Ahead of the much-anticipated FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan Athletic, Latics manager Roberto Martinez spoke with Yahoo! as part of their deal with the League Managers Association.
Wigan’s FA Cup journey began in the Third Round against English Championship side AFC Bournemouth. They drew 1-1 at the DW Stadium but managed to clinch a 1-0 victory in the replay away from home.
In the Fourth Round, Wigan visited Conference National team Macclesfield Town and emerged victorious by another 1-0 win. Moving on to the Fifth Round, Wigan faced another Championship side but this time they comfortably won by 4-1.
The Sixth Round saw them visit the Goodison Park to face Everton. Entering the game as underdogs to the Merseysiders, Wigan managed a brilliant 3-0 win and secured a place in the semifinal. In the semi, Millwall awaited them at the Wembley Stadium and the Latics disposed them off with a solid 2-0 win.
Now Wigan faces its biggest challenge yet in the FA Cup. It is the last straw in their basket as their survival in the Premier League hangs by a thread. Newcastle United, Norwich City and Sunderland site three points ahead of the Manchester-based club with just two games left to play in the season.
Keep in mind, this is the first time that the club has reached the FA Cup final in their entire history. Before this, they were runners up in the 2006 League Cup where they lost to a Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo led Manchester United. Their only trophies come in the Football League Trophy where they won the title in 1985 and 1999.
In the interview, Roberto Martinez talks about the proudest moment of his career, his thoughts on when he looks back at his career at Wigan as a player and as a manager and what winning the FA Cup would mean to him and the club along with a lot more. Read the complete transcript of the interview below.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez interview:
Question: Will stepping out onto the Wembley turf for the FA Cup final be the proudest moment of your career?
Roberto Martinez: Getting to the FA Cup final is a real achievement and now we are there we want to win it because otherwise it will be an unhappy experience. I would say that I feel most proud, though, when the team and I finish a season having achieved all our aims.
At the moment, however, that is still all up in the air for us. What we do know is that we have the opportunity to create our proudest season ever by winning the FA Cup, but we are also fighting relegation so it’s paramount that we achieve our aim in the league to make it a fulfilling season.
Q: When you first signed for Wigan all the way back in 1995 could you ever have imagined that your path in English football would eventually lead you to this point?
RM: Not really, no. I think it’s a nice lesson, though, because it shows what can be achieved if you treat football with intensity and make it the most important thing in your life on a daily basis.
In some other careers, you can set goals and long term targets to help you but I don’t think that is the case in football. I think that in football if you set long term ambitions you could maybe aim too high or too low, and I don’t think that is a good way to get the best out of yourself.
The Wigan Athletic story is an incredible one. When I arrived in 1995 I knew that the project was something special, the Chairman was something special, but I could never have imagined that we would reach the heights we have. That means it is even more important that we carry on growing.
Q: During your time as a player for Wigan you missed the 1999 Football League Trophy final due to injury, how much of a disappointment was that at the time?
RM: Playing at Wembley is a special moment in your career but I’m not someone who put to much emphasis on it as being a defining moment. Playing at Wembley is a reward for your hard work and although I missed out I always felt happy that I had helped the team get there.
From the outside, I can see why it looked like a key moment in my career, but I never saw it like that. To be involved in any capacity in a team that makes it to Wembley is marvellous.
Q: What would it mean to this club and to the town of Wigan not only to win a trophy but to win the FA Cup?
RM: You can already sense a special feeling in the town; everyone is very proud and excited. The FA Cup is more than a competition, it’s a way of living, everyone has grown up with memories of the FA Cup, and we are very aware of what it means to everyone.
From our point of view, we need to be very professional and to make sure that we are as good as we can be against the champions of England. Whatever way you look at it, it will be a phenomenal game and a unique and historic occasion.
Q: It will be a special day for the Chairman given his history with the competition, what has Dave Whelan been telling you in the build up to the game?
RM: The Chairman is the reason why we have achieved what we have achieved. In football you always need to have someone who has the vision to drive a project forward. When he started at Wigan Athletic I don’t think anyone apart from him could visualise the success that was going to come.
He had a difficult personal experience in the 1960 FA Cup final and now it is as if his involvement brings everything full circle and so gives closure on everything. Leading the team out as Chairman is a very significant moment and we are all incredibly pleased for him, he is living what could be the final chapter of this incredible dream.
Q: Does the club have any special plans to mark the day? Will there a special FA Cup final routine in the build up to the match?
RM: In many ways the FA Cup semi final has been a rehearsal for the town and the team.
I don’t think we’ll be too far away from what we did in that semi final, but we need to appreciate that the final is a unique occasion and one to enjoy but only up to a point because then there is a moment when you have to really focus on the match itself and you need to be ready to perform and be as good as we can be.
Irrespective of who you are playing and where you are playing, a final is there to be won and anything else just isn’t enjoyable. So, we’re going to allow the fans to enjoy the day and we can help that by making sure we really perform on the pitch.
Q: There is an age old tradition of FA Cup songs which has sadly been neglected in recent years; will Wigan be troubling the charts at all?
RM: I don’t think our players are brave enough to attempt that! Seriously, though, we need to remember that we are in the middle of a crucial part of our season; we are fighting to reach our target in the league so I wouldn’t want any of the players doing anything other than concentrating on the game.
We have, however, seen different schools and people around Wigan performing their own songs, and we have been playing them at the training ground, the support is incredible and it gives us a great feeling of satisfaction.
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