Gaffer says players are ready for Everton test and fans’ role crucial
Standing in a makeshift TV Interview room at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium, barely half an hour after Latics had sealed their place in the quarter finals of the FA Cup with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Terriers, Roberto Martinez stood anticipating which side he’d face in the next round as the balls were emptied into the pot on the TV monitor in front of him.
“I’m telling you, it’ll be Everton away,” the gaffer predicted with a sense of inevitability, and correctly.
“I had that feeling,” explained Martinez as Latics prepare for the quarter finals for only the second time in the club’s history.
“All of our games against Everton have been very difficult and very close encounters, but we’ve never really had any luck against David Moyes’ side.
“I knew that if we were going to get to Wembley then we would have to come through a tough challenge, and I don’t think there is a tougher challenge than going to Goodison Park to face Everton.
“They have incredible tradition, particularly in this competition, and you can see how much they want to succeed, as do we.
“I went to watch their replay against Oldham Athletic in the previous round, and it’s clear that the crowd are chasing success for their team in the competition.”
Wigan Athletic fans have been equally as influential towards their team’s success during the FA Cup journey this term according to Martinez, who hopes the 2,000 travelling army can once again inspire the team to success as they have done year after year.
He said: “They’ve not just been a key factor in our progression in the cup, we’ve used their feelings in league competition as well.
“Every opportunity we’ve had to take a large number of supporters to a game this season, we’ve seen a great vocal following and when you consider the influence that has had in previous seasons at places like Ewood Park and Bloomfield Road it’s clear how important that is for us, and this weekend is another game of similar importance.
“You can feel the excitement around the club that has been building all week towards this event, knowing that there will be a phenomenal atmosphere inside Goodison Park and understanding what is needed to be successful on the day.
“The players are really looking forward to the game and are hoping to make it a memorable one for the fans and the club as a whole.
“There aren’t too many moments in your career that you’re given the chance to make history for your club; this is one of those moments and we’re all relishing the occasion.
“Fitness-wise, we still have the three long-term absentees of Albert Crusat, Ivan Ramis and Ben Watson, but apart from that everyone is ready and has come through training well this week.
“Ryo Miyaichi came through 45 minutes for the Under 21 team against Nottingham Forest well in the week, in a game that Adrian Lopez also completed the full 90 minutes, so it’s probably the strongest the squad has been for a very long time.
“We saw players come off the bench against Liverpool and make a real impact on the game with their individual performances who are now stepping up that competition in the group which is vital.
“Everton is going to be the biggest and the best test of all to prepare for what is ahead of us between now and the end of the season.”
So is the gaffer allowing himself a chance to dream of leading the team out at Wembley? Not a chance:
“My focus now is in trying to get everyone fit and prepared for the game, making sure we start the game well and are well aware of what Goodison Park is going to throw at us.
“I’m not thinking about going to Wembley, I’m just concentrating on this weekend and what we need to do against Everton first.
“I only get excited after the game; once you’ve performed well and get a good result that’s when you can be excited about the match.”