WIGAN Athletic have been backed to cling on to their Premier League status – by one of the heroes of their last ‘Great Escape’.
Paul Scharner may have left Latics last summer to join West Brom, but his heart has always remained in Wigan.
And the Austrian will forever have a place in Latics folklore after his goal on the final day of the 2006-07 season at Sheffield United helped Latics edge home 2-1 and stay up at the Blades’ expense.
“I still think about that day at Bramall Lane a lot – it’s still my answer whenever anyone asks what is my favourite-ever goal in my career,” Scharner told the Evening Post.
“I remember it was one-way traffic in that second half, especially after Lee McCulloch got sent off.
“It was just defending, defending, defending, but I feel our will to win was a bit bigger than theirs, and that’s why we survived.
“It’s hard to describe what was going on in the seconds after the final whistle - elation, relief, everything.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to survive, and I hope the Wigan players can do the same tomorrow.”
With the Premier League title wrapped up by Manchester United last Saturday, the fight for survival has grabbed all of the attention up and down the country this week.
Latics handled a pressure-cooker of a situation of their own last Sunday, when they came from behind to see off West Ham to take the fight into the last day.
And Scharner says they must remain cool, calm and collected if they are to finish the job at Stoke.
“It will be a very, very nervous time for the players - exactly the same situation as we faced in 2007,” he said.
“What I liked about Sheffield United was there was only one chance we could survive - if we won.
“That’s not maybe the case tomorrow, because Wigan could draw the game and stay up.
“That could be a bit dangerous - the players would be better advised to go out and win the game and let the rest take care of itself.
“There will obviously be a lot of pressure, but the players have got to try and get rid of all of the other distractions and focus only on the game.
“When you start thinking about other games and other scenarios, that’s when you start losing.”
If circumstances were different, Scharner would be at the Britannia to cheer on his old club, but unfortunately he’ll be playing for the Baggies in their own season-ending clash at Newcastle.
However, he readily admits his mind will not be totally focused on events at St James’ Park.
“I have a game myself to concentrate on, but of course I will be desperate to hear how Wigan are getting on in their game,” Scharner added.
“I spent four-and-a-half very happy years at Wigan, and you cannot but have strong feelings for a club like that.
“Unfortunately I cannot take my radio on to the pitch with me - I don’t think the referee would be too happy with that - but I will be definitely asking at half-time and full-time and keeping my fingers crossed for them.
“They can do it - I know they can.”