Even in the moments after relegation, Roberto Martinez refused to speculate about his future.
“This is not the time for that,” he replied when asked about his plans for next season. (BBC)
Instead, all he wanted to talk about was his group of Wigan players—an injury-ravaged group, he conceded, but one that had done ever so well to win the FA Cup and fight for the Premier League survival until the bitter end.
“The players have been great ambassadors for Wigan Athletic,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve deserved to be in the bottom three, but we are.”
He added: “We’ve got one more game. We need to reflect and share our good feelings with the fans after winning the FA Cup.”
Whatever he is—and his rising stock suggests he’s an up-and-coming manager—Martinez can’t for a minute be accused of being selfish. He claimed none of the praise heaped on his players following Saturday’s FA Cup win against Manchester City at Wembley; he hasn’t once even hinted at a move away from DW Stadium.
But that’s not to say he won’t make a move this summer.
Given David Moyes’ Everton exit and the increasing likelihood that Martin Jol will be pink-slipped at Fulham in the coming weeks, there are a handful of attractive jobs about to open in the Premier League, and no doubt Martinez’s name will be at or near the top of the list of many a chairman.
Not only is the 39-year-old universally liked (his tone and expressions compel admiration), but he is brave as well. Wigan operated with three at the back through much of the season, and while the goals they leaked eventually proved their undoing they also played some of the most attractive football in the top flight.
That will go a long way at clubs whose prospects are mid-table at best to begin with, and if Alan Pardew suddenly finds himself on rocky footing at Newcastle there could be an opening at St. James’ Park as well.
Martinez, you’d think, will have no shortage of options when the dust settles from the early-summer round of managerial sackings. But at this point he remains in charge of Wigan Athletic, and it’s Wigan Athletic who should still be considered favourites to keep him going into next season.
“I’m just hoping Roberto waits and has another one or two years with us, because he will eventually go to a top European club,” remarked Wigan chairman Dave Whelan after watching his side fall 4-1 to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, Wednesday. (Talksport)
“Roberto knows how I feel about him, and I know how Roberto feels about me and the club. He’s a very, very loyal gentleman.”
But, added Whelan, “When the day dawns—and it will—when he says, ‘chairman, I want to go to this or that club,’ I will release him immediately.”
That’s some high praise—about as high as it gets in professional football.
But it’s not at all misplaced.
Roberto Martinez is that rare manager who engenders respect wherever he goes. And he’ll deserve whatever job he gets, should he choose to take a new one.