Latics will be in the FA Cup spotlight tonight as they come up against non-league AFC Fylde in front of the BBC TV cameras.
Most neutrals will be hoping for a shock result as the 2013 winners will be regarded as a massive scalp for a club who were only formed in the 2008/09 season after they changed their name from Kirkham and Wesham.
AFC Fylde have made swift progress from the North West Counties League and are currently 16th in the National League after making six quick promotions. Wealthy businessman David Haythornthwaite, who has twice tried to buy Blackpool, has bankrolled the club during this period.
Some fans of other non-league clubs are inevitably envious of Fylde’s resources and regard them as wealthy upstarts. Haythornthwaite confidently stated his intention to achieve league status by 2022 - Fylde have had this printed on their shirts - but the club is way ahead of that schedule as they are now just one promotion away from the Football League.
The Coasters are in very good form having won six of their last seven games in all competitions. The current manager is former Tranmere Rovers defender Dave Challinor, who has achieved a remarkable three promotions in his four years in charge. Latics will have to contend with the National League’s leading goalscorer Danny Rowe who has so far netted 11 times this season.
They have an impressive purpose-built 6,000 capacity Mill Farm Stadium and this week they installed a protective tent over the pitch and produced a high-drama promotional video. It looks as though no stone will be left unturned in an attempt to reach the third round. They are determined to put on a show, so Latics will have to be at their best if they are to avoid an upset.
Paul Cook will certainly not want to be on the end of an FA Cup shock. During Paul Jewell’s tenure as manager, they infamously went out to non-league Canvey Island in the first round in 2001.
Latics were having a difficult time in the Second Division at the time and their cause wasn’t helped when they had Tony Dinning sent off shortly before half-time and with nine minutes left when Lee Ashcroft saw red for a second bookable offence. The Essex Islanders subsequently scored the winner in the 88th minute as Latics crashed out of the cup.
A more encouraging omen for Latics against non-league opposition was when they overcame Macclesfield Town with a Jordi Gomez penalty to reach the fifth round and subsequently went on to lift the famous trophy in 2013.
Cook is a big fan of the FA Cup and I expect him to field a strong side in front of the TV cameras. The team is in a good vein of form and there is no reason to tamper too much with the successful formula. He has expressed his desire to do well in the competition and he will be well aware of the positive benefits it can have on the club’s upward momentum.
Things look good up here
Well that was great. It really was. I really enjoyed last Saturday afternoon in Rotherham.
It was my first trip to their new ground and I’ve wanted to go for a while. I was devastated that I couldn’t make the Boxing Day trip last year…and the fact that we were 3-0 down at half time didn’t lighten my disappointment. But I am sure that this was an altogether better experience.
I took my nine-year-old lad to the game. It wasn’t his first away game but he was very excited to be going to his first game on the train. Even the appalling rolling stock that took us from Sheffield to Rotherham couldn’t dampen our spirits.
I had been to Millmoor (Rotherham’s former ground) before – I remember seeing Neil Roberts battling against defenders there – in the days before we’d even heard of Mike Pollitt!
It is quite a strange walk to Rotherham’s current home, with the floodlights of Millmoor still rising into the sky not far away. I always assume that old grounds get promptly demolished, like our old home Springfield Park (RIP) but Millmoor has survived, apparently now just used for local youth football games.
The new Rotherham ground is quite strange as well. Not because it is called the New York Stadium (named after the area of Rotherham where it is located – rather than a bizarre attempt to add fake glamour to it) although that does seem strange until you know the history. But because it only holds around 12,000. That is not small by the standards of a lot of grounds and it is a nice attractive ground – but it looks so much bigger when you see it from the train or the main road. They have built it so that the three less visible stands are a lot smaller.
Anyway, enough of this rambling. On to the game. Actually there isn’t an awful lot to say really. We were really good. Started well. Had lots of pressure. Pinned them back. Several sensational crosses from Reece James. Movement. Accurate passing.
And Rotherham aren’t bad. They are good. Perhaps a little inconsistent but certainly not a bad team. But Latics were excellent. And importantly we made the pressure count.
Several times this season we have witnessed Latics having extended periods of possession and pressure but not being able to get the deserved goal. This time the goal came. And it is good to see a headed goal scored from what is still quite a short side outside of the defence. Only Lee Evans and Ryan Colclough are reportedly over six foot tall.
Yes it was a shame that we conceded the equaliser so early afterwards but it did not get the team down and we were certainly good value for the other two goals – including a wonder goal from Alex Bruce and slightly fortunate one from Michael Jacobs, following excellent work from Max Power.
Max has bounced back well from being left out of the squad earlier in the season. The team bounced back from conceding the goal just after we’d scored on Saturday. And once again, Latics have now bounded back from a defeat with two wins.
The disappointment after the Bradford game was clear and justified but a week later we have played two games and gained six points and have scored six goals. Just like we did after the Shrewsbury defeat. Things seem very different now especially as we are two points clear at the top of the league.
Long may that continue.
It’s bizarre to think that it’s five years next May since we lifted the FA Cup.
Five years since the defining moment in our history, five years since the eyes of the world were upon us. I often think we aren’t given the credit we deserve for our cup win.
Probably as a result of being relegated in the same week, we were destined to be that team who won the cup but also got relegated from the Premier League. But I’ve yet to meet another sane Wiganer who would swap what we had on that day in May and the European campaign that followed for another season in the greed is good league.
Although it’s been nearly five years since we did win the cup we’ve managed to cram a lot in since. The aforementioned European campaign, probably the best defence of the cup in living memory as we knocked out Manchester City in their own back yard before taking Arsenal all the way at Wembley. Two failed dawns as we were relegated from the Championship - twice and a fantastic League One title.
It seems that we’re heading on an upward trajectory again and as Latics have proved once again this week they’re a match for anyone in this division. We’ll be back in the limelight on Friday where we’ll be back as the big name again.
AFC Fylde or Kirkham & Wesham in old money look a well run club, picking up disgruntled Blackpool fans galore in recent years and they look to be in with a serious shout of reaching the Football League before long. They’ll be hoping to spring the shock of round two by knocking out the former winners and highest ranked club left in the competition. We’ve got to make sure that’s just a pipe dream. A win on Friday under the lights and in front of the TV cameras could be just the shot in the arm required as we head into the festive period.
The winner is...
At the risk of getting all serious for a minute, I’m really looking forward to Friday night as much for the cup tie, live on BBC spectacle as well as watching the Latics away from home and a pleasant afternoon of the away day staple of good food and fine ales. It barely feels necessary any more, but I might even tape the game to watch later. And at the end of the day (Clive), I hope football is the winner.
Which is cliché ridden nonsense to be fair, I clearly want Wigan Athletic to be the winner. It’s not life or death though and if for whatever reason we turn up and play okay but AFC Fylde play out of their skins then I hope we applaud them. That’s not my chosen outcome however, as the prize of a plum third round tie applies to both teams and I hope we can progress.
Oh yes and from our perspective, there is the prospect of getting humiliated live on the BBC in front of watching millions after getting knocked out of the cup by a non-league team. Hey, let’s not worry about that right now!
In true Wigan Athletic style, the club sensibly introduced a ballot scheme to meet demand which saw lots of fans screaming about how they were more deserving than others; some even threatening to rip up their season ticket if they missed out. Yet ultimately, it seems everyone who wanted one got one and now there appears to be lots of fans trying to sell their spare tickets. Truly farcical and a complete overreaction as per usual.
Team selection will be the next bone of contention. Will it be our strongest possible side or will the Cook be tempted to meddle with the tasty recipe which saw off Rotherham and Doncaster?
A return to fitness of Nick Powell is always a tempting ingredient to throw in but given his perennial injury problems maybe a timely half an hour burst off the bench might be the best bet if the game is in the balance.
Otherwise, I hope we put our full first team out and they use the TV cameras to put on a show, let’s ensure it’s someone else who ends up on the end of a giant killing this weekend.
That’s nothing against Fylde, who look to have a cracking set up. There’s been some quite churlish comments written about them online (harsh comments on the internet, surely not?). They are even known as AFC £ylde in certain non-league circles but they are following their dreams, and what is football without dreams? Surely, we as Latics fans know this as much as anyone?
Of course, they are having money pumped in but you can’t run a football club without pumping money in these days. Plus it’s much better to have a local lad like the Fylde owner, David Haythornthwaite (We’ll just call him Dave eh?) or our own Dave Whelan putting money in than a mysterious Far East syndicate.
Which reminds me, that’s all gone a bit quiet hasn’t it? In that respect, it may well be a crucial game; with the owner of an Asian betting company sat watching telly in the early hours of the morning deciding how many zeroes to put on his cheque for his latest hobby.
It’s a funny old game, football. In a space of a week, misery has turned into complete delight, with the Latics reaching the summit of League One, thanks to consecutive wins, and the teams around us dropping points.
After last week’s defeat against Bradford City it felt like a negative atmosphere was clouding over the club, with fans participating in what is commonly known as a Latics meltdown. Admittedly Wigan weren’t at their best against Bradford and were deservedly beaten.
But after our best start ever to the football league, fans should be more relaxed if we lose, as we’re a good team, and the side will bounce back after a set-back, as all good teams do.
After each of our three league defeats this season, Wigan have positively responded and reacted by putting a string of wins together, and we did exactly that after last Saturday’s loss.
For me, the bounce back ability that has been built into the side is outstanding, and speaks volumes of Paul Cook. It’s very easy for a side to feel sorry for themselves after a loss, especially in the manner we lost against Bradford with a late-stunner separating the sides. Cook has installed a belief and mentality into his players that we can beat anyone in this league, and that if we do have set-backs, we can recover.
Any side can lose a match, but not many can bounce back like we do.
Saturday was a brilliant day all round, with Wigan picking up a fantastic three points at the New York Stadium, and Shrewsbury falling to Bradford at home, meaning that Latics replaced the Salops at the top of the league for only the second time this season.
Rotherham is a really tough place to go, with the Millers being in free-scoring form at home throughout the season so far. For me, Rotherham should certainly be challenging for a play-off position this year.
It was great to see Will Grigg back on the scoresheet, after not scoring since his brace against his former club Walsall in September. Grigg has had a difficult year, with a lot of unfortunate injuries.
Hopefully now he can kick on and start finding his form again. Grigg has expressed that although he has
had a slow start to the season, he’s still more than confident to score 20 once again in League One. Grigg has the most goals from an individual player in League One since 2012, and you have to admire his confidence that he can continue building on that record.
The confidence is brilliant in my point of view, as it shows the strength in mind set that Grigg has.
The club rewarded Grigg a new deal, and I’m sure the striker will want to repay the club for their faith in him, to fire Wigan’s promotion campaign.
Alex Bruce came into the side after the suspension of Dan Burn, and he did a tremendous job, more than filling in for the big centre-half. Bruce had a great game, also scoring a wonder goal, which I’m sure even Bruce didn’t expect to pull off his ambitious flick.
I feel this just underlines the strength in depth of the Latics squad as it shows that anyone can come in and do a job for the team.
Wigan return into action on Friday night against AFC Fylde in the FA Cup Second Round, televised on the BBC. It is the first time that the Latics have been on television since our fourth round defeat to Manchester United 11 months ago.
I love the FA Cup, and the magic within the competition, however I’m hoping there is no banana skins for the Latics on Friday in their bid to progress to the next round. I love the FA Cup because of the ability for cup upsets, and the underdogs creating unforgettable moments, however, I just hope Wigan aren’t the victims to a cup shock.
I expect Wigan to have a strong side on Friday, as the FA Cup has so much value for the club, and hopefully there is no funny business, and Wigan progress.
Up the Tics.