• Premier League

Martinez hits out at Wigan ticket critics

ESPN staff
April 11, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Roberto Martinez will allow chairman Dave Whelan to lead his Wigan side out at Wembley © Getty Images
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Roberto Martinez has defended Wigan's failure to sell all of their tickets for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Millwall.

The club have sold around 22,000 tickets for the match at Wembley, leaving approximately 10,000 spare.

That has prompted the Football Association to create a "neutral" section at the stadium by making the remaining tickets available to fans of other clubs.

But Martinez insists Wigan should not be mocked for failing to sell all of their tickets - instead arguing that their presence in the semi-finals is a sign of the progress they have made in recent years.

The Latics were in what is now League Two when Martinez arrived as a player from Spanish club Balaguer in 1995, and believes the side deserve great credit for the progress they have made since then.

"Remember it's not about the number of tickets - the numbers need to have a meaning," Martinez said. "You look back to 1995 when I arrived at the football club, and we had gates of 2,000 people.

"Now we are in the best league in the world, we are in the semi-final of the best cup competition - for us to take whatever we take is an incredible percentage of the town, it's an incredible turnaround from 15 years ago, so for us it is a success.

"I know from the outside that people will compare numbers, but we don't really care about that. What's important is that every year we increase our fan base, we increase the feeling of being attached to our football club.

"We are going to Wembley with very passionate fans who care for the football club."

Chairman Dave Whelan will lead the team out at Wembley, an honour that Martinez believes is thoroughly deserved. Whelan bought Wigan in February 1995, a few months before Martinez joined as a player, and provided the investment which took them to the Premier League in a little over ten years.

The chairman's only experience as a player at Wembley ended in agony, when he broke his leg playing for Blackburn as they lost 3-0 to Wolves in the 1960 FA Cup final.

Martinez said: "Our chairman has been through a lot, in football and in life. I think the FA Cup is something very special to him. Not many players had the experience that he had in the 1960s with a final, when he had to be carried off on a stretcher, and there's a little bit of a sense of unfinished business.

"It will be a unique way of closing that circle - he represents Wigan Athletic. He had this dream and we're just going along with him and it'll be phenomenal for everyone. To see our chairman leading the team out will be a fitting moment to his FA Cup career."

Martinez was diplomatic about Whelan's reported suggestion that the team wear black armbands on Saturday as a tribute to former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday at the age of 87.

"It's not something that's bothering me," he said.

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