the opportunity to take over at Scottish giants Celtic and a host of clubs were chasing him before he agreed to once again be re-united with his close friend Dave Whelan.
So what has his first season in charge of Wigan Athletic brought and has he been a success?
Again supporters are split on this; some will tell you that a club like the Latics with its obvious limitations should gauge success by just one thing, remaining a Premier League outfit so therefore he has been a great success, whilst others want a little more than the annual relegation fight and eye a place in the top ten and a run in one of the cups similar to what Paul Jewell delivered as a measure of success.
To be fair to both camps I can see the logic in their arguments, on the one side we have like 10 other clubs at the start of the season a clear possibility of relegation and so to avoid this is the immediate goal, for a club the size of the Latics with the resources available this is a mammoth task but one which we have managed for the past five seasons and only once were we in serious danger of going down.
The other camp sees this constant obsession of avoiding relegation as holding the club back and they want us to push on, challenge for the top ten and give end of season games some meaning as we are chasing perhaps a place in the Europa League and I agree we do need some ambition once the first target has been reached surely that should open more objectives.
So Martinez has come in and achieved the first but failed in the second, we have stayed in the league, quite comfortably but we have not pushed on, both cup competitions were a major disappointment but what he has done is lay the foundations for next season and the seasons after that.
Previous managers at the club looked to the immediate, the here and now, avoid relegation and get the squad to do that, with Martinez its more of a sense of building for the future, he changed the style of the team throughout the season, a large emphasis on youth and quality, the introduction of James McCarthy and Momo Diame have been fantastic and gives genuine hope, they were both great success stories this season.
On the down side were the 9-1 Spurs defeat, the two Manchester United hammerings and the last day carnage at Chelsea, though in fairness other factors contributed in that game.
Martinez himself is quick to point out that this season has been all about getting the squad round to his way of thinking, playing the game in his style and he uses the Arsenal game, the result of which gave us our season objective, as the proof in point.
With 10 minutes to go the Latics were 2-0 down but managed to change the game around playing controlled measured football not hit and hope hoofball, a result to what Martinez has called the transition period
I met him a few weeks ago and he told me that earlier in the season that game would have been lost but he now sees that the squad have progressed, he said: ‘When we played Arsenal if that had been six months ago and we went 2-0 down I guarantee you that we would have ended up losing with 5 or 6 but we didn`t, the players kept working on what we have been telling them in training and when we got the goal for 2-1 you could see the lift’
‘This is the transition that I have been talking about and we are getting there’
So without question we have a very bright young manager who has achieved what he set out to do this season, stabilise the club following the turmoil of Steve Bruces departure, avoid relegation whilst changing the playing style, training techniques and mindset of the club and hopefully he has also found his feet in the top flight
Next season will provide us with the litmus test but this so far so good.
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