Roberto Martinez likened the feeling of staying up on the last day of the season to winning a trophy after Wigan beat Stoke City 1-0.The visitors had to survive intense pressure at the Britannia Stadium, but they slowly came into Sunday’s match, before Hugo Rodallega’s 59th-minute winner guaranteed Wigan’s Premier League survival.
Martinez heaped praise on his players after two wins from the final two matches of the campaign saw them escape from the bottom three.
“It’s like winning a trophy – that’s the way I feel,” Wigan manager Martinez said.
“I’m extremely proud of this group of players and their achievement is phenomenal.”
“We haven’t chosen the easy route and it’s a great feeling because this squad has been written off so many times in this campaign.”
“We knew we had the talent but in the last two games we had to show more than that.”
“We were 2-0 down against West Ham and we needed a reaction and people with real responsibility and bravery.”
“Again today we weren’t ourselves in the first half and we had to defend for our lives. I am probably prouder of that side of the two performances.”
Martinez also had sympathy for the relegated teams, with Blackpool and Birmingham losing on the last day to join already-demoted West Ham in the Championship next season.
“I don’t think there were any bad sides who went down,” he said.
“To get relegated on 39 points is harsh. It is the small margins that go with you and against you.”
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was less than generous to Wigan, claiming the victors enjoyed more than their fair share of good fortune, not to mention some favours from the referee.
“They rode their luck a little bit in certain areas and there were some generous decisions that also went their way – but I’ve got to be careful not to incur the wrath of the FA,” Pulis said.
“In the first 20 minutes of the second half we were poor. We started as if the game had already been won and it was all over.”
“Wigan were fighting for their lives and although we got some balls in the box we never looked like scoring in the second half.”
“It’s gone Wigan’s way – they rode their luck and good luck to them.”