Somehow, they always get out. Somehow they always beat the odds. Somehow, it appears to be happening again.
After seven seasons in the Premier League, Wigan are still there, and are intent on hanging on to what they have. Their shock 1-0 victory of league leaders Manchester United on Wednesday has not only given them the belief that an eighth season in the top flight can be achieved, but it has given that hope the substance to back it up.
But for some reason, many football fans will be dissapointed if Wigan stay up. Many fans believe that this so called ‘Rugby town’ don’t deserve their Premier League status. One thing the Latics don’t deserve is this treatment from neutrals.
Many of these fans also constantly bemoan the influx of foreign ownership at top English clubs. In a world dominated by owners from lands afar and huge amounts of debt, the relationship between chairman and manager of Wigan has stayed strong – a rare case might it be added. Wigan have set a glowing example to the Premier League. Just ask the likes of Blackburn, whether they would rather have their club run in England or India? Ask Birmingham City fans the impact of Carson Yeung on the club, or supporters of Portsmouth who are not only on the brink of going into administration, but being run out of existence entirely. Dave Whelan has provided the English elite with a breath of fresh air on how to run a football club.
It may take the Latics a whole season to earn the revenue of the likes of Manchester United or Arsenal do after a single game. But the old fashioned salary cap has kept Wigan at a healthy and competitive level. Their entire first team line-up on Wednesday cost less than Dimitar Berbatov, a player who was not even included in United’s first team squad. Yet they are still there, still plugging away in the richest league in the world.
The character of the club has been retained throughout an arduous season. Roberto Martinez was dignfied after being robbed of a point or maybe even three at Stamford Bridge last week. And Dave Whelan has always backed his manager during difficult periods. When the Spaniard took over as manager in 2009, Whelan made a promise that he would not be sacked even if the club were relegated. Loyalty. Last summer when Aston Villa came sniffing for Martinez, that loyalty was repaid with Martinez reaffirming his commitment to the Wigan cause. An admirable approach which is no longer seen in the game, Wigan should be applauded.
Much more to Wigan and their managers defence, the 38-year-old has kept the side up for the last two seasons – but has refused to change his philosophy. Wigan pass the ball nicely under Martinez, and credit from outside of the club is either non-existent or minimal.
If anyone praises Wigan, it is usually the relationship of Whelan and Martinez which is most applauded. But the players have to take a lot of praise as well. They are written off year upon year, and still stay strong together to provide the results for the manager, chairman and the fans. The good relationship at the top is emphasised by the players willingness and desire to get the results.
Now, after seven seasons and astonishingly two escapes from relegation on the last day of the season, Wigan must reproduce some of that spirit and endeavour. It is hard to keep any sort of attention when you have Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton as close neighbours. People wonder why Wigan don’t have a huge fanbase, and this is one of the reasons why.
They might not be able to sell out their home games, and they might not fill their capacity every week – if ever. But Wigan deserve to stay in the Premier League. The club is built on some excellent values, and their faith in these values should be rewarded with a lengthy top flight stay. Many will still disagree and argue that they don’t deserve their status, after all, they have been trounced in historic fashion in the past, 9-1 at Spurs and 8-0 at Chelsea in recent years. But their character to bounce back from criticism outside the club and poor results is extremely admirable.
Despite their shoddy defending at times and their lack of supporters, they are a credit to the English game. Long may their top flight status remain.