If Doctor Who was a Latics fan, I’m sure he’d jump in his Tardis in August and skip out all of the season up until April. That’s when it really gets exciting.
From September until about April, following the Latics can be like an endurance test. Throughout most of that period this season, we were stuck inside the bottom three without a home win to our name and as usual, everyone was writing us off as relegation certainties.
Yet when April came around, we turned the corner and put in unbelievable performances. If, like recently, we win an average of four out of five games for the whole season, then we wouldn’t be far off the title. That’s right folks, Wigan Athletic are in title form at the minute.
The latest trip was to the Emirates, a stadium which Latics haven’t taken a single point from in their previous five visits. Yet that could have been oh so different if Emile Heskey’s shot had gone the other side of the post and Phil Dowd hadn’t demonstrated some questionable refereeing decisions in Arsenal’s favour back in February 2007.
Since Wigan haven’t even managed a goal at the Emirates since that Sunday afternoon five years ago when Denny Landzaat produced his finest piece of magic in a blue and white shirt, it’s only logical that we went 2-0 up in eight minutes on Monday night.
Personally, I didn’t know whether to check if my TV was tuned in properly, pinch myself to check if it was really happening, or go absolutely bonkers.
Without the in-form Shaun Maloney, our chances of victory at kick off seemed even slimmer than previously, which seemed relatively impossible. Yet his replacement, Jordi Gomez, bagged a goal and an assist to prove he sometimes does demonstrate ability which slightly resembles a top flight footballer.
Joking aside, many Latics fans have been critical of Jordi ever since he walked through the door. Okay, he may be lacking in aggression and could do with an extra yard of pace, but the guy does have good technical ability and the eye for a killer pass.
Even after eight minutes and being 2-0 up though, there were still 82 minutes left to play and nobody who had watched Wigan at all this season could have predicted the game was done and dusted. Wigan being Wigan, there were hundreds of ways we could have spectacularly lost the match from that commanding position. We could have simply conceded three silly goals, we could have had a player sent off, we could have given away a last minute penalty, or the officials could have conspired against us.
For once though, none of those possible scenarios took place and little Wigan beat Arsenal, at the Emirates, even if each and every one of us were nervous wrecks afterwards, googling the symptoms for anxiety disorders after the final whistle went (or was that just me?)
The weekend overall then can be considered an almost perfect one from a Wiganer’s perspective.
Blackburn and QPR both lost, whilst Wolves’ point at Sunderland does little to help their losing battle. Whilst Bolton do have two games in hand to claw back the five points they trail us by, there’s more than a good chance they won’t win them both and will still find themselves below us when they draw level on games.
A few weeks ago, I looked at each of the bottom five team’s run ins and concluded that our five games just gone could be disastrous. The fact we’ve got through those games with twelve points and our best run of form of the entire season shows what I know, and also provides great hope for us Latics fans.
If we can continue the level of performances shown over the last few weeks, there’s no reason why we can’t win all of our final four fixtures against Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolves. Although I don’t expect it to happen (this is Wigan we’re on about, if experience has told me anything, it’s not to expect anything) but logic suggests that if you can win away at Arsenal and at home to Manchester United, you should beat the aforementioned quartet.
If we manage that, we could finish as high as eighth! Okay, I really am getting carried away now.
Apart from Wolves, I fear for Blackburn and QPR. Blackburn, for me, the latter simply have to beat Norwich on Saturday, a view supported by Steve Kean’s recent comments (granted, that does decrease its reliability), and even better, it’s the game the oh-so-clever Rovers fans are planning another protest march. That’s just what they need before a must win game, it’s a much better tactic than that of togetherness and support.
QPR’s final four fixtures look tougher than Roy Keane crossed with Razor Ruddock, Tottenham, Chelsea, Stoke and Man City are never easy opponents, but it’s possible that three of the four will have ambitions of their own to play for and millions of points at stake. If QPR need three points on the final day and City are still in the title race, I’ll be waving goodbye to Sparky before a ball was even kicked.
Bolton may just be saved by the fact they’ve got two games in hand, not that they count for anything at the minute though. They seem to have enough winnable fixtures to climb out of the bottom three with Swansea and West Brom visiting the Reebok, whilst they travel to Aston Villa and finally Stoke. Sunderland and Tottenham are their two other opponents, and whilst not the most winnable, much stranger things have happened, last night for example.
Before I finish, I just wanted to comment on the 20 years of the Premier League awards that have been announced, with nominees being put forward for each category.
I’m alarmed at the lack of a mention for Wigan Athletic in there (not), but I’m certain Julius Aghahowa would have won best celebration if he’d had a goal to celebrate in the first place.
For the record, my winners for each category would be:
Best Player: A tough one, but I personally think Thierry Henry is the best player the top flight has seen in the last 20 years, at his peak he was unbelievable, an unstoppable goalscoring machine. He just pips the lies of Marlon King, Kristopher Haestad and Andy Webster to the award.
Best Manager: Longest serving, most successful, only one knighted, I think Sir Alex has this one in the bag.
Most Memorable Quote: Whilst Keegan’s rant wasn’t bad, Mohamed Diame’s remarks about the state of Wigan town were something else.
Best Goal: Forget the Bergkamp’s, the Beckham’s or even the Bullard’s, Maynor Figueroa beats all.
Best Match: From a Latics point of view, the battle of Bramhall Lane takes some beating, but for entertainment rather than nerve shredding drama, Stan Collymore’s finest hour takes some beating.
Best Save: John Filan’s penalty save against Nobby Solano, anyone?
Goal of the Week: The awards are being thrown out like confetti this week, but Tevez and Aguero’s first goals at Carrow Road on Saturday were exceptional.
Graham Kavanagh of the Week: Andy Carroll proved he was worth £35 million (in Jamie Carragher’s eyes if nobody else’s) with a late winner at Wembley, whilst Di Matteo didn’t have a bad weekend either, but for sheer drama, Tevez’s hattrick could prove to be the precursor for an outstanding late twist in the title race.
Graeme Souness of the Week: After a pathetic performance against his former club, William Gallas is a strong contender for this award, but Ashley Young’s second dive in a week earns him this title.
Quote of the Week: Kenny Dalglish wins it again: “When I realised Howard Webb was officiating the game against Everton, I thought Manchester United would win.”
Boselli Watch: Mauro has came out fighting in the media, stating he’ll be twice the player in his second spell in England if given the chance. In that case, I can’t wait to see him achieve his tally of two goals then.