“Hi again Bernard. As I write this (12-15pm Sat) you are no doubt inside the JJB Stadium waiting for kick off, (Latics v Manchester United – BF) so good luck and my fingers are crossed for a memorable victory. I thought it might be of interest if I wrote a few words about some of the various cup matches that I played in during my time at Springfield Park.
I’ll start off with our FA Trophy run in the 1972/73 season. This was a marvellous time for players and fans alike, we played eight games in all before reaching Wembley and one of my lasting memories was winning the semi final replay against Stafford Rangers at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park. And the party that followed it in the Springfield Park social club when we got back, which was filled to the rafters with our wonderful supporters.
“One thing that I could never understand about that cup run was the venue for the semi-final, Port Vale’s ground, situated about ten miles north of Stafford, and remember this was not over two legs, the Oldham venue was a replay. A semi -final like that with a once in a lifetime chance for most of the players to play at Wembley should surely have been at a more neutral venue. I think though that it probably made us even more determined to win through.
“Now a mention for Graham Oates a very classy midfield player who scored in five of the nine ties during that FA Trophy run including the only goal in the semi-final replay. A mention should also go to the late Ian Gillibrand, only five foot seven but a giant in stature in our wonderful defence, Gilly was our brilliant sweeper before sweepers were invented! Unfortunately, we really did not perform as well as we could have done in the final against a good Scarborough team, but our fans were certainly up to their usual standard, cheering us on for the full ninety minutes.
“There is nothing to rival the magic of the FA Cup, and during my time at Wigan, I was fortunate to play in some memorable ties, none more so than the ones during the 1977/78 season when we beat York City 1-0, Sheffield Wednesday 1-0, with the only goal of the game coming from Maurice Whittle’s fabulous left footed free kick, and then losing 4-0 at St Andrews to a Birmingham City team that contained the likes of Trevor Francis Jim Montgomery, Keith Bertschin and Terry Hibbitt.
“Birmingham at the time were in 16th place in the old first division and above the likes of Middlesbrough, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City. Despite the heavy defeat I am sure the Wigan fans who were at the game will remember how well we played and deserved better than the result that we got in front of 30,000 fans. The Birmingham City manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, came straight into our dressing room after the game.
“We were sat there, very disappointed, when Sir Alf’s voice broke the silence and he said to us all, “Lift your heads up, you can be very proud of your performance and you are a credit to yourselves, to your club and to your fans, well played”, and with that he turned and headed off towards his own team’s dressing room. Words that I am sure all the players and management team of Wigan Athletic on that day will never forget.”
Mick then took a break to take in the Preston North End v Sunderland Championship clash and obviously returned home very happy after seeing ‘his’ Lilywhites stun the Black Cats. He was also disappointed about the Latics result and enquired as to how the Latics fared. I e-mailed back…
“Thanks for more of those wonderful memories Mick. As for the United game, we played very well in the first half and Baines’ goal was an absolute cracker! That lad is destined to play for England. (ahem – BR) He is certainly a better left sided player than Wayne Bridge and Latics, if they continue to struggle (just four wins from our last 19 now) may have a difficult job to keep hold of him when the transfer window opens in January. Sir Alex Ferguson must have dusted down his hair dryer in the dressing room at half time because United came out for the second half and obliterated us. Oh, and for those people who think Wayne Rooney is over hyped – they are talking absolute rubbish. He was the best player on the pitch by a mile.
“Being in the Premiership is a dream come true to fans like me and on many occasions last season players like Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Edgar Davids, Steve Gerrard, John Terry – and Pascal Chimbonda mesmerised me. In fact, Henry is without doubt the best player I have ever seen ‘live’.
“I feel desperately sorry for people like Arthur Horrocks, Jack Sudworth and Ronnie Charlton, all people who deserved to live this dream that I’m living. Stalwart fans like the, err, loud Jack Meredith and little Ernie Claxton also deserved to see these days. However, I digress and can talk and write about Latics and their fans forever. So I’ll pack it in now!
“Preston seem to be going great guns and I suspect Roy Keane (then the Sunderland manager – BR) borrowed Fergie’s hair dryer to use on his players later that day! Although Latics and Preston were rivals for many years after our election into the Football League, it would be great to continue that rivalry in the Premiership. Just imagine, Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton and Preston North End – almost half of the Premiership fixtures would be local derby games. All we would need then would be for Burnley and Blackpool to finally get their acts together.”
“Hi again Bernard, it really is good to swap memories with you and I must agree with you about Rooney even though I am not a Manchester United fan or a Liverpool fan or a fan of any other Premiership club, apart from our beloved Wigan Athletic”
Speaking about Wayne Rooney, he commented,
“The lad is a rare talent, and managed in the right way, he can become the best player since Pele, (but that is just my opinion). I am writing now after a couple of drinks on a Saturday evening at my local pub, The Plough at Eaves, so please forgive any spelling errors or bad grammar. I haven’t seen Baines’s goal yet but one of my mates in the pub said that it was sensational, so I look forward to seeing it later.
“Yes, it is wonderful for the club to be playing at the very top level and I agree with you that it is a shame that some of the people who put so much into the club in the past are not here now to enjoy it. I really envy you for having had the pleasure to see the likes of Thierry Henry play in your wonderful stadium. Oh, by the way our fourth stand at Deepdale is going to be built during next summer which will hopefully stop you lot from singing “Three stands, you’ve only got three stands”. (He is referring to a pre season friendly Latics played at Deepdale – BR).
He then signed off and I sent a short message back…
“Sad to report Micky, that the Preston supporters’ chant of “Three stands, you only need three stands!”, will ring true if the Premier League and the clubs within it, Latics included, don’t get their act together and give football back to the fans by lowering their astronomical match ticket prices. It’s been great Mick, until next time, I wish you and your family all the best.”
++ Mick is pictured celebrating
Latiocs’ last ever Lancashire Junior Cup win with Tommy Gore, Arthur Horrocks and Jeff Wright’s right arm!
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