CHARLES GRAHAM - Wembley bound

“WIGAN are on their way to Wembley.”

The phrase has a familiar ring to it, hasn’t it?

But that’s because of our legendary rugby team’s exploits over the years rather than the local exponents of the round ball game.

At least until now.

In the space of a short car journey between Kitt Green and Swinley on Saturday afternoon I nearly crashed three times as Wigan Athletic dismantled overwhelming match favourites Everton with a trio of goals that put the team into an FA Cup semi-final for the first time in its history.

It made a nice change to read the national papers the next day and see out-and-out praise for Latics rather than the grudging platitudes and complaints about poor opposition which usually accompany a Wigan victory.

Unquestionably the right team won and it was a measure of their dominance that Toffee fans, who had forked out £30 a ticket for the tie, were streaming out of Goodison Park with 10 minutes of the first half still to play.

After so many years when Wigan Athletic has made little impression on the FA Cup (even since it reached the top flight), I’m still coming to terms with the fact that we are through to the last four of the most famous domestic club competition in the world.

This run may be viewed as a distraction when the club finds itself in a relegation dog fight yet again.

But fans must surely hope that the calm, cool and collected manager can use this success to galvanise his men and, once again, get them into a consistent, high-quality groove in time to preserve top flight status.

I’ve heard that some supporters would be happy to sacrifice a Premier League place to win the cup, especially if they think that dropping down a division would mean more league victories per season by a notoriously inconsistent team.

But it doesn’t work like that. Several are the teams that have gone down and stayed down because they haemorrhage their best players and find winning no easier.

It’s not long since Bradford City (their League Cup heroics notwithstanding), Sheffield United, Portsmouth and Coventry City to name but four, were among the elite.

All are strapped for cash, none has any realistic chance of playing the likes of Man United or Chelsea again any time soon.

Like it or not, survival is the more pressing concern for Wigan because of its long-term financial implications.

But I don’t think it would be too greedy to hope for enough points to fight another Premier League year and that iconic piece of silverware too!