PAUL Scharner is the sole survivor from Wigan Athletic’s last cup crusade - the Carling Cup defeat to Manchester United in 2006.
The Austrian thought he’d missed the chance to make amends when he left Wigan for West Brom in the summer of 2010.
But with football being a ‘funny old game’, Scharner returned to his former stomping ground on loan in January, to answer a defensive SOS.
Less than three months later, he is standing by to play at Wembley.
And ready to exorcise a few demons from seven years ago.
“I enjoyed everything about Cardiff, but it’s not the same place as Wembley,” Scharner opined.
“Wembley has a big history, a footballing history, so I am really looking forward to playing there for Wigan.
“It’s not often you get the chance to play with Wigan in an FA Cup semi-final, so actually everybody should enjoy the day and help us get the result that we need.”
Scharner has been something of a talisman for Latics, with his arrival having coincided with an upturn in fortunes both in the cup and the Premier League.
And he reveals the chance to play at Wembley has been in the back of his mind since putting pen to paper on the last day of the January transfer window.
“Wigan was already in round five and I had it in the back door of my mind to get through because I’ve never played at Wembley,” he smiled.
“This is one of the biggest occassions in world football, everybody knows Wembley, and it will be a very nice experience for myself and for the team.”
Wigan’s cup run has afforded some light relief from the pressure of another relegation dogfight, and Scharner says it has had a knock-on effect on their league form.
“I think it’s a different pressure,” he assessed. “We have the relegation pressure, and it’s very hard to handle to be honest, because you need the points to stay up.
“With the semi-final, it is different. It is a one-off, and everybody knows that if we can win this game we will go through to the finals, and that means normally with the experience we have we can enjoy that game.
“Of course the Premier League will always be the priority, because it is the future for Wigan and it brings the money to run the business.
“But I don’t see a problem in being in the semis and fighting for relegation, because I see it as a little island outside relegation fights to enjoy another football side.”
Scharner has quickly settled back into his position as a cult figure among the Wigan fanbase, and he admits beating Millwall this afternoon and then completing the job in next month’s FA Cup final would be the perfect way to reward their support.
“Of course everything in football is geared to winning trophies, and if you are just one game away from this possibility you think about it - “come on, just get the last bit out of you and let’s try and win this trophy”,” he added.
“The people in Wigan are great, they are always supporting us and believing in the team, and it’s amazing when you go into town and everybody is behind you.”