Posted April 23, 2013 by George Davis in Articles
 
 

Wigan Athletic: An Unlikely Journey to the FA Cup Finals

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Wigan Athletic players congratulate themselves after a job well done. They defeated Millwall 2-0 to advance to the FA Cup Finals

 

When most football fans hear about Wigan Athletic, they picture this relatively young club that’s punching above their weight in the top-flight of English football. Ever since the Latics entered the Premier League in 2005, they have never been relegated.

 

Some naysayers believe that Wigan’s place in the top league is undeserved, since they do not have the “history” associated with older clubs. In fact, Wigan Athletic was founded only in 1932 and wasn’t even a member of The Football League before 1978.

 

However, Wigan Athletic’s tiny streak hasn’t come without effort. For years on end, they have faced the peril of going back down into the Championship, but they always managed to escape due to their late-season efforts. This season is no different.

 

Now, aside from the perennial relegation battle, Latics fans have another thing to look forward to in the following days: The FA Cup Finals. In the club’s 80-year history, this is the first time they’ve reached the finals of the world’s oldest association football competition.

The journey towards the Finals wasn’t easy. There were several close matches that could’ve gone either way. Fortunately, the guys from the DW Stadium were able to pull it off.

 

Being a Premier League club, Wigan got automatic qualification for the third round. Their first opponent was League One side AFC Bournemouth. Their January 5 match ended in a 1-1 draw, which meant a replay was to be scheduled. Wigan won the replay 10 days later 0-1.

 

In the fourth round, the Latics faced Macclesfield Town and won 0-1. An early 7th minute penalty kick by Jordi Gomez decided the game. The Conference National side tried to equalize for the rest of the match but they were unable to score.

 

In the fifth round tie versus Huddersfield Town, Wigan won handily 1-4. Arouna Kone scored two goals, while Callum McManaman and James McArthur had one each. With the win, the Latics were on to the sixth round, were they would face fellow Premier League side Everton.

In the sixth round, Wigan would shock Everton with three goals in four minutes to win the match with a clean sheet. McManaman and Gomez scored again, and Maynor Figueroa chipped in one of his own. It was quite the upset, given that Everton frequently finished higher than Wigan in the Premier League.

 

In the semifinals, the Latics journeyed to Wembley to face Millwall in a match that was memorable for both good and bad reasons. Brilliant goals by Shaun Maloney and McManaman ensured the win at 2-0, but violence marred the event when groups of Millwall fans fought each other.

 

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Shaun Maloney(A) and Callum McManaman(B) scored the two goals to put the Latics over the Lions

 

Despite the notable lack of Wigan fans present at Wembley due to distance and time constraints, the Latics persevered and booked their first trip to the Cup Finals and a return to the National Stadium. They are the obvious underdogs against Manchester City, five-time winners and ten-time finalists.

 

The FA Cup Finals hold a special meaning for Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan. As a player for the Blackburn Rovers in the 1960 Finals, Whelan broke his leg just 42 minutes into the match. His playing career never picked up again and ended soon after.

 

Now that the Latics are in the Finals, Whelan will be the one to lead the team out at Wembley. It is a great honor to do this, and the Wigan owner has waited 53 years for this day.

 

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Despite lacking in number, Wigan Fans made up for it with intensity and passion

 

As of this writing, Wigan Athletic surely still has a lot on their plate. Aside from the upcoming Finals match on May 11 against heavily-favored Manchester City, the Latics are engaged in a desperate fight for survival in the Premier League. With the brilliant Roberto Martinez at the helm, the club has already made history, and they are set to make even more out of what they’ve been given.

 

Images source: Zimbio


George Davis