As he stood in the Emirates technical area on Tuesday night, sodden in the unceasing rain, watching his team crumple in front of him, heading for the Premier League trapdoor, Roberto Martinez was aware he was in the most unusual position.
He may have presided over relegation, he may have been in charge as his club was removed from the top division just as the television income is about to go into orbit, but how his employer wants him to stick around.
How unlike the club 15 miles down the road.
At Manchester City, they could hardly wait to jettison a boss whose finishing position in the league in the least two seasons has been first and second. At Wigan they are desperate to retain the services of their manager who, in the same period, led the club to 17th and 18th. It is an odd world, football.
But then it is not often a manager sees his star on the rise after going down. Martinez now finds himself coveted by many. His excellence in delivering the FA Cup, and his ability to beat the odds and keep Wigan competitive for two of the three seasons he has been at the DW are what make him a wanted man. And he is not alone at Wigan in being the game’s current flavour of the month.
The sad news for the club’s supporters is that as they face up to life in the Championship, a sizeable number of those they watched this season will be staying in the Premier League. There will be no relegation for Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman, Arouna Kone and James McCarthy. The vultures will be circling, the fire sale will be triggered and they will be off, improving their terms and finding themselves a secure berth in the top flight.
The patron saint of the last-minute leap from the sinking ship is Neil Redfearn. For three seasons around the turn of the century he played for one of the relegated clubs, swapping to the next once they had been doomed. First for Barnsley, then for Charlton, finally for Bradford, he made a speciality of retaining his own Premier League status even if his employer was down and out. So prolific was he at the jump that by the end his very arrival at a club came to be seen as final indication that they were going to go down. Fans knew the moment Redfearn was signed that their days at the top were numbered.
Maloney, McManaman, Kone and McCarthy will all be back in the Premier League next season, their CVs bolstered by an excellent FA Cup win. But more to the point, so will their manager.
Wigan may not have been too good to go down, but their manager is. Martinez belongs in the Premier League. This is a coach of range and scale, a man of principle and style. His tactical astuteness was evident in that Cup final when he brilliantly husbanded his resources to overcome a hugely superior opponent. He deserves a tilt at the big time.
Dave Whelan, the Wigan owner, has tried to dampen the speculation linking Martinez with the David Moyes-sized vacancy at Goodison. His withering dismissal of Everton as a club not big enough for a man of the Spaniard’s talents was not well received on Merseyside. Understandably so.
I have news for Whelan: now Wigan are in the Championship, it means there are 20 clubs at least bigger than his. One of which, on any measure, is Everton.
And Martinez would be a brilliant fit at Goodison. There has been much talk since Moyes was appointed to the Manchester United job of the size of the boots he is about to fill. Well, the footwear he has left at Everton is pretty substantial too. His send-off on Sunday was testament to the job he has done at the club. The regulars put aside tribal loyalty to thank him for the eleven years of excellent stewardship he has delivered. As their incessant chants of "Manchester is full of s**t" and "who the f*** are Man United" indicated, they weren’t particularly impressed about the identity of his next employer. But they wanted to mark his departure with appropriate gratitude.
Martinez would not be intimidated by the memory of the Scot still lurking in the fabric of the place. Bright, personable and endearingly up beat, he would quickly charm the backroom staff. The players too would find him a challenging presence on the training ground. And the Everton board would love what he managed to achieve on a budget even smaller than the one they are used to delivering.
And everyone concerned would be happy if he brought with him Kone, Maloney, McCarthy and the ex-Evertonian, the one who got away, McManaman. For Wigan fans, that is the unpalatable irony. For a side which has just been jettisoned out of the division, a significant number of its component parts have never been in greater demand. Which is not something which could be said about QPR.