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"We will be underestimated by the vast majority of the media and opposition supporters, but that will not deter us" - a Latics fan gives his few on the 2012-13 campaign

WIGAN ATHLETIC
FAN: Paul Farrington
WEBSITE: Wiganer.net

The target: Survival... again

We're a small club in a big league and to have survived for an eighth season in the Premier League would have been beyond our wildest dreams when we earned promotion from the Championship.

It is important that we do not let expectations grow too fast. Our performances toward the end of the season last year have led many supporters to get carried away about the forthcoming season.

However we have a small budget and an even smaller squad. Roberto Martinez is working hard to build the infrastructure of the club as well as a first team that is capable of competing.

The immediate target without doubt has to be survival for a ninth season in the top flight. Anything beyond this would be a big bonus. Mid-table obscurity and/or a cup run would represent a fantastic season for us.

My thoughts on the gaffer...

Roberto Martinez was initially like Marmite at our club. He already held legendary status with the supporters following his playing achievements with the club when we were back in the lower leagues.

In his early days with the club he split the supporters down the middle. Many were disappointed with the on-field achievements, or lack of, and grew frustrated with the manager.

The others shared the vision of Martinez and could see that as well as building a first team that would play attractive football he was looking to build the infrastructure of the club from the bottom up.

Fast forward three years and Martinez has further cemented his status as a legend with the club. We remain in the top flight and play some delightful football and along with this, from the Under-11's upwards, the structure of the club has grown into that of a Premier League team.

It is not a surprise to see Martinez linked with the likes of Liverpool and Aston Villa each summer.

Our key man this season

We have a few as opposed to one. As with past Wigan Athletic sides we are not heavily reliant upon one player in particular. We now have a much more talented group of players.

Victor Moses is the headline talent within the present squad, but Franco Di Santo, Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy, and James McArthur all showed their exciting potential at the tail end of last season.

Add to that the emergence of youngsters Nouha Dicko and Callum McManaman and the return of big money signing Mauro Boselli and we have a talented group.

Youngster to watch

Callum McManaman is our most talented young player at the moment. Following a spell last season with Blackpool on loan, McManaman is on the verge of the first team and could well be a surprise package this season.

Fellow winger Nouha Dicko is also an exciting prospect with blistering pace who also spent time on loan with Blackpool.


A player who must deliver

Following his poor start with the club two seasons ago, Mauro Boselli spent the best part of 18 months out on loan with Genoa and his former club Estudiantes.

Arriving at the club for a big fee and with a big reputation, we were not ready for Boselli's talents. A goal poacher much in the build of Michael Owen, we were far too direct in past days.

Now with Martinez's football ethic embedded into the present squad, Boselli is back for a second crack at the Premier League. He has an enviable goal-scoring record in South America and has been on fire in pre-season. If he can hit the ground running the 27-year-old Argentine could raise eyebrows this season.

Our Achilles heel

All too often we conceded silly goals and collapsed defensively. The problem was the main reason why we struggled over the first half of the season and our shift to the interesting 3-4-3 formation removed much of the problems.

Hopefully the addition of Spanish defender Ivan Ramis this summer will add further strength to our back line.

Fixture I am looking forward to the most...

With Bolton and Blackburn relegated we have less local derby games this season. City, United, Liverpool, and Everton don't consider us rivals so I would point to the promotion of West Ham as our biggest game.

Following the Carlos Tevez debacle and other recent prickly historical events, there is a little bad blood between the two clubs and despite the distance, there is a rivalry between supporters and we'll be hoping to get six points against them this season.

Our toughest opponents will be...

Manchester City will once more be the team to beat, particularly given that they have largely the same squad as last season and will have a much stronger team spirit for the forthcoming season.

Such is the talent and strength in depth of the Manchester City squad, they could name two starting elevens capable of winning the title.

Player we love to hate

Robin van Persie will hopefully have developed a little more respect over a summer of transfer speculation. The petulant striker childishly refused to shake the hand of Gary Caldwell, who man-marked him out the game, as we defeated Arsenal in their own back garden last season.

Rival player we'd have in our team

There is only one for me. I think Vincent Kompany was a man mountain for Manchester City as he helped to lead them to the title last season.

With all the glamour surrounding the antics of their big four strikers and flair midfield players, Kompany was such a strong influence at the back and he would be a welcome addition to help remove our soft defensive under-belly.

My first choice XI

AL HABSI

BOYCE CALDWELL
ALCARAZ FIGUEROA

MALONEY
MCARTHUR MCCARTHY

MOSES
BOSELLI BEAUSEJOUR

My verdict

Plucky Wigan Athletic are here for another season, eight in a row now, and we're certainly hoping to make it nine. We will be underestimated by the vast majority of the media and opposition supporters but that will not deter us.

We have a terrific team spirit and club environment and we know just what it takes to survive in the Premier League.

We have our best team for a number of years and the level of consistency and development of our younger players has allowed us to grow without alerting the radar of our rivals. We could well be a surprise package this season.

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