THE magic of the Europa League has taken Wiganers to many places.
From the Red Square in Moscow to Kazan’s stunning Kremlin and the historic city of Bruges and its famous Markt square.
This week, the third postcard comes from Maribor in Slovenia, a city which was last year voted as the European Capital of Culture.
Latics fans started arriving in the country earlier in the week through the various means of transport. Most flew, some with the team direct to Maribor, others via cities such as Ljubljana and Frankfurt while there were some who traveled across Europe on trains.
However they did it though, they got there and once again showed their true unwavering support.
The numbers steadily grew from Wednesday morning as the streets of Maribor gradually began filling up with blue and white.
Bars similar to those at the Manchester Markets had been set up in the Grajski and Leona Stuklja squares with Wiganers supping spiced wine and Slovenian lager in the shadow of the beautiful Franciskanska cerkev. That’s the Francisan church to you and me.
On Wednesday evening, a few traveled to the Stadion Ljudski vrt to watch their heroes train, where new boss Uwe Rosler praised the fantastic support for his first match.
Next to Rotoz in Kuzno znameneje - the City hall and Plague monument - lay a small and welcoming bar which was a superb host to some of the blue and white army.
Supping their beer while laughing and joking with the locals, they trawled through the food menu to see what Slovenian delicacies were on offer. Would they go for the traditional goulash or even the variety of freshly caught fish on offer?
“We’ll have pie, chips and mushy peas please love.” “Anything else?” “Sorry yeah... a big dollop of ketchup too if you don’t mind.”
You can take the boy out of Wigan and all that.
As dawn broke on game day and more fans started arriving from England, the place turned into Bruges all over again.
Eventually swelling with Wiganers with pint pots in their hands, it was once again a sight to behold and one of those moments which many will tell their grandkids in years to come: “I was
Some even had their Russian hats on from the previous trip to Rubin Kazan.
As the game drew closer, the atmosphere and noise levels got louder.
The 1,000 plus who had made the trip weren’t to know if this would be their final European adventure (for a while) or not so they wanted to make it count.
“I’m a believer,” they sang before wandering into the distant, hoping and praying that they would see their team pull off another miracle and add to that ever-growing history book.