Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - Your 'Moments of the Season'...
Our panel of Latics experts select their moments of a magical season...featuring all the usual suspects plus a long-lost South Yorkshire moggie and a poor old duck...
Caddy from the 5:
I've whittled my season highlight down to four special moments...can't split 'em so here goes, 'in no particular order'…
Talal taking the pitch (h): Seeing the great man walk around the pitch at the first home game against Rotherham, and getting the adulation he deserved from the Tics fans, made it all real for me. The dark days of Stanley Choi were dead and buried, and the Phoenix had risen again. We'd no idea that day what was in store for the season and where it would take us, but the feel-good factor was back at the DW and long may it continue.
Bolton (a): HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Arguably the best day of the whole season, the best team in the division getting schooled by the proper best team in the division, 4,500 Wiganers in heaven as each goal hit the net, and there was nothing the Slazenger wearing kids in the 'Crazy Corner' could do about it. A perfect day to be a Latics fan.
Accrington (a): On paper, you wouldn't think of this as a top day out. Well, how wrong can you be? Again, a sell-out away end was in fine voice, lubricated from all the local pubs and the great set-up Accrington have got for away fans. Of course, the sunshine helped, but seeing Charlie Wyke netting his first goal in a Latics shirt brought pandemonium - or 'limbs' as the yoof say - and here's hoping the big man is ready for next season after his troubles.
Shrewsbury (a): A full season went down to the wire, and yet again a sell-out away end witnessed a flawless performance that sealed the League One trophy...and cue the party for all. A party that was deserved by everyone - from Mr Al Jasmi to the lads selling fanzines...when they can be bothered! A season even the most optimistic Latics fan could never have dreamed of, but yet again we proved everyone wrong. It truly is in our DNA.
Finally, on a sad note, we lost a top Latics fan recently, a man who's been a stalwart on the terraces and in the stands for 40-plus years. At least he got to see us lift another trophy. I'll defo be raising a 'Bow for this lad. RIP Dave Baker - a true gent.
No one can deny the 2021/22 season has been an absolute rollercoaster for Wigan Athletic both on and off the field. There have been a great number of entertaining happenings right from the word ‘go’. From Talal finally introducing himself to the fans at the DW, the ‘best team in the league’ comments made by certain managers of certain other clubs, to fury over Max Power 'cheating' by using a Latics towel to dry the ball before a throw-in. We had Covid-gate to provide the giggles for a while right at the beginning of the season, which saw a fan temporarily banned from the home fixtures. The whole 'Keith the Duck' saga was laid out brilliantly, capped off with a heartfelt ‘RIP’ message displayed on the DW screen at half-time. No one can forget the poor Hillsborough cat, who was gently escorted from the field of play, with the brave moggy being seen off with a little goodbye wave from rescuer Jason Kerr. But among all the good-natured humour, Latics as a whole suffered a shocking blow when it was revealed striker Charlie Wyke had collapsed during a training session at Christopher Park, and suffered a cardiac arrest. Once again, plaudits to gaffer Leam Richardson and everyone’s favourite pizza man, Dr Jonathan Tobin, for acting as quickly as they did and literally saving Charlie’s life. Because of their fast thinking and all-important CPR administration, Charlie has managed to make a fantastic recovery, and appears to be working hard to return to playing in the coming months. It was a relief for everyone at the club when Chaz opted to release a statement thanking everyone for their support, and assuring everyone he was on the mend and already planning to be back to work as soon as it was safely possible. So for me, my ‘moment of the season’ was seeing Wyke walk out onto the Shrewsbury pitch at full time, accompanied by best friend Max Power, to lift the League One trophy in front of the travelling Tics. Never boring, is it?
It’s safe to say the 2021-2022 season provided many special moments for Latics. The team scored over 100 goals and won 36 matches across all competitions. We won several derby matches and advanced in various cup competitions thanks to emphatic penalty shoot-out victories. Most impressively, we joined a small group of clubs who earned the right to lift a trophy by season’s end. Over the span of nine months, we were fortunate to experience several dozen moments that were particularly impactful. I’d like to think my ‘Moment of the Season’ was a prominent catalyst for our success. Our first home match of the season in mid-August 2021 was a near surreal event. It marked the first time fans could enjoy football in the stands in 17 months. The DW welcomed a healthy crowd of over 10,000 to celebrate the occasion. There was a party-like atmosphere in the ground that day. We were less than five months removed from coming out of administration and still riding the momentum from the previous season’s triumphant survival in League One. Talal Al Hammad paraded around the pitch to greet fans during the pre-match ceremonies, and with each step he seemed to leave a bit of magic dust on the grass. Those festivities set the tone for many more joyous moments to come. From a footballing standpoint, we had a great challenge in front of us. Opponents Rotherham, had just come down from the Championship and were among the league’s favourites to secure their fourth consecutive promotion from the third tier. Our very first match of the league campaign had produced a humbling 2-1 defeat at Sunderland, while Rotherham had won their opener against Plymouth and were looking to be just as difficult to break down. Despite a handful of very good goal-scoring chances, the match was heading towards a scoreless draw in the dying minutes of stoppage time. Yet, on a day where the theme was ‘new beginnings’, the first chapter of Latics’ storybook season was not going to end on a dull note. Max Power, playing his first home match as a Wigan player in three seasons, delivered a perfect ball into the box from a late free kick, and Will Keane only needed to get the slightest of touches on the delivery to head the ball into the goal for a 95th-minute winner. The DW erupted in pandemonium. It was the most fitting ending possible for a perfect day. I thoroughly believe that goal/moment catapulted us in many ways. It gave us three valuable points against a tough opponent. It also helped instill an immediate belief we could beat good teams in this division. A challenging slate of fixtures followed, but we responded superbly and found ourselves at the top of the league table (for the first of several stretches) by late September. Seeing the result was two points gained for us, and one point dropped for Rotherham, a quick glance at the final league table shows how integral that result was for our title pursuit. Rotherham could’ve finished one point ahead of us as champions had we not snatched three points at the death that day. Keane's goal got the 'Believe Bus' out of the garage and onto the road for a busy season ahead. It's fair to say it has earned a well-deserved rest for the summer.
Best moment of the season? For me, it’s easy. That first game back, against (ironically) Rotherham. Being back in the stadium again. Seeing the people we’d not seen for over a season again - and sadly, not seeing some too. Watching the wonderful tribute on the big screen to those who we’d lost. Welcoming our new chairman. Cheering on the players. Some old, mostly new. Feeling like a proper club again. That felt good. It felt really good.
It's difficult to remember now, especially in the light of the title and how strongly Latics performed across the course of the season, but at the start of the season we were terrible on Tuesdays. Why it was specifically Tuesdays, I'm not sure. But apart from that League Cup win over 'them men', we had no luck on Tuesdays. Indeed, for a couple of months it was like watching a different team from the weekend to midweek. That was until Fleetwood. A trip to the Fylde coast is always welcome, but the fixture computer hadn't been kind to us this time around. And with the fixture falling on an international weekend, it was clear early on this match would be moved to a Tuesday. So on one of the colder days of late autumn, the best part of 1200 Wiganers headed to the coast. What many thought could be a routine win was nothing like, and Latics found themselves 2-0 down on the hour mark, and potentially suffering a very damaging defeat in their bid for promotion. That was until Callum Lang grabbed a goal back on 62 minutes. After that, it was all one-way traffic and, with the lads attacking a sold-out away end, it felt inevitable we would get at least a point. A fantastic equaliser followed thanks to a combination of Charlie Wyke and Will Keane, before Curtis Tilt planted a powerful header beyond the Fleetwood keeper. It was only early in the season, but it showed us a number of things. That we had the strength of character to come back from setbacks. That Wyke, Keane and Lang up front was a lethal combination (more of that next season). And that we'd managed to break the hoodoo around Tuesdays. There will be other moments of the season, no doubt. But at the time, it felt important...and it turned out to be just that.