Wigan manager Roberto Martinez hailed his players after they beat Blackburn 1-0 at Ewood Park to secure their future in the Premier League while condemning Rovers to the npower Championship.
Only a win would have kept Steve Kean’s side in with a chance of survival, but Antolin Alcaraz’s 87th-minute header handed Wigan the points and sealed Blackburn’s fate in a nervy game.
Martinez praised the performance of his side during the last 13 games of the season which culminated in this crucial win.
“It doesn’t seem real yet,” Martinez told Sky Sports 1.
“Its a great feeling because you could feel the tension and it was a cagey affair. To do that and to keep a clean sheet – to have that and what it means is incredible. Eight years in the Premier League
“It’s been a great run but football is about the players. It’s very simple to state the right things but what matters is when you cross the white line to be brave and arrogant.
“All I do is grant them to enjoy their football and the credit goes to the players.
“You get really high pressure. We’ve been in the bottom three for a long time. They made the football club proud and the chairman proud.”
Wigan owner Dave Whelan revealed he has blended emotions following tonight’s result but was full of praise for the achievements of Martinez.
“I’m really sorry that we put Rovers down,” Whelan, a former Blackburn player, stated on Sky Sports 1. “I had 11 fantastic years here. Of course I’m Wigan Athletic through and through but I’m really sorry Rovers have gone down.
“He (Martinez) has had faith from day one and we had a really tough begin to the season but he always believed and had faith in this players.
“As the season has gone along we have played better and better and I think Roberto has proved once and for all that he is a quality manger.
“I believe Roberto will go to one of the top European clubs when the time is right but hopefully we can hold on to him for one or more years.
“We cannot do things like Man City and Man Utd and the huge clubs but if we can be in the top half of the Premier League it would be a wonderful achievement.”
Wigan captain Gary Caldwell spoke of his relief after his side avoided the drop for the second season in a row.
“I’m happy. We put ourselves in a very precarious position early in the season and as a club we have to be better than that,” Caldwell said.
“Our begin to the season was not good enough. All credit to everyone at the football club as we dug in.”
Caldwell also hailed the calm Martinez brought to the side in the latter stages of the campaign.
“(He deserves) great credit,” he added. “When everyone else started panicking and the world tells you you are going down he stays calm and remains true to his principles.
“We showed great belief in our system and our style of play. This has to be the platform for the football club to progress and moved on.”
Blackburn defender Bradley Orr admitted relegation was the worst thing to have happened to him during his career but stated the dressing room still supports manager Kean.
“It’s very tough, a real bitter pill to swallow – the worst I’ve had to deal with in my career,” Orr said.
“It’s not through lack of effort but we fell short as a group of players, and it’s resulted in relegation.
“I cannot put my finger on why, it’s really hard to take.”
Kean has been under pressure for a massive part of the season with regular protests by fans against owners Venky’s and the club’s poor performances.
However, Orr revealed the way Kean has handled himself calls for a great deal of respect.
“The gaffer stood out there tonight and took a lot of stick, I’ve got nothing but admiration and respect for him,” Orr said.
“He’s done everything he could to push us in the right direction and motivate us.
“The tactics, training, everything – one man who can look in the mirror and state he is given everything is the manager.
“I’ll talk for the dressing room and thank him for what he is done, he is taken things on the chin that he shouldn’t have had to.
“The supporters voice their opinions in whatever way they want towards the owners, the players and the manager. Sometimes a line can be crossed and the way the gaffer’s handled things is exemplary.
“He’s certainly the ideal I’ve worked with as far as managers go.
“It’s simple for people to pass the buck but the reality is the group of players fell short, it’s us that need to take responsibility. We’ve let the gaffer down because everything he is done has been geared to pushing us forward and we have not done that.”
Kean returned the favour and hailed the performance of his players but admitted the dressing room was at an all-time low.
“We’re devastated, the players are numb because we felt as though we did a very good job tonight,” Kean said.
“Certainly in the second half we made enough chances, and we had a very good shout for a pen with Junior Hoilett.
“The fact we did not get a result and take it to the last game is massively disappointing, it’s a great setback for the club.
“I think you could see up until the last second the lads were giving everything, they have given a big, huge effort to take it to the last day as we did last season.
“You can never fault the players’ effort. We’ve got a very young side, we have lost a lot of experience and for the future we are going to have a backbone of young academy players that will stand the club proud.
“It’s difficult for them because they have never experienced a feeling like in that dressing room now.”
Blackburn still have one game to play and will take on Chelsea on the final day of the season, and Kean hopes to be able to keep as many of his players as he can in a bid to immediately bounce back from the Championship next term.
“We’ve got to keep as many players together as possible, a tiny like West Ham have done, and add a tiny more experience and then we can bounce back,” Kean said.
“We’ll be back to fight another day.”
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