BEN Watson reflected on “the greatest moment of my career” after his goal won the FA Cup for Wigan Athletic.
The midfielder’s campaign has been wrecked by a badly-broken leg, and he only made his long-awaited return last weekend after six months out.
But he was in the right place at the right time to secure Wigan’s first major trophy in front of 86,254 – the biggest crowd ever to watch a Latics fixture.
Watson, who’d only been on the field for nine minutes after replacing Jordi Gomez, popped up in stoppage-time to nod past Joe Hart to ensure Manchester City end the season trophyless.
And as he emerged from the dressing rooms, he was struggling to put into words the magnitude of the achievement both on a personal and collective level.
“I can’t really explain it to be fair,” Watson told the Evening Post.
“It’s been a long six months for myself, and it’s just a dream come true.
“It hasn’t hit me yet.”
City can have few complaints after a below-par showing, with Joel Robles having relatively little to do compared to in the Wigan goal. At the other end, man of the match Callum McMamanan was a constant threat to the City backline, with Pablo Zabaleta sent off for two bookable fouls on the young Liverpudlian.
Shaun Maloney also hit the bar for Latics, who had a couple of decent shouts for a penalty turned down by referee Andre Marrriner.
“I thought the lads were fantastic from the first minute to the last, and we fully deserved the win,” acknowledged Watson.
“It was as dominant a 1-0 as you will see.
“We controlled the game, and did everything we needed to win the game.”
The magical moment came in the 91st minute, with Latics pushing forward to try to make their numerical supremacy pay before the dreaded extra time.
With Latics claiming a penalty after Gael Clichy felled McManaman, referee Marriner gave a corner.
But Shaun Maloney’s delivery was inch-perfect, and Watson’s connection was too good the England goalkeeper.
“It was a great ball in from Shaun, I’ve got in the right area and made good contact,” Watson said.
“Thankfully it’s gone in the right place, and then all of a sudden I’ve got about 10 players jumping on my back.
“It was worth it, though, because it’s a fantastic achievement for the club and it’s something to be proud of.”
The victory provoked scenes of mass hysteria, both in the Wigan end at Wembley and back home in the town.
However, the players were unable to join the party with vital Premier League games coming up at Arsenal tomorrow and next Sunday against Aston Villa.
Wigan need to win both to stay up and Watson is confident there will be double reason to celebrate this time next week. “The fans were unbelievable – there’s 81,000 people in Wigan, and we brought 30,000 here – credit to them,” he added.
“From the chairman, the manager, the staff, the players, we’ve all worked hard.
“We’ve got two more massive games left. If we perform like we did at Wembley, we’ll be able to really celebrate.”