On the walk up to the DW Stadium, I got chatting to a Wigan fan about the upcoming game and how our respective teams had been doing. You won’t be surprised to learn that he was pretty unhappy about how they’d been doing and fed up with Owen Coyle (as was the This Northern Soul blogger who answered questions for a preview piece on this site).
Anyway, the fan asked me about our main man up-front. I said “Chris Martin – and I guarantee he will piss you off. He’s clever, holds up the ball and knows how to win free kicks, if you know what I mean.”
He looked at me and said: “You mean he’s a cheating bastard?”
Cheating is a strong word. But I did chuckle heartily at one point during the game when Martin was put through just inside the Wigan half and, rather than use his searing pace to storm through, had a little look to see where the retreating defender was, stepped across him and fell over. Free kick. And of course he won a penalty on the day.
I noticed some weeks ago that according to whoscored.com stats, Martin is the most ‘fouled’ player in the Championship. Opposition managers and players would surely contest that statement – so let’s change it and say that he has won the most free kicks, which is undeniable. Paul Ince is the latest manager to fume at Martin, who got the wrong side of the defender in the box and went to ground after the slightest of pushes from his panicked opponent. Peno.
This is one of the main reasons I’m growing to love Martin so much – he’s the sort of player who drives opposition fans and managers insane. If he played for anybody else against us, I’m sure I’d end up calling him every name under the sun. Ince’s description of the way Martin won the penalty yesterday was a classic – it was uncannily reminiscent of the way my dad likes to describe Franny Lee’s ability to do the same back in the glory days.
If you have no pace as a striker, you have to affect the game in other ways. Martin relieves the pressure on our defence by holding the ball up, bringing the onrushing midfielders into play and by buying free kicks. Technically, he is very adept – I love some of his flicks and tricks, perhaps the best recent example being his improvised assist for Johnny Russell’s goal against Leeds.
And he can finish. He seems to have put an end to our woes with penalties and can be trusted to slot the ball away when a chance comes his way from open play. The way he’s going, he could just turn out to be the ‘twenty goal a season man’ we’ve been after for so long.