Martinez praises Cottagers boss

Hughes had a tough act to follow when he was appointed manager at

Craven Cottage in July, taking over from Hodgson, who arrived in

December 2007 and led the club from the brink of relegation to a

record-high seventh place in the Premier League in the space of a

season-and-a-half. Fulham then reached the Europa League final in

May this year before Hodgson’s defection to Liverpool. Hughes

picked up the baton from there and has overseen one win, six draws

and two defeats from nine league fixtures so far this term. It has

been a steady start, but Martinez – whose team play Fulham in the

capital tomorrow – thinks the Cottagers’ prospects look good with

Hughes at the helm. “I think that was probably the hardest job to

take in Fulham’s history if you look at the achievements Roy

Hodgson had domestically and in European competition,” Martinez

said. “But they have changed the way they play slightly and they

have bought one or two players who have given them a different

dimension. “You just feel that Fulham will take the success of the

previous two or three seasons and will use that to take the team to

a different level. That is full credit to Mark Hughes.” Fulham won

11 home league fixtures last term, including a 2-1 victory over

Wigan in April. Martinez is anticipating a tough task on Saturday,

but the Latics have not been beaten on the road this season and

after sacrificing leads at Newcastle and at home against Bolton in

their last two league games, the Spaniard feels his side will be

fired up for the contest. “It is going to be difficult – I remember

last season’s game and I felt for the first half we played really

well and we went 1-0 up,” Martinez said. “But then all of a sudden,

you see the strength of Fulham playing at home. They are very

strong at set-plays, they know their ground really well and they

take advantage of that. “They are one of those sides who just

really enjoy playing at home and that is going to be difficult.

“But when we have been away from home this season we have been

really strong and compact and we’ve been able to hurt the

opposition. “We feel we have dropped four points in the last two

games and when you get that feeling, you just can’t wait to get on

the pitch.” Wigan go into the match lying 15th – one place above

Fulham – but they are only two points away from Sunderland in

seventh spot. With the table so tight, Martinez is preferring for

now to focus on the performances which have helped his team to a

six-match unbeaten run in all competitions and the quarter-finals

of the Carling Cup. “It is not the time to be looking at the table,

but I am very pleased with the level of performance that we have

been showing,” Martinez said. “I think it is very early to try to

see where you are in the table, because one or two points could

make a difference of six or seven spots and it is not that

realistic. “But I am very pleased with the work ethic, the

togetherness we are showing and that understanding and the

partnerships the players are developing on the pitch. “Slowly we

are seeing that the competition we have in the squad is allowing us

to compete in every game and we need to carry on with those

standards and then see where the table reflects where we are around

January or February.”