Latics planning to keep Kirkland
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez insists Chris Kirkland still has a "vital" role to play at the club after playing down reports he could be sold. The former Liverpool keeper lost his place as first choice at the DW Stadium to on-loan Ali Al Habsi after an indifferent start to the current season. With Al Habsi unable to play against his parent club, Kirkland returned for last weekend's Premier League clash against Bolton and performed solidly in a 1-1 draw. There have been reports claiming 29-year-old Kirkland, a former Coventry prodigy who has one England cap, is considering his future but Martinez does not want him to leave. Martinez said: "I have got a great relationship with Chris and we have spoken about his role at the football club. "I told him he has been a number one for many seasons and has earned the respect of the fans and everyone. "Some of the things that have been in the press I think have been taken out of context. "We need Chris Kirkland at this football club, there is no other issue at all. "If he was to be happy and not playing, there would be something really wrong. "He is a great competitor, has great standards and his role at the football club is vital - playing or not playing." Martinez must now decide whether to recall Al Habsi or give Kirkland another run-out in tonight's Carling Cup fourth-round tie against Swansea at the DW Stadium. The Spaniard is planning to rotate his squad for the visit of his former club as he looks ahead to this weekend's trip to Fulham. Midfielder James McCarthy is missing having been ruled out for up to 10 weeks with an ankle injury sustained in a challenge from Bolton's Fabrice Muamba. Defender Emmerson Boyce is also out after pulling a hamstring but Steven Gohouri is making good progress after a calf problem. A lot of the focus may well be on Martinez tonight as he faces the club he quit in acrimonious circumstances last year. Martinez led the Swans to promotion to the Championship but then quit to take over at Wigan. Swansea have sold out their entire ticket allocation of 5,000 for the tie - despite a 460-mile round trip - and Martinez is certain to receive a hostile reception. "You cannot control that," Martinez said. "I am sure there is going to be a lot of emotions but that is a good thing in football, that there are no indifferent feelings."
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