Isn’t the FA Cup a wonderful competition?
This season 736 teams entered, teams like Bamber Bridge and Mossley fight it out in the preliminary rounds before the qualifying rounds even start. There are a total of 14 rounds in the competition – six qualifying rounds, followed by six “proper”, plus the semi-finals and the final. Yet only 43 different teams have won the cup since it was founded in 1871.
When I started supporting Latics they were a non-league team and had to win through the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup. The prospect of coming up against a football league team in the first round was always an exciting prospect. Wigan were renowned for producing FA Cup shocks and defeating their so-called ‘betters’.
Back in 1970/71 they had a historic FA Cup run which began in the fourth qualifying round against Skelmersdale United. In the first round proper they overcame South Shields before defeating Peterborough United in the second round in front of 17,180 at Springfield Park.
Wigan drew Manchester City in the third round at Maine Road. The crowd of 46,212 was City’s highest crowd of the season. They gave their illustrious neighbours a major fright but City escaped with a 1-0 win after Latics goalkeeper Dennis Reeves split his boot from a goal kick and this allowed City to score.
Latics became a Football League team in 1978 and went on to produce some significant giant killings. In 1980 they knocked Chelsea out of the cup with a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge thanks to a Tommy Gore chip.
In 1986/87 they reached the FA Cup quarter-final knocking out second division Hull City and first division Norwich City before unluckily losing to Leeds United.
Of course, Latics greatest day came in the 2013 competition. They went into the FA Cup final as underdogs, but they deserved to defeat Manchester City on the day and make a place for themselves in FA Cup history.
It was a remarkable achievement in the context of the modern game and it will have given hope of FA Cup success to teams throughout the football pyramid.
Bury, our opponents on Saturday have won the FA Cup twice – in 1900 and 1903 – and are one of only 23 teams to win the cup on more than one occasion.
It will be a difficult fixture as the Shakers have already knocked us out of the League Cup and we had to come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Gigg Lane in the league fixture.
The FA Cup is a uniquely exhilarating competition and there will be plenty of desire and commitment as both teams seek to make it through to the next round.
Latics may not go on to win the FA Cup this season, but the competition will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of Wiganers everywhere.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 6th November 2015.