Tim Martin is one of the sector's most respected individuals. Last year, the JD Wetherspoon boss picked up the Best Individual award at the 2000 Retailers' Retailer of the Year Awards û an accolade voted for by his industry peers. This year JDW followed up with the Best Concept trophy, proving again the high regard that his competitors have for his business approach.

Some might argue then that Martin's full-on attack on fellow pub operators in the pages of last week's Morning Advertiser was ungracious to say the very least. (see Main Headlines).

Martin may be right that the leading trade associations, BLRA and ALMR, have got both the arguments and tactics wrong over licensing reform. "At best na´ve and at worst stupid" is how he put it.

But raising issues is one thing; getting things done is another. That needs a concerted approach and co-operation. Martin is known as a maverick and not being a "joiner". That gives him the luxury of being able to criticise from the sidelines.

His targets will say that he is late to the licensing debate and the fact that he has refused to join with fellow operators within the industry bodies means he has failed to grasp the serious debate and hard work that has been going on for years û not just weeks.

However, Tim Martin has proved he has a knack for hitting the mood and the important issues. In this new role of champion of the ordinary publican he has pinpointed one of the big challenges now facing the industry - the lack of representation and voice at outlet level and the need for the sector as a whole to include and encourage the enterprising publican in the major industry debates and advances.

Tim Martin has shown he has both the respect and leadership qualities that demand that he puts down the megaphone and takes his place at the forefront of the industry.

One man who has put his time and money where his mouth is this past year is Martin's successor as winner of the 2001 Best Individual award at Retailers' Retailer - Chorion boss John Conlan. He has actively led the fight-back against Westminster council over late-night licensing.

Tim Martin, and indeed a few other trade luminaries, would do well to add some moral and financial support to Conlan's campaign.

As they say, talk is cheap. It's action that counts.