Temperature Check

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Being able to get coherent words onto paper under pressure, or in times of high emotion is a sign of a good writer. I could barely write a text message on the way home from Monday night’s game, let alone an article, and have spent the days between now and then too tired and emotional to think about, pretty much anything really.

So, yeah, I’m a crap writer, but the real reason I’m telling you this is point how good (doffs cap) Andy Vaughan’s article from earlier this week is.  Vaughanie has always been sharp, but to pull it off when temperatures were still running high takes a real touch. Andy manages to say it all, really, so much that I nearly didn’t bother writing anything myself, but, hey, we’re supposed to be a Wigan Athletic site so it would be wrong to let the greatest result in our club’s history pass without saying something.

Greatest result? Really? I suppose that thought owes a lot to the media hype about Pep and his team, but it’s just as indicative of how far both clubs have travelled since that day in May 2013. Of course the bottom has fallen out of our league position but City have travelled just as far in the other direction, from nouveau riche wannabes to “the greatest club side the world as ever seen”.

Of course that’s nonsense, but they’re good, really good, a gnat’s chuff away from those “great” sides of the Premier League era and within touching distance of the fading Spanish giants. So, yes, whilst 11.05.13 will probably always be the club’s greatest day for all sorts of reasons, the football divide means it’s hard to imagine Latics ever achieving a more unexpected, hard fought, against all odds victory than this one and there are plenty of contenders already.

I’ve heard people say that this was City on an off day, that their side was weakened and they just weren’t very good. Yet they were still superb, the way they moved the ball from front to back, stretched our defence from side to side, defended calmly and coolly and made it nigh on impossible to close them down with any real intent was a sight to behold. Their 81% possession wasn’t wasted, there was near constant pressure and a fairly steady level of panic in my seat, if not in our 18 yard box.

This was different from the Cup Final, not only because a league one side but because we weren’t “the better side” on the day, we out thought and out fought them but there was never a moment in the game where you didn’t think that one mistake, one moment of brilliance, one body that didn’t quite get put on the line was all it would take for City to get a grip of the game and the scoreline. Even as the last grains of sand slipped through the egg-timer simulator, on Anthony Taylor’s Smart Watch, Kevin de Bruyne threatened to run riot.

That he didn’t and City lost is down to the nous of Paul Cook and his advisors, the energy of a team that looked dead on its feet a couple of weeks ago and the passion of that team and the 14,000 fans there to back them. The sending off, didn’t matter a jot, not to City’s dominance, to their inability to score or to the fact that they lost the game. The difference, in the end, came from a mistake, born from the arrogance of an England international thinking he could just let a ball run past him, but pounced upon by Will Grigg, practically dead on his feet, but still able to summon up the last dregs of energy to out run the City defence and slot the ball home deliciously.

Where the sending off mattered is in what happened after the game. Aguero clearly lost his head as Delph left the field and, whilst I wouldn’t pretend to know the mind of the lad who, erm… engaged him, that made him an easy argument for abuse. Neither would I seek to justify the player’s actions, but I’m not surprised, shocked or disgusted by them either. He didn’t seek it out, these things happen when tempers are frayed and worst things have happened at sea. There’s no way of knowing what was said and then no way of knowing whether he over-reacted.

The massive over-reaction came over the pitch invasion. I doubt there’s a ground outside the top flight where a victory over that team, in that way, wouldn’t be followed by an overflowing of emotion that spilled onto the pitch. It’s what happens, it’s what’s happened since the dawn of time and, until they finally turn TV into a TV only game, it’ll probably carry on happening too. We’ve all seen the videos of what happened in front of the away end and we’ll all have seen more vociferous “goading” happen between fans, during games, without it resulting in the removal of fixtures and fittings.

The City fans reactions were as much to with the sending off, with the result, with the loss of their quadruple and with the perception that they shouldn’t lose to the “likes of Wigan”. Of course they shouldn’t but these things happen in football, some of the lads in that City end will remember when they were sh*t and hopefully will have remembered they’d have done exactly the same as the Wigan fans did if they found themselves in a similar situation.

Hopefully they took it all with good grace, if only because I’ve never really thought of City as one of those clubs with a sense of entitlement, oh apart from in 1999, that season where they expected to walk through the our League and we watched as they flooded the pitch after cheating their way to Wembley ;-).

Whether that sense of entitlement extends to the City manager is a matter of debate. Some people have seen Pep’s post-match comments as a slight on Latics’ achievement. I saw a man, who doesn’t like the media, upset by defeat and wary of saying too much in case it got him in trouble. A kind of “we lost, they won, what do you want me to say” and to be fair, that’s probably how most managers feel at that moment in time and I’d rather see honesty than empty platitudes anyway.

Not that I was paying attention at the time anyway, I was back at home, opening a bottle of red and getting ready to watch the game again… or wake up at 6:30, still fully clothed, still buzzing and too tired, and emotional to think about it too much. Until now when I still worry I’m too close to it to do the evening justice, still better that than the man who was overheard walking away from the ground bemoaning that the FA Cup quarter final was “another game we could do without”*.

See you on the other side…


*yes, I know Wiganers and there’s a fair chance he was on the wind up, but I know Wiganers and there’s just as much chance he was being deadly serious.

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