Wigan Athletic guest column: Emmerson Boyce

Wigan Athletic captain Emmerson Boyce and mascot Joseph Kendrick at Wembley
Wigan Athletic captain Emmerson Boyce and mascot Joseph Kendrick at Wembley

I’ll never get tired talking about that day at Wembley five years ago.

It was a special day for me, for the players, for the club, for Joseph’s Goal, for the supporters, for the town.

A truly magical moment in time that none of us will ever forget.

The thing I remember most about that team was the spirit we had in the dressing room.

The buzzword at the time was ‘Believe’ – which came from Joseph, the campaign, the town and the fans.

No matter the odds, we believed we could do it, anything was possible.

It was all about the team spirit that got us through that day, believing in each other, trusting each other, and winning as a team.

Obviously being relegated took a little bit of shine off it, but looking back in years to come, it’s the cup final we’ll all remember.

Not many clubs can say they won the FA Cup.

I get asked a lot about carrying out Joseph as mascot, and the powerful message of him having the words ‘Joseph’s Goal’ on his back.

That was obviously beamed around the world, but to be honest I wasn’t aware it was even there until later.

I just wanted to carry him out as ‘one of us’, and to be able to get that message across the world was obviously very important.

We went into the game knowing the Premier League game against Arsenal the following Tuesday night was potentially more important.

But we were determined to enjoy the day out, enjoy the occasion, and that helped us to approach the game with plenty of confidence.

I don’t know how many of us deep down thought we had a real chance of actually winning the game.

But having played them in the Premier League a couple of weeks before at their place, and been unlucky to lose 1-0 to a late goal, we knew we could match them.

I think back to the dressing room before the game, and I just remember it being very calm.

We knew not many people outside the club were giving us a chance, but listening to the manager and few of the senior players we knew there was plenty of belief from within.

There was definitely a quiet confidence as we left the changing rooms, as well as a calmness, and I think we took that into the game - and it showed.

We were determined to play without any fear, and that allowed us to play our natural game.

Callum (McManaman) epitomised everything about the way we played that day.

That was the best game I’ve ever seen him play, and the runaround he gave their full-backs - on the biggest stage - was a joy to watch.

I’ve obviously watched the game back a few times, and he absolutely tore their defence to shreds.

The amount of chances he created in that was first half was incredible, and it allowed us to go in at half-time thinking we could do it.

I remember the game plan at half-time was very simple - get the ball to Callum!

We took our lead from him and, as the game went on, we thought more and more it was going to be our day.

The turning point was probably (Pablo) Zabaleta getting sent off for bringing down Callum in full flow.

Then we got the corner, and we all thought: ‘We’ve got a great chance here’.

I know every player in that penalty area would have been thinking: ‘Please come to me - let me be the hero’, because you always back yourself to score.

As the ball was played in from Shaun (Maloney), I saw Ben (Watson) rise, and it was almost in slow motion.

It was such a great header, and the ball flew into the top corner of the net.

And what a great story it was for Ben, having just come back from a season out with a broken leg.

What a fairytale for him, coming off the bench to score the winner in the last minute!

We still had to see out the game, though, and the last few minutes seemed a very long time.

The time didn’t seem to be moving at all, and all you’re thinking is: ‘Please don’t score, please don’t score’.

Thankfully the referee’s whistle eventually came, and I remember it was such a feeling of relief as well as great joy.

None of us knew what to do next, but I have to say the Manchester City players showed great class in coming over to us and congratulating us.

That meant a lot to us, and I’ll never forget that.

Obviously the next job for me was to go up and collect the trophy as captain.

I remember Dave Whelan, before the game, telling us to enjoy every minute, and not to come off the field with any regrets.

As we went up the stairs, I saw the chairman, and I told him he had another story to tell along with all the others!

Everyone knows the story about him breaking his leg in the cup final, but winning the trophy as owner and chairman has helped him to draw a line under that.

To lift the cup was such a great honour.

Growing up, I’d watched the FA Cup final on the TV, before going out there and recreating it on the park.

You’re pretending you’re playing in the cup final, pretending you’ve won, and then pretending you’re going up to lift the cup.

That was suddenly happening to me for real, and it was such a proud moment for me and my family.

The cup final will live with all of us forever, and obviously this week’s tie against Manchester City will evoke a lot of the memories.

Obviously a lot has changed since then, but there’s no reason at all why we can’t do it again and Wigan can pull off a big shock.

Everyone saw how well the team played against West Ham in the last round, and Bournemouth before that.

Obviously Manchester City are a level above that, but these are the games you want to play in.

You look at the likes of (Kevin) De Bruyne, (Sergio) Aguero...top, top players playing at the top of their game.

But we’ve got some good players as well and the team is playing with so much confidence under Paul Cook.

We’re top of League One, deservedly so, and we’ve got nothing to lose.

All they can do is go out there, express themselves to the best of their ability...and why not?

It’s a big ask, but this club has pulled off big asks before, and they only need to look to what we did for inspiration.

We went to Manchester City the year after the cup final, as a Championship club, and we beat them again, so it can happen.

All you want the Wigan side to do is do themselves justice.

If they can do that, there’s no reason why it can’t be done.

Everyone knows Man City will be favourites, but the cup throws up special moments - and hopefully there’s another one on Monday night.