It’ll be a Barn-stormer - Liddell

LATICS v NOTTS FORREST
Latics Andy Liddell celebrates equalising to make the score 2-2.

LATICS v NOTTS FORREST Latics Andy Liddell celebrates equalising to make the score 2-2.

Latics legend Andy Liddell will be more than an interested spectator this afternoon when two of his former clubs do battle at the DW Stadium.

Wigan Athletic are, of course, all-but champions of League One as they prepare for their final home game of a phenomenal campaign.

Barnsley, on the other hand, know only a win will guarantee their place in the play-offs, with Scunthorpe and Gillingham looking to take advantage.

“It’s obviously a special game for me, having spent a good number of years at both Wigan and Barnsley,” Liddell, now fitness coach at Ipswich, told the Evening Post.

“I learned how to play football at Barnsley, and I played the best football of my career at Wigan, so they both mean a lot to me.

“I always love going back to my former clubs, so in an ideal world I’d like Wigan to go up as champions and Barnsley through the play-offs.”

If Latics against Barnsley on the last day of the League One season has a familiar ring to it, it’s because this was the fixture that closed the 2002/3 campaign – when Latics also went up as champions!

“It’s funny how it’s worked out, because when we won the league in 2003 the last game of the season was Barnsley at home,” acknowledged Liddell.

“I didn’t play because I was injured, but it was a great day because we got presented with the trophy after the game.

“It’ll be a strange one, because there’s obviously a bit more riding on the game for Barnsley than Wigan. I’ve played in a lot of final-days where there’s been a lot riding on it, and they tend to be tense, edgy affairs.

“I suppose it depends how much Wigan have been partying this week, but Barnsley are still going all-out for the play-offs.

“I’ve heard a lot of people saying the best way of going up is via the play-offs, because you get a day out at Wembley.

“I’d have to disagree – the best way of going up is automatically as champions, with games to space, like we did.

“We had a brilliant season back in 2003, and I see a lot of similarities with the current Wigan team.

“They look to be a Championship team, with Championship players, playing in League One, and I think that’s showed.

“Obviously I keep an eye on Wigan and it looks as though they’ve trampled over the rest this season.”

Having seen Latics slip out of the Championship last term, Liddell didn’t expect them to stay down for long.

“Let’s get it right – that team should never have been relegated in the first place,” Liddell said.

“Wigan are a Championship team at worst, and it’s good to see them back up next year.

“They’ve had money to spend, they’ve obviously put in a lot of hard work, and I expect them to have a good go again next season.

“They should be aiming for the top 10, and maybe even the top six, although the Championship is a very tough league with some very big teams in there.

“But having gone up as champions, the confidence levels will be sky high, and that can take you a long way.

“You can take confidence in to the following season, and that’s why you get so many teams enjoying double-barrelled promotions.

“At the same time, you also get a few teams suffering double-barrelled relegations, for the opposite reason.”

There’s been a real party atmosphere in Wigan all week since Latics secured their promotion last weekend at Blackpool.

And Liddell knows exactly how the players in the dressing room will be feeling on Sunday.

“It’s fantastic,” he added. “You’ve done what you set out to do – win promotion and go up as champions. You’ve achieved something.

“I was really lucky to win a title with Wigan, and win at Wembley (in the Auto Windscreens Shield), as well as playing in a play-off final.

“Some really good players – thousands of players – go through their whole careers and never win anything or ever play at Wembley.

“When I reached the Premier League as a kid with Barnsley, you think it’s always going to be like that...and it’s not. You never know when you’re going to achieve anything again – and you have to make the most of it.”

Andy Liddell has become the latest Latics legend to sign up for next week’s Joseph’s Goal charity match against Arjan de Zeeuw’s Dutch Masters at Ashton Town.

Liddell joins the likes of Roberto Martinez, Graeme Jones, Paul Scharner, Emile Heskey, Chris Kirkland, Kevin Sharp, Stuart Barlow, Nathan Ellington, John Filan, Michael Brown, Ian Kilford, Neil Roberts, Alan Mahon, Graham Kavanagh, Jason Jarrett and Nicky Eaden in confirming their attendance for the big game on Friday, May 13.

Tickets are just £10 for adults and £5 for Under-16s, with Under-6s getting in free, and are available from the DW Stadium ticket office – which will be open before Sunday’s game against Barnsley – 0871 6633552 and www.wiganathletic.com/tickets

Meanwhile, Scharner and Arjan de Zeeuw will be back together at the DW for ‘An Audience With...’ next Thursday, May 12.

It’s the perfect chance to get up, close and personal with two of the club’s greatest ever players and most larger-than-life characters.

Tickets are just £6 and available from the same outlets.

Both events kick-off at 7.30pm.