OH dear. Poor Wigan Athletic. They wait ages to get Roberto Martinez in as their new manager, and then promptly forget his name.
The Latics sent out an e-mail to fans this morning confirming that their new boss will face his first competitive match against Aston Villa on August 15. The only problem was that they called him ‘Roberto Manager’.
As if Wigan haven’t had enough problems with managers of late. Last week’s press conference to introduce Martinez as their new boss had to be cancelled because the Latics hadn’t finalised a compensation deal with his former club Swansea to bring in his backroom staff.
Except that the press conference wasn’t actually cancelled. It still went ahead, but with chief executive Brenda Spencer gamely fielding the questions from a press pack who may well have mixed any disgruntlement with a sense that Martinez’s non-appearance was a far better story than the one they had turned up for.
There were two reasons it was a good story. Firstly, exactly the same thing had happened when Steve Bruce was appointed as Wigan boss in November 2007. His scheduled debut press conference went ahead without him because Birmingham wanted him to pay back some of his bonuses before allowing him to leave. And secondly, Spencer came up with a couple of glorious quotes.
“For those who came to the Steve Bruce press conference, this is a little bit the same,” was her opening statement – or perhaps that should be opening understatement.
Spencer followed that up by theorising on why the Latics had been unable to get hold of Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins to discuss compensation.
“I really don’t know the chairman of Swansea,” she said. “I wouldn’t like to think he was doing it deliberately. We have tried the club and he is not there. We have tried his mobile and he’s not answering. We’re just assuming he is in meetings.”
She’s got a very dry wit has Spencer, who has been at Wigan since the mid-1980s, when the club’s habitat was the Third Division, and their home was Springfield Park, a ground where the away terrace had a grass mound which turned into a mud slide in winter.
That wit, coupled with a sound financial brain and a strong personality, go some way to explaining why she has remained a key figure at a club which has undergone so many changes over the last 15 years.
Shortly before the aborted Bruce press conference, Spencer did an interview with the Daily Mail in which she revealed that the club’s 2008 calendars had just arrived – all with a picture of newly-departed manager Chris Hutchings on the front. (You do start to wonder if there’s some kind of curse attached to the Latics on the managerial front. On the other hand, that is the peril of sacking the boss in November.)
“I’m annoyed about those calendars because we can’t let them go out like that,” she said at the time. “It’s not fair to the club, not fair to the supporters and definitely not fair to the new manager, when we get him . . . or her.”
It was a him, when he finally arrived.
And when that him left for Sunderland, the new manager turned out to be a him as well.
When Martinez finally gave his first press conference as Wigan manager yesterday, it looked as if the headaches were finally over. And I suppose they are – even if the e-mail calling him Roberto Manager was a tad unfortunate.
I’ve a feeling that someone at the JJB Stadium (or the DW Stadium, as it will be known this coming season following the expiry of a 10-year naming rights deal) may have got Martinez mixed up with Ron Manager from The Fast Show.
For Wigan’s sake, I hope Roberto’s team talks are better than Ron’s. I’m not sure how well Wigan’s players will respond to a pre-match speech that consists solely of a series of loosely-connected nouns hurled together in a stream-of-consciousness style.
Or, to put it another way: “Wigan? Wonderful, wonderful Wigan! Home of the Uncle Joe’s mint ball! Delicious sweet? Sweet left foot! Twenty-yard rasper into the top corner! Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Wigan, give us a goal? Marvellous!”