Wigan: Sticking up for the little guy

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Here in Britain we love a good sporting underdog, someone we can get behind and support even in the face of tremendous adversity.

Examples include Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, a quite spectacularly bad ski jumper who competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as any number of British tennis players who have tried and failed to win Wimbledon over the years. If you’re lucky and you’ve plied them with just the right amount of alcohol, you can even get a supporter of one of Liverpool’s fierce rivals to admit that a hint of a smile crossed their face when Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan and the like were parading the European Cup around Istanbul after the Reds came back from the dead to beat AC Milan in 2005. They’ll later deny it of course.

All of those were one off, sometimes once in a lifetime moments though, but it seems as though we are a little less welcoming of our more regular underdogs.

Take Wigan Athletic, a club who have only been part of the league system in England for 34 years and come May will have spent the last eight of those years in the top flight. Theirs should be a heart-warming tale of the success of a locally-backed club from a town whose population could fit inside Wembley Stadium, but for many it isn’t.

Wigan ‘don’t deserve’ to be in the Premier League apparently, with their place supposedly blocking the path of other, ‘bigger’ clubs who haven’t produced the results, consistency or quality of football that the Latics have over their stay in the top flight.

Attendances at both home and away matches are often flagged up as one of the key reasons for this belief, with the latest example of it coming last Saturday when a low amount of Wigan fans made the trip to North London for what turned out to be a terrific 1-0 victory over Tottenham.

The same jokes were wheeled out as photographs of the away end at White Hart Lane did the rounds over social media, as fans of other clubs pointed out that they would of course have taken far more fans to such a big game, thereby proving that they were more deserving of a top flight place than Wigan. Jealousy could be detected in the words.

The fact that this was occurring just a couple of weeks after a survey into the price of football which led to many proposing a potential fan boycott of matches due to astronomical ticket prices was an irony apparently lost on many, but as Wigan received the same criticisms they always do off the pitch, on it Roberto Martinez and his team pulled off another spectacular result.

Last season it appeared certain that many football fans would get their wish to see Wigan return to ‘where they belong’ – perhaps to be replaced by the yo-yoing Birmingham or West Ham – but wins at Anfield, the Emirates Stadium and at home to Manchester United and Newcastle spectacularly turned that around, with this latest win at Tottenham coming off the back of a home victory over West Ham and really invigorating the campaign for Roberto Martinez and his men.

Since Wigan’s promotion to the Premier League in 2005 only the seven ever-presents in the 20 year history of the revamped league – namely Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham – as well as Fulham and Manchester City have managed to stick around in the top flight with them, with plenty of other clubs falling away, yo-yoing between the leagues or never coming back up.

The Latics have had their moments when they’ve looked like joining them of course, but the fact that they haven’t is a curiously uncelebrated underdog story which still continues; a diverse story which includes characters such as Paul Jewell, David Unsworth, Emile Heskey, Charles N’Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega and of course Martinez himself.

There might be other heroes this season – Ben Watson, Franco di Santo or Arouna Kone perhaps – but even if there isn’t then surely it is high time to acknowledge this story, and pay tribute to an underdog who can produce a pretty fierce bite.

Every dog has its day, and Wigan have had eight years’ worth of them.

Isn’t that achievement worth celebrating, no matter how many people are watching?

@Mark_Jones86

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Posted on November 7, 2012, in Premier League and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bob, Thanks for your comment and point well made!!

    best,

    Ryan aka @fantasyyirma

  2. Bob Martinez - Loyal supporter of WAFC.

    If all those in Wigan who support a football team, supported their local club instead of tagging along with the ‘bigger’ clubs in the North West then this nonsense would soon disappear and the DW would be sold out every week. One of the most entertaining football teams in the league yet many locals still stay clear because the club once not of a good enough standard to associate themselves with.

    The ticket prices are so low because the attendances are not high enough for the league they reside in, this is a simple supply/demand factor of any business or organisation. This would inevitably increase if the demand was there. Surely this would be a good thing for all those ‘Anti-Latics’ Wiganers who won’t pay to watch this ‘standard’ of football though? The extra money from gate receipts, merchandise etc. would mean bigger budgets, which in turn the club could afford better players and coaching staff, improved training facilities and eventually provide an even better level of football which could stay around in this town of theirs for many years to come. Maybe even to a level that their adopted club plays. Once this local club of theirs has that solid foundation of support then good players of the club aren’t necessarily looking to move to a ‘bigger’ club and be part of their past success. Instead they may opt to stay and be a part of the growing success and history of this ‘little’ club.

    Supporting a club that has had more success over their history doesn’t make them currently more successful than others around them in present day. Supporting a club with many fans only makes you a smaller part of that club.

    Come on ‘Anti-Latics’ Wiganers, there is nothing to be ashamed of your local club, quite the opposite in fact. In terms of growth you will not find a more successful club in the country. They currently play a far better standard than many clubs in the Premier League. You can even support them as well as the Warriors you know? I mean, it’s not like you would only support your local Rugby League club because of it’s success in the past is it?

    Would you support Germany in the World Cup finals just because they have a better squad and more success in the past? Do you think these rich foreigners will support the re-growth of ‘your’ club when this financial football bubble burst (only a matter of time) and these clubs with unstable finances go to the wall or drop to the bottom of the football league? Will you go back on your word and carry on supporting this club in the bottom tier of English football against Aldershot on a cold Tuesday night?

    Support your local club don’t just follow a bigger one.

    p.s. A very well written blog by Mark Jones!

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