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Mar 28, 2013

Martinez: McManaman criticism unfair

Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez believes Callum McManaman is not deserving of the criticism that has come his way following his challenge on Newcastle's Massadio Haidara.

• Blog: Closing the chapter

McManaman's tackle on Haidara during the Latics' 2-1 win at the DW Stadium earlier this month led to the Frenchman having to be stretchered off. It was initially feared that the France Under-21 international had suffered a career-threatening injury, however, reports last week confirmed that he had only suffered chronic bruising and should be back sooner rather than later.

Referee Mark Halsey failed to spot the knee-high challenge and the Wigan forward was not punished retrospectively as one of the officials had seen the incident. The Football Association's decision led to an angry statement from Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias hitting out at the tackle, while assistant manager John Carver confronted McManaman at half-time during the game.

Figures within football have also queued up to condemn the 21-year-old, but Martinez believes the reaction has been over the top as the incident is purely part and parcel of the game.

"I think we've been going on and on too much about it. I think it was a football incident. We lost Ryo Miyaichi a couple of weeks back and he had to go through surgery and he's out for the season. Those are incidents that happen in the game," Martinez said.

"I think we're taking things out of context here. I think the whole incident has been a bit of an argument about the refereeing in the game. It was a challenge with no real intent. It was an unfortunate incident that happens on a football pitch.

"I think we've been talking too much about it and it's a bit unfair on a young man to have to suffer that."

Martinez admits he was worried about how McManaman would cope with the criticism, but the Latics boss now believes his player is a strong-enough character to deal with any similar situations that are thrown his way in the future.

"I did have concerns straight away. Anyone would. All of a sudden you are the centre of a nationwide debate where you've done nothing wrong in terms of your intent. You've found yourself in that position," Martinez said.

"But Callum has been growing into the footballer he is now for the last four years so he hasn't been someone who all of a sudden appears. He's had a very good development at the club. He's been out on loan and I think he's had enough experiences to know how to cope with anything the Premier League is going to throw at him.

"But I did fear at the beginning because he's a young man. All he's doing is trying to keep his place, trying to enjoy his football, and, as a young Englishman who has an incredible future, I thought it was a bit too strong to swallow. But, looking at the way he's reacted in training, he's a joy of a human being and I know he'll become a stronger person after that.''

Martinez, though, expects the striker's talent to be the talking point soon enough, and has tipped him for England honours.

The Spaniard said: "Very soon people will realise what he is all about and what a phenomenal talent he has. There's been a lot of talk about developing young players and young English players with real raw talent, and he's got that.

"I think people will want to find out a bit more. I don't think you make a judgement on a player by a three-second highlight that you see on the TV.

"I think it's been very unfortunate that people speak about that moment rather than the one-on-one situation where he created the first goal.

"It's one of those situations where people will start wanting to know more about him and they will find out that maybe in future years he can bring something to the national team. That's how exciting Callum can be for the future.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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