Martinez: It's like winning a trophy
Roberto Martinez hailed Wigan's great escape from relegation, declaring after their 1-0 win at Stoke: "It's like winning a trophy.''
A jubilant Martinez watched Hugo Rodallega nod a 59th-minute winner to secure top-flight survival after a dramatic afternoon in the drop zone.
Birmingham and Blackpool dropped down to the Championship after defeats at Tottenham and Manchester United respectively, and Martinez could not hide his delight at having been saved from falling through the relegation trapdoor.
Martinez said: "It's like winning a trophy - that's the way I feel. I'm extremely proud of this group of players and their achievement is phenomenal. We haven't chosen the easy route and it's a great feeling because this squad has been written off so many times in this campaign.
"We knew we had the talent but in the last two games we had to show more than that. We were 2-0 down against West Ham and we needed a reaction and people with real responsibility and bravery.
"Again today we weren't ourselves in the first half and we had to defend for our lives. I am probably prouder of that side of the two performances. It was clear we were getting frustrated and we had to deal with that frustration. In the second half it became a little easier and we scored a very good goal.''
Martinez went on to pay tribute to the three relegated sides - West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham - insisting the survival margin was small that no club deserved to go down. "I don't think there were any bad sides who went down,'' added Martinez. "To get relegated on 39 points is harsh. It is the small margins that go with you and against you.''
Martinez embraced Latics chairman Dave Whelan at the final whistle and added: "To get a seventh season in the Premier League is a tribute to the chairman. The chairman is on cloud nine. He is an inspiration for everyone at the club and sometimes that puts you under extra pressure because you don't want to let him down.''
Mick McCarthy admitted he was "shattered physically and emotionally'' after Wolves stayed up despite losing 3-2 at home to Blackburn.
Wolves made sure of a third successive season in the top flight by a single point as defeats by Blackpool and Birmingham kept them above the drop zone. Blackburn are also sure of their Premier League place after goals from Jason Roberts, Brett Emerton and Junior Hoilett earned them a 3-0 half-time advantage.
McCarthy said: "We were in it, then we were out of it. We were up and then we were down. I was getting messages every couple of minutes on bits of paper. Some had swear words on, others said happy days.
"I said all along that it would come down to May 22 and it might even be goal difference or goals scored. I do not even know the exact outcome now. All I knew at the end of the game was that we had stayed up.''
McCarthy added: "I am thrilled and I am very proud of the players. I am shattered physically and emotionally. I went through the wringer. I feel like I should be dancing up and down with my drawers on my head. I can't do that, because I have to stay professional, but that is how I feel.''
"They were down and on their knees and they needed some encouragement. I told them that it was going down the plug hole and we needed to do everything far better than we had done. I told them to go and get a goal. One goal might have been enough to keep us in the league.''
Rovers boss Steve Kean said: "The first half was the best 45 minutes of our season. It is just a shame that we left it until the last game. We were on the front foot from the start and we never let them settle. We were positive and played with two up, we wanted to attack.
"We had someone on the subs bench with a lap top keeping us in touch with the other scores. Every five minutes we were getting updates. I was fully in touch with things and a few minutes from the end, Mick McCarthy gave me a look to say that is it we are both safe. I knew we were both okay.''
Kean praised the way his players have responded in the face of adversity with some positive results. He said: "We have produced seven positive results from our last nine games. The team have come together as a group really well. We will be a better team and a better club for it.''