Whelan wants cup run

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DAVE Whelan has called on his players to do everything they can to keep their Wembley dream alive tonight.

Latics travel down to West Ham knowing victory would take them into the last 16 of the Capital One Cup – seven years after they went all the way to the final.

Mike Pollitt is the sole survivor from the loss to Manchester United, although he lasted only 14 minutes against his former club before injury curtailed his afternoon.

Elsewhere, Jean Beausejour is the only player with experience of a Wembley final, having helped Birmingham win the Carling Cup two years ago.

And Whelan - who himself played in the 1960 FA Cup final during his playing days at Blackburn - believes a return trip is on if Latics give the competition the respect it deserves.

“Wembley still has that magic about it - there’s no question that every footballer wants to play football in a cup final or for England,” he told the Evening Post.

“It’s fantastic - the pinnacle of any player’s career.

“Every game is important, although I have to say the league is what we are more concentrated on at the moment.

“Games like this give us the chance to play a few of the younger lads, and against Nottingham Forest in the last round I thought they were superb.

“I’m sure Roberto will once again be giving a few of the lads who haven’t been playing every week the chance to show what they can do, and I think they’re up to it.

“It is a very important game for us, because we are in the last 16 if we can get through.

“Let’s get a result, let’s get through to the next round, and we’re one step closer to Wembley.”

Whelan achieved his dream of leading Latics into the Premier League in 2005 - but he regards reaching the Carling Cup final the following season as being equally special.

“It was a cup final, and to play Manchester United in a cup final has to be as good as it gets,” he acknowledged.

“Who would ever have thought, a few years before, that we would be playing at Wembley - or Cardiff as it was then - in a cup final?

“Wigan Athletic, who were in the Lancashire Combination only a few years ago - how did they do that?”

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has taken the opportunity to ring the changes in domestic cup competition down the years.

But Whelan says whatever Hammers team takes to the field, they will represent a tough test for Latics.

“I think West Ham will take the same approach as ourselves, that the league is the priority but we will both still be putting strong teams out,” Whelan added.

“Any teams sent out by Sam are tough cookies - and this game will be no different.”