Great Wigan Athletic escapes

Hugo Rodallega cebrates the winner

Hugo Rodallega celebrates the winner at Stoke City on the last day of the 2010/11 season

Last Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Blackpool has revived hopes that Wigan can avoid the drop to League One. Latics are in deep trouble, nine points from safety with only twelve games remaining, but over the years they have managed some great escapes from the relegation zone.

In the 1988/89 season Latics were in the Third Division (now League One) and for most of the season they looked like serious relegation candidates. They remained close to the bottom four for much of the season.

But when the manager Ray Mathias was sacked in early March he was replaced by Chief Executive and former manager Brian Hamilton with Tommy Cavanagh appointed as his assistant.

Hamilton was responsible for a major upturn in form and he helped to secure Wigan’s place in the division. He managed to convince key players Joe Parkinson and Alan Johnson to sign new contracts at a time when if they had left, Latics would probably have been relegated.

Wigan were one of six teams embroiled in the scrap to avoid the four relegation places, but they lost only one of their last 12 League games winning six and drawing five and finished in 17th place.

In more recent times Latics have fought some amazing battles against relegation from the Premier League.

Paul Jewell’s team went into the final game of the 2006/07 season without a win in eleven games and looking likely to be relegated from the top division. Latics knew that only victory at relegation rivals Sheffield United would be enough to keep them up.

It was a relentless battle with both teams desperate for the victory. Latics took the lead through a well taken Paul Scharner low drive but United equalised through a John Stead header.

Latics lost captain Arjan de Zeeuw through injury and later striker Lee McCulloch to a red card, but they won a penalty that was converted by former Blade David Unsworth to lead 2-1.

The tide of United pressure after McCulloch’s sending off was seemingly endless, with one effort by Danny Webber hitting the post and rolling agonisingly along the Wigan goal line.

Centre forward Emile Heskey was driven further and further back into defence and was to play a major role in Wigan’s successful rearguard action.

Latics had survived but it was a hard result to take for Sheffield United, as West Ham, who had fielded an ineligible player Carlos Tevez, won at Manchester United and the Blades were relegated to the Championship.

It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff at the end of the 2010/11 season as Latics had to win their final two games of the season to survive. It was all going wrong when they were 2-0 down at half time to relegation rivals West Ham in their penultimate game.

The roller coaster encounter saw Latics come back and win 3-2 in the 94th minute with a modern-day Roy Race that was Charles N’Zogbia getting the last gasp winner.

Wigan went to Stoke City on the last day of the season knowing that they would need to win and other results to go their way if they were to stay up.

With 13 minutes remaining they were in the relegation zone, but a Manchester United goal against Blackpool and then Hugo Rodallega’s 78th minute headed goal made them safe.

Cue wild celebrations with Roberto Martinez being bounced in the air by the players and then throwing his lucky jacket to the fans, wallet included! Dave Whelan showered in champagne by Hugo and then warmly embraced by Roberto.

The 2011/12 season ended in rather bizarre circumstances as Wigan secured an eighth season in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory and in the process relegated Blackburn Rovers. When Rovers’ controversial Indian owners Venkys took over in 2010 they did not appreciate that the club could be relegated.

In the strange surroundings of a hostile home crowd chanting for the removal of the owner’s and manager Steve Kean, Wigan had to maintain their concentration and focus on the crucial task in hand.

The prospect of a mass pitch invasion from the protesters was always a possibility and one Rovers fan did get on the pitch and in a rather futile gesture throw his season ticket towards the beleaguered Kean, but the ticket only ended up near Roberto Martinez.

Even the bizarre sight of a chicken dressed in Rovers’ colours entering the pitch in Ali Al-Habsi’s goalmouth could not distract Wigan from achieving an historic result.

Wigan had completed the season winning six of their last eight matches, beating Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle in the process. Some of Wigan’s play during this run was a joy to watch and more in keeping with a top four club than a team fighting against relegation.

Latics will have to pull out all the stops if they are survive this season, but they’ve done it before and they could do it again.

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About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Brian Hamilton, Charles N'Zogbia, David Unsworth, Hugo Rodallega, Paul Jewell, Paul Scharner, Ray Mathias, Roberto Martinez, Wigan Athletic and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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