Careful Roberto, you’ll give football a good name

Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez and chariman Dave Whelan celebrate at the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at Britannia Stadium, Stoke.
Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez and chariman Dave Whelan celebrate at the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at Britannia Stadium, Stoke.
Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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Loyalty is a word which was dropped from the football dictionary years ago.

But Roberto Martinez has reinvented it.

The Wigan manager’s decision to turn down Aston Villa to repay the faith shown in him by his chairman Dave Whelan is in stark contrast to the toxic atmosphere which normally pervades Premier League politics.

But, having worked alongside Martinez at the World Cup in South Africa last summer, it does not surprise me.

The Spaniard is always immaculately turned out, charming, intelligent and highly dedicated, and he believes decency is an important quality.

I remember on a long, tiring drive back from the northern outpost of Nelspruit, Roberto sitting in the back writing coaching notes on the game we had just seen.

In bewildering detail, he then went on to explain brilliantly how the game had been won and lost. Quite an education.

When Villa came calling, he could so easily have cynically thought: ‘Great. Bigger club. More money. Good career move.’

Instead, he remembered how his chairman had stood by him during the dark days this season when Wigan were rock bottom and seemingly booked for the drop.

Many a chairman would have reached for the axe when the Latics opened the season by losing 4-0 at home to Blackpool and then 6-0 to Chelsea.

I sent him a text saying: ‘Head up, Roberto. You’ll work it out.’

His reply said: ‘We are closer than it might seem.’

Three days later his side went to Spurs and won 1-0 .

Whelan told anyone who would listen that Martinez was a top operator who would get things right, and would be keeping his job even if the club was relegated.

As it happened, the unfashionable Lancashire club went unbeaten in their last four games and – amid joyous scenes – survived with a win at Stoke on the final day.

Even then, Whelan made no attempt to block his bright young boss from talking to Villa and even said he would understand if Martinez decided to move on.

But Roberto was bigger than that and he will deserve the big pay increase he gets to stay at the JJB.

Whelan declared: ‘He will manage one of the top six clubs in the world one day.’

But for now he is happy to carry on serving a club for whom he has great affection.

I wonder what Mark Hughes, who turned his back on Fulham after one season, was thinking when he heard the news.

Martinez is in danger of bringing football back into repute.