On February 26th 2006 Wigan Athletic will have more people supporting us than ever. There will be 27, 000 at the Stadium and literally millions around the world willing Wigan Athletic to win the Carling Cup. Sure there will be a few bitter Prestonians and residents of Blackpool but all in all it will be United’s millions up against Wigan’s multi-millions. It will be the wicked witch Glazer against Robin Hood Whelan. Prima Donnas like Ferdinand up against Tony Blair’s favourite footballer in Arjan DeZeeuw. And on and on the comparisons could go.
What is certain is that Paul Jewell has fashioned a workman-like side. No thrills and no “Fancy Dan’s”. In a lot of respects they are in fact an old-fashioned team. There are no out and out stars. Jewell has signed players like Paul Scharner that nobody had heard of that fits the mould. Scharner turned up for his first game in a ludicrous white suit with blue and white stripes in his hair but as soon as he crossed the whitewash he was transformed into what can now be called a “Wigan-type player”. All grit, hard-running and determination.
With Wigan players there are no histrionics, no incessant moaning at the referee and no stalling over contracts before kissing the badge a month later. Sure Manchester United will have similar players in Scholes and Fletcher but they are out-numbered by (shall we say)the more flamboyant players such as Ferdinand and Ronaldo. That is taking nothing away from United’s work ethic because under Ferguson they could be nothing other than that. It’s just that Wigan have it in buckets. And that is why they have done so well this season. They have a keeper in Mike Pollitt that was released by United as an 18-year old and can be since described as a “journeyman”. Jewell maybe or maybe not)took a gamble on him, and as a thirtysomething it is safe to say he is the second best English keeper in the division. Yet is Sven looking? Of course not but don’t worry David James will suffice. The success of Pollitt and the success of Jewell picking up Pollitt can be seen right through the team. From Graham Kavanagh – now playing the football of his life while in his early thirties – to Jason Roberts, that if you believe others, had so much to prove. Roberts had nothing to prove. He is a wonderful footballer but more than that he is a wonderful Wigan footballer. The four players mentioned can be joined by the other twenty and you will see the same traits within all the players. Hard work, fitness, team spirit and not a little bit of skill – both on and off the pitch – is what Wigan Athletic football Club is about. And for all this they have been rewarded with this totally deserved success.
“Moneybags Wigan” they claim. Moneybags? Far from it – the money is there if needed but as we have seen over the last two transfer windows that money is not being frittered away. There are too many Leeds United’s about to make sure that Dave Whelan never does that. And I for one am proud of that. It’s a working-class ethic that prevails from the boardroom to the pitch. You can keep your tropical fish and your step-overs and showboating. Wigan is a proletariat club. They must keep it that way and that is why most of the footballing world will be rooting for Wigan at Cardiff. Sure they will attract the “Anyone But United vote” but they will also attract the vote of the people that yearn for an honest football world and in Wigan Athletic they can see a throwback to a previous age. They can see a chairman that has put his money into his home town team. They can see a manager that has worked miracles against the odds and most of all they can see footballers that you can actually look up to and like. Proper footballers, that are also decent human beings – now that makes a change. Good honest professionals such as De Zeeuw and Henchoz , Bullard and Kavanagh. A win for Wigan would be magnificent for us as Latics fans but it would also be a win for FOOTBALL and everybody from all over the world that believes in FOOTBALL.
It could be a really wonderful day.