Norwich City boss Chris Hughton has admiration for Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez

Friday, December 14, 2012
10:43 PM

Roberto Martinez oozes Spanish sophistication but Chris Hughton detects a natural born street fighter.

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The Canaries’ chief fully endorses Latics’ chairman Dave Whelan’s long-held belief it is only a matter of time before the Iberian gravitates towards the Premier League elite.

Martinez’s ability to steer the perennial strugglers to safety on an annual basis acts as both an inspiration and a challenge for Hughton to emulate in Norfolk.

“Good management is not just about winning games. If you are the manager of (Manchester) United or City you are expected to win many more games,” he said.

“It is about managing what you have. Roberto has to manage a club that doesn’t have the resources of a big club, that doesn’t have the support coming through the turnstiles of a big club, but they are in their eighth season in the Premier League and he has been there the last three years. Yes, the fact he is still relatively young I am sure he is one who has a very bright future in front of him.

“He is a very astute manager that handles everything very, very well – especially in difficult times. They had a great run towards the end of last season but even when things are not going well he is a very calm manager, very calculated. He puts across the right message and I have no doubt that is why they have achieved so much in recent years.”

Hughton is also an admirer of Martinez’s patient passing philosophy despite operating traditionally in the harsh terrain of a Premier League relegation scrap.

“It takes a lot of bravery to stick to your beliefs in how you want to play the game and I have an awful lot of admiration for Roberto,” he said. “Maybe not so much this stage now but I can remember a few seasons ago when they had a couple of big defeats. They lost 9-1 at Tottenham and then 8 or 9-0 at Chelsea, but that is when he shows his real quality.

“You can imagine how he is when you see him interviewed. He is very realistic about where they are as a club and the fact they are going to lose games. It is about showing a resolve and it is a different type of management to managing a team with expectations of being in the top four. He does that better than anybody. To be in an eighth season of Premier League football and being surrounded by some very, very big clubs is a remarkable feat given their resources. It shows how well-run they are.”

Wigan’s top flight form may have dipped of late after a trend-bucking early season positivity, but Hughton is wary of the visitors’ threat.

“Having watched the amount of tapes we need to watch I know they are a very good side. Perhaps they are in a false position in the table because everything I have seen about Wigan is good,” he said. “That surprises me. They can certainly score goals. They changed their defensive system last season which I think has worked very well for them.

“They are a very well-drilled football team. They are expansive and generally play the same brand of football, irrespective of how their form is.

“They have suffered with injuries in defensive areas over recent weeks, which might have affected them. They play a possession-based football with good options in forward areas. (Arouna) Kone has come in and had a fabulous season for them.”

Norwich’s nine-match unbeaten Premier League run is not only the best in the division, but bettered only by Catalan royalty Barcelona currently across the continent’s five top club leagues.

“It probably comes down to two things – hard work and the right reaction,” said Hughton. “Sometimes there are pivotal moments in a season or a game. After two heavy defeats the team decided we had to do something. We had to make ourselves tougher to beat. If you are able to get that one big result, which was Arsenal, then the confidence has grown since them.

“The approach has to be the same every game. If you lose one, it’s about how we try to bounce back. I don’t know if it’s about a group of players maturing because the team didn’t do too much wrong last season if you look at the finishing position. What you have to be able to cope with is the ups and downs.

“I think if we wanted to be tougher to beat we had to come up with a way of playing, perhaps get back into defensive areas quicker, whilst still having that threat. Of course you would also expect players in their second season of Premier League football to have that experience.”

City’s reaction to fresh adversity in the Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa earlier this week presents another test of their collective resolve, although Hughton accepted the premise two fewer games in a congested January period might offer the slimmest of sliver linings to cup heartache.

“That was the bonus, but we would have certainly sacrificed that to be in the cup. No doubt,” he said. “You very quickly have to move on and what I have spoken about with the players is not so much the disappointment of going out, but the fact we had got to this stage.

“We had four cup games and in three and a half of them our performances have been good.

“It wasn’t difficult to pick them up because we are on a good run at the minute. We made some changes, we didn’t make wholesale changes, and we fielded a team we felt was good enough to win the game but you also have to give Aston Villa credit. They have a lot of youth and energy. These things happen. As with any defeat it is about a reaction and I expect a good one.”

Villa’s late salvo not only gave the final scoreline a lop-sided slant, but after the concessions at Swansea in a memorable Premier League win last weekend was another departure from the defensive resolution which had underpinned the club’s recent revival.

“Is it a big issue? No, it is not because in those two games one of them was Swansea and we won that one,” said Hughton.

“It must always be a concern but we have found in the periods of the season when we do concede that we make things difficult for ourselves. Now we have made ourselves difficult to beat. If you can guarantee me we win more games like Swansea then you would take it but ultimately it is about the points you get.

“It is as good a feeling winning 4-3 at Swansea as it is a tight 1-0 win. We showed we were able to open up and score goals and that was one area we needed to address, but we don’t want games where we are so open we leave ourselves vulnerable.”

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