I’m fast running out of superlatives to describe this very special Wigan Athletic side, that has emerged from the ashes of a terrible 2016/17 season.
Usually the FA Cup can distract from a poor league campaign, it can offer struggling clubs the chance to play without fear and upset the odds with results that wouldn’t be expected in the humdrum of a league campaign. That isn’t the case with Wigan Athletic, the form of Paul Cook’s Latics side in the cup has mirrored our league form.
People said it wasn’t clear who was the Premier League side and who was the League One side against Bournemouth in the third round, and that was even more true for the win over West Ham.
I went in to Saturday’s match feeling slightly confident but still expecting a defeat. I expected us to give West Ham a game but that the Hammers quality would shine through – how wrong I was. We didn’t only give West Ham a game but we were completely in control, for all the match. It felt comfortable, far more comfortable than many of our games this season.
A lot of the press put that down to David Moyes, his ill thought out comments about Wiganer’s preferring to have a another season of Premier League struggle rather than winning the FA Cup had set West Ham up for a fall. But I prefer to concentrate on our lads rather than West Ham, once again Wigan Athletic and Paul Cook’s side showed that they’re worthy of playing at a higher level than they are.
The atmosphere of the biggest crowd of the season at the DW no doubt played a part and one can only hope anyone who came along on Saturday decides to come back for the rest of the season. The DW is often maligned and is clearly at its best when there’s more people in it.
We’ve now played three games against Premier League sides in the last few weeks and have arguably been the better side each time, these aren’t fluke results they’re down to the fantastic players in our squad and the management team that are getting the very best out of them. Latics reward for the win over West Ham? A re-match with a certain Manchester City.
You couldn’t have really made it up when we were the last two balls left in the draw on Monday night, I had been praying for a more favourable draw like Coventry beforehand but in hindsight, the Manchester City game is probably the one the club would have wanted more than anyone else. A glamour tie, at home on BBC One no less means the club can bank some much needed cash and hopefully we can show the world once again – just what we’re about.
Finally in the midst of the FA Cup you may have been forgiven for not realising that the transfer window closed last night, and as with the summer Wigan Athletic have managed to keep hold of all the key members of our side. None more so than Nick Powell and Will Grigg, with the latter being subject of three bids from Brighton & Hove Albion totalling around £10m. It was Powell himself who turned the deal down, declaring himself happy at the DW and that he didn’t want to leave.
What a clear distinction in the atmosphere around the club from this time last year, FA Cup progress, top of the league and players not wishing to leave. A year ago Warren Joyce signed twelve players and the club never looked as directionless. Maybe relegation was the best thing that could have happened to us last season. As with the 2015/16 season it’s allowed us to re-set and in Paul Cook we’ve got a manager who is doing absolute wonders for our football club.
Let’s hope that continues as we return to league duty on Saturday.
First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 2nd February 2018