12th Man – The greatest of great escapes?

David Unsworth

David Unsworth scored the winning penalty to stave off relegation in 2007

Latics look like making a quick return to the third tier of English football yet there is still a slim chance that they could survive.

They will need to win both their games against play-off contenders Reading and Leeds United plus Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers will need to lose both of their games. Unlikely to say the least, but crazier things have happened in the past.

Latics can take inspiration from another Latics – Oldham Athletic in 1993. In the inaugural Premier League season, Oldham produced an incredible three game sequence to avoid relegation. When Crystal Palace won on the penultimate Saturday, they were so nearly safe.

With an eight-point gap and an inferior goal difference, Oldham needed snookers. First, they won at Aston Villa to hand the title to Manchester United and keep their own race alive.

Then they beat Liverpool and coupled with Palace’s goalless draw at Manchester City, it went to the last day. Oldham had to win and the Eagles had to lose, as well as suffer a swing in the goal difference.

Amazingly Oldham beat Southampton 4-3 at Boundary Park, while Palace were on the end of a 3-0 loss at Arsenal.

Wigan have been involved in many great escapes in the past, but perhaps one of the most contentious was when they and West Ham survived on the final day of the 2006/07 season.

West Ham looked doomed to relegation with four games remaining but in Carlos Tevez, they had a striker who made all the difference to their fortunes.

Tevez was the catalyst to the Hammers winning each of their last four games to avoid the drop, most spectacularly with the winner at Champions Manchester United on the final day of the season.

However, that was only half the story. Tevez had been signed from a third-party owner along with compatriot Javier Mascherano, and thus his registration was not valid.

West Ham somehow escaped with a £5.5 million fine for fielding an ineligible player, but no points deduction.

Latics had gone into the final game without a win in eleven games and looking likely to be relegated from the top division. But their nail-biting 2-1 victory at relegation rivals Sheffield United was enough to keep them up. This in turn meant that Sheffield United were relegated.

The Blades would later be awarded £30 million in compensation by West Ham, but they have never returned to the Premier League since that fateful May afternoon.

One of the most memorable final day moments was when Carlisle United were facing the prospect of dropping out of the Football League in 1999.

Drawing 1-1 at home to mid-table Plymouth, they were going down and Scarborough were staying up. As the game went into added time, goalkeeper Jimmy Glass was sent up for a corner in an act of pure desperation. What happened next is the stuff of legend.

The ball bounced around the box before Glass pounced to fire into the net and spark incredible scenes to keep Carlisle up. Surprisingly, Glass never played another game for the club but his name lives on in the annals of football’s most famous moments.

Latics’ fans can only hope and pray for a similarly exciting end to the season.
Graham Barrow must set out his stall to win at Reading tomorrow and hope that the other results go his way, so that it goes to the final game against Leeds United and maybe another dramatic finale.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 28th April 2017.

About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Carlisle United, Championship, David Unsworth, Jimmy Glass, Leeds United, Oldham Athletic, Reading, Sheffield United, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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