Mudhutter Interview All About Roberto Martinez

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Wow, Roberto Martinez, who saw that one coming? The longest courtship since Ross and Rachel is over and the sizzling Spaniard is the new Everton manager. Once Bill Kenwright stops buying him cardigans because ‘I don’t know, I just thought they would suit you’, he will get cracking and at the very least give Evertonians something different to bicker about. So, for the inside scoop on all things ‘Bob’, we spoke to the second most sophisticated man in Wigan, Martin ‘Jimmy’ Tarbuck, from the sensational Mudhutter and This Northern Soul.

Get on it.

The most telling question – were you sad to see the back of Roberto Martinez?

Yes. He’s taken us to a level beyond that of any previous manager and given us the sort of memories that we never dreamed possible. Beating all the top clubs, coming out on top in heart attack inducing end of season relegation six-pointers and of course landing us with our first major trophy. There’s the small matter of relegation and record drubbings but we’ll gloss over that.

He’s raised our profile as a club immensely and only ever spoke positively of us, something which can’t be said about his predecessors, Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce, and also transformed our passing game and our backroom mentality. Because of his affinity to the club he is the closest thing we have to being a local legend and quite rightly was voted as the club cult hero even before he came back and became manager. Winning the FA Cup just put the top hat on it.

I actually thought he may have stayed if he gone down but not if we had stayed up. There were talks of him demanding a sizeable transfer kitty off Dave Whelan to get us back up and a significant training ground investment before he went. Again, if true he only goes up in my estimation – wanting to screw the old chap for a few bob for a legacy that will benefit Wigan Athletic for a long time after he’s gone. But if may just be mythology and he was always on his way.

Either way, I’d prefer to remember him as the man who kept us up for three years and won the FA Cup than the bloke who took us down and jumped ship. Maybe he’ll return to retire in thirty years for a third spell at the club to help us get out of the Arriva Trains league?

Why is he so highly rated by seemingly everyone in football?

Give me a dreamy visionary over a turgid taskmaster any day.

I suppose he’s the antidote to the Tony Pulis’s of this world, the only time Roberto ever wears a cap is when he’s strolling down the harbour at St Jean Cap Ferrat and the sun starts burning through his hairline.

Being a nice man can seemingly get you very far so it seems. He is intensely knowledgeable about the game, has devout principles about the way it should be played and has an amazing sincerity and honesty about him. I saw him last Thursday at Wrightington in a corridor when he was off to meet Whelan the first time and for a while I didn’t let on as a little experiment and he called out to me. We’ve met a few times but he didn’t need to do that. I couldn’t resist one last photo, whopper that I am. But again, nothing is too much trouble for him.

But surely Johnny Englander can do all this? Isn’t it just the continental effect? Maybe so but you can’t hoodwink people within football and it seems to be the press not football people who question his credentials. He’s certainly got that enigma about him which means that no-one is quite sure. I’d like to think that this Everton job lark may resolve matters either way about his undoubted genius / emperors’ new clothes effect but you may find that your fans quickly draw up battle lines and within months are scrapping like cat and dog over him.

On the other hand, some Wigan fans never seemed convinced – why?

I’ve tried to plot this out in my head many times looking for correlations but which side of the fence you fall seems to have no pattern to it, it simply comes down to playing style.

I think it’s evident already which side of the fence I’m on but the view is that it’s a results business and his results have been terrible. His defence has been terrible. His win percentage has been terrible. And we are slow to go forward with very often no end product, just excessive passing.

Some fans would just prefer a more gung ho approach and the divide is so fierce that the internet is full of slanging matches and snidey indirect name calling between the two factions. Sad really that people I’ve known for years will start taking a pop at anything I or anyone writes in support of him and over on Facebook it’s “fuck off and good riddance” from some of my less than eloquent chums. It’s such a divisive matter and it seems the goodwill of the FA Cup hasn’t lasted long.

The anti-Bob view insist that we should have been further up the table with the resources we’ve got and he didn’t help himself by the way we finished the season before last. It had “top ten finish” written all over it this year in flashing neon lights and he more or less promised it.

Promised something unachievable you say? Hmmm.

Their view is Steve Bruce left him with a mid-table Premier League side and he’s turned us into relegation fodder. The Martinez defence mechanism in me quickly points out that team had Emile Heskey, Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and Lee Cattermole sold from it and was also relegation fodder post January – a 4-0 humping at Goodison sticks out somewhat. Also, the wage bill has reduced by 20% from then in a period when wages have generally increased by 65%. If Martinez had the same wage bill last year as Bruce had then it would be £70m, not £35m.

All facts – the reason Martinez has struggled is because the tide of money has continued to swing against us.

But then the facts are also that he presided over record defeats, some embarrassing capitulations, and results are what matters in football. Maybe not to us fanzine-type bohemians but I suppose we accept we’re in a minority.

“If he’d have been anyone else he’d have been sacked after that 9-1 defeat at Spurs” is a pretty compelling argument as well. But hey, I found it surreally amusing sat in Wood Green Labour club, an “I was there” type moment, well till the sixth went in.

The consistency argument is also valid. He doesn’t do regular 7/10 performances. There’ll be a few 4s and then he’ll throw in a mind blowing 10/10 when you least expect it.

And the final criticism is that he’s taken us down and then buggered off without putting it right- said by many people who wanted to see the back of him anyway. Again, I do concur with this somewhat.

And indeed that is the whole Roberto Martinez effect summed up in a microcosm: wins the FA Cup on Saturday, gets relegated on the Tuesday.

Like David Moyes being linked with Baines and Fellaini, the press have lazily got Martinez linked with almost every present Wigan player – are there any you suspect he will be back for?

Again, we have a section of fans who seem to be getting outraged about this on a daily basis and turning against him even more because of it. However, as you say it seems to be those two bob gossip websites picking any number between one to five players out of a player and constructing a few bad paragraphs around it. I’ve less of a problem with it. Some of our players might want to leave because their cosseted careers are short and they want Premier League football.

I’d much rather they went to Everton than festering away at one of the usual mid-table wage packet fatteners who pick off our out of contract players (Sunderland, Villa, West Ham, etc). I’m still quite fond of the way Leighton Baines’s career has gone; there’s a right way and a wrong way to leave and he definitely moved for the better. And at least he won’t be able to twat in a penalty against us next year, the floppy haired gobshite.

Four or five might be starting to take the piss mind you but there’s no harm in one or two and Antolin Alcaraz is a free agent anyway, so you can have him right away.

Obviously, I’d prefer it if we retained all our players, or maybe if you took Gary Caldwell and Mauro Boselli off our hands, but I suspect the latter is not going to happen.

To answer your question seriously, James McCarthy is the pick of the bunch but I’d be disappointed if he went for less than £12m given the form and maturity he’s shown the last few months – or I could even say double that if we’re using the Henderson-Torres Scale and I’m not sure whether you can afford that. Whelan’s not getting any younger and I’m not sure he’s keen on this cash in instalment type repayment plans.

The others have all made noises about wanting to stay and Aroune Kone in particular would blow the Championship away – but he’s nearly 30 so may want a quick return and will be a target for many Prem clubs. The rumour about Michael Laudrup seems to be around his board not backing him with the money required to meet Kone’s exit clause but that might again be a spurious stitching together of two pieces of similar-smelling bullshit.

I really hope you don’t sign Callum McManaman as I’d just like to see more of him. He’ll move on at some point but I’d love to get another year or two out of him. We get shit for not having any English players but as soon as we do get a decent one, some fucker signs them and we’re back to having those England Youth bell ends on our case.

The Champions League comment that Bill Kenwright attributed to him seems ambitious – do you see him being a success at Everton?

I can see how it could go very well and I can see how it would go very badly. His problem at Wigan from day one is that he never had time to build the way he wanted to, nor sign the players he wanted to play the way he wanted and he was trying to implement it at the highest level, plus he was having to sell his best players every year. And people look surprised that it takes us a few months to get going. At Everton he is inheriting a team of top half performers and Martinez probably has the ability to get them to do things that Moyes wasn’t interested in. Plus he will probably sign a few players that will tweak your playing style into something more like the way he likes to play the game.

That may go brilliantly or it may go badly. His defensive record has been highlighted as a major flaw but it’s all about the personnel. A fit Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis all last year and we would not have gone down. A clearly unfit Caldwell and, well, you saw the rest.

He is a meticulous manager, a keen student of the game but talks frequently of players being the right character. He spends all week setting things up and once the whitewash is crossed he gives the players responsibility. You can see, what with some footballers not exactly being Eggheads contestants how that can go horribly wrong but he doesn’t turn good defenders into bad defenders, he just leaves the decision making to them, so again the right characters are less likely to get it wrong. This will either give you a warm glow or make you shudder depending on your view of Everton’s back four or soon to be back three.

The best case scenario is that he will simply carry on the good work of Moyes, you Evertonians will love him and demonstrate patience when it doesn’t quite come off and reap the rewards when it does. To know whether he will be a success I need to know what you expect. Would you settle for finishing 11th instead of 6th if you got to a cup final for example? In all honesty my opinion is that Everton have massively overachieved with the financial constraints you have and Martinez is presumably a good fit because he is perceived capable of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or a rayon bumbag at least.

So for that reason to maintain that top six level is a big ask. But as he says, what is football without dreams? And if it goes well, he has a pretty handy set of players, one or two key acquisitions and a decent home crowd behind him it could generate the right kind of momentum. My worst nightmare is that he turns into the patsy that takes you down the table and simply cannot maintain your positions of the last few years, it’s not inconceivable, but he’s backing himself I suppose and I’m certainly wishing him and yourselves all the best.

How good was the FA Cup?

Oh. It was OK.

Well actually I don’t mean that, I just don’t want to rub it in. It was fucking brilliant. Obviously the result at your place was a stunning performance which would have put paid to many teams and I think most of your fans graciously acknowledged that. But you know when there’s a little man in your head with a mallet bashing that dreamy part of your brain every time it pipes up and gets carried away? Well right up until Watson’s ginger bonce glanced one over Joe Hart, looking less than smug for once, that little man was bashing away with gay abandon.

I was dreaming but I just didn’t think it possible.

All day I was telling myself “there is no way we can win this game” citing City’s embarrassment of riches and comparative strength. Not meaning to be defeatist and after all, we are shamefully responsible for all this “BELIEVE” nonsense that now appears to have transcended from football to other sports and is now probably being spouted on corporate team building events. Basically it was such a huge thing for a club like ours, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The comedown however will take some time.

People might say that the big clubs don’t take it too seriously but with the exception of Portsmouth, it’s been won by the top eight or so clubs every single year since the Crazy Gang also upset the odds. It’s some achievement. It’s given us a memory to cling on to forever and it’s shook up the town to the extent that even the staunchest rugby fans have had to doff their gravy-stained caps at us. For a few days at least and then they reverted to laughing at us getting relegated.

We didn’t get lucky either, we did it with absolute class on and off the pitch and it has quite possibly changed our football club forever.

Genuinely, how do you feel at the prospect of the Championship after so many seasons in the ‘best league in the world’?

Intrigued and excited. It’s like we’ve just split up with our wife who we’ve been terrified of leaving but we’re not sure really loved us anyway as she treated us like a doormat and are about to dip our toes into the singles market again. It’s going to be cheap, dirty, exciting, occasionally tinged with regret and the potential to go downhill rapidly but maybe the change of scenery is just what we need to become ourselves again (another Martinez favourite).

It isn’t much fun winning three home games all season and travelling away, paying through the nose to sit in some sterile bowl. Of course that might be the case next season as well but there’s lot of unknowns in there. The water cooler banter merchants have been giving it “Enjoy your trip to Yeovil – LOL”. And you know what, I’m going to bloody love it – LOL.

Along with a host of local derbies, seaside away jaunts at Brighton and Bournemouth, new grounds at Donny and Sheffield Wednesday (for me personally) and locking horns with big clubs such as Leeds, Forest, Derby, et al. Plus we get to go Millwall, which me and my chums embrace with masochistic tendencies. Admit it, you’re jealous aren’t you?

See, I’ve not even mentioned the football. Some of our “Premier League only” fans dummies might go and we may see a drop in crowds post-relegation but I think we’ve got a core that is as good as it gets and will embrace the future wherever it might lie. Those who pragmatically understand our place as a club, basically a council estate scruff who won the lottery and is now trying to raid those Icelandic banks for those misadvised investments to keep the party going for another year or two. It might not seem that way in our soulless ground but we’ve a lot of heart for the future and some great fans, fans who get the culture, do great community work and fund raising, look after one another and are the antidote to the norm in Wigan, which is to support the rugby and United and yes [adopts Apprentice candidate voice] I like to think Mudhutter plays it’s part in that.

A lot depends as ever on old broken leg.

We’ve half a chance with the right manager, parachute payments and not getting raided for players too heavily but given the upheaval and a European campaign (sorry. not rubbing it in again) it might be a bit too much to ask to go back up straightaway. Mid table mediocrity would do me fine but then I think we will lose more players. Hey, it’s football and evolution and we get on with it.

Mudhutter Interview

A game against Wigan Athletic can mean only one thing: a short chat with Martin Tarbuck, one of the multimedia moguls behind the frankly brilliant Mudhutter fanzine. Funny, intelligent and proudly parochial in the best possible way, it’s never anything less than a great read. As with all the little interviews we have had on here, it never ceases to amaze us how normal match-going chaps across the country keep producing stuff with so much originality and wit. All in their spare time as well.

After you’ve read the interview, feel free to check out their website here.

 I have always had the Mudhutter down as early adopters in terms what you have done with your fanzine on the web and with podcasts, etc. Can you tell us a bit about how it all began and where you are now?

Andrew Vaughan and I set up the Mudhutter after we both moved off the Cockney Latic which we’d been running for a while – since the eighties in the case of Vaughanie. It had been getting a bit too glossy and corporate and there were lots of problems behind the scenes. As you found with When Skies Are Grey, the Rivals network became less friendly bedfellows the longer it went on.

Just as our team was rising through the divisions we made a concerted attempt to keep things underground, actually charge a little bit more and cut the print run.

For a small town, we’re lucky to have some really talented lads writing for us even now and football is usually the last thing we write about to fill pages. The podcasts have dried up but they were never about football, just a couple of lads talking about all the daft shit that happens growing up on a council estate in Wigan. We get as many plaudits and readers outside Wigan as we do in it which is always pleasant. We do have a small, dedicated following who buy it and love it but I suspect like most clubs these days they are outnumbered by the 90% who will never get a fanzine (in any sense of the word).

We plug away and do four or five print mags a season. We’ve all drifted, got family commitments and moved on to other projects but we still manage to cobble together the Mudhutter a few times a year and run a few events and what have you. We’ve got a few younger lads helping and writing now as well. I’m hoping to delegate all the work to them soon just as the crafty Mr Vaughan did a decade or so ago when the enthusiastic younger version of myself expressed an interest in writing for the fanzine.

You seem to spend quite a bit of time defending Roberto Martinez to other Wigan fans. What are the main criticisms of him?

He’s split the fan base like no other manager and even after three years and six games the knives are sharpening. I’m firmly in the ‘pro’ camp and it’s easy to insult those who oppose him and badge them all as a bunch of rugby loving Johnny Come Latelys who think tiki taka are those funny coloured little mints, but plenty of real diehards don’t like him either and would prefer to see a more direct game.

The criticisms are his formation, slow build-up play, one up front, refusal to change shape, no plan B, continually picking his love child Jordi Gomez, refusing to give players who have done so well in the cups a chance in the league, and basically being very, very lucky not to have got us relegated. The ‘anti’ camp credit survival for the last three years purely to Charles N’Zogbia and latterly Victor Moses and Shaun Maloney while waving something about 8-0 and 9-1 reversals on big neon signs above their heads.

I think part of it is this obsession with tactics and formations brought on by the blanket media coverage and the fact we all sit high up in our plush seats these days and it’s easy to criticise. Plus, there’s general malaise that we’ve not kicked on even though it’s a miracle that we even stay afloat for a club our size. Personally I think Martinez is the best manager we’ve ever had, who has given us amazing wins against all of the biggest names in the game – except Everton, I think I’m right in saying – and the way he is revolutionising the club will serve us well for many years, as those lucky incoming Swansea managers keep finding out.

Plus, it’s our Bob, adopted Wiganer.

We’ll miss him when he’s gone, even if some of us don’t quite realise that right now.

The enmity between Wigan football and rugby fans is always quite surprising too. Is that a uniquely Wigan thing?

It’s really bad. Really, really bad. Utterly pathetic. But it’s gone on so long that neither side will ever back down. For a town so small there is almost no crossover and whereas it’s hardly North Belfast the two groups of fans tend to stay firmly out of each other’s way. I tried to do a piece explaining how the animosity began a while back: who is at fault and the key incidents which drive it, and I rattled off 9,000 words so it’s really difficult to summarise. Nevertheless, here goes:

Rugby league is popular in Wigan; it’s probably more popular than it is in any other town, save maybe St. Helens, Warrington or Leigh, but football is still more popular and always has been. Us football fans will never shake off that rugby town jibe as we know it deep down even though more people watch Wigan Athletic than Wigan Rugby and that’s before you count the thousands of Manchester United, City, Liverpool and Everton season ticket holders who live here.

Personally I can take it or leave it now but the stuff their infamous chairman Maurice Lindsay did in the eighties when the rugby were winning everything and the football club were in the third division and skint has caused a rift that lasts to this day and is in fact getting worse. The rugby club, their fans, the council, local media and police force were determined to get rid of a football club which wasn’t doing any harm simply for existing in a ‘rugby town’ and it’s been passed down by generation so that now we have tens of thousands of football ‘fans’ in Wigan who will support anyone but their home town team, because all rugby fans support a football team as well but actively hate the one in their own town. This I don’t get and never will.

All we ever asked for was their support although I concede that we’ve probably given them plenty of stick back since we’ve thrived and prospered in spite of their efforts.

I feel sorry for them; they’ve missed out on one of the great football stories of the modern game purely due to their own bigotry. That’s enough, I’ll pipe down.

Dave Whelan always seems quite a complicated character. How do Wigan Athletic fans generally view him?

I know he’s an egocentric megalomaniac but at the end of the day he’s our egocentric megalomaniac. It’s quite evident that Sky Sports have got him on speed dial filed under ‘opinionated, jingoistic, geriatric old buffoon’ but he’s played the game (and I don’t know if you’ve heard but he once broke his leg in an FA Cup final) so I suppose he’s earned his right to have his say. Frequently.

So essentially it’s ok for us to take the piss out of him but woe betide anyone else who does it. We used to be quite merciless with him and his constant rhetoric about £40m war chests and not employing foreign managers or signing anyone over 30 but since we bothered to actually look at the accounts properly, we’ve had to acknowledge that without him we’d be nowhere. You only have to read the news this week to realise that once he’s gone we will probably be on the fast track to oblivion like many of his previous ventures. It just makes him look all the more the philanthropist. Having said that, his grandson seems bang into the football club.

Whelan has given us one hell of a journey and delivered on his promise to get us to the Premier League. The problem is, now what?

You are probably the least disliked side in the Premier League. Do you enjoy that or find it a bit patronising?

Really? I thought everyone hated us because even though our crowds are bigger than QPRs we have several thousand empty seats every home game and EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE COUNTRY SELLS OUT EVERY WEEK of course.

I suppose we’ve no rivals apart from the above-mentioned egg chasing infidels. Bolton hate United, Blackburn hate Burnley and they’ve both been relegated and even Preston laugh at us in comparison to their true rivals, Blackpool. Our traditional hated rivals are Chorley and Altrincham and cup draws permitting it will hopefully be a long time before we play either of them again.

We’ve got pretty football and a likeable manager but to be honest apart from that I though everyone loathed us because we didn’t follow the script, did we? We were meant to come up from the Championship in a fairy tale promotion, travel in large numbers all giddy-eyed to all these Premier League grounds (and we did that first, selling nearly 1,000 away season tickets) shock a few decent sides, get off to a flyer, stay up on the last day of the season and then get relegated with a record low points total the season after, never to be seen again.

It’s a shame a few more people in our town could see fit to like us a bit more instead of pursuing this distant love affair with United and Liverpool via the big screen down their local. The wankers. Oops, cut that bit.

Have you been at all surprised by how well Leighton Baines has done at Everton?

I suppose I should be really given he’s the only player we’ve brought through for a couple of decades since we regularly supplied top flight players to many clubs including the likes of Joe Parkinson, Kevin Langley and Warren Aspinall to Everton. I just re-arranged the way I wrote that for a perfect good, bad and ugly by the way.

There are players who move for the money who we hate or are indifferent towards and there are players who have served their time and we understand they move to progress their careers. Bainesy definitely falls into the latter category and most Wiganers are proud as punch to see him playing for Everton and even England. I just wish he’d stop scoring those obligatory penalties against us.

Who are the current Wigan players to look out for?

Nobody is really standing out so far this year and looking like next summer’s transfer out. We’ve signed an African forward called Arouna Kone whose first touch goes further than I can kick a ball. Mauro Boselli, the £6m flop, is finally scoring goals for fun in the cup and the reserves and must be due a start. In midfield the two James’s, McCarthy and McArthur, will do their best to contain your big chap in midfield. But as ever, like all shit teams, our best player is our goalie.

You have supported your club at just about every level – is the Premier League all it’s cracked up to be?

That rampant, hedonistic first year of unbridled ecstasy and passion died off a long time ago and now we’re just still together because we can’t imagine life without it. It’s pretty soulless, forking out for a season ticket knowing that we’ll be lucky to see five home wins a season while paying through the nose to go away from home just to get stiffed by refs – and we do get stiffed more so than any other club, you’ll never convinced me otherwise.

We ended up telling ourselves when deep in the mire last year: ‘Hey the Championship won’t be so bad – new grounds! Cheaper tickets! More young players actually getting a game! Actually having a chance of winning most matches!” The fallout of relegation however, prior to that, could see us collapse completely and I don’t doubt that a large portion of our support would piss off to wherever it was they came from when we got into the Premier League, sadly.

Looking at Bolton and Blackburn they seem pretty resilient but then their football teams have been around a lot longer than ours. The journey down is never going to be as much fun as the journey on the way up, is it?

We have to remind ourselves how fantastic it is and how lucky we are to be where we are. A lot of clubs would love to swap places with us and, to be fair, in the last few years, when it comes to the – please forgive me – ‘business end’ of the season, we’ve had as good a time as any set of fans. It’s like winning a trophy every single year and there’s a little bit of me that is immensely proud that we’re sticking around in the Premier League when so many people – many of them in our town – want to see the back of the pesky little upstarts.

Or ‘The sooner they piss off back to the Cheshire League the better’ as a bloke in my local said the other week. Shortly before I knocked his head clean off.