Latics will be in the FA Cup spotlight tonight as they come up against non-league AFC Fylde in front of the BBC TV cameras. Most neutrals will be hoping for a shock result as the 2013 winners will be regarded as a massive scalp for a club who were only formed in the 2008/09 season after they changed their name from Kirkham and Wesham.
AFC Fylde have made swift progress from the North West Counties League and are currently 16th in the National League after making six quick promotions.
Wealthy businessman David Haythornthwaite, who has twice tried to buy Blackpool, has bankrolled the club during this period. Many fans of other non-league clubs are inevitably envious of Fylde’s resources and regard them as wealthy upstarts.
Haythornthwaite confidently stated his intention to achieve league status by 2022 – Fylde have had this printed on their shirts – but the club is way ahead of that schedule as they are now just one promotion away from the Football League.
The Coasters are in very good form having won six of their last seven games in all competitions. The current manager is former Tranmere Rovers defender Dave Challinor, who has achieved a remarkable three promotions in his four years in charge.
Latics will have to contend with the National League’s leading goalscorer Danny Rowe who has so far netted 11 times this season.
They have an impressive purpose-built 6,000 capacity Mill Farm Stadium and this week they installed a protective tent over the pitch and produced a high-drama promotional video.
It looks as though no stone will be left unturned in an attempt to reach the third round. They are determined to put on a show, so Latics will have to be at their best if they are to avoid an upset.
Paul Cook will certainly not want to be on the end of an FA Cup shock. During Paul Jewell’s tenure as manager, they infamously went out to non-league Canvey Island in the first round in 2001.
Latics were having a difficult time in the Second Division at the time and their cause wasn’t helped when they had Tony Dinning sent off shortly before half-time and with nine minutes left when Lee Ashcroft saw red for a second bookable offence.
The Essex Islanders subsequently scored the winner in the 88th minute as Latics crashed out of the cup.
A more encouraging omen for Latics against non-league opposition was when they overcame Macclesfield Town with a Jordi Gomez penalty to reach the fifth round and subsequently went on to lift the famous trophy in 2013.
Cook is a big fan of the FA Cup and I expect him to field a strong side in front of the TV cameras. The team is in a good vein of form and there is no reason to tamper too much with the successful formula.
He has expressed his desire to do well in the competition and he will be well aware of the positive benefits it can have on the club’s upward momentum.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 1st December 2017.