AS Latics step out onto the Wembley turf today, there’ll be thousands inside the ground and back home in Wigan cheering them on.
Amongst the latter will be the whole Warriors squad with skipper Sean O’Loughlin the first in line to remind them to keep the “Believe” spirit alive as they go head to head with Arsenal.
He met with Latics counterpart Emmerson Boyce this week, as the council unveiled a new banner depicting some of the town’s sporting successes, to wish him all the best for another big day out in London.
“It’s great that we’re buzzing again with what the Latics have generated with potentially getting to the final again and hopefully going on to win it,” said O’Loughlin.
“It gives you a bit more belief, the fact they’ve done it before. There’s a good few in the squad who were there last year so they’ve certainly got the belief in the team.
“I genuinely think they’ve got a good chance, not only to win this semi but to go on and win the final as well.”
For many years, there’s been a divide between many of Wigan’s two premier clubs’ supporters, one which O’Loughlin has always found hard to grasp.
But he now believes that barrier is coming down and that last year’s successes in particular have drawn the two closer together.
One thing which really touched the 31-year-old was when he and the rest of the Warriors squad stepped out at half-time of Latics’ game against Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium to show off the Challenge Cup a day after Wigan had won it.
“We got told we were going to do that on the way home and there were a few eyebrows raised at the start about how we would we would be received,” admitted O’Loughlin.
“But once we got down there the reception was fantastic, to see the Latics speccies stepping up and clapping us, it was a great feeling.
“This so-called divide certainly seems to be easing. There are a few die-hards that still want to be one or the other but I certainly think it’s mellowed out a lot and there are a lot more people you speak to who support and that’s great to see.”
It’s the same with the players as well, with the two clubs working together in recent years, particularly with former Latics boss Roberto Martinez.
“I think that spills over into the fans as well, seeing the players supporting each other,” added o’Loughlin.
“I think it brings the clubs closer together and hopefully that can get us more Latics supporters backing us and vice versa with Warriors fans getting behind the Latics.
“Anything that sees the town to well is great for both clubs. We’ll all be watching the game. We watched the final last year over in Hull together in the hotel and it was great when they got that goal.
“We won’t be together this weekend but we’ll all be watching it and hoping they do it.”
O’Loughlin was speaking at the launch of the council’s new “Believe” banner on the entrance to the Grand Arcade.
If Wiganers need reminding about just how proud a sporting town they live in, they now only need to walk into the town centre.
As well as the blue flags and posters ahead of Latics’ day at Wembley today, a new banner adorns the entrance to the Grand Arcade.
On it are a host of the town’s sporting greats; Boyce and O’Loughlin stand proudly at the front with pole vaulter Harry Coppell, runners Hayley Jones and Jenny Meadows, wheelchair basketball player Gregg Warburton, cyclist Kyle Evans, swimmer Heather Frederkisen, Nottinghamshire County cricketer Steven Mullaney and Leigh Centurions star Martin Ridyard.
“It shows you all the different sports and Wigan as a whole it’s great,” said Boyce.
“It’s a great honour going through the town and seeing so many people coming out and showing their support for us.
“It shows you how far the town has come in terms of sports people, it’s a great pride for the town and people representing the town.”