Has anybody read the book/watched the film Trainspotting? It basically demonstrates how taking Heroin, like spotting trains, is attractive to those who do it but to everyone else seems inexplicable and unpleasant. I’d put forward the argument that being a Wigan Athletic fan could fit into the same category, as the previous twelve months have perfectly demonstrated.
Look at it from the perspective of a Manchester United fan, or indeed someone who isn’t interested in football. It would be fair for them to conclude that being a Wigan fan is boring and lacking in ambition, excitement and success. Who would want to support a team that fails to fill its modestly sized stadium; only looks to finish 17th every season and sells its key player every summer? Why not just jump on the Old Trafford bandwagon and support a team who has consistently enjoyed success, stability and development over the last twenty years?
Whilst I’m condoning the use of heroin in this article, I am defending the role of the train spotter: the drummer boys and Darren Ormes of this world who suffer from the aforementioned drawbacks of following Wigan, but continue to do so regardless. It can’t be all bad can it, otherwise we’d all jump ship in the summer.
It’s fair to say that 2012 has summed up the strengths and constraints of following the Latics. We’ve suffered nineteen league defeats, two embarrassing cup exits and the yearly departure of our best player (Victor Moses, plus Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame for nothing.) When you put it like that, it doesn’t make those rainy Tuesday nights at Springfield Park seem worth it, does it?
Yet, the inconsistency of Wigan Athletic makes it all the more exciting. We may have lost to the likes of QPR and Fulham but we have also beaten Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. I’m not sure any other Premier League team can boast that.
2012 may have started badly, with us marooned in relegation issues on fifteen points, and it may have ended in fairly similar fashion; but what went on in between is a story to behold, enough to warrant the publication of a book based on the heroics.
I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to but for those who don’t understand the enthralling nature of train spotting, I’ll explain.
On 17th March, after two fairly useless 1-1 draws against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion, most fans left the DW Stadium knowing survival was a long shot. With just 22 points from twenty nine games and 18 required from the next nine to reach the magical forty point mark, mathematics pointed to certain relegation. The fixture list too indicated similar, with the ex-Big Four all to play plus tricky fixtures against Stoke, Fulham and Newcastle before May; the two ‘winnable’ games, against Blackburn and Wolves in May, could have been irrelevant.
Often mocked by many for his blind optimism, Roberto never gave up and after two surprise wins, the fans slowly started to believe as well. Liverpool and Stoke were brushed aside in March and only a dodgy linesman denied a point from Stamford Bridge. Things were looking up, but Wigan were still 19th.
Manchester United were next up at the DW, surely they would come to Wigan and take three points, like they had done so many times in the past. They were still in the middle of a fierce title race, yet Wigan’s desire was greater and even an incorrectly disallowed goal from Victor Moses couldn’t stop Latics winning 1-0. A super strike from new found talisman Shaun Maloney won the match and the result would eventually cost United the title.
Then to the Emirates on a wet Monday night, there was just no stopping the Wigan bulldozer, Jordi Gomez and Franco Di Santo struck early to earn a 2-1 win, but it wasn’t without a nervy eighty odd minutes of stout defending.
Despite a slip up at Fulham (we’ll brush over that one) the performance of the season saw Champions League chasing Newcastle flattened 4-0 by half time. The eyes of world football were oddly on Wigan, this is a side remember, with no fans, no history and no ambition. Who on earth would support them?
A hard fought battle at Ewood Park (and the appearance of a chicken on the pitch) was won by Antolin Alcaraz’s late header. It consigned neighbours Rovers to inevitable relegation and fired Wigan to the forty point mark, six wins in eight games, after just four in 29 previously, had kept Wigan up again.
The final game against already relegated Wolves was more of a party than the relegation decider it could have been if results had been different. Wigan won 3-2 and we could witness extraordinary events unfold at the Etihad without a care in the world.
The summer allowed us to recuperate from heart stopping drama and wonder where we could finish if the late season form was carried on into August and beyond. Inevitably, it wasn’t, but it was still nice to dream.
Roberto’s never-say-die attitude and belief in a new and risky 3-4-3 formation reaped wonders from March onwards and I’m sure his spirit will serve us well going in to 2013 in a relegation battle once again. At least we managed to keep him over the summer, despite reported interest from Aston Villa (again) and an interview with Liverpool.
2012 may have ended similarly to 2011 but hopefully, 2013 can provide the highs of 2012. Looking at the fixture list, wins against Liverpool, Man City, Newcastle, Tottenham and Arsenal should be enough to seal survival. Then we can enjoy the final home fixture against already relegated Aston Villa and watch the title race unfold again.
It may come with health risks and it may lead to you questioning your sanity but watching Wigan in 2013 is surely a far better way to get your kicks than through heroin, Pete?
Have a great New Year.