Yesterday could well have been the day. The day Latics fans have been dreaming of for so many years, the day we finally put one over on the ‘mighty’ Manchester United, the day people actually sit up and take notice of Little Wigan as a real threat in the top flight of English football.
It might be true that victories over Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea in the last eighteen months have already achieved that to some extent, but this was the big one. Man United, the team whose fans have been most obnoxious and in-your-face since the Premier League’s formation, the team arguably most guilty of pinching what should rightfully be our supporters.
Walk round Wigan town centre and there’s a disturbingly large amount of people wearing Manchester United shirts. Be sure to give them a dirty look next time you see ’em, because they’re furthering the stereotype that Wigan is a town of glory hunters which, while true, isn’t a very good archetype to aspire to.
I’m just joking, of course, but how wonderful it would have been to finally conquer the big boys of English football in their own ginnel, the Theatre of Broken Dreams (you know, that big place near the Arndale, somewhere in Salford or something). Ah, just for once to taste the sweet flavour of victory over the Red Devils, one of the two teams we’ve yet to beat in our ascent through the leagues (the other team, for you statisticians, is Nottingham Forest). Whilst we didn’t really come close to this yesterday, it turned out to be our greatest opportunity since 2005, and were it not for two needless red cards things might well have been tasty in those final 35 minutes.
It may be true that United weren’t at their best, and haven’t exactly been steamrollering all in their path of late, but at the time of writing they’re joint top of the league and you really can’t argue with that. The return of Wayne Rooney could be the powering force behind a resurgence which should see another exciting season at the head of the Premier League table.
Wigan are facing an altogether different problem: they’re playing well, at least by their own standards, but aren’t getting the results they need. Last season, Roberto Martinez’ first, was false in the sense that there were some really bad teams. And I mean bad. Just 31 points would have kept us up. I can’t see this happening again, and with some of the ‘smaller’ teams taking points from those in the top half, the usual 39 will be a more likely target.
There is a semblance of a gap opening to those in the bottom two, and this may become crucial for Wigan survival this term. Add to this Blackpool and West Brom, who will probably be down there challenging with the likes of us and Wolverhampton and it will indeed be another bum-clencher unless those results –and, more importantly, consistent point scoring– start to appear.
Should Latics continue in the same vein as they are currently, I think we, if not our fingernails, are going to be alright. Just about. I see some definite progress (oh, where have we heard that before, eh?) with this current Wigan side, and even with some notable absentees (Caldwell, McCarthy, N’Zogbia for a short period) we’re beginning to churn out the performances.
When Roberto was named the new Latics manager, I got a sneaking (sinking?) feeling he was a little green at that stage, two, maybe three seasons away from being of Premier League standard. Well, this is his second season in the Prem and thanks to a bit of faith from Big Dave, starting to get used to life at this level. In his time at the club, he’s moulded a side to his style, a far cry from the one-dimensional stuff we were forced to play under past regimes.
Adventurous, yes. Profitable? It remains to be fully seen. But you can’t deny it’s all very exciting.
Dan, Jesus was a Wiganer
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