When Roberto Martinez became the first Spanish player to score in the FA Cup for Wigan Athletic against Runcorn in a first-round tie in November 1995, he couldn't have imagined 18 years later that he would be leading them out at Wembley in the final as the manager.
“In those years, Wigan has changed completely, a new club has been born, and I have been honoured to play my part and help keep them in the top flight,” he told me.
“It is an incredible football story, Wigan has come from the depths of the old fourth division to become a Premier League side, and we will now enjoy one of the proudest days of our history.”
Wigan are teetering on the brink of relegation from the Premier League with only two games remaining, but, on Saturday, that will be put aside when they play Manchester City in the FA Cup final.
“I have come to appreciate the FA Cup as the greatest Cup competition in the world for its tradition and format, and this season it has provided us with a special journey.”
“Our 3-0 win over Everton in the quarter-finals showed us at our best; we overcame a difficult opponent away from home with a wonderful display of quick attacking football and kept a clean sheet too. It was a real statement of intent from Wigan.”
Even though Wigan under Martinez have fought a constant battle against relegation, he is still revered for the attractive football his teams always seek to play.
“We will not change or compromise our style. Wigan has developed a real identity as a team because we like to keep the ball, work hard and control games.”
“That style is ingrained in our club now; the fans enjoy it, and we always want to win playing the game the right way.”
“I grew up watching Johan Cruyff’s great Barcelona’s side in the 1990s, and they had a big influence on me.”
“I have always tried to follow Cruyff’s football philosophy because he demanded that his players were technically strong, tactically flexible and always valued the importance of possession.”
“I now want to make history, and I want to start by helping Wigan to win their first ever FA Cup.”