Villa granted Martinez talks

Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez has been given permission to talk to Aston Villa about their vacant managerial position.Villa is canvassing for a replacement for ailing Frenchman Gerard Houllier, who was forced into an early retirement by poor health last week.

Latics chairman Dave Whelan revealed on Wednesday he had granted English Premier League rivals Villa permission to approach Martinez, but said he expected his manager to stay on at DW Stadium.

“They wrote to me asking for permission to speak to Roberto,” Whelan told The Telegraph.

“He was on holiday at the time and I granted Villa permission. He arrived back yesterday and I presume he has spoken to Villa.”

Martinez has one year left on his deal with the Latics and is expected to reciprocate the loyalty shown in him by Whelan, who stuck by his manager despite the threat of relegation in 2010/11.

“I have made it clear to him I will be extending his contract,” Whelan said.

“I have never let him down on anything and he has never let me down.”

“I know I can never say never in football, but I would be very surprised if he is Aston Villa‚Äôs new manager.”

Houllier managed just nine months in charge at Villa Park before a reoccurrence of a heart concern left him hospitalised and Villa without a manager.

Villa have already drawn a line through former England and FC Twente manager Steve McLaren’s name, as well as ex-Liverpool and Inter Milan boss Rafa Benitez.

McLaren was the frontrunner for the role until a supporter backlash on the internet reportedly nixed the deal.

Benitez is believed to have lobbied hard for a return to England but was turned down when Villa chairman Randy Lerner baulked at his request for a 60-million-pound transfer kitty.