Wigan: Sticking up for the little guy
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?
Posted on 7 Nov 2012, in Premier League and tagged Arouna Kone, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Ben Watson, BPL, Chelsea, EPL, Everton, Fantasy Premier League, feature, FPL, Liverpool, Manchester United, Premier League, Roberto Martinez, tottenham, WAFC, Wigan, Wigan Athletic. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.