It had to be didn’t it? It was written in the stars after the draw with Wimbledon. We just had to seal it in Doncaster, in front of the most boisterous away following for many a year. There was no way we were coming back to Lancashire without that title.
Well of course that’s all in hindsight there was a chance however slim that chance was that Blackburn could have pipped us to the title. But ask anyone in the away end at the Keepmoat on Saturday would tell you there was no way that would happen.
The atmosphere on Saturday was nothing short of astounding. Once again the most unfairly criticised set of supporters in the Football League were stood up and counted. Nearly four and a half thousand of them headed over to South Yorkshire and created a fantastic atmosphere.
The game itself was a cagey affair, Doncaster were well within the game up to the hour mark without ever really threatening. A point would have been enough, which probably hampered Latics build-up play somewhat. It’s difficult to go all guns blazing for the win when you know a point is enough.
It was a familiar link up that led to the goal. Nick Powell back in the side and back to his best threaded a fantastic ball through to Will Grigg and as he held off the defender there was no where else that ball was headed than the back of the net.
The scenes after that goal will go down in Latics folklore, the outpouring of emotion the way Will Grigg ran towards the Latics fans, the sheer ecstasy and outpouring of joy as he dived in to the crowd. The way every single man on the pitch ran to the Latics supporters, including Christian Walton and celebrated with the crowd.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything like that. As enjoyable as our last League One journey was in 2015/16 I think this last season has surpassed it. Lads who have loyally stuck with the club to right the wrongs of last season, have been joined by some excellent editions to the squad in the likes of Gary Roberts, Alex Bruce, Christian Walton, James Vaughan and Callum Elder.
These players to a man have bought in to the ethos of Wigan Athletic and indeed the ethos of Paul Cook and his team. There was many a raised eye brow when Paul Cook cancelled the pre arranged high altitude training camp last summer, in favour of a week in Spain which was widely seen as a p*ss up for the squad. I’m not sure many will be questioning Cook’s methods anymore. He has completely revolutionised this club and lifted a club on the floor to unbelievable heights.
A word of congratulations should also go to David Sharpe and Jonathan Jackson. I think they’ll be the first to admit mistakes were made last season. The sacking of Gary Caldwell and subsequent hiring of Warren Joyce was a disaster. But they’ve made good on their promise of returning the club to the Championship. To do it in some style with a fantastic cup run to boot has more than made up for the horror of last season.
On the whole it’s been nothing but upward momentum since David Sharpe took over from his Grandad. He and the board have made Wigan Athletic more accessible, more enjoyable and more connected to the community than they have been for a long time.
So it’s with trepidation that I greet the announcement that the Whelan family have agreed to sell all of their shares to the IEC consortium. It’s of course been coming and we knew that the Whelan family couldn’t sustain Wigan Athletic for ever but I do hope David Sharpe and Jonathan Jackson manage to stay part of any new setup as unlikely as that is.
They’re Wiganer’s who have managed to make watching Wigan Athletic affordable, accessible and most of all enjoyable once again. The announcement of the Whelan family agreeing to sell their shares to IEC also coincided with the announcement of a new contract for Paul Cook and his management team, this gives me some hope that the takeover won’t be as disruptive as it could be.
Paul Cook is no mug and indeed explains his departure at Portsmouth was due to the change in ownership, so there was always a worry he could follow suit at Wigan. The fact he has signed a long term contract of four years at least on the face of it tells me he’s been given re-assurances as he wouldn’t stick around otherwise.
Although I didn’t attend on Sunday the party in the park looked absolutely fantastic and was a great collaboration between Latics and Wigan Council. To have access to all of the Wigan Athletic squad in such a relaxing and enjoyable manner like that must be unique and just adds to the feeling around this club.
What many people cite as weaknesses form our strength. We’re a small family club and that connection between officials, supporters and players is there for all to see. Long may it continue as that unique appeal helps us be the club we are.
Next season will be here before we know it and it certainly won’t be anything like this season. The chances are we will lose more games than we win but if we can carry this feeling and this momentum in to next season, we’ve a chance of establishing ourselves as a Championship club once again.
First published in the Wigan Post, Friday 11th May 2018.