Whelan: Reaching the final a very special milestone

Wigan Athletic's Callum McManaman

Wigan Athletic's Callum McManaman

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DAVE Whelan wants Wigan Athletic to use the filip of reaching the FA Cup final to propel them to Premier League safety.

Latics booked their place at next month’s showpiece with a 2-0 victory over Millwalll at Wembley, although their hopes of staying in the top flight weren’t helped by Sunderland’s 3-0 win at Newcastle yesterday.

That leaves Latics three points adrift of safety with two games in hand, and Whelan says it’s important for the players to retain their focus in both competitions during what will be an eventful run-in.

“When we come out in the final it is something that is going to be a very special day,” Whelan said.

“But staying in the Premier League is massively important.

“We have done it for eight years now and everybody said we would last one year.

“It is extra important this year because of all of the extra money coming into the game – I tend to plough a lot of that money into our youth facilities because Roberto and myself believe in getting our young players coming through.”

Whelan has history with the FA Cup, having broken his leg whilst playing for Blackburn in the 1960 final defeat to Wolves. He had been expected to lead Wigan out on to the field on Saturday, before it was realised that particular protocol isn’t adhered to for semi-final ties.

Instead, he will more than likely be given the honour for the final against Manchester City – an occasion he is already looking forward to.

“I don’t think it has ever been done before – playing at Wembley and then leading a team out as chairman – so I might be in the Guinness Book of Records,” he added.

“But nothing makes up for losing in a cup final. I broke my leg and it finished my career in the top flight.”

Whelan has also been vocal about his belief that the semi-final should not have been played at Wembley.

Wigan were widely criticised for not selling-out their allocation of tickets, but Whelan blamed the transport links for preventing some fans from making the journey.

“I thought this should have been at Villa Park – a lot of our supporters couldn’t get a train back,” he said.

“We sold 22,000 tickets, but you couldn’t get back on the train – it is not on.”