Roberto Martinez – the man who shook up the season
22:50 GMT, 20 April 2012
There is a room at Wigan Athletic's training ground that Roberto Martinez has covered, wall-to-wall, in photographs. On two walls are black-and-white portraits of 50 players, each one marking their first international appearance while at the club. Opposite these are photographs recording the first goals that players have scored in a Wigan shirt.
But it is the international wall of fame that highlights how far Wigan have come in such a short space of time. The club was founded in 1932 but not until Roy Carroll kept goal for Northern Ireland against Thailand in May 1997 could they claim to have an international on their books. Martinez borrowed the idea from Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Wall of fame: Martinez says his players are making history at Wigan
'You'll see it at other clubs, too,' says a Catalan who raves as much about 'the Real Madrid team of Toshack' as he does 'the Cruyff revolution at Barcelona'.
He explains: 'We are making history here and I want the players to realise that. Other clubs have more to look back on, but this is the best time this club has known and 50 years down the line, I want these players to be the reference point; something to inspire the future generations.
'It's important they realise what they are doing for this club. Last week was the first time we had beaten Manchester United. It was the first time we had even taken a point off them. We have international players and I want them to take pride in playing for Wigan Athletic. I want them to understand what they mean to the supporters. I don't want people coming here just to use Wigan as a vehicle into the Premier League.'
Martinez has his own history with the
club and has surrounded himself with similar individuals. Graham
Barrow was the manager when a 22-year-old Martinez joined in 1995 and he
is now a member of the coaching staff, while one-time 'golden boot
winner' Graeme Jones is his assistant.
'I want people who understand this club,' says Martinez. 'As a manager
you need to run a football club as if you are going to be here for 100
years. You need to lay foundations for the people who follow you.
Inner sanctum: Martinez wants his players and staff to understand the club
'Many decisions I'm making now I may not enjoy the benefit of. I hate going into a place where you need to start from scratch. It shouldn't be like that. A manager cannot be in a place forever. It is impossible. But I would like to think that at Swansea, I put things in place that have allowed the club to grow stronger. I don't believe in short-term success.'
Martinez is sitting behind his desk in an office that the majority of his Premier League contemporaries would probably liken to a broom cupboard. 'But now we own the land, the training ground is going to be developed,' he says with a real sense of excitement.
He does have a rather smart espresso machine, not dissimilar to the one Carlo Ancelotti had installed in the manager's office at Chelsea's Cobham training ground, but it would be interesting to know how many top managers have the kind of facility Martinez now has at his own home.
It is there, it seems, in a state-of-the-art cinema room, that much of Martinez's work is done; there where he came up with a system for his team that has enabled them to conquer United and Arsenal, lifting Wigan out of the bottom three.
He will watch the recording of a Wigan match as many as 10 times, particularly when they lose. He says he cannot move on until he is satisfied that he understands exactly why they lost.
'I have all the facilities at home,' he says.
Achievement: Martinez masterminded Wigan's first victory over Manchester United
'I have a 60-inch pen-touch screen that allows you to write on it. You link it to your computer so it becomes a 60-inch computer screen really and you can use the ProZone software with it.
'My wife was delighted when I had it installed, but she understands that I need that space and time to be able to come back to being myself. Once I find a solution, I'm fine.
'You learn more from defeats. You see how players react to situations. I don't see it as work. I see being a football manager as a way to live. The moment you feel you need a day off, you are in the wrong business.'
It was during the hours of analysis, during what proved a particularly difficult first few months of the season, that Martinez arrived at the 3-4-3 formation which is working so well for his team.
'It probably took until November to get there,' he says.
'We lost two very important players in Tom Cleverley and Charles N'Zogbia last summer and we were struggling to create goalscoring opportunities. But we now play a system that is designed to get the best out of our players. It's a system that has been made here to play the best we can with the players we have.
'I did something similar at Swansea. Everyone played 4-4-2 but we couldn't compete like that with the budget restrictions we had. So we started with 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, and it gave us a lot of success.
'Here we are now very well balanced. We are organised defensively and we are creating opportunities. It's not a case of the players adapting to a system. It's adapting to a system that suits our players.
Focused: Martinez leaves nothing to chance
'It helps that we have a very young group. It might lack experience but it has real energy. We also went to Anfield and won the game. We went to Chelsea and really we beat them. We are very flexible. We have been working so much in the past two-and-a-half years, tactically, and we can adapt to the demands of different games against different teams. We focus on the small details and see how we can make strong partnerships on the pitch. That's how you arrive at a system that works.'
Off the field, too, this 38-year-old manager seems to have a system that works. Martinez is an intelligent guy. He studied and qualified as a physiotherapist when still in Spain and continued his studies once he arrived at Wigan, gaining a post-graduate diploma in business and marketing at Manchester University.
In his role as a manager he puts both to good use. 'I was always interested in trying to understand the business side of football so I went to university in Manchester a year after I arrived at Wigan to play,' he says. 'I enjoyed it and I also did it to develop a better understanding of English. I wanted to be able to think in English, instead of having to translate in my head all the time.
'The physiotherapy was more a promise to my mother. There was no guarantee I was going to earn a living in football and she wanted me to have an alternative.
'I was six months into doing my hospital hours when I moved to England. But it really helped me to understand my body when I was playing and to understand injuries and how the body can recover. I was never injured for more than nine weeks in 16 years of professional football.
'I've always been fascinated by different techniques and I look at what the best physios in the world are doing. I love that side of football. Injury prevention. Maximising physical ability. The treatment of injuries. I always believe every injury can be avoided. That's my starting point and my staff believe the same.
Stunner: Wigan's Franco Di Santo scores against Arsenal
'You get accidents in football, collisions that cause injuries that can't be avoided. But even then if your body is right it will react quicker to the treatment and recover faster. I don't believe in soft-tissue injuries. If you get a soft-tissue injury in football, a mistake has been made. It could be the training programme, a lifestyle problem. Whatever it is, it will be a mistake.
'At this club we are below the average for injuries in the Premier League. It's important. It helps.'
It also helps that Martinez has such a strong bond with his chairman. Dave Whelan can occasionally appear a little too candid, as he was in the wake of a recent defeat to Swansea when he said he would be talking to his manager on the Monday morning.
But Martinez meets Whelan almost every Monday and there is a mutual respect and loyalty. This has been evident when Wigan have flirted dangerously with relegation and when Martinez turned down the opportunity to become Aston Villa's manager last summer.
'I have a huge admiration for the chairman,' he says. 'When I arrived here the first time in 1995 he said he would do three things and he has delivered.
'He said he would build a 20,000 all-seater stadium, that we would be in the Premier League in 10 years and that he was in this for the long-term.
'He was very much involved in my arrival here. He opened five JJB stores in Spain and the general manager of those five shops was based in Zaragoza, where I had been playing, and everything came through that.
'The chairman was looking to inject a bit of flair into the team and I was one of three Spanish players he brought over. Once we arrived in Wigan he treated the three of us like sons. He opened the doors of his house. It was an incredible experience.
'I had the pleasure of playing for six years with him and I could see what the club meant to him. When he offered me the opportunity to become the manager, he said, “Whatever happens you are going to get three years of work. If you get relegated it's my mistake for appointing you but you'll have to get us out of the division if we do go down”.
'When someone says something like that, and they are as supportive and as loyal as they are, you can't walk away after two years. It would have been wrong to go to Aston Villa.
'It was not a football decision. It was a human decision. It was my turn to show loyalty and support. And the manager should leave only when he feels the football club needs a new manager.'
Right now that would not appear to be the situation at Wigan.