Roberto Martinez has made a slow and steady start to life as Wigan manager but he was certainly in the news this week as he apparently made a stinging verbal attack on a number of Premier League managers. The diminutive Spaniard was quoted by Spanish magazine AS as saying: “[The FA] have just sanctioned [Sir Alex] Ferguson for saying that referee was not fit enough and the truth is that they’re almost apologising to him for punishing him. Any other Coach would have been crushed for that. Ferguson has been here for a lifetime and that carries a lot of weight.”
The article went on to suggest that the Wigan gaffer had lambasted Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce whilst standing up for fellow Spaniard Rafa Benitez: “Ferguson has his group of faithfuls, people who are committed to him – Steve Bruce, who was a player with him, Sam Allardyce, who thinks he will be his successor at Old Trafford, and others. On the other side there’s Rafa Benitez and he gets attacked from all sides.”
Strong words from a man who comes across as quite placid in his pre and post match interviews. Of course as is usually the case a couple of days later Martinez denied he had said anything at all:
“It is a very unfortunate situation, but people need to understand what happened. Those managers have probably been in this situation and know how things work. I have had a lot of support in that respect.”
There have been numerous occasions where a player or manager speaks to the media in his own country and then claims he has been misquoted when there is unfavourable reaction to what he had supposedly said. In all fairness there are occasions the media sensationalise what players tell them in interviews. Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling tells a story in his brilliant book Jellyman’s thrown a wobbly which encapsulates the media and the modern footballer. Stelling was talking to Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson about an upcoming interview and the ‘keeper did not want to praise Real Madrid in the interview because he knew the resulting headline would be along the lines of ‘Robbo says Come and get me Madrid.’
Yet there are times when players vent their feelings to the media and then deny they ever said anything. Surely a little honesty is not too much to ask. If Martinez for example really did make these remarks and regrets them, then by all means apologise to those who may have been offended. But do not deny that you made the comments in the first place, because you will lose any credibility that you may have had.
The ironic thing is that the comments attributed to Martinez do have a ring of truth around them. Sir Alex does have such an aura around him, primarily because of his success and longevity – it enables him to get away with things that no other manager would. It is rare that a fourth official will stand up to Fergie when the fiery Scot is in the middle of a foul-mouthed tirade on the touchline. It is the equivalent to not trying to upset an old racist uncle because that is just the way he is. It is hard to know what is more amusing – the idea of Fergie having his own gang of managerial cronies or Sam Allardyce actually thinking he was going to succeed Fergie.
Speaking of Sir Alex, his agreement with Gary Neville’s red card in the victory at Barnsley surely would not have anything to with his upcoming disciplinary case would it? Manchester United were amongst seven other clubs who won their 4th round Carling Cup ties this week. The other winners were Chelsea, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Man City, Blackburn, Portsmouth and Arsenal Under-12’s. The Gunners clearly have some amazing talent at the club with Fran Merida in particular already looking the part. However the question must be asked that if these players are so special why do they not play in the Premier League? There is not that much pressure on them to come in and play the odd cup game safe in the knowledge that they will be no real consequences to losing. If they had to fight for their place in the team, Arsene Wenger would see what they were really made of.
One last point to make this week and that is to address the retirement of Henrik Larsson. From his sensational record at Celtic to being talisman for Sweden to a late career resurgence at Barcelona, he was loved wherever he played. One of the main disappointments for English supporters is that apart from a very brief spell at United, he never plied his trade in England at the height of his game. The Premier League has been graced by some fine players in its existence, it is a shame that Larsson was not part of it for a longer period of time. It goes to show his class that rather than take one last big pay day, he chose to see out the last few years of his career at his own country at Helsingborg. Best wishes in whatever he does next.