One day, hopefully soon, it will happen. I’ll wake up and realise what exactly occurred on Sunday 8th May 2005 and you’ll have a job getting me down off the ceiling. At least until Christmas time, when we should have a pretty good idea just how realistic Mr Whelan’s plans for the club are. Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to get used to walking around totally shocked and in a state of confusion.
It would be good to say that I enjoyed every minute of the game, had full confidence from kick off that come 3pm Latics would be a Premier League club. That the 11 lads, that bore a disarming similarity to the team that got us to the first division, had it in them. That the seeming lack of bottle that had been a highlight of 2005 would disappear. It would be good, but I can’t. From kick off until final whistle I was in a state the likes of which I’ve never seen before, and will probably never see again. The second half was watched, mostly through a gap between the peak of my cap and the top of my hand and when the grinning handball expert appeared on the touchline, it was almost too much.
Like many my day started early, I managed to stop in bed until 7am, but I’d been awake for a good couple of hours then. The next 6 hours felt like months. I tried having an hour’s soak in the bath to pass the time, but when I came out found that I’d only been there for 15 minutes. I could carry on, but I’m sure you know where I’m coming from. Instead I’ll fast forward to 1pm.
Straight away we looked a different team, than the one that had muddled their way through the last few weeks. Sharp and eager with a return to the energy that marked the first half of the season. Kav and Jarrett bossing the middle of the park; Brecks and Jacko taking everything in their stride and the Duke and JR looking like they’d remembered who each other was. It was surely only a matter of time before we had something to show for our dominance. Before we could though, the Reading fans were making sure that we knew about Ipswich’s goal at Brighton, more than happy to point out that it meant we were staying down. But before their last note had been sung, we all knew Brighton had levelled it, back to square 1 and we’re going up. By the time the 2-1, 3-1 Brighton rumours started flying around, it hardly mattered anymore.
Eaden threads the ball through, Roberts bursts into the box, pulls the ball back and for Brechin, either with the deft touch of a natural born forward, or the finishing skills of an old fashioned centre half, back heels the ball across the 6 yard box. What the hell’s he doing there, it doesn’t matter; Mculloch in at the back post and we’re away. 1-0; the excellent build up making it little more than a tap in for big Lee. Before we’ve even had time to catch our breath, they’re at it again. Ellington getting the ball in the middle of their half. Slides the pass through to JR, beautiful, step over and jink; a spurt into the box and then for all the times he’s tried to beat the extra man for all the missed one on ones he takes it early and slots it home.
Deep down we knew that was game over, but did it fell like we were in the Premier League? Not yet. Some how though the Ipswich result lost it’s relevance this really was a case of ‘let’s hang on, to what we’ve got’ The nerves certainly weren’t helped by two late Forster chances, but he did the decent thing and put each right into the arms of Filan and then it was half time.
Now the half time routine is well established, the weakest bladder goes down early, empties and then gets in the queue for a pint. But not today, no one was missing any of this, the queue was too big anyway, and it was 15 minutes of milling around trying to get your head straight and getting back early for the predictably less assuring second half. That said there was no real threat, it was just the boys didn’t seem to have the same grip that they had in the first. The Reading fans seemed to give up early, no doubt helped by West Ham’s score at Watford, but their manager seemed to have them in with a chance, proving his status as one of the most intelligent man in football (he’s got a degree don’tcha know) by sticking on as many forwards as possible and lumping the ball up to them.
The last of those, a certain Mr Goater, was the one that convinced me that it wasn’t over yet. That there was time for a dodgy penalty and a couple of should have been disallowed goals it was only when JJ burst into the box and placed an inch perfect cross on the Duke’s head did it come home. We were there, they had done it. Wigan were in the Premier League. At some point between then and the party starting Reading got a goal. Offside? Probably not, but who cares? It barely mattered but Brighton had done their bit of the job, holding the tractor boys to a one all draw, we’d done it on points and our fair superior goal difference (it’s worth a point!) wasn’t called upon to save us.
And now I’m struggling for a way to end this piece, how do you draw a line under one of the most momentous moments in your club’s history? I’m not sure I even want to, not yet anyway. So I’ll leave you hanging, but before I go, it’s worth saying again;
Wigan Athletic are in the Premier League.
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