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Apr 11, 2013

Martinez aiming to upset odds

Roberto Martinez hopes to be spot on with Wigan at Wembley on Saturday after recalling a penalty mix-up in his very first FA Cup tie.

Martinez will attempt to guide the club into the first-ever FA Cup final when they face Championship side Millwall. The glamour of the national stadium is a long way from Runcorn's Canal Street, where he made his cup debut as a Wigan player in November 1995.

Martinez was one of a trio of Spanish players - the others being Isidro Diaz and Jesus Seba - brought to Wigan by chairman Dave Whelan 18 years ago.

They made their FA Cup bow when the Latics, then playing in the fourth tier, were drawn away to Conference side Runcorn. Martinez scored in a 1-1 draw, but did not realise that this meant a replay, rather than a penalty shoot-out.

He said: "The whole day was a real experience. I didn't even know there was a replay at the end of it. I was getting ready to take the penalties."

Canal Street is now a housing estate, while Runcorn went out of existence in 2006, reforming in the North West Counties League as Runcorn Linnets.

But although the physical reminders of Martinez's first FA Cup tie have gone, he retains the memories he shared with Diaz and Seba.

"When we ran out on to the pitch, we had the idea of a cup game in Spain," Martinez added. "At cup games in Spain, you are lucky if you get the opposing team's tea lady and two or three extra groundsmen. You don't get many people there.

"When we ran out on to the pitch, it was a full stadium. And the other two Spanish boys and I said: 'They've got good support.' And they were our fans.

"I didn't know there was such an interest in the competition. That was my first experience of the FA Cup, and that was when I realised that this competition is unique."

There will be no replay on Saturday if Wigan's semi-final against Millwall is level after extra-time, as the match will go to penalties.

But for Martinez, who left Wigan in 2001 before returning as manager in 2009, the competition still has a special pull.

He said: "Sometimes, people in Spain ask me about the FA Cup, and it's impossible to describe. I always tell them that they need to experience it. To have a semi-final at Wembley is the icing on the cake of an incredible experience."

Saturday's match will see him face Millwall manager Kenny Jackett, who made Martinez his captain when the two were together at Swansea.

But Wigan's boss is not prepared to dwell on sentiment, nostalgia or friendships as he bids for a place in the FA Cup final.

He said: "This is not the end of a journey. Yes, it is a great achievement. But we want nine years in the Premier League and to carry on upsetting the odds and making history.

"Maybe one day, when I have grandchildren and I can't work any more, that will be the time to look back and remember."

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