LATICS fans give their verdict on the win over Swindon, and this week’s cup double-header against Bury and Blackpool:
I’m a bit nervous about Saturday’s game.
Because I have a theory on it (oh here we go again!), and I would hate to put the kiss of death on matters.
Let’s just say there is a certain narrative for Saturday, which may have already been written, and I hope that particular narrative is ridiculously wide of the mark.
I think we saw it last year when we drew Bolton out of the hat.
Unbeaten in the FA Cup since January 2012, and it felt like horrible fate that we would be turned over by our local rivals, especially given Malky Mackay would be applying his inept brand of football on the game and Bolton were going great guns.
At the time (full stop intended!).
And now we’re back in the first round…..
Going back a few years before we actually went and won the thing, first-round day used to be one of the highlights of the football calendar.
Indeed, every round was – for as long as we lasted!
We’ve not really had the best draws over the years.
Probably the best example of this being when we drew Forest Green or Notts County in the third round and got all excited about an away day in the Cotswolds, which never happened.
Things flipped a bit in the Premier League, with third-round draws being a bit of a chore.
But trust me: the FA Cup is still a big thing for Wigan Athletic fans, and I’m sure there will be a lively atmosphere at Gigg Lane on Saturday.
It was a part of our heritage long before 2013 and I’m sure it will continue to be so.
Moving to Tuesday’s JPT game versus Blackpool, and there is a cup which we can have a real crack at.
It may not have the prestige of the other big pot we’ve landed in recent times but, yet again, Wigan Athletic and the Football League Trophy have a considerable bond.
The fact we already only three games from Wembley, and those games will be played against teams at our own level at best, should further sharpen the focus.
So this week is all about the cups, which is almost a shame given the way we’ve been setting about the league recently.
However, the way the squad is getting to know each other better by each game, it can only be a good thing to play more games together rather than a distraction.
Life sometimes throws up a little bit of karma, and what happened on Saturday at the DW Stadium certainly had a ring of karma about it.
The antics of Swindon Town goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux to waste time from the first few minutes of the game was outrageous.
His exaggerated attempts to find team-mates when taking goal kicks had the home crowd rattled as he slowed the game down and upset the Latics’ early rhythm.
The match referee, Nigel Miller, appeared to be a patient bystander taking no action to hurry the shot-stopper along – that is until his patience finally snapped in the final few minutes of the game.
Miller added five minutes of stoppage time, then booked Vigouroux for even more time-wasting, and proceeded to play an extra two minutes of added-on time to the added-on time.
This allowed the opportunity for Francisco Junior to poke the ball home, after Vigouroux had dropped a Craig Davies cross, to give the Latics the win with quite literally the last kick of the game.
Karma, indeed, and poetic justice.
I am sure I saw the ref with a wry smile on his face as he signalled the goal.
So the unbeaten run continues, another win on home soil, and another good test of character for the Latics to come through what was a difficult game with the away side blatantly content with a point – all very thrilling stuff for the home fans.
While the league is most definitely the priority this campaign, there is nothing like a cup run to add to the excitement of a season. Over the next four days we have two games with a Wembley appearance a prize in both the competitions we are still in.
First up is a trip to Gigg Lane in our favourite competition of recent times, the FA Cup.
Bury away isn’t the best draw we could have hoped for, both as a prospect of winning through to round two and also as one to capture the romance of the competition.
But Bury away it is.
Very much a winnable game, and we will be buoyed on by another fantastic away following with approximately 1,000 Latics fans expected to make the trip up the M60.
On Tuesday, Blackpool are at the DW Stadium in the Johnstones Paint Trophy – a competition that was our favourite a few years back.
Having tasted success on two occasions at Wembley, it would be great to make it a hat-trick of wins in this competition.
A win against Blackpool would see us through to the northern area semi final, and just two ties from a Wembley appearance. That’s how close we are!
Also on Tuesday, there will be the possibility of our FA Cup-winning captain Emmerson Boyce making his first return to the DW since leaving in summer.
Boycey, if selected for Blackpool, will be a strange sight in an opposition shirt.
Before and after kick-off he will undoubtedly get the applause he deserves.
During the game, though, well that’s a different matter all together. Up the tics!
THE job that Gary Caldwell has done since taking over as Wigan Athletic manager has been massively underestimated.
Appointed with us inevitably relegated to League One and having to rebuild the team in what was arguably the biggest summer of recruitment in the club’s history.
Not only has he done that successfully, he has had to gel a completely new side as quickly as possible and implement his tactics and style of play at the same time.
This is something that is not easy at all, but has done this with ‘apparent ease’ as the Football League put it.
Not only that, he has shown his tactical nous during games when we are struggling to break down the opposition or fighting to get back into the game.
For example, his timing of substitutions and ability to react to a situation has earned us valuable points.
When we were 2-0 down at Bury, he took off our left-back Reece James off and replaced him with a striker in Grant Holt and went two up front.
One quickfire goal, which Holt was involved in, got us back into it the game, which we eventually drew 2-2 and nicked a point from the jaws of defeat.
The Swindon home game was similar.
That performance was nowhere near our best, but we still dominated possession and had chances, we just couldn’t break their stubborn defence down.
Caldwell was not afraid to make changes and rejigged the whole forward line, which included Francisco Junior being played in a more advanced position.
Lo and behold, Junior was on hand to poach the last-minute winner and grab us another valuable three points. Nine league games unbeaten, including four wins and an unbeaten month of October, and it’s no wonder he was been nominated for the Manager of the Month award.
And in all truth, regardless of whether he gets the gong or not, he deserves to win it for his achievements.
Isn’t the FA Cup a wonderful competition?
This season 736 teams entered.
Yet only 43 different teams have won the cup since it was founded in 1871.
Teams like Bamber Bridge and Mossley fight it out in the preliminary rounds before the qualifying rounds even start.
When I started supporting Latics, they were a non-league team and had to win through the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup.
The prospect of coming up against a Football League team in the first round was always an exciting prospect.
Wigan were renowned for producing FA Cup shocks and defeating their so-called ‘betters’.
Back in 1970/71 they had an historic FA Cup run which began in the fourth qualifying round against Skelmersdale United.
The run only ended in the third round with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at Maine Road.
Of course, Latics’ greatest day came in 2013, when they gained sweet revenge on City with a 1-0 victory of their own.
It was a remarkable achievement in the context of the modern game, and it will have given hope of FA Cup success to teams throughout the football pyramid.
Bury, our opponents on Saturday, have won the FA Cup twice – in 1900 and 1903 – and are one of only 23 teams to win the cup on more than one occasion.
It will be a difficult fixture as the Shakers have already knocked us out of the League Cup and we had to come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Gigg Lane in the league fixture.
The FA Cup is a uniquely exhilarating competition, and I’m sure there will be plenty of desire and commitment as both teams seek to make it through to the next round.
Latics may not go on to repeat our FA Cup success this season.
But the competition will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of Wiganers everywhere.