Is that really it? Has all this will we/won’t we finally been put to bed? Can I now pack away my copy of ‘The Lonely Planet Guide – Watford’.
You may nod, and say yes, once again we have tunnelled under the fence, avoided the searchlights, and have made it across the Alps into safety, ready for another season. But, until I see next year’s fixture list and it says we are playing Man Utd etc, I’ll always still be expecting something to pop up on Sky Sports reading ‘News Breaking News: Wigan relegated. Full report to follow.’
Although not a great lover of conspiracy theories, I’m suspicious that the FA might find some clause whereby if you’ve been in the bottom three for blah-di-blah number of weeks, you get a three point reduction, and if you have a funny village-idiot type manager or a big blue fanbase, you’re granted relegation immunity.
If the telly people totally controlled football, that’s what would happen. Dave Whelan would have been taken into a room in May 2006 and told that after careful consideration, Wigan Athletic wouldn’t be granted a second series, because they just aren’t popular enough.
Maybe I’m being paranoid, but we seem to have even more people willing to have a pop at us than ever before these days, and that’s what made the win against Stoke even more gratifying.
I can vividly remember how I felt during that game at Bramall Lane those few years ago, and I must say I can’t remember that feeling being as intense as it was at Stoke. Is that an aging thing, fading memory, or because in Sheffield, it came down to A versus B, and did not also depend on the results in three other games? Did I hope for that result against Stoke? Yes, I most certainly did. Did I expect that result against Stoke? I wasn’t so sure, to be totally honest. We needed snookers, and although they were easy snookers, we still had a long pot with half the pocket hidden.
An old, well trodden cliché would be to describe this season as a rollercoaster ride. It is however, f-all like a rollercoaster ride. On a rollercoaster, at least you can see what’s about to happen. If there is a rollercoaster that runs in total darkness, with a faulty seatbelts, crooked rails, and where people lob nasty things at you at every given opportunity, then yes, it might be like being on a rollercoaster.
On the way down to Stoke, I was listening to a certain radio station that talks about sport. One of the presenters, an ex-footballer with a noticeable Liverpool and Midlands bias, ‘doggedly’ stated that Wigan would go down, and discounted suggestions that the Latics could possibly win back to back games. He has said all season that Wigan will go down, and has not exactly been gushing with his praise following any wins. The victory over Stoke was a two-fingered raspberry of a gesture to this man, and the countless others who had us down by April.
On the way home, the same presenter invited telephone calls from Wigan supporters on the subject of Wigan Athletic being merely a stepping stone to bigger clubs. Yes this is true, and so what? Was this meant to deflect attention from his misguided confidence, or perhaps to mask the taste of sour grapes, and does this really detract from the club’s achievement?
It does however, make you wonder how many of the players who showed so much relief and unashamed joy on the pitch at Stoke, sprayed the manager and chairman with champagne, and danced for the fans, will be at the club by next the start of next season? But in a way, that’s what makes it exciting.
Like a refuge centre for abandoned pets, at Wigan Athletic, we have always taken the lost and confused little darlings in, cared for and nurture them, and then sold them on to good homes, whilst making a tidy profit. Our club motto should be ‘Remember: we can’t keep them, so don’t get too attached’.
If we had virtually the same team season after season, we’d know exactly what to expect. If we signed household names, you’d know how they played, and would already have an opinion. We don’t do that though. We sign players we know nothing about, and there’s always the possibility of unearthing the next Valencia or Palacios that could turn a season round on its head. When they get predictable, we sell them again.
For the next few months therefore, once again this forum will turn its attentions to the transfer market. After uniting dark with light for the final two games of the season – just when it mattered most, we will be back to divided opinions on the merits of potential signings, who should leave, who should stay, and how if so-and-so is signed, we’ll have to change the formation and tactics. We will bicker, accuse each other of knowing nowt, and question the manager and chairman’s sanity right up until next May, when someone presses a big reset button, and it starts again.
Anyway, onwards and upwards, then downwards, then upwards, then downwards etc.
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