If Carlsberg did promotion eh? What a day Saturday was, what a weekend it was.
You felt something special was in the offing on Friday morning, as over a hundred walkers including the chairman, the chief executive and young Joseph Kendrick himself gathered at the Wigan Athletic training centre to begin the long walk to Fleetwood.
As the hours passed the social media updates were a joy to behold and then the running totals came pouring in – £15,000, £25,000 to a current total of £33,000 and still rising. An idea organised by fellow 12th man columnist and Mudhutter editor Martin Tarbuck quickly snowballed in to one of the famous Wigan Athletic fund raising initiatives.
Many of us may have travelled to Fleetwood expecting victory, but certainly not promotion. Shrewsbury were facing already relegated Bury and unless they dropped points promotion would have to wait for another week – even if we managed to come away from the Fylde coast with all three points.
Despite a twenty minute spell in the first half Latics showed complete dominance against the Cod Army.
It was as complete a performance as you could have wished for and despite that, with Shrewsbury leading at half-time it felt like it would just be another good result on the way to the eventual destination of promotion. I’m not convinced anyone would have thought we would have sealed promotion as the half-time whistle blew on Saturday.
As Chey Dunkley sealed the win with yet another goal and the fourth of the game, news trickled through that Bury had drawn level at Shrewsbury. Still you expected a Shrewsbury goal would be forthcoming, the fact it never came triggered scenes of wild celebrations in the away end and on the pitch as Paul Cook’s men sealed promotion with three games to spare.
Like Gary Caldwell’s side two years earlier promotion came on a glorious day on the Fylde coast, after a long week at work me and Mrs Livesey decided to take the little one to Blackpool for the weekend ahead of the match. Arriving on the prom we met the aforementioned walkers and although building sandcastle’s on the beach isn’t my usual pre-match routine it certainly added to the atmosphere.
A quick taxi ride up the coast and the away end was buzzing in glorious sunshine, it was truly a fantastic atmosphere that was simply cranked up a notch when promotion was confirmed. It was wonderful to see Paul Cook celebrate alongside David Sharpe and Dave Whelan, whatever happens with the mooted take over I think Sharpe deserves credit for the way he has taken over from his Grandad. Alongside Jonathan Jackson they have re-connected with the fans and on the whole made watching Wigan Athletic an enjoyable experience once more. I’ll forgive him for the horror show that was Warren Joyce now we’ve been promoted again.
There was a fair bit of criticism of the lads after only taking a point from Bristol, following post-match celebrations on Saturday night. I was a bit surprised at the amount of criticism the lads faced and wonder if they hadn’t gone out but still only taken a point from the Bristol Rovers game whether it would have been seen as a decent point.
I can understand why there was that criticism, but equally Saturday created memories that will last a lifetime. Not having a beer on Saturday night was no guarantee of a victory on Tuesday. Especially in those conditions and with the amount of games that the lads have had to play in a short space of time. Promotion sealed with three games to go, 100 points still a realistic target and the title within our grasp. From my point of view, and again it’s only my point of view the lads earned the opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves on Saturday night.
Paul Cook is big on team spirit, we saw that with the team bonding trip to Spain in the summer. Many then said Cook was un-professional for letting his lads drink at the start of pre-season but they’ve re-paid him in spades. If a beer or two amongst team mates can foster the kind of team spirit we’ve seen this season then that’s fine by me. It’s certainly better than treating your players like you’re a PE teacher as one Warren Joyce conducted his business last season. Remember ‘Don’t be a d*ckhead’.
So as we say farewell to League One once again and close out a fantastically successful season at the DW against Wimbledon there’s time to thank Paul Cook, his staff and his players and hope our return to the Championship can mirror the last time a Scouser called Paul managed a Wigan Athletic side in the Championship. Rather than an Oldhamer called Warren.