ALMOST nine years have passed, but Mike Pollitt remembers Wigan Athletic’s last trip to Bramall Lane, Sheffield like it was yesterday.
Sheff Utd 1 Latics 2.
A result that kept the visitors in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth.
“I’ve still not been back to Bramall Lane since that day,” Pollitt tells the Evening Post, ahead of this weekend’s clash between the two sides in South Yorkshire.
“The grounds obviously holds some fond memories for us and we’re all looking forward to going back.
“I remember Paul Jewell, the week before, trying all manner of daft things to try and get our minds focused.
“He brought in a guy who had us walking on broken glass in the canteen.
“Leighton Baines said straight away: ‘I’m not doing that. No way.’ But the rest of the lads did it, for a bit of team-building exercise.
“Looking back, it was probably a bit of a daft thing to do a couple of days before a big game...”
The match was an unbearable watch for the Latics fans inside the ground and watching at home on TV.
Pollitt says he’s glad he was spared of the agony by actually being involved.
“I remember it was a horrible day, and it was pouring with rain – a goalkeeper’s nightmare,” he remembers.
“You just didn’t want to be the one who made a mistake that gets us relegated.
“And it’s actually worse watching a game like that – like I found at Stoke in 2011 – than it is playing.
“Once the game starts, it’s just a case of getting through and trying to win the game. But that second half – it seemed like an eternity.
“We were down to 10 men, after Lee McCulloch had been sent off, and big Emile Heskey playing emergency centre-back.
“They were pumping ball after ball into the box, creating so many chances, but sometimes you jget the feeling it’s going to be your day.
“I remember having the last kick of the game, a long free-kick downfield after they’d been done for offside.
“You hear the referee’s whistle, and I just turned round to the Wigan supporters behind the goal and it was just euphoria.”
A feeling that lasted long into the night...and into the next day.
“We ended up having a few drinks on the coach home, and then off down King Street for the night,” he smiled.
“The rest of it was a bit of a blur.
“I just remember going into the training ground the following day with my tracksuit on, covered in beer – I’d not been home.
“We had a team meeting, and then we hear the manager’s resigned.
“I’m thinking: ‘Have I had too much to drink here?’ It was just a crazy 24 hours.
“But moments like that live with you for the rest of your career and the rest of your life. To have played in that game was up there with the highlights of my career.”
A repeat of that spirit this weekend would help Latics exorcise the demons of throwing away two points against the Blades last month.
“We’re still kicking ourselves after being 3-0 up and letting them back in,” Pollitt acknowledged.
“It would be nice to put the record straight this weekend and come away with all three points.
“It would also put some pressure on the teams above us, which can only help.”