TWO years ago they made history. Now, they are fighting to secure their future in the Championship. With the last of their FA Cup heroes nearly all gone, Paul Kendrick asks: What’s gone wrong?
“If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor,” warbled Manchester rockers James in their ‘90s anthem ‘Sit Down’.
Epic lyric, which pretty much sums up Wigan Athletic at the moment.
Even by Latics’ standards it’s been an incredible week at the DW Stadium.
Last Friday, I was among a press pack waiting, we thought, for the manager’s thoughts ahead of the crucial clash with Huddersfield.
What followed almost beggared belief, the most dramatic press conference in years.
Shaun Maloney? Off to Chicago. Ben Watson? Off to Watford. Callum McManaman? Probably off to West Brom.
The man who scored the FA Cup-winning goal, the man who put the corner in, and the man who won the corner in the first place – all on their way.
Talk about drawing a line under that famous day at Wembley in red ink.
Just 20 months after the cup final, the Latics team on Saturday is likely to feature – for the first time – not a single survivor from that Wembley XI (Emmerson Boyce has been on the bench in recent weeks).
Just as the rise was rapid, the fall has been even more dramatic. And it could, very easily, get even worse.
From promotion possibles to relegation probables in the space of months. Unfortunately, Malky Mackay has not had the desired impact since his appointment in November – just one win in 11 matches.
Dave Whelan said ‘trust me on this one’ after unveiling Mackay at THAT press conference, and he’s certainly earned the right to have his judgement trusted that after all he’s done over the years.
And let’s be honest, Mackay inherited massive problems when he took over at the DW, problems that will not go away in the space of a few weeks or even after a transfer window. Those massive problems existed under Uwe Rosler and possibly even Owen Coyle, and they would remain if Roberto Martinez or Jose Mourinho took on the job.
Wigan’s last 42 matches have produced seven wins, 14 draws and 21 defeats.
Relegation form over the course of a full season.
The reality is that the playing squad have not translated their quality into results since relegation from the Premier League.
We all enjoyed the run to the FA Cup semi-final last term and the unforgettable European tour, even if those extra demands probably helped to contribute to an ultimately failed promotion push.
This time, there are no such excuses, with first-hurdle exits in both domestic cup competitions, and Europe a rapidly-fading memory.
Of course, we can’t ignore key departures such as James McArthur, Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez.
But after the injection of £10m on nine new players last summer, the results have been underwhelming to say the least.
And that’s not to blame the new players single-handedly.
It’s difficult to comprehend that this playing squad – tipped by many at the start of the season to be in the top two by the end – are currently in the bottom two with only 19 games to go.
Whenever any pundits discuss Wigan, they always mentions the quality of the squad. But those players are running out of time to prove it.
Big changes are going on, both on and off the field.
One thing’s for certain, it’s never dull following Latics.
When ‘Sit Down’ was released in 1991, Latics were about to be relegated to the fourth tier with crowds around the 2,000 mark.
Sterling work off the field in the last few years has meant a solid infrastructure is in place, with a loyal fanbase continuing to support their team through tough times.
Yes, there may be difficult days ahead. We knew the good times wouldn’t last forever.
But as questions continue to be asked in the stands, out on the pitch, the players need to find some self-belief. And fast. It’s time for them reach for the motto that underpinned that FA Cup run back in 2013. And ‘Believe’ in themselves.