Talking Sport - Cup run a hindrance? No, a big help

Phil Wilkinson

Phil Wilkinson

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IT’S all come down to this. Three matches – hopefully, three matches – that will decide whether Wigan Athletic’s campaign will go down as a success or a missed opportunity.

Until now, it’s been an enjoyable season.

The Europa League campaign was historic, their revival under Uwe Rosler exciting, and their run to the FA Cup was an unexpected bonus.

But the No.1 priority at the start of the season was to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

After 60 games played in all competitions, automatic promotion was out of reach. Few teams would have been able to cope with the workload Latics had this term and secure a top-two finish, especially given the two changes in management and huge player turnover since the summer.

But the play-offs gives Latics chance to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt, and they go into it having produced largely promotion form since Rosler took charge last December. If they can hold their form – and their nerve – Latics could be set for a fifth trip to Wembley in the space of 13 months.

Rosler’s squad rotation has frustrated some at times (usually after a rare defeat) but now is when Wigan may feel the benefit of the way he has managed his squad. They go into Friday’s home showdown with QPR with energy, as well as confidence.

The pressure is on.

Yet while some saw the negative of a good Cup run – mainly, the extra workload – the experience of beating three Premier League clubs in the FA Cup, and then pushing Arsenal all the way to Wembley – should serve them well.

When it comes to big-games, Latics know how to cope with expectations. With dreams. They know how to ignore any predictions and talk of underdogs and favouritism, and fight for a result.

A return to the top-flight is within touching distance.

It’s up to the town to get behind the lads and cheer them over the line.

LEEDS are a well-oiled machine boasting many quality players, especially in their backs.

Can Wigan beat them? Of course. But take out their inspirational captain, last season’s top tryscorer, their two best props and an in-form centre, and to do so would need everyone to be on their game – which they weren’t last Friday.

But if there’s a silver-lining to the injuries Wigan are currently battling, it’s that ultimately it will increase the strength of their competition for places, and cover, when it matters the most.

IN paying tribute to departing coach Tony Rea, London Broncos chairman David Hughes thanked him for “putting us in a position to go forward”. In other words, bottom of the table.

DOES Wigan have more pulling power than New Zealand?

A crowd of 25,529 turned up to watch a Test match between Australia and the Kiwis at Allianz Stadium in Sydney last Friday.

On the same ground three months earlier, there were 6,000 more there to watch Wigan play Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge.

SNOOKER exists in that grey area between ‘game’ and ‘sport’. In my book, any activity in which you put weight on while you’re doing it can’t really be a sport.

But there’s no denying how dramatic Mark Selby’s World Championships win was last night. It was as thrilling and compelling and gripping as an episode of ‘24’. Well, almost...