Martinez keen to keep big guns

The Spaniard completed his first piece of business on Monday with

the £4million signing of Bolton goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, the

Latics’ player of the season after his loan spell in the previous

campaign. However, winger Charles N’Zogbia continues to be linked

with a number of clubs – as he has been for the last three windows

– while midfielder James McCarthy and striker Hugo Rodallega also

have their suitors. Of that trio the former seems most likely to

depart, especially as his transfer to Birmingham 11 months ago

floundered at the last minute because of personal terms, while he

only also has one year left on his contract. But despite the

reported interest there have been no bids as yet and Martinez is

focusing on improving his squad rather than allowing it to be

weakened. His next move into the market is to find a replacement

for midfielder Tom Cleverley, who impressed on loan from Manchester

United but seems unlikely to return for a second season. “At the

moment it is very straightforward: we are very strong in our squad,

we have got very good numbers,” said Martinez. “Ali was our first

priority but now Tom Cleverly has gone back to Manchester United

that is another position we have to strengthen. “But even then I

feel we have a group of youngsters who will get a chance in

pre-season and if they are as strong as I suspect them to be we

will have a good squad. “We’ve had no offers (for his players) but

I am sure there is a lot of interest in our top performers – and

rightly so, we will take that as a compliment. “But we are looking

forward to finishing the window in a stronger position than we

started and that is why we work so hard behind the scenes to get

ready.” Having helped the team stave off the threat of relegation

on the final day of the season Al Habsi is keen for the Latics to

start building for a better season this time around. He, like

Martinez, is keen to hang on to those team-mates who played a

significant part in that survival battle. “The most important

players we have to keep and we have to work hard starting on

Thursday (when the club’s pre-season begins),” said the 29-year-old

Oman international. “It is going to be a very important season and

we have to be ready for that.”