It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most Wigan fans who heard the fateful news that their illustrious leader for the past four years and the man who guided them to their first ever trophy, has decided to resign. Roberto Martinez has simply out grown Wigan and after shunning several approaches from larger clubs over the past few years, he has decided that enough is enough and it’s time to move on. He handed his notice in yesterday to a dejected Dave Whelan, who must have suspected this was coming. Wigan have fought hard to remain in the Premiership since their promotion from the Championship in 2005 but their luck ran out this year when relegation survival proved to be one step too far.
Martinez had been at the helm for four years, and has produced his own form of major to stave off the drop but a successful run in the FA Cup this season, which saw them upset the apple cart with a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the final, has ultimately led to their downfall. Dropped points against West Ham, Swansea and Aston Villa in the last few games will be touted as the reason why they have been condemned to the Championship next season, but the truth is that they have not been the resilient force all season that they have been in past seasons. Ivory Coast striker Arouna Kone has been a revelation and another great signing by Martinez by chipping in 11 goals this year but it was Wigan’s leaky defence and lack of goals from midfield that have led to their demise.
Martinez has done what he can to keep them in the league but now is the time for him to move on. His performance as manager over the past years and in particular this season with that impressive against the odds cup run, have helped to build his stock in the league. Wigan has held on to their manager for too long, managing to keep him focused enough to ignore the advances of other clubs, most notably Liverpool and Aston Villa last season. But now the open vacancy at Everton appears to be too strong a pull for the Spaniard and he has decided to part ways with Whelan and Wigan to make sure that move goes through. Whelan is somewhat annoyed at this due to the fact that Wigan could have pocketed up to $2million from Everton for Martinez, but he will understand why his faithful manager has done what he has. Whelan will push Kenwright for the payment regardless but the odds are stacked firmly in Everton’s favour, especially given Martinez resignation.
A move to Everton makes a lot of sense for Martinez as he joins a club with a much stronger squad but also a family club, where the players and owners are aligned towards the same goal. The lack of funds for new signings will not concern him as he is used to operating under a tight budget and the draw of regular European football will also have been a key factor. Departing Everton boss David Moyes has built a strong foundation for Martinez to inherit and it will make the transition easier. Added into that, in Bill Kenwright he has a chairman who is as compassionate, understanding and willing as his previous boss, Dave Whelan was. It’s a perfect match and a challenge that will excite Martinez much more than the standoff relationships he would have encountered at Liverpool and Aston Villa. For Whelan, the search for a replacement is on, as is preparation for life in the Championship. It will be a summer of upheaval at the DW stadium, with several keys players leaving and others arriving in preparing for both domestic and European football campaigns next year. But before all that can start, Whelan needs to plug the hole that Martinez has left. As the only manager to ever lift a cup trophy as Wigan boss, they may be too big a pair of boots to fill.