Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'This promotion, for me, is up there with the FA Cup wins against Manchester City in terms of the feelings it elicits...'
Our panel of Latics experts reflect on another utterly memorable weekend in the history of their fantastic football club...
I told you we’d get there. It might not have been when some people wanted it, but it was never in any real doubt. Plus, those lucky enough to get tickets for either the ground or the beam back had the time of their lives. This promotion, for me, is up there with the FA Cup wins against Manchester City in terms of the feelings it elicits. It will eventually be just a stat on the board but, make no mistake, the size of the achievement is monumental. We knew the owners were serious about getting back to the Championship, and maybe even beyond, but nobody expected this. On August 1 last year, 24 teams all thought they could get promoted, some with bigger budgets than us. But they didn’t have a management team that knew how to do it, they didn’t have a squad who largely gets what it is to be Wigan and, most importantly, they didn’t have Leam Richardson. I don’t know whether he will be able to produce the same level of performance or results next season, but I don’t see why we won’t at least be competitive. The core of the team is good enough and, with the same quality of recruitment as we had this year, who knows? What I can tell you is that we are now really no worse off than we were that fateful day when we were put into administration. We certainly have much better owners. The day, on Saturday, was a festival from start to finish. More smoke than a 1970s pub snug, and inflatables everywhere, of every size and description. The first goal did settle the nerves a bit, there’s no denying, and by the time the penalty went in, we knew there was no stopping us. Rick Parry got the reception he so justly deserved, and Talal looked like it was the best day of his life. The Shrewsbury stewards were also exceptional. When the dual purpose perimeter wall/advertising hoarding went down, they didn’t panic. They dragged out those who needed help, put it back in place, and left a couple of big lads making sure it stayed upright. It could have all been so different, so all credit to them. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts, celebrate the incredible year we’ve had, and get in training for next year. There are some very big clubs in the Championship these days, so it’ll be some ride.
Caddy from the 5:
Mission accomplished! And in typical Wigan style, it went to the last day before sealing promotion AND the title. I don't give a fig what anyone says, including some of our own fans, the table doesn't lie, after 46 games we are the best side in the league this season...FACT. Watching Leam, his staff, the players and Talal on the pitch at Shrewsbury - oh, and I did say I would get in the ground without a ticket, God bless unlocked gates! - was superb. They lapped up all the adulation from the packed out away end and deserved every single minute of it. As we got on the coach before the game at 8am, people were already settling their nerves with a drink, and all the permutations of what could happen were being bandied about - which didn't help! We stopped in Oswestry for, yes you've guessed it, a drink and our boisterousness was soon dampened...when 60 lads and girls were greeted with lights out and curtains shut at the rugby club. And as we waited at the bar, a lone woman cooking bacon and egg told us we weren't supposed to be in there, we'd gone to the wrong club, we were supposed to be in the cricket club! All aboard quickly, and we were at the right place in 10 minutes...more drinks and further analysis of the table had the toilets full, and then it was onto Shrewsbury, all in high spirits again. Well, spirits were involved! Latics ran out easy winners in the end and, with MK Dons winning 5-0 at Plymouth and Rotherham also winning, it was a good job! When the stage was set up for the champions-elect, there was a rousing reception for EFL chief Rick Parry. None of which is printable, never forget what they did in the whole administration process, lads. It took Talal to come on to take the crowd's attention away from him and his employers. When Tendayi lifted the trophy, we were back where we belonged - back to where we should never have been taken from, and the circle was complete for me. We'll start again next season, but that's for the weeks ahead. Let's give this club the chance to celebrate what's been done since Mr Jasmi, Talal, Mal and the whole of Phoenix 2021 took over. Nothing short of a miracle in such a short time! Thank you once again. In the end, it turned out the self-professed 'best team in the division' didn't win the division. The actual best team in the division won it! The togetherness of the players, the management, the board and the fans - a fact touched upon by Colin Murray at the Party in the Park on Sunday - was no doubt a contributing factor. But the final word goes to Leam Richardson. Thank you for sticking by us in our darkest hour, thanks for helping save Charlie's life, thanks - with your team - for assembling this group of lads, and thanks for plotting your way to the title. The streets won't forget your role in this. Right, I'm off still celebrating with a 'Bow, see you all next season...and one more time: "Here's to you, Leam Richardson, Wigan loves you more than you know..."
Wigan Athletic have been promoted to the Championship as the champions of League One! This is not ground-breaking news by any means but, after the past two years this club has endured, one does not need the least bit of an excuse to announce this achievement incessantly. Even the most pessimistic fan had to accept some time ago that Latics winning the title was a foregone conclusion. The only appropriate question is ‘when did you know that it was going to happen?’ Perhaps it was during our last nine-match unbeaten streak in the league that started in early March and ended in mid-April. Or maybe it occurred when we went 20 matches unbeaten across all competitions during the middle months of the season. It’s possible your realisation came right after we won at Accrington in late September and went top of the league for the first time. Your moment could have happened as early as our first home match of the season against Rotherham, when we won dramatically in the 95th minute. When we added many new players during the summer of 2021, there could have been a particular signing that tipped the scales for you. Maybe your awakening towards a brighter future occurred when Leam Richardson was appointed first-team manager just over a year ago. If you had the most incredible foresight of all, maybe you knew our darkest days were officially behind us when a ‘stranger’ named Talal Al Hammad tweeted a blue Wigan Athletic baseball cap in early March 2021 with the caption ‘You are my Sunshine’. The celebrations that followed our title-clinching victory at Shrewsbury were as euphoric as imaginable. From the fans’ pitch invasion, to the guard of honour and trophy presentation, to every celebratory song that was belted out in an outdoor venue, locker room, or nightclub over the next 24 hours, there was no doubt Latics were at the centre of the sporting universe. The most satisfying feeling from our recent triumphs has come from knowing ‘we’ can all claim ownership of this success. No matter if you were scoring goals on the pitch, yelling encouragement from the stands, or typing words of support from near or far away, we have all collectively contributed to something great in our own unique way. We’ll look back on this season with great pride for years to come. Did we ‘smash the league’ with 100 points? Not quite. Did we always play attractive football that was easy on the eye? No, we often did not. Do either of those items matter at this moment in time? Absolutely not. Any shortcoming from this past season will always be overshadowed by one hundred accomplishments. We’ve added another trophy to the cabinet and we’ve got a whole summer ahead of us to celebrate. May all Latics fans enjoy a great weekend. If anyone needs to find me, I'll be blasting "Voulez-Vous" by ABBA on the streets of New York City.
I was going to start this week by analysing the last couple of games, but I don't think I will. Instead, I will start with this... CHAMPIONS! How good does this feel? What a remarkable time to be a part of this club. We don't do things in half measures, do we? Nothing is ever simple with us; we make it hard work, but we always do it, and by God we do it the Wigan Athletic way. Despite everything that has been thrown at us over the last two years we've still come out on top. We have dealt with the EFL, Begbies Traynor, Stanley ******* Choi, on top of buying the league, borderline cheating with towels, the 'best team in the league' - and Keith the flaming duck - as well as games in hand, points on the board, no fans and empty seats. Wouldn't ever want to be anything other than a 'Tic. The Phoenix truly is rising, and we are all going with it. But aside from the trip down this season's memory lane, really, this week I just wanted to say 'thanks'. So, to Talal Al Hammad, Mr Al Jasmi and his son, Muhammad, Mal Brannigan, Richard Bramwell, Oliver Gottmann and Dr Tom Markham: 'Thank you'. For giving us, the fans, our club back and providing something so special after the darkest period in our history. To James Beattie, Rob Kelly and Darryl Flahavan. To Dr Jonathan Tobin and the medical staff. To all the backroom staff behind the scenes that make match days possible and make this club what it is. Thank you. And to the players...to Jamie Jones, Kell Watts, Tom Pearce and Tom Naylor. To Jack Whatmough, Jordan Cousins, Max Power and Charlie Wyke. To Will Keane, Gavin Massey, Ben Amos and Jordan Jones. To Jason Kerr, Curtis Tilt, Jamie McGrath and Graeme Shinnie. To Callum Lang, Tom Bayliss, Joe Bennett and James McClean. To Glen Rea, Tendayi Darikwa, Josh Magennis, Thelo Aasgaard and Stephen Humphrys. You've done it lads. And finally, here's to you, Leam Richardson, Wigan loves you more than you will know. Job done boss!
Job done, that’s it, they did the biz,
Success, and joy, that’s all there is,
No jibes, no doubt, no pointy fingers,
No moans or groans, no miserable whingers;
Just glee, and elation, we’re all on cloud nine,
Up in seventh heaven, the feeling’s divine,
Talal, what a man, what a beautiful soul,
Who mended our hearts after admin’s sad toll;
And what more can be said about Leam, the man,
Who earned undying love from every Tics fan?
It’s over, promoted, though we still can’t believe it,
For next season, just dream, and the Tics will achieve it!
Actions speak louder than words - never before has a phrase been more apt. As Wigan Athletic strived for survival in League One, the Phoenix 2021 group that had come to the club's rescue laid out their opening statement. Although there was a lot of work to be done, they were confident the club would eventually return to the Championship and regain their rightful place that was snatched away so cruelly in 2020. Twelve months later, the new owners have been as good as their word. Latics have completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in English football history. There’s been a lot of frustration in recent weeks as we stumbled across the finish line and, even beyond that, people questioning whether we were really worthy winners of the league. Well the table doesn’t lie and, as Leam has insinuated, teams end up where they deserve to be at the final reckoning. For Phoenix 2021, it must feel fantastic. They spoke about a return to the Championship and have achieved it well ahead of schedule. We’re well on our way to becoming a properly functioning football club again, and the time frame in which that’s been achieved, is utterly remarkable. The pain of July 2020 will never pass but, as we begin the Championship season exactly two years later, Latics fans will be vindicated in their efforts to save their football club. That bought us time to find owners who really cared about the club. Unlike those tinpot millionaires from Hong Kong who flogged us nearly as quickly as they’d bought us. Away from the intensity of 24/7 football, and playing three times a week for what feels like most of the season, it’s important to take a step back and reflect. Just three players contracted to the club last summer, and yet we still managed to become champions of League One. The third such title for returning hero Max Power, who must rank as one of the signings of the season. He returned battle hardened from the North East and arguably a better player than the one who left us in 2018. Yes, there are question marks over how many of the squad will make the step up. But probably not as many question marks as you may expect. The time for questioning whether we can cope in the Championship is for another day. Now it’s time for a well-earned rest - both for the club's staff and those of us who’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country over the last nine months. It’s been a gruelling season like no other but, after a near two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, it feels extra special being back in stadiums again, being able to see friends while we do what we love. It’s difficult to put into words last Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury. I've struggled to take it in this season. I mentioned the pandemic earlier, and it’s strange enough being back in football grounds now. But performing as well as we did this season wasn’t expected. Sometimes, it feels like the last two years were just a dream, and we’re picking up after that draw with Luton in March 2020. If you’d have told anyone walking out of the DW that day what would follow in the next two years, they’d have questioned your sanity. Equally, if you’d told anyone last March - in the depths of administration - we’d become champions of League One 12 months later, those same quizzical looks would have been coming your way. Regardless, those things did happen and, though we’ll never get back the side we had built in the Championship, we can hopefully build a strong enough side to compete next season. For the time being, just bask in the glow of a wonderful season for our football club.