Talking football: It's that close...Wigan Athletic can see it!
'Birmingham '“ it's not the end of the world...but you can see it...' So observed the great Peter Kay.
Well Latics can now see Birmingham – and the rest of the Championship – in 20/20 HD vision after a quite amazing win over Oxford in midweek.
We’ve been rather spoiled over the years, with Latics having turned over the best the Premier League has to offer, as well as famously winning the FA Cup in 2013.
But no matter what level you play at, it’ll never mean a late, late winning goal – such as Will Grigg’s in midweek – won’t evoke emotions like Tuesday night.
For long periods it looked as though Latics would come up just short against a well-organised but limited Karl Robinson side...for the second time this season.
But unlike Christmas week, when Robinson’s Charlton side escaped with a 0-0 draw, there was to be a late sting in the tale.
And for that, boss Paul Cook deserves an awful lot of credit.
With the pressure mounting, the Latics boss elected to twist rather than stick, sending on first Grigg and then Devante Cole in the last quarter to try to force the win.
I’m not too sure how many times forward Gavin Massey has played right-back in his life, but he didn’t appear to have many defensive thoughts as Latics threw everything at a late winner.
“He who dares, Rodney, he who dares,” as Del Boy Trotter used to say.
And Latics eventually got their rewards with three minutes to go, when Cole sprung the offside trap to lay the winning goal on a plate for his fellow replacement.
With Shrewsbury crashing at home to Charlton, it really felt like a pivotal night in the destiny of the promotion race – if not the title itself.
Much like February 2016, when Yanic Wildschut’s last-gasp winner broke the hearts of Walsall, to the delight of the Latics fans behind the goal.
That year, promotion was famously secured in the sun at Blackpool...and it’s hard not to draw parallels with this weekend’s trip to Fleetwood.
If Shrewsbury – one goal in the last five games – fail to win at home to a Bury side playing with freedom if nothing else, a Latics win would see them up, with three matches to spare.
They’re already three points better off than Gary Caldwell’s title winners of 2015/16 – with 12 points still to play for.
Four wins would see the side finish with 102 points.
Smashing the division, two years later than David Sharpe initially intended...but what a way to write yourselves into history that would be!
The question I’ve been asked most this season – apart from ‘what did you have to eat’ – is ‘What’s happened to Devante Cole?’
My answer has always been the same.
“He’s fit to play, he’s just behind Will Grigg and James Vaughan in the pecking order, who would you drop?”
After showing remarkable patience, Cole made his third substitute appearance of the season against Oxford in midweek.
And in a blistering eight-minute cameo, he might just have helped Latics over the line to promotion...and maybe even to the title.
Having scored 12 goals for Fleetwood in the first half of the season, Cole arrived at Wigan in January probably expecting to feature more than he has.
But as a striker he’ll have appreciated there was no way his manager could leave out Grigg in the form he’s been in, while Vaughan has also impressed on his limited appearances.
The best things, however, come to those who wait.
And Cole has shown in his short game-time – 17 minutes across three cameos off the bench – that he has something special to offer.
A good off-season and he’ll be pushing Grigg and Vaughan every step of the way for a spot next term.
Competition for places which should inspire the three of them to fire the goals Latics need to consolidate in the second tier.
At this stage of the season, it’s all about teams of the year, players of the year, managers of the year.
And yesterday the PFA Team of the Year for League One was announced.
With one notable omission: Sam Morsy.
Having been named in the Team of the Year as voted by League One managers, I wondered how he could be overlooked by his peers.
And then I remembered he’s probably kicked most of them this season.
Which perhaps explains his exclusion a little bit...!
Tweet of the week, possibly even the season, came courtesy of @Sharkey43 in the aftermath of the win over Oxford...
“That was surreal, in Springfield Lounge, barman says we’re closed...Paul Cook says ‘I’m the manager, the chairman is on route, get a round in’...Cookie buys me a beer, Peter Reid tells a few tales, just WOW! Best night ever.”
I know I’ve said it before...but Paul Cook, please don’t ever