MARK LAWRENSON joked that Wigan Athletic will start playing when the clocks go forward on Match of the Day recently . . . but they will be hoping not to leave their bid to climb clear of relegation trouble quite so late this season.
The television pundit’s somewhat frivolous remark, when assessing the current task facing Roberto Martinez’s side, was borne out of the fact that the club have become great escape specialists to preserve their Barclays Premier League status.
Last season, they were rock bottom at the end of January and with only one win in two months, but underwent a dramatic transformation from March 24th onwards – 24 hours before the clocks went forward - as they won seven of their final matches.
Martinez’s men eventually finished in a relatively comfortable 15th position in the table, seven points clear of the drop zone, and along the way they had recorded wins over Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle United.
Wigan will draw a lot of encouragement from that record of escapes over recent seasons as they endeavour to extend their stay in the top-flight which began in 2005 and has seen them defy the odds on a number of occasions in that time, but their recent form hasn’t been promising.
It’s hardly surprising in the circumstances that Martinez has already been active in a January transfer window that still has another 48 hours to run.
Whilst Chilean international Angelo Henriquez has joined the Latics on loan from Manchester United for the remainder of the season, midfielder Roger Espinoza completed a free transfer from one of our pre-season opponents Sporting Kansas City and goalkeeper Joel Robles moved on loan from Atletico Madrid.
WIGAN ATHLETIC FACT-FILE
Full name: Wigan Athletic Football Club
Stadium: The DW Stadium
Owner: Dave Whelan
Manager: Roberto Martinez
2011/12: Premier League (15th), FA Cup (Third Round), League Cup (Second Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £6.5m for Mauro Boselli to Estudiantes, August 2010.
Record transfer fee received: £16m for Antonio Valencia from Manchester United, June 2009.
IN PROFILE – ROBERTO MARTINEZ
Robert Martinez is hugely indebted to Wigan Athletic for giving him two big chances in English football . . . firstly as a player and then as a Premier League manager.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that the highly-rated Spaniard remained loyal to the Latics last summer when he turned down the advances of Aston Villa and Liverpool.
Chairman Dave Whelan has openly conceded that Wigan will lose Martinez to a bigger club at some point in the not too distant future, such is his reputation, but for now they will be hoping that he can mastermind their survival again, just as he has done on three occasions.
As a dynamic midfield player, the 39-year-old from Balaguer featured prominently for Wigan over a six-year period as they began their climb up the League ladder, but he has made even more of an impact in the three-and-a-half years since becoming their manager.
Having been earmarked as the outstanding candidate when Whelan was seeking a successor to Steve Bruce, he took charge at the DW Stadium in the summer of 2009 after an impressive spell as manager of Swansea City, another club he had also served as a player.
Martinez had been given the opportunity to cut his managerial teeth at Swansea when he was chosen to replace Kenny Jackett two years earlier.
Aston Villa v Newcastle United
Queens Park Rangers v Manchester City
STOKE CITY v WIGAN ATHLETIC
Sunderland v Swansea City
Arsenal v Liverpool (Wednesday, 19:45)
Everton v West Bromwich Albion (Wednesday, 19:45)
Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur (Wednesday, 19:45)
Fulham v West Ham United (Wednesday, 20:00)
Manchester United v Southampton (Wednesday, 20:00)
Reading v Chelsea (Wednesday, 20:00)
All games kick-off at 19:45 on Tuesday unless otherwise stated.
HEAD TO HEAD
League: 9 Stoke City wins; 7 Wigan Athletic wins; 11 draws
FA Cup: 1 Stoke City win; 0 Wigan Athletic wins; 0 draws
TOTAL: 10 Stoke City wins; 7 Wigan Athletic wins; 11 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Stoke City (Premier League) – 01/09/2012
Wigan Athletic 2-0 Stoke City (Premier League) – 31/03/2012
Stoke City 2-2 Wigan Athletic (Premier League) – 31/12/2011
Stoke City 0-1 Wigan Athletic (Premier League) – 22/05/2011
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Stoke City (Premier League) – 04/12/2010
ODDS WITH BET365
Stoke City win 21/20; Wigan Athletic win 3/1; draw 5/2
REFEREE – MIKE JONES
Mike Jones will make his first appearance at the Britannia Stadium of the season of Tuesday night… with his last game in the Potteries coming over a year ago.
That came in City’s 3-2 home defeat to Neil Warnock’s Queens Park Rangers in November 2011.
His most recent Wigan Athletic game was their 3-0 defeat to Newcastle on 3rd December, when he sent off Latics full-back Maynor Figueroa in the 12th minute.
His latest game was the Championship clash between Charlton Athletic and Blackpool on January 12th.
He has given out 58 yellow cards and two reds so far this season.