CHARLES GRAHAM - Win was a shoe-in after Roberto polished Powell

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IT has long amused me that a red hot Labour town like Wigan should have a superstitious belief in the wish-granting properties of a statue to its last Tory MP.

But many a local has polished the shiny shoe of education reformer Francis Sharp Powell over the decades, and one of the latest to do so was Roberto Martinez.

Sheltering under enormous umbrellas with ITV’s Adrian Chiles, he gave the politician’s right toe a bit of a buff with a damp sleeve in the hope it would bring him and his team good fortune in the FA Cup final.

Chiles jokingly chided the Latics manager for not having done this earlier in the season, for he might then have felt the benefit of better fortune in the Premier League too.

Since that mini-documentary was shown last Saturday, Wigan sport has experienced the most tumultuous few days imaginable.

Ecstasy was followed by agony in the space of 72 hours as the Latics became the first team ever to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.

I doubt whether shoe-polishing had much to do with either outcome, but there was certainly an element of misfortune in Wigan’s fall into the Championship.

Annoyingly it has probably paid the price (hopefully in the short-term only) for being one of the few clubs which has lived within its means.

A small squad will always struggle over a long season, but the Latics not only had their defence decimated by injury when it needed excellence most in the league, but the cup run tested them too.

I share the view that if the FA hadn’t disrespected its own famous trophy and left the Wembley showdown until after the Premier League was over, instead of shoehorning it into the middle of the final dash, Wigan would have survived in the top flight for a ninth season.

Pure speculation of course, given that McManaman might not have been available for the final and the Villa match after being stretchered off at Arsenal if the fixtures were the other way round.

But those players on Tuesday night were knackered.

Now Wigan must face up to life in football’s second tier. But it returns a far bigger club with a much larger fan base than when it last played there.

And with its sensible budgets and the fact that at least a good number of its players may stick with Wigan because it is such a friendly, family team, it should be in better shape than most to bounce back.

Let’s not forget there are also the wonders of European football to see for the first time next season, which should help boost coffers (if not tired legs).

And, for goodness sake, we are the FA Cup champions.

The thought of Wigan’s name etched onto that amazing trophy overrides everything else for me. It is a truly stupendous achievement to have it at the DW for the coming year.

That match at Wembley will live with fans forever, was watched around the globe by the best part of a billion people, and Wigan were the underdog heroes par excellence who didn’t fluke or scrap their way to a win but outclassed the world’s wealthiest team.

Pride unlimited.