Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will hope his diminutive match-winner Shaun Maloney can pull a couple more performances out of the bag to save the club from relegation – even if it means he loses the winger as a result.
The 5ft 7in Scotland international has been one of the team’s star performers this season and the Latics manager knows his showings will have alerted bigger clubs.
“Shaun Maloney is a player who could have been born in any other country in terms of the technical ability and the quality he has,” said Martinez.
“When he first joined us he took a little bit of time to get used to the pace of the league but he’s been magnificent and very consistent since he started playing regularly.
“I feel Shaun is a player who can play in any team, he has the quality of any other top player in that position.
“He is someone who can find space – he finds it so natural to turn – and players who can drive into space is a real strength to break things down.
“I would never be surprised if a club with more tradition and bigger power looks at him but that’s a compliment to us.
“I don’t want to see Shaun leaving because he’s so instrumental to what we do. But it wouldn’t surprise me because he is a top player and has been consistent for 18 months now.”
Maloney was instrumental in setting up two of Wigan’s three goals in the vital win at West Brom at the weekend. The Latics will need more of that creativity at home to Martinez’s former side Swansea tonight as they look to close the gap to safety.
But the Wigan manager is just as impressed with the Maloney’s attitude off the pitch as his contribution on it. “Shaun is the one you have to send in [from the training pitch] every day because sometimes he can over-train,” added the Spaniard.
“He is obsessed with keeping himself fully fit. I think he has found the right balance now.
“Since day one he has been an example at our football club.”
Wigan have yet to beat Swansea since the Welsh club’s promotion to the Premier League, with their only point in three games coming at the Liberty Stadium last season.
But the Swans, safe in ninth place, have nothing to play for and the Latics are fighting for their lives again.
There is still some antagonism to Martinez after he left south Wales for Wigan, even though they were a club he played for and were in the Premier League, while at the time, Swansea were in the second tier. Many of Martinez’s principles have been retained by subsequent Swansea managers and there are more similarities between the two.
“It will be two teams with very similar football concepts,” said the Wigan manager.
“Swansea have a manager (Michael Laudrup) who has brought incredible calmness and an incredible approach in their second season in the Premier League, which can sometimes be a difficult one.
“You’re going to see two teams who play very similar football and next season both are in the Europa League (Swansea as Capital One Cup winners, Wigan as FA Cup finalists).
“It’s a fascinating situation for both clubs.”