To the dream was the slogan from sponsors Budweiser during the competition and I wrote this soon after the final to relive some great memories.
My hometown team achieved the ultimate childhood dream on Saturday 11 May 2013. Against the odds, Wigan Athletic, whose squad cost £11m, defeated last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City, who have 11 players costing £11m or more each, to lift the FA Cup.
The road to Wembley started back in January, with the hope of a cup run alive in the minds of all Wigan supporters. A cup run for Wigan usually means getting to the 5th round, so it was with usual trepidation that Wigan started their cup campaign at home to a team in England’s third division, AFC Bournemouth.
A 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium, with an equalising goal from Jordi Gomez, spared their blushes and a replay was required on the South Coast. A goal from Mauro Boselli in the replay sent Wigan through to Round 4, and a trip to non league Macclesfield Town. To the dream.
As fans trudged through the snow to head to the game, thoughts of reaching Wembley were a million miles away. Once again one goal was enough, scored again by Jordi Gomez and Latics were through to Round 5. The fans started to believe that something special could be happening. To the dream…..
Huddersfield Town stood between Wigan and a place in the quarter final. A clinical performance saw Wigan run out 4-1 winners in Yorkshire. Wigan had only reached the quarter final stage once before, back in 1987. A 2-0 defeat by Leeds United ended that particular dream, with fans enduring a living cup nightmare since then.
The quarter final against five time FA Cup winners Everton, again away from home, provided one of the most remarkable passages of play in football history, nevermind the FA Cup. The match was poised at 0-0 with 30 mins played when Maynor Figueroa rose above everyone in the box to nod Latics in the lead, cue wild celebrations in the away end. No sooner had everyone calmed down, winger Callum McManaman made it 2-0.
Mass hysteria was now setting in amongst the Wigan fans as that man Gomez literally passed the ball into the net from 25 yards. Wigan were 3-0 up after scoring three goals in as many minutes. Fans began to plan a weekend away at Wembley for the semi final. The cup run was turning into a positive distraction from the relegation battle the club were involved in in the Premier League.
Wigan had booked a place in their first ever FA Cup semi final against Championship team Millwall. To the dream…..
Wigan dominated the semi final from start to finish and goals from Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman sealed a historic victory. Wigan were in their first ever FA Cup final. The feeling amongst the fans that day was unbridled joy. It couldn’t get any better. They would enjoy the final, no matter what the result.
And so to Saturday 11th May 2013. The greatest day in Wigan Athletic’s history. 23,000 fans made the trip to the capital to see Wigan take on the 2011 FA Cup winners Manchester City. A true David v Goliath encounter. City were the odds on favourites to lift the cup. Backed by a billionaire owner, City were the new rich kids on the block. City’s squad boasted talented players such as Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure. In many people’s eyes, Wigan were just there to enjoy the day and not cause to much of a nuisance to the rich boys from down the road as City aimed to win their sixth FA Cup.
I have lost count of the number of times I have watched Ben Watson’s 90th minute header to win the FA Cup for Wigan. In a game which Wigan thoroughly deserved to win, the goal was greeted with utter disbelief by the hordes behind the goal. Wigan Athletic…founded in 1932….only in the Football League since 1978…fighting relegation (again) from the Premier League had just recorded one of the major cup shocks of all time.
Wigan have since been relegated from the Premier League after eight seasons, and whilst this has hurt fans and players alike, the overiding feeling is that the FA Cup is the one everyone wanted to win. That achievement will never be forgotten and the name of Wigan Athletic will forever be engraved on the famous trophy.
So the next adventure begins in August. Wigan will be playing in the Championship and, for the first time ever, playing in Europe. By winning the cup, Wigan will go straight into the group stages of the Europa League and some of the biggest names in European football could roll up at the DW Stadium. Remarkable for a club that ,10 years ago, had never played in the top division in England, and the closest Wigan fans got to a trip to Europe was a game against Welsh opponents such as Cardiff or Swansea.
The rollercoaster ride of a Wigan Athletic fan shows no signs of slowing down.
To the (new) dream…..
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