FA Cup: Wigan's Roberto Martinez says fans' support is 'incredible'

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez says the club's support is "incredible", despite at least 10,000 tickets for their FA Cup semi-final with Millwall failing to sell.

"You look back to 1995, when I arrived at the football club, we had gates of 2,000 people," the 39-year-old said.

"It's an incredible turnaround, so for us it is a success."

Both clubs were allocated just over 31,000 tickets and Millwall are expected to sell their full complement.

The Football Association will open a neutral zone for 6,000 fans, making a further 1,500 seats available to troops.

It is understood the FA expects at least 14,000 empty seats at Wembley.

But Martinez said: "It's not about the numbers. The numbers need to have a meaning. It is an incredible percentage of the town.

"We are in the best league in the world, we are in the semi-final of the best cup competition.

Wigan's average attendances

  • 1995 - 1,748
  • 1997 - 3,899
  • 2000 - 7,007
  • 2005 - 11,563
  • 2012 - 18,634

"What's important is that every year we increase our fan base and the feeling of being attached to our football club.

"The example is going to Wembley with very passionate fans that care for the football club."

The 6,000 neutral seats, in an area that was originally a Wigan section, will only be sold to supporters who are already registered on the FA's ticketing database.

Wigan's failure to sell out their section is not altogether unexpected, with the club averaging just short of 19,000 for home matches in the Premier League this season.

Jason Taylor, a committee member of the Wigan Athletic Supporters' Club, also said many fans were unable to travel to London by train.

Kick-off is at 17:15 BST and with the last service back to Wigan leaving the capital at 20:30, fans would not have enough time to get to Euston Station from Wembley.

He added some supporters have decided to sacrifice going to the match in order to save money for the final - should Roberto Martinez's team reach the 11 May showpiece.

Wigan's chairman, Dave Whelan, broke his leg playing for Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final and will lead the team out in Saturday's semi-final.

Speaking about the 76-year-old, Martinez said: "Our chairman has been through a lot, in football and in life. I think the FA Cup is something very special to him.

"Not many players had the experience that he had in the '60s with a final where he had to be carried off on a stretcher. There's a little bit of a sense of unfinished business. It will be a unique way of closing that circle - he represents Wigan Athletic.

"He had this dream and we're going along with him. It'll be phenomenal for everyone. To see our chairman leading the team out will be a fitting moment to his FA Cup career."