He is thought to be the most talented manager outside The Premiership, and he is constantly linked to bigger clubs. The club has progressed under his leadership, and it is perhaps the biggest coup the club has ever done, when they signed a Chester-player, and put him in the manager chair.
The year is 2007, and a Swansea team with ambitions of The Championship are struggling in the middle of the table in League One. Their manager Kenny Jackett, who took the team up from League Two, and nearly led them to the Championship season after, seems to be stuck for ideas. The man had given Swansea team much, but now it was stopping, and the English manager pulled out 15 February.
The summer before, he had sold Roberto Martinez to Chester. The Spanish midfield man did not figure in his plans anymore, plus, the midfielder began to grow old. Just seven months later Roberto Martinez took place in the Swansea manager chair, after Jackett. Some fans were perhaps a bit skeptical of this solution, the Spaniard had given the club a lot, but he lacked experience as a manager, and it could soon be labeled as the club played in England’s third top division. But Martinez fulfillment, from a place in no-man’s land was almost to the play-off, only for slipping the place at the last day of the season, when Blackpool beat Swansea 6-3 at the Liberty Stadium. The disappointment was great, but Martinez said that Swansea was to be stronger next season.
In contrast to his predecessor was Martinez a little more careful in the transfer market – that is, he did not use large amounts on players. Kenny Jackett had received £1,000,000 to act for the preceding seasons, and he had spent money on players that did not the amount of success the price would indicate. Martinez on his side, just use little money on foreign players. The first rumors that the result was on the way in, was a Dutch midfielder. A sum of £70,000 was mentioned, and most fans believed him to be a back-up solution. It should he not prove to be, for Ferries Bodde was a key player, so to speak, from the first match. Now, is the incredible to think that Bodde cost no more than £ 70,000, how much the actor had for the money. The situation today is the following; Swansea are in line for promotion to the Premier League, have spent very little money on new players, and soccer player adventure, even against stronger teams expected. The appointment was perhaps a smart one after all.
As a player, he started his career in Real Zaragoza, but was eventually sold to the club he had played in their younger days, CF Balaguer. He was educated well in the Spannish club, but he played “Futbol Sala”, futsal, as well as football. Here he learned much of what were his hallmarks as a football player, technique and a sharp football mind. Futsal paths is smaller and tighter, and requires technical attributes as well as quick thinking if you want to succeed, and there are a lot of these qualities that made Martinez a so good player as he actually was. In 1995 it opened a new sports shop in Zaragoza and the owner of this sport shop would prove to be the owner of the English football club Wigan Athletic. Martinez had, together with two other Spaniards, Jesus Seba and Isidro Diaz been offered to try their luck in Wigan. They accepted, and all had some years in the club. Martinez played the longest, until 2001.
He remembers that the three amigos as their first match of the team they would eventually sign for:
The first time we saw Wigan play was in a friendly somewhere up north. Taking the kick-off, they passed it back and then just kicked it long, behind the full-back’s head – just to kick it out of play, and then the whole team squeezed up. We said: ‘Hey, what’s this? That’s a rugby movement.’ We’d never seen that in Spain; you would get told off if you gave the ball away. So we thought: ‘Wow, this is going to be interesting.”
Even today there are differences between English and Spanish football, the differences are perhaps far greater down in the systems division, but the difference between the Premier League and Division Primiera is, if anything noticeable. Also the player culture in England was shocking for the young Spaniard:
Now that I was here, I was going to make the most of the experience. Beans on toast as a pre-match meal – that was a big shock. And coming back from a long trip, Plymouth or wherever, the boys were allowed to have a drink on the bus and some had to leave their cars when we got back because they were drunk. That was a big ‘no’ in Spain. Here, at 18, someone tells a young player who’s professional, who’s not. They don’t have to fight any more. In Spain, 18 is when you really need to make the point, whether you want to be a professional or not.”
The differences in the player culture in the different countries has become less and less. The teams have hired experts on diet, alcohol intake is largely moderated by the clubs. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger should probably have a major part of the credit for the great revolution the English football has gone through, and Roberto Martinez has followed the footsteps of Wenger on this site. Nothing left to coincidences. He stressed the importance of a healthy diet and enough sleep, and has hired a psychologist. There’s even a hypnotist in Swansea payrolls.
Roberto Martinez is a man who lives for football. For him a day with football is a day off, at least he claims so. His good friend, and son of a legend ii football, Jordi Cruyff, has the following to say about the Spanish manager:
Football is Roberto’s life. When I have a day off, I must admit, I take the whole day off away from the game. Roberto on the other hand is still living and breathing football on his free day. As a player he would spend it running and training in the gym. Since taking his new life in management, his summer time has reduced to four days and he will still make time to phone his chairman and keep in touch with what is happening at the club.”
The commitment for football Martinez shows exceeds the average manager. According to rumors, he spends the Sunday in front of the TV, watching football. In addition, he is more or less permanent in the Sky Sports coverage of Spanish football. As a person Martinez is very dedicated and loyal. His involvement in football, and in Swansea proves that. It took no more than a little over year before rumors began to flourish, Newcastle had Martinez on the list of appropriate candidates, the same had Wigan. Sir Alex Ferguson wanted him allegedly as assistant when the position was vacant at Old Trafford. Martinez, however, denied that he is interested to take over a club in the higher divisions, most recently in connection with a link to Portsmouth. The Spanish manager has a different agenda in his football life than just to win football matches:
It’s the challenge I’ve had in my life. I’ve had a continental upbringing that I developed while I was at Zaragoza, but those beliefs get challenged on a daily basis in the British game. I was never a physical player in my time, I had to be effective on the football pitch with my arguments. I had to learn how to be effective in the British game. For me it’s always been about fighting the idea that you cannot be successful in the British lower leagues by playing football. That was my challenge when I took the manager’s job – to be succesful playing football – and that’s why I have so much pride with Swansea City, the way we achieved promotion playing in a different way.”
A large part of why Martinez then categorically denies interest for positions, that can give him a push in the right direction in relation to the training of a team at the very highest level can be located here. If Martinez wins a match, only half of the job is done. It is to be made by playing football. To be on the defensive, let the other team control the match and hope to make a goal or two on the counter seems not to be an option for Martinez. He wants to prove that it is possible to get some way, even not by playing defensive and cynical football, and prove the ones who claims otherwise.
As a player he would have to weigh up what he lacked on the physical when he came to English football. He was never a “box to box player” who ran tirelessly, but a playing midfielder, if anything. As he says he had to learn to be effective, how to work in English football as a somewhat nontraditional central midfielder in English context, if one takes the time Martinez came to England, and that he has kept to the lower divisions into account. In principle, one can say that to bring Martinez to the football was a bad idea if you look at the way the team played at the time. But he adapted, and he worked. In fact, he is said to have been a success. He received a total of 363 games in the English league system. Now he is trying again to break a barrier, and to prove the critics who claim that they do not come any way in the English system of playing football wrong. So far it looks good, but it is still a long way to go to the goal of establishing Swansea among the 15 best clubs in England.
Although there is some way to go, it is unlikely many people is critical to whether Martinez is the man to bring Swansea to the Premier League. The gaffer does, however, seem to be quite calm, despite the fact that it has built up great expectations for Swansea record progress. Already in November, some began to launch Swansea as a clear candidate for the Premier League next season. Martinez on his side claimed that the goal of the season first and foremost was to remain in The Championship. He hoped Swansea would remain in the Championship a few years before they scrambled up, it was at least the goal. As approached March Swansea is still a clear candidate to move up, and Martinez has hinted that the ambitions have changed over the season. If the club should get on, you can not hold it back when it undoubtedly possesses a greater potential than first thought.
Some might say that Swansea do not have a sufficient foundation to build on to establish themselves in the Premier League. This season is the first in 24 years at the club is in the country’s second highest division, and it has not been something that has indicated that Swansea was able to establish themselves in the Premier League in recent years.
Swansea is now closer than ever in a long time, but after having experienced success so quickly, many will argue that Swansea is a team that has achieved success too soon, that is lightweight compared to the teams who have played at higher level over several years, and that Premier League football next year will be too early for them. Martinez on his side believes that these theories do not hold water. He believes that there is something called too early in this context:
Look at the benefits of reaching the Premier League. You have to be very sensible, but there are many positives about getting there and you can never have too many positives. What I would say is that you cannot go overboard and you must not overspend. The short-term plan would obviously be to compete in the Premier League, but you have to plan long term to make sure you end up with a stronger football club, even if you don’t get enough points to stay in the division.I think we’ve showed as a club — the chairman, the board and myself — that we will not put ourselves in a tricky position. Any club getting to the Premier League should build on the positives and that means using the huge financial boost to improve facilities and to bring in players for the future who will be good assets.
Many believe that Swansea should build itself up as a club in The Championship before they aim for Premier League, but Martinez sees no automatics in that. If the club is getting up to the Premier League next season, and getting down again, they play another season in The Championship as a stronger team, and thus does Swansea not necessarily have any advantage to be in the league system second top division. Then they’ll have better basis to develop the players, and maybe add more young talents than they would have if they invest in numerous players who still would not prove to be good enough to keep the team Premier League after all.
It is perhaps this setting that can be critical for Swansea. Should Swansea move up this season, it will not be a big defeat if dropping down. Roberto Martinez and the Board of Swansea parts ambitions and ideas. The best way to become a better team is, if necessary, slowly, but most importantly securely progress. As Martinez said, is not a man who leaves things to chance, the team’s position should not depend on a single player’s performance. It should not be purchased in a big star, that will drive the team. It is the team as a team who is going to win the matches, and to form a team, he must find the right players, or if necessary, bring them up himself. It takes time, and it seems like he is getting the time to do that in Swansea.
So much suggests that the Swansea-fans can feel confident that Martinez does not jump on the first and best offer from a big club, if there should emerge. There are currently, a little over two years ago midfield player Roberto Martinez was purchased from Chester, and put in the manager chair. Two years have passed, but hopefully it is just two of many. Martinez has accomplished much in the club, but still have much to accomplish.