Having a largely turgid season makes it just as hard to select the best game as having an exciting one. Then again 2007-08 wasn’t exactly easy where Wigan Athletic were concerned. A reasonable start, followed by a run that would have seen pretty much any manager out of the door were topped off with a period of form that would have seen us challenging for Europe if only the first four months had been along the same lines.
It will come as no surprise then that the main contenders for game of the season came after the appointment of Steve Bruce.
The stand out game from a neutral’s point of view is obvious. Tell anyone, who didn’t know already, that Latics had been involved in an eight goal game this year and you’d have them checking the records of the likes of Ronaldo and Torres for a definition of ‘fill your boots’. As it was, that honour fell to Marcus Bent, finishing off his hat trick, late on, to give Latics their first victory in a good while after Blackburn had looked like overturning a three goal deficit to take the points.
Not that I’m so fickle to say the game with most goals is our best of the season. There was way too many mistakes from either side for this one to lay claim to anything other than the two fingers that it stuck up to Sky’s “Grand Slam Sunday”.
A game of the season should have more to it than that, and as a bare minimum we should be able to say that it featured a good performance. For a long while the performance that stood out was the game up at Sunderland where Latics summarily dismantled Roy Keane’s men, or at least would have done if they’d had the ability to finish their chances as it was no goals and no points meant that this was one to forget rather than celebrate.
Latics struggled all season to put together a good performance across both halves, in fact it took to the penultimate match of the season and the trip to Villa Park for everything to fall in place. It would be easy to give that game credit, purely because it was the one that confirmed safety, but it was so much more than that as well.
Villa were one of the (if not the) form teams in the division and were pushing for a UEFA place when Latics put in, clearly, their best shift of the season, topped off by two goals from man of (that) moment, Antonio Valencia. It was 90 minutes that meant much in the context of this year, but also gave plenty hope for better things next season as well. The finishing touch was seeing Martin O’Neil in “disgusted and disappointed” mode (not that I’ve anything against him, it’s just funny seeing the little man cross).
Still, that’s not enough to take away this season’s award, not whilst there are three games that represent ‘firsts’ on Latics’ record. We might not, yet, be able to claim a victory against any of the big boys, but the three draws achieved against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea marked a massive step forward in Latics standing (amongst ourselves as much as anything).
So which to choose? The Arsenal game loses ground for being a hard fought 0-0, at the JJB, and with both the other two games seeing Latics come from behind, away from home, it leaves us with a coin toss between the two. On first thoughts, the Liverpool game is in front, if only because we looked, at times, their equals which caused no end of moaning from the Spanish half of the city.
But no, that’s not enough. The fact that Chelsea were clearly a better side than us and that we did a job on them swings it. The game at Stamford Bridge looked like it was going to be one of those days where you get the tactics right, but to no avail. Then, right at the death, and in this case really at the death, someone pops up and snatches the goal that you deserved, and you wake the kids up celebrating.
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