The former manager of Swansea City tells us what makes the difference between a good and a great manager.
Raise Your Game: How do you keep the players passionate and motivated?
Roberto Martinez: I think you've just got to allow them to enjoy their football. That's a big thing. We are very privileged to be able to play football. I think sometimes we take it for granted. I will never ask a player to do something they are not comfortable with. You need to try to get the best out of every player. I think you do that by asking them to do what they're good at.
I think the key is that everyone enjoys their football. To do that, first you need to give everything you've got. Second, you need to be able to enjoy what you do. I like the players to enjoy what they're doing, bouncing around the place and looking forward to training. That's something they can then express on the football pitch.
RYG: What motivated you to perform as a player?
RM: I always had little targets within games. You also always get long-term targets that you want to achieve. You want to win and that winning mentality is what gets you going.
Football is as simple as you want to make it. There's no need to complicate the game. If you're playing 11 against 11, you need that winning mentality and to do the right thing. I think you can go on for as long as you can.
Sometimes people get too concerned about making mistakes. Football is a game of errors, it's how you react to them. When you've got a winning mentality, you don't care about mistakes, you're always looking for the next ball and you want to express yourself. I think that's the key, always looking for the next ball and being prepared for it.
RYG: What's the key to being a good manager?
13 July 1973
Balaguer, Catalonia, Spain
Wigan Athletic Manager
Played for Chester City, Swansea City FC, Walsall, Motherwell, Wigan Athletic, CF Balaguer & Real Zaragoza.
Former manager of Swansea City FC.
RM: I think honesty is massive. You have to be honest with the players and people you're working with. Try to tell them straightaway how important they are, what a big influence they've got towards the success of the football club they represent. If we are honest with each other and give respect to each other, it can only be healthy for everyone.
You do want that healthy competition to get the best out of the players. You want that competitive streak. If everyone is treated with honesty from the staff, and from the players, I think nobody knows better if they're performing well, or performing badly, more than the player. Honesty is vital. It enables you to perform at your best and the quality will shine.
RYG: Do you rule by the stick or the carrot?
RM: I don't think you can generalise. It depends on the situation. The important thing from a manager's point of view is to assess the situation in the right way. Sometimes it is the case that, for whatever reason, the boys are not performing the way they should be doing and then you need to have that aggressive approach. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's in an honest way and it's at the right moment.
Overall you need to be as constructive as you can and you need to try to spot things that can help the team to perform better. In that respect I think the balance of the two styles is what you call man-management, and a little bit of psychology on an individual basis. I believe that if you have 16 players, there are 16 different styles of management. That's what I look into on a daily basis because it's a hard thing to do if you want to cope with everyone.
RYG: What's the difference between a good team and a great team?
RM: It's the level of consistency. We could be talking about how good a team is on one day and then you don't see the same kind of performance for the next three or four weeks. If a team's good one day, it will never be a great team if it cannot be consistent. That doesn't mean that you always have to do the pretty thing and be pleasing to the eye. It means that you have to be able to identify when you need to be ruthless and when you need to get a result. That gives you the means of being a great team.
When you can play well and you can play the game in the right way, then you know how strong as a team you can be. That consistency level is the difference between a good and a great team.
RYG: What players/managers have inspired you? What skills did they have that you wanted to emulate?
RM: Football is my life. I love playing and watching it. I can never watch enough football. You hear a lot of people saying 'My hero was someone I used to watch on the television.' I think it's hard to get things from people that are so distant. I used to pick things up from the best of the people that I had around me.
I was very fortunate to develop as a footballer in a club like Real Zaragoza in La Liga. You learn from the people around you. I learnt a lot from the people playing there. They were big names in Spain, but not necessarily in European football. They really had an influence in terms of the way they conducted themselves, the way in which they were winners, and in terms of their professionalism.
My dad had a huge influence on me. He was a professional player and then a manager. I believe that tactically John Toshack, with his double spell with Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, changed football in Spain.
I think you can always pick up little things from many managers. You always go back to the successful ones. Looking at what he achieved at Barcelona, I'd say another influence was Johan Cruyff. For me, the way Johan did things was completely different to what everyone else was doing. That's a sign of someone with tremendous confidence and self-belief. In football you don't get that too often.
RYG: What have been the highlights of your career so far?
RM: My targets have always been different to other players. Football is a team sport and I always wanted to achieve things with a team. Every season I look at the targets that we have and I think you are successful or not as an individual if you get your targets. In football that's the way it should be.
My debut in La Liga when I was 18-years-old represents a lot of work behind it. I spent more than five years working towards that goal. That gave me great satisfaction, to get a reward for working hard every day. Managing to stay in the football league with Swansea City was a huge achievement. People don't realise how much we had to do with very little. Then promotion with Swansea, Wigan Athletic and Real Zaragoza - they're three big things that gave me a lot of pleasure.
RYG: And the lowlights?
RM: You always get low moments. As a professional footballer the low moments should be turned into a positive and you should learn from it. I do believe that you become a better player and a better person - more mature.
The only really low moment I had was the injury. I'd been very lucky with injuries in my career. I'd been a professional for eighteen years and had one major injury. I ruptured my medial ligament and it kept me away from the field for four months. That's the only real low. You always get disappointed if you don't perform the way you want to. I got relegated once in Spain and that was difficult. If you can turn everything into a positive and learn from it, you always get a reward at the end of it.
RYG: In terms of training, what does an average week consist of for a Swansea City player?
RM: It depends how many games you're playing that week. We've got two different setups. If there's a midweek game or not. If you haven't got a midweek game, we try to spend a lot of time personalising the programme depending on what you've been doing.
If you've been playing with the first team then you need 48 hours recovery time. After that you'll do two training sessions. You'll have another period of active recovery and then you'll have another three sessions to focus on the game. Within those sessions you're working tactically and technically.
You also take time to analyse your opposition. Pre-season fitness work allows you to get through the rest of the season. It's important that all training is personalised. Different players have different needs. You need to keep them at their peak, so when they need to perform they have the best opportunity of doing that.
RYG: How important are diet and nutrition if you want to succeed in sport?
RM: They are vital. The way you look after yourself over 24 hours is more important than what you can do in training. At Swansea City we try to push it that the boys need to take responsibility. We've told them everything and they need to take on board what's good for them.
There are three big rules that every professional sportsperson should live by. Lots of people don't follow them and they pay the cost. One, you need to sleep for a minimum of eight hours a night. Two, you need to eat at least three times during the day. It has to be proper food and you have to avoid fatty, fried food. Three, you need to train at 110%. If you do those three things, everything else becomes more individualised. We have sports scientists and nutritionists. They tailor their recommendations to the needs of the individual.
RYG: Is music important in the build-up to a match?
RM: Yes it is. Pre-match you always put the same CD on. They get to pick the lucky songs. Some CDs give you a bit of good feeling and that's essential before a game as it is in life. If you have a busy and stressful day, then music helps you relax. I think music is a fantastic friend.
After the game, because it's so emotional you're full of thoughts and everyone wants to keep himself to himself. It's difficult to relax with music. You're a bit tense looking back over the last 90 minutes. I'd say that it's before a game that music plays a big part. It makes you relaxed and it makes you feel good.
RYG: How difficult was it to ply your trade in your second language? How easy/difficult was it to learn the language?
RM: It's a good experience. We all take for granted that you can communicate with each other without even thinking that you're doing it. When you go abroad, you get frustrated because you want to express things and you can't because nobody understands you.
When I came over I came with two other Spanish boys, and it took us six months to learn the language. It helped to have those guys with me. It also helped that I felt wanted and appreciated at Wigan.
You soon realise that language is as big or small a barrier as you want to make it. There's no language that can stop you communicating with other people. I think it's important to make the effort to learn the language of the place that you're working in as soon as you can. Once you get to learn the language it's much easier to settle in the place.
RYG: What tips would you give to someone looking to learn a second language?
RM: Practise and be confident. I've met many people who can speak five or six languages. You have to believe in yourself. If one human being can speak five or six languages then why can't we all?
It's just about putting in the practice, the effort and the time. I do believe it's a skill that anyone can learn. You don't need anything special apart from a bit of concentration and a desire to learn. Also, never be afraid to be embarrassed. People are afraid to make mistakes but that's just part of the learning process.
RYG: Which is more important - attitude or talent?
RM: I've met many footballers with huge talent, but they never made it. I've met players with a fantastic attitude, but without talent and they never made it. But it's true that having fantastic attitude and a little bit of talent will get you further than having a bad attitude and fantastic talent.
RYG: What skills do people need if they want to make it in the world of football?
RM: I think there are two main ingredients of success. The first is desire. Desire is vital because when you're fighting for a dream or trying to achieve something, this usually happens at a very difficult age. Your friends want to go to parties and you need to be strong enough to say no. You need to focus your efforts into what you want to achieve. That all depends on desire - how much you want it.
The second is belief. You need to have confidence in what you want to do. If you start doubting your own abilities or what you're doing, you'll never reach your full potential. When you're a youngster with distractions around, you need to focus. Desire and belief in your own ability are the two main ingredients of success.
Failing can be great because you learn about yourself. It makes you feel alive when you achieve things.
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