The latest fans gathering at the DW stadium for an audience with Roberto Martinez took place on Thursday. The forum was called by the Latics manager himself to give him an opportunity to thank on behalf of the playing staff the fans for the fabulous support they extended to the players by greeting them outside the stadium prior to the recent home game with West Bromwich Albion.

Roberto said that the whilst initially a bit alarmed to see such numbers awaiting them as they arrived for the game, it became the hot topic of conversation amongst the players in the dressing room and definitely spurred them and gave them the motivation to deliver a much improved performance following the low point that was the Swansea game.

Martinez March 2012 Interview|Roberto interview 03-12.mp3

“We are in this together, and the differences are going to be minimal from now to the end of the season and we need to be the best football club of the five that are fighting to get out” said Roberto, who adopted his usual annoyingly enthusiastic and impossibly positive persona.

Roberto believes that ten points from the remaining eight points will be enough to survive and claims that we could easily go to the Blackburn and Wolves games at the end of the season with just one win under our belts and still survive. He was implored not to adopt that fairly high-risk strategy but it is obvious that the man has faith in his players to deliver yet another last gasp survival. He bases this view on the most consistent run of good form since he came to the club. Since Everton, with the Swansea game a notable blip, the team’s performance has improved gradually game by game.

As is usual in these forums, the manager was questioned over his team selection and tactics and, as usual, he dealt with them with an abundance of good grace and patience. It was interesting to hear him explain why adapting to the team’s style and the different demands of the English and Scottish Premier leagues is the main reason why Shaun Maloney’s introduction to the team was delayed. Equally, Roberto is as frustrated as the many of the fans that, due to our current predicament, he cannot give Callum McManaman the long run of games in the first team that he needs to take him to that next level. He does believe that next season will be Callum’s time to shine, however.

Having been asked whether he is planning changes and additions to the squad for next season, Roberto delivered a response with the kind of straight bat that would have served the England cricketers well in Sri Lanka this week. “You can never really plan in football, and have to adapt to what comes along, but in any case the focus is on getting the ten points needed to survive in the Premier League”. That said, Roberto is mindful and appreciative of the ongoing work behind the scenes at the Club that is slowly but surely delivering financial stability and security to Wigan Athletic. Also, the development of the club’s training facilities is already bearing fruit, testament to which is the fact that we have sent five players out on loan this season, something that would have been unheard of in the past.

That said, Roberto and CEO, Jonathan Jackson, were given the chance to defend accusations of inertia during the January transfer window particularly in the striker department. Far from siting on their collective hands, the Club tried hard to bring in a number of targets in the window but without spending huge sums of money like QPR, money that we simply do not have, bringing in the right type of player for our club was difficult. Roberto did have talks with a couple of players but for one reason or another felt that they were not right for our club and dressing room. In any case, the main target was Jean Beausejour and Roberto was more than happy that we secured his services as he has been a big factor in allowing us to play with wing-backs.

Talk of strikers inevitably led to Mauro Boselli and the reasons for him going out on loan. Roberto confirmed that the reasons were related to lifestyle issues and the failure of his family to settle in Wigan – and who can blame him? – rather than any irreconcilable footballing differences. In fact, both Mauro and Roberto are desperate to make the partnership work and hope that he can be back in a Wigan shirt next season.

As we had a room full of armchair football managers, it was also inevitable that Roberto’s tactics, formations, and general footballing philosophy would be called into question. However, as the whole of the Cockney Latic readership knows, of course, 442 is the only way to play so there is no point reporting what the mindless fool had to say on the subject. Anyone who wants a good laugh hearing him ramble on about Napoli and 343, 433, the value of three centre-backs, energetic wing-backs and players exploiting the gaps between the lines, feel free to listen to the full audio of the session on the website. Leave it out, Roberto – just stick a big ‘un and a little ‘un up front and all will be well.

The latter part of the session was taken up with a debate about how the fans and the clubs can generate a better match day atmosphere for the team to feed off. Initiatives that have, are or will be considered include:
• The big ‘Believe’ flag suspended from the North Stand
• A big screen in one corner of the ground as other clubs have
• Famous Latics moments Youtube and Wish FM clips piped into the concourse pre-match to get the hairs on the back of the neck standing on end

As Jonathan Jackson said, the main catalyst for a healthy atmosphere in the stands is what happens out on the pitch, but if that can be assisted by the fans in the first place then we have the classic chicken and egg situation. And as Roberto said time and time again, we are in it together. So let’s do our bit and hope it helps the players to do theirs.

Roberto is happy for it to go to the last two games. I always said there was a lunatic in there, striving to get out. Last game, indeed! Let’s help get it sorted well before then.

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