Our 12th Man panel look back at Wigan Athletic’s wonderful FA Cup win against Manchester City, and look ahead to the League One title push.
Am I dreaming or did Latics really knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup?
It is still hard to believe that City’s quadruple chasing team were beaten by League One Latics. The Premier League Champions elect have had an amazing season so far and they looked destined for all the major trophies.
The FA Cup favourites came into the game expecting to progress into the quarter-finals but they came up against their nemesis in Wigan Athletic.
Latics have now incredibly beaten City on three successive occasions in the FA Cup, first winning the trophy in the final in 2013, then quarter-final in 2014 and now in the fifth-round in 2018.
The enormity of the achievement is given perspective when you consider the statistics about Manchester City.
City will confirm the Premier League title in the next few weeks - they are in the League Cup final on Sunday and have practically qualified for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after beating FC Basel 4-0 in the first leg.
They have scored a remarkable 114 goals in all competitions this season.
City are the fifth richest club in world football with a turnover of £453.5m.
The current squad is estimated at costing over £770m. They have some of the highest rated and most costly players in world football with Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Danilo, John Stones and the list goes on.
City have broken and set several new club and English football records during this season. They established national records in consecutive away (11) and overall (20) victories in all competitions, set a new English record for consecutive league wins (18), equalled the Premier League record for consecutive away league wins (11).
They set club records by achieving 28 consecutive games unbeaten in all competitions, 30 consecutive games unbeaten in the league, and 19 consecutive home wins in all competitions.
Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in world football but on the night he was outwitted by Paul Cook and his coaching team.
Given the current discrepancy in resources and the level of the two teams at the time of the game, it is surely the greatest FA Cup shock of all time.
The result will also give hope to other smaller clubs that they can defy the odds and achieve something amazing. It was a night of superlatives and those who experienced it will never forget it for the rest of their lives.
Latics may have ridden their luck at times but it was an awesome effort by the team. Immense concentration was required as they had to defend in depth and make some great blocks, last ditch tackles, and there were a couple of excellent saves from Christian Walton.
Paul Cook prepared his players psychologically and tactically to perfection. Despite all the hype around City, he got the message across that City’s players were in fact only human and could be beaten.
Overall Cook’s team showed great spirit, work ethic and a determination to win. That spirit and determination was epitomised by striker Will Grigg who despite having only two chances in the whole game was able to execute a superb finish to deliver the knock-out blow and send Latics into dreamland.
No fans, no history, tin-pot, rugby town, empty seats the insults are well versed and we’ve heard them all a million times before. Curiously more than often these very same insults come from supporters of clubs that you would expect to have some sort of alignment to little Wigan. Clubs of a similar size, clubs like Bury, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Oldham, Luton.
Clubs who would do anything to have even an ounce of what we’ve had, you would expect more solidarity from our football league cousins. More recognition for what we’ve achieved. More pride in the way a small club rose to the pinnacle of the game. We’ve lived their dreams and my how we are still living the dream, Monday night will go down in history and for me could be one of the if not the finest nights in our history.
I was absolutely gutted after the FA Cup fifth round draw, after how we had successfully dispatched of Bournemouth and West Ham I had got a severe bout of cup fever. Desperate for a supposedly easy draw to see us through to the quarter-finals and that tantalising taste of a possible Wembley return, when the last two balls left in the draw were us and Manchester City I couldn’t hide my disappointment. I believe the phrase I uttered started with an F and ended with a K.
Once again though this Wigan Athletic side, this absolutely wondrous little football club that we’re all part of, showed me just how wrong I was. Why worry about facing Manchester City? Why worry facing one of the best sides in Europe when Paul Cook and this set of lads that have been assembled over the last few seasons are the opponents? Nobody gave us a hope in hells chance when the draw was made, and I wasn’t the only Latics fan who for once didn’t have much faith in us getting a result.
The press coverage beforehand was unprecedented since our Premier League days, probably since we won the competition in 2013. The history between Latics and Manchester City, especially in the FA Cup makes for a great story and that was exploited to the maximum by the broadsheets, TV and radio. I did a pre match special with BBC Radio Manchester at the DW, ahead of the match and being in the DW that early helped to add to the feel of anticipation.
The game itself felt like it lasted an eternity, onslaught after onslaught on the Latics goal was met by a resolute defence marshalled superbly by Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley. The sending off of Fabian Delph obviously helped, it was at that point that thoughts of us possibly getting something from the game started to creep in. The sending off and the fracas that continued in the tunnel at half-time turned the atmosphere up a notch.
Despite the sending off Manchester City had a bigger foothold in the game in the second half than in the first with the benefit of 11 men, it was to Latics credit that once again they held strong and repelled everything that City threw at us. Even the introduction of Kevin De Bruyne didn’t see the Latics goal breached. Then it came, the moment that will be written in to Wigan Athletic folklore. The moment that can be filed alongside Ben Watson’s header, James Perch’s goal at the Etihad, Charles Nzogbia’s goal to relegate West Ham and Shaun Maloney’s goal to beat Manchester United.
Will Grigg had worked himself into the ground but hadn’t had any clear cut chances in the second half, with the lads looking out on their feet Grigg, with that fantastic predatory nature he has, sniffed a chance. Picking up the ball on the left hand side of the pitch, Grigg made for the area and I can’t remember much else but the ball nestling in the back of the net. It felt like slow motion, it left me out of breath. It felt like the best atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed at the Dave Whelan Stadium.
The last 12 minutes were hell, even worse when the referee decided he would play four minutes injury time and actually played six minutes. Manchester City laid siege to the Latics goal, Pep Guardiola, possibly the finest manager of his generation, getting more and more worked up on the touchline as the match went on. Sadly for City it was all in vein and little Wigan had once again – not for the first time - stopped the billionaires from Manchester City in their tracks.
A squad made up of free transfers and Will Grigg – a bargain £1.3m had taken on the most expensive club side in Europe and won. What a story! Is it a bigger achievement than 2013? Or even 2014? I’m not sure but it certainly feels like the most astounding result. We were on a level footing with Manchester City at Wembley in 2013, in 2014 we were having a decent season in the Championship. In 2018 we’re a million miles from our Premier League days, yet still we managed to knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup.
It’s a question that we’ve been asking all season, just how far can this Wigan Athletic side go? The last two league results may have knocked confidence ever so slightly but after Monday night the answer is this side can go as far as it wants to go. Southampton lie in wait for Paul Cook’s side in the FA Cup quarter-finals, they’re struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season but still have a very talented side. Once again we’ll go in to the match as under dogs but with this side, this club, this ethos installed from David Sharpe down to Paul Cook we’ll have a fighting chance.
Before then though it’s back to the day job, and Latics need to get back on track in the league. Shrewsbury the leaders could well be faltering, Blackburn look best placed to capitalise but we’ve three games in hand and we have to get back to winning ways. That starts with the other FA Cup heroes from League One – Rochdale.
Euphoria was the overriding emotion of the 15,000 home supporters who would’ve thoroughly enjoyed their night under the lights at the DW in a performance which truly optimised the ‘Magic of the FA Cup’.
Sky Bet were offering odds of 325/1 for the Latics to win 1-0 and Will Grigg to score on Monday evening. I imagine when both line-ups were announced, the likelihood for this to occur probably decreased. 33-year-old Gary Roberts came in for the threatening Michael Jacobs, 35 year old David Perkins replaced key man Sam Morsy and first choice left back Reece James had been rested for Callum Elder.
Pep Guardiola fielded a stronger team than most expected. Sergio Aguero, fresh from winning Premier League Player of the Month, arguably City’s greatest ever player in David Silva and new £57 million man Aymeric Laporte all started the game. Not forgetting the likes of John Stones, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane as well.
The most pivotal period in the match from a Wigan point-of-view was almost certainly the first 15 to 20 minutes. If City would’ve grabbed an early goal, it would’ve forced the Latics to come out and start to commit more men going forward - consequently leaving holes for the likes of Sane to exploit.
But this was the period where the Latics created the bulk of their chances and enjoyed a few decent spells of possession. The whole East Stand thought Grigg had put us a goal to the good, only to eventually realise his effort hit the side netting. A lapse of concentration from Danilo also nearly saw Roberts pounce at the back post.
That was as good as it got for Latics in the first half though. I don’t particularly like the way Guardiola acts on the side line, and in his press conferences, or the way his players commit a lot of sly, niggly fouls. Not to mention the continuously going down as soon as they are touched. But in my 12 years watching Wigan I can’t remember any team moving the ball about so quickly and accurately in and around the box. Some of the football they play is brilliant to watch and it makes what we did even more remarkable.
On the stroke of half-time Fabian Delph recklessly dived in for a tackle on Max Power and after first of all getting out his yellow card, referee Anthony Taylor then deemed it appropriate to give Delph his marching orders. Whether Mr Taylor changed his own mind, had a word in his ear from his assistants or gave into the pressure of Paul Cook and his player,; he came to the right conclusion for me, 100 per cent.
Handbags followed in the tunnel as Guardiola thought it was necessary to get into the face of Cook, who handled the situation with class, as always.
City brought Kyle Walker on at half-time in an attempt to stretch the pitch and open up little spaces where they could play their short passes. But it was Walker’s mistake that ensured the ‘Tics made it through to the quarter-finals.
After watching Grigg’s goal a good 15 times, I still have no idea what the former Tottenham man was doing as he seemed to purposely let the ball go through his legs, despite there being no other City player anywhere near him! As expected the Latics number nine kept his cool and finished brilliantly for his first goal for Wigan that was outside of the box.
‘Scenes’ is the word used to describe most goal celebrations nowadays, but when the ball hit the back of the net on Monday night at 9:32pm the outburst of happiness around the DW Stadium was unbelievable to be a part of.
People were falling over rows of seats, falling over advertising boards and hugging other supporters they’d never seen before.
Cook, his staff and his players really can’t do anymore at the minute. Dan Burn and Grigg both admitted how much the support helps, so let’s try and recreate that sort of atmosphere for the rest of the run in and back the boys in their push for promotion to the Championship.