Dave Whelan should be lauded for his achievements in transforming the fortunes of Wigan Athletic, but his meddling in the negotiations between Liverpool and Roberto Martinez is unseemly and unprofessional.

It’s all too common in the 21st century for perceived ‘small’ clubs to complain of having their best talent or their manager tapped up by a divisional or continental giant who simply walks in and steals their target for a paltry compensation fee. Manchester United are one of the clubs to surface most frequently in these conversations, a recent example being their pursuit of Paul Pogba from French minnows Le Havre a couple of years ago.

The way with which Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has dealt with the approach made to his manager, Roberto Martinez, by Liverpool, is therefore reprehensible. Despite – and disregarding – the efforts of Liverpool’s American owners to follow the ‘correct’ procedure, Whelan has broadcast the Anfield club’s every moment as if he were a Sky Sports commentator giving the Soccer Saturday bunch regular updates on a weekend fixture.

Whelan, the former owner of sports clothing chain JJB Sports, bought Wigan Athletic in 1995 when the club were in the old Division Three, the fourth tier of English football. Since then, the club has seen over 200 players and eight managers as Whelan’s investment and faith in unpopular choices such as Steve Bruce, has driven Wigan to a level which most football fans would agree is at least one division, and arguably two, above their natural stature.

Along the way, Whelan has been involved in countless transfer negotiations, and has seen his managers poached by bigger clubs on occasion. Why, now, has the 75-year-old felt the need to expose the processes surrounding Liverpool’s negotiations with his talented young manager?

The possibilities are numerous. Perhaps Whelan is attempting to put Liverpool off of the negotiations; maybe he seeks to drive up the price the Fenway Sports Group will have to pay for Martinez’ services by attracting other interest; perhaps his repeated comments about how good a manager Martinez is are a genuine attempt to convince his Spanish manager to stay at the DW Stadium.

Realistically, Martinez is unlikely to be the answer to Wigan’s underlying issue, even if he does stay – and Whelan’s noise may well be an attempted diversion. Martinez has worked wonders with late-season emotionally-charged escapes from the relegation zone which required a strong understanding between the manager and his squad. But this pattern isn’t sustainable; Wigan can’t subsist on annual relegation-evading miracles, because eventually their luck – and this season, once again, they needed a good dose of that – will run dry.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has attempted to play down the speculation over his future, telling the BBC he is “planning for next season” (Image | Getty)

The squad needs investment and rebuilding. Wigan are the epitome of a selling club in the Premier League; buying cheap talent, mostly from central America in recent times, and developing it before looking to make a profit. It seems likely that their most successful recruit of recent years, Hugo Rodallega, will be leaving this summer. Wigan fans can only hope that their cosmopolitan squad – featuring an Omani shot-stopper, a recently free-scoring Barbadian right-back and representatives from no less than 14 other countries – will be will be strengthened with whatever proceeds are garnered from the Colombian’s departure.

Meanwhile, Whelan keeps talking big, even while Martinez attempts to keep the speculation under wraps. The former Blackburn full-back was the man who revealed that an offer had been made for Martinez; this week, it was he who announced the offering of a contract by the Anfield hierarchy. It is unclear why Whelan feels this is his duty, or even his concern. But the longer he carries on, and the more he talks about his ambition to keep the loyal Martinez at his side, the more the pressure will begin to bear on Whelan to put his money where his mouth is.

Tweet the author | @RobertSchatten

Back to Football

Follow The Armchair Pundits on Twitter (@armchairpundit2) or “like” our Facebook page for new articles and exclusive content.

Advertisements