After the transfer window, there’s only one thing to be writing about in Jaunary, isn’t there? It’s got to be the FA Cup, but what after that? The loss of romance, how big clubs don’t respect it any more, how the fans aren’t interested in it anymore, how the authorities need to reinstate it to its rightful place at the top of the English sporting pantheonyh? No, because, despite all those trappings, the FA Cup is still the original and the best, pre-dating the Football League and always providing a great leveler, between public schoolboys and mill workers, gentlemen and players, giants and… other football clubs.
Of course the third round of the cup is synonymous with giant killing, and Latics have been involved in their fair share of David and Nick, er Goliath battles over the years. Which I guess is part of what irks a lot of the “older” generation (no disrespect, I’m starting to count myself in that bracket ) about Latics’ approach to the cup in recent years. The flip argument goes that it’s the next game (or games) that count, that losing to Bournemouth is fine if you pull in the three points against Fulham (does drawing against Bournemouth mean that a point is ok at Craven Cottage though?).
So, to be contrary, I’ve decided to take a look, not at Latics’ giant killing moments, but at the league games that came next. Does a big win give you the momentum to push on in the league or leave you knackered, does a battering take the wind out of your sails or provide a needed kick up the jacksie? It’s not scientific, nor are these the best, worst, funniest or most embarrassing cup games out there, they’re just six games involving Latics where the big boys were shown their arse by the little ones, and what happened next.
Latics 2-1 York City – 2nd February 1980
To save you wracking your brains for dates, this was the game that followed me being woken up by my dad stinking of ale, stood next to a shushing mother after returning late from the smoke. Still none the wiser? He woke me to tell me that Tommy Gore had scored the winner against Chelsea in the third round of the FA cup. As a nine year old, I wondered what the fuss was about – of course we were going to beat them, they were only in the second division.
The York game, doesn’t really help my research one way or another, mainly because there was a fortnight between the two games. Plenty of time to rest up, put the last result behind them, get their feet back on the ground and plenty of other clichés. Oh, and to get over the inevitable hangovers. Apart from there having been another game in-between, the 3-0 fourth round defeat to Everton.
So, I’m not sure where that leaves us, was the York result a carry on from Chelsea? A reaction from Everton? Or just the result you’d expect between two teams that would be separated by 20 points at the end of the season? One thing is for certain, Latics missed out on promotion by 5 points. A co-incidence? Probably.
York City 0-0 Latics – 14th November 1981
No, it’s not a mistake, and neither is me saying that the preceding game was also at Stamford Bridge. The result, a resounding 4-2 League Cup 3rd Round victory although, this time, I have no memory of being woken up to be told of Latics’ comeback from a goal down. These days it happens so infrequently I think I’d build a monument to it, so I’m guessing Dad was on a night shift.
This time there was a change in the line-ups, Langley stepping in for McMahon. I‘d suggest this was less to do with the “failure” against York, who finished 41 points behind Latics this time around, than their efforts of three nights beforehand. But in the bigger picture, Latics did pull of promotion in 1981, falling in the next round to Villa and managing only the second round of the FA Cup.
Walsall 2-3 Latics – 7th February 1987
I dare say that Balti pies were still seen as abhorrent in 1987, but away victories never go amiss. This one followed what, perhaps, should be recognised as the biggest game of Latics’ “golden generation”’s golden cup run. But, showing some things never change, that will always go down to the quarter-final against world famous, but second division Leeds United, rather than this fourth round game against high flying, Champions League (if there had been such a thing back then) challenging Norwich.
In the biggest indicator, so far, of how attitudes towards the cup have changed since then. One of the stars of the cup game, if not the season, Bobby Campbell was rested for the follow-up game against Walsall. Iain Griffiths came in, with Mark Hilditch taking up the centre-forward berth. There was another swap at the back, with David Hamilton (diddy, yes, but not that one) playing at right back for Alex Cribley.
The bigger picture saw Latics make the quarter finals of the FA cup, but would end the season disappointed, not only could they have beat Leeds, but finished a mere 2 points off a promotion which might have seen us kept some of our developing stars and then who knows where we might have ended up?
Latics 1-1 Chesterfield – 20th November 2001
2001-02 was the start of something beautiful for Wigan Athletic, but you wouldn’t know it at the time. The return of Paul Jewell had coincided with a dearth of a certain sort of player at the club. Players who thought they were bigger than the club and in a stronger position than their manager. All that added up to a pretty shit start to the season, including a 5-1 LDV Vans Trophy tonking against Wrexham that appeared to be the lowest point that Jewell could reach, leading to an appearance by the chairman at the training ground, just to make his position clear to the squad.
The previous League game, appeared to be the moment it all clicked for Jewell, his side, the same side that played in this one, had (really, really) battered Stoke 6-1 and yet no-one was surprised to see Latics relying on a lucky own goal as they struggled to a one-all draw.
Yet again, it was all about the game in-between, which proved that no low-point is ever the lowest as Latics were beaten 1-0 by Canvey (who?) Island. A weakened side? Arguably, but with Pat McGibbon in for on-loan Matt Jackson and Peter Kennedy replacing, off for a sun-bed session, Ged Brannan it should have been strong enough for most in our league (as proved by the Stoke result).
I suppose a draw has to go down as the first step on the road to recovery seeing as at the time this was arguably a relegation battle, and by the end of the season Latics were in tenth place. In the end though, it will always be a rubbish year in the cups, Latics went out of the first round in the League cup too, away at Blackpool.
As an aside, 4,071 people watched this game at the JJB, hard to imagine that number rattling around there these days, isn’t it?
Blackpool 0-2 Latics – 9th November 2002
A game that will be forever remembered for Mike Flynn sprinting towards the away end after scoring the late goal which put this game beyond doubt, and then sprinting twice as fast in the other directi
on as he was met by the onrushing hordes of Latics fans all too willing to celebrate with him. Otherwise, it wasn’t the best game for Latics, who were possibly suffering from the hangover of beating Man City in the League Cup that Tuesday night.
If the previous season had been a crap one for cups, then this one was, erm… ok getting to the third round of the FA cup and beating three barclayspremierleague clubs before falling to two through balls against Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Better was to come in the League though, bucking the trend (if you’ve spotted it yet) by combining a cup run and promotion, well better than that, with the Second Division Championship. And from such things, reputations are made.
Latics 0-1 Man City – Monday 14th January 2012
I used to play 5-a-side on a Monday night, and it was nearly always crap. Lingering hangovers and first day back at work blues meant that there was more coughing and kicking lumps than there were Cruyff turns and Panenka (not that I know what one of hose is anyway). My views on Monday night football have been affected by that, but also by the fact that every game I watch on the overly dramatic MNF! looks like top flight footballers going through the same emotions.
Basically this was a game where City dominated without creating too much and in a dull encounter left Latics fans ruing a Joe Hart save that could have got them a late draw.
The game before was one of Roberto’s many “Canvey Islands” when a (at the time) largely reserve premier league team took on League Two Swindon Town, and lost. So many of that team deserved never to wear a Latics shirt ever again, you know, the likes of Maloney, Di Santo and McArthur.
The season though ended in relative success, with another late survival and a few giant killing acts of the non-cup kind, starring and a 15th placed finish starring, you know, the likes of Maloney, Di Santo and McArthur.
So, in conclusion, I don’t think there is one. You do well in the cup and it doesn’t always lead to success in the league, but you can manage a cup quarter final and a league championship in the same season, if the wind falls right.
Failing horribly means, well it means you’re out of the cup and not much else. Three names stand out of the team for the, arguably, worse failure of recent times against Canvey Island. If Maloney, Di Santo and McArthur end up with anything like the status of De Zeeuw, Liddell and McCulloch, then last year’s loss to Swindon defeat will probably have been worth it.
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