It was good of you all to send your good wishes to us all and the Wigan boys for our combined visit to Wemberleee.
It was a fantastic day out. It was a real highlight of my outdoor entertainment history. Of course everything is different but it was up there with Glastonbury for fun and friendliness, even though I’ve never been. It was up there with the solo ascent of Annapurna west face I did in one of my dreams. In terms of achievement it was up there with the solo circumnavigation of Mana Island, an island in the Cook Straight in New Zealand in a dangerous southerly with 8 foot waves in our sea kayak; you know how dangerous the Cook Straight can be, don’t you? I’ve heard it referred to as ‘the most dangerous stretch of water in the world’.
And in terms of a football supporter it was the pinnacle of delight.
It was a climax of achievement after seasons of a mix of success and failure, usually the latter but it almost always involved survival, just! Football is a bit like the Mongrel Mob and gang culture. There is so much wrong with it. In fact pretty much everything is wrong with it except that it brings a lot of joy and happiness to a lot of people. I’m sure the reffing is biased. Match fixing maybe rife. It over pays a stack of ‘up yer arse primadonnas’. It has no morals. It puts a strain on marriages. And if I had any morals to stand by, I’d have nothing to do with it. But millions of us I enjoy it. And I suppose there are some people in gangs who just love fighting and living without morals.
Football, as far as the Wigan players are concerned relies on some very good team work and some intricate and magical dancing with a ball at their feet. This is referred to as skill, and would make a member of the Royal ballet look club footed, with plantar fasciitis. Some (2) of the Wigan players are delightfully aesthetically brilliant at this.
We were on our way to Wembley!
From the fans perspective, whether your team wins or not has nothing to do with what happens on the pitch. It is all to do with BELIEVEING and many superstitions. I always wear the same underpants and don’t wash them through the season. This may sound gross, but it is OK. They just come out of their hermetically sealed package in the basement on match days. Because I shower before and after each game it’s ok. It really is. I won’t tell you here that almost every Wigan game can lead to incontinence, occasionally double, either from desperation, or elation, or relief – sometimes all 3 happening in the same game. I think I’ll start next season with a new pair.
You may remember that near Euston Station is a pub called Bree Louise. I have no idea where the name comes from but ‘Bree’ just seems superfluous to requirements. So the first port of call was a visit to Louise, and I like to think she enjoys my company just as much as I like hers, oh, and the beer. I got lost in Louise’s bosom of beer, and it was delightful.
Evidenced based research has proven that it is possible to suffer extreme dehydration whilst watching the game. As a medic will tell you pre-hydration is a perfectly valid therapy. Putting it simply, it is not worth taking the risk. As you know, I am a loner and a bit of social cripple. Louise is tolerant of that. However, on cup final Saturday she had invited a stack of pale blue ManCiteh supporters. I was outnumbered again, but I was actually amongst a lot of fun and jovial company. Their mickey taking was hilariously relentless and they enjoyed taking photos of me in front of various different pies Louise had conjured up for the day. Wigan is more renowned for its pies than its football!! (However, NOW Wigan is more renowned for its football than its pies).
And now for something completely different!! We left wishing each other good luck, them lot saying we’d need a stack of it; and shaking hands. I left saying that getting to Wemberleeee was our cup, we wouldn’t win, there was no chance of that, but I was going to enjoy myself. All I wanted them to do was allow us one goal in the swathe that they were going to pepper like an AK 47 past us. It was going to be a rugby score.
The problem with beer is that it inadvertently develops an appetite, so a curry was required. I actually mean ‘required’. It worked the previous visit for the semi, so it was sure going to work this time and I know that if I hadn’t had the curry, and we’d have lost I would have felt personally responsible for it. I couldn’t carry that burden. It was a blinkin good south Indian curry. Up in Wigan I always have a pint at the Swan and mushy peas and chips from Ray’s chippy. The latter are of dubious quality but we have won on some occasions when I’ve partaken – so it must work.
I kept humming the Stevie Wonder song ‘There is no superstition’ and then thinking how wrong he was. Now I know the guy is a buffoon. There is superstition, and because of me, we won.
With a sense of excited anticipation and fearful of humiliation we displayed a false confidence as we took the Waterloo line to Wembley central. Others displayed their belief with greater conviction than I could. Wigan is the laughing stock of the Premiership. The mood was good. Nobody wanted to spoil a ‘once in a life time experience’.
My nerve conduction time seemed to be getting less and less, and my brain activity was increasing but with single issues. I was thinking I was shaking. Maybe I was in the early stages of a Parkinsonian tremor. All this for a game of football!!
I entered the magnificent and mighty Wemberleeee arena, thousands were already there. Each seat had been given a flag. They fluttered in the sunshine like a new species of butterfly. The Wiganus Winnus Wiganus. It was very pretty.
The teams came out and some glamorous opera singing blond deva felt a need to expose cleavage greater than the local builder’s bum and half a left breast whilst she sang the national anthem. I have no idea why we should save the queen for our gracious team, but the word ‘team’ quite nicely replaces the word ‘queen’ in that drone, and in the circumstances seems a lot more appropriate. She couldn’t save us any way. No one else can.
Many people said that Man Citeh, financed to the hilt by Etihad Airways and whose players on the pitch were valued at £216 million didn’t play well. The truth is that Wigan, who are financed by a wealthy ex footballer who turned to retail after he had his leg broken about 40 years ago in an FA Cup final, played very well and didn’t give the self important self appointing VIPs a chance to get into the game. Wigan’s squad is valued at about £66 million. Ever heard the cliché ‘a level playing field’, the only thing that was level was the pitch itself.
The game has been referred to as one of the best cup finals for many years. The Wigan boys danced and ducked and jinxed their way around the park, frustrating Citeh to a point where they had to resort to fouls and trips. Zabeletta was sent off after a desperate tackle on our ManMcmamamanamamaum. We were unlucky not to get a penalty. But we are Wigan, so there was no chance of that. What did the lip readers think he said?
Up in the terraces we were playing our part. We sang ‘I’m a believer ‘ time and again; we cheered on our Ivory Coast centre forward Aroune Kone, we sang until we were hoarse. The choir, with less training or rehearsal than the Kings Singers sang with all the style and panache of the Vienna Boys Choir. For once, probably because he was on the world stage the ref wasn’t biased. Maloney hit the cross bar, Macmamamamamum had had serious shots on goal, McCarthy dribbled with greater alacrity than our shower, and our goal keeper Robles had only needed to make one serious save, so he made it look spectacular by diving the wrong way and saving with his trailing foot. RogerROGEREspinOZA, my M O M, dashed and darted around the turf as if he was a Thonpson Gazelle in the Serengeti being chased by a Cheetah. Paul Scharner who used to be an Austrian but is now a Wiganner showed all his yaers of Austrian experience. Tevez was silenced and so ineffectual he was substituted. We were feeling more buoyant than the titanic, which we feared we would emulate.
What made all this work so well? The players and Manager may have had something to do with it, but I suspect not. It was all the appropriately named beer consumed before kickoff. ‘Black Cat’ who is our Barbadian defender, Emmerson Boyceeeeeeeee; ‘Black Pearl’ for Arouna Kone our attacker; ‘Dream on’ – that’s obvious; ‘We’re in it together’ for solidarity. See, it all worked. Again, more evidenced based research.
Time kicked on and a goal was slowly looking more likely, but it wasn’t happening. Ben Watson who has played 1 full game in 6 months as he has just returned from breaking his leg came on. Shaun Maloney eyed up another inch perfect precision corner kick. It is only the combination of 2 genii who can place a ball in exactly the right square inch of the Wembley airspace onto someone’s moving head without the help of GPS and a United States military tracking system. The skill and accuracy is greater than that of a sidewinder missile being fired by a massive computer system on a 1 metre square coordinate.
(By the way why were the Euro U21s played in Israel but Jordan are not involved, and at skool I was never told that Israel was in Europe). Another thing about football that confuses me.
We were dreading the possibility of extra time, and worst still penalty shoot outs, and on this occasion the term ‘shoot out’ would almost certainly have been relevant to Wigan and anyway, if they had gone in they would have been disallowed.. The reffing is so biased against us that we only had one penalty all season, against Macclesfield!
The now famous corner came across from Maloney, SIR Ben Watson leapt off his recently healed leg, higher than anyone else and with his head pushed the ball diagonally sideways and backwards. Citeh had as much chance as me crying at Mrs Thatcher’s funeral, and in it went.
The under achieving poorly supported Wigan had scored with 3 minutes to go. The place went hysterically wild, with non consensual hugging with strangers going on all over the place. Screams, cheers, punches in the air, tears and more. The spontaneity of the celebration was overwhelming and left the Citeh supporters as stunned as we were, and even more than the mullet.
Wigan, having little grasp of the concept of playing safe struggled to regain possession after kick off and with only seconds of injury time left decided the game wasn’t yet exciting enough so allowed Citeh to head for goal. Don’t you just love Wigan? Fortunately Robles, our goal keeper , realised the folly of this unwarranted excitement first kicked the ball into orbit, and at the next and last goal kick decided that he needed to tweet his Mum, comb his hair, position the ball 4 times and as if that wasn’t enough time wasting he then posed for a photo for his girlfriend. Eventually the ref, quite unfairly, gave him a yellow card. The kick and the game were over.
Wigan have had a bad season. For all but the first 2 months the team had suffered a dreadful run of very significant injuries, mostly to the key defenders. What use is a bike with no wheels, and just as you get the wheels back you get a double puncture, then you repair them and the gears break. Added to that the cup run has meant that Wigan has had the most fixture congested end of season of any club in the league. By the Arsenal game Wigan had played 3 big games in 10 days. Arsenal had not played a game for 10 days. For a club that has a very small and inexperienced squad 4 injuries is significant. For Manure, Gooners, Citeh, Chelski and the Spurs losing 11 players wouldn’t matter. Again we see that the only level playing field in the prem is at the DW when there is no football being played. But I’m not bitter!!
When Wigan finally got relegated my friend at work said ‘it was going to happen, Wigan are too small for the prem, they don’t want to lose Newcastle or Sunderland’. He’s right. Don’t let anyone try to convince me that bad reffing calls even themselves out in the end, just like telling a child that ‘it will all come good in the end’; so, so reassuring!! It is as true as saying Tony Bliar was right to invade Iraq. Believe it if you want. But you are wrong. If that theory was right we would have won all of our last 5 games on the basis that we wouldn’t have had 1 call against us, and all the opposing teams’ goals were disallowed.
So there you go, Wigan make history. The first team to win the FA cup and be relegated. The only team on that memorable Saturday to score in the 90th minute. The winning goal scored by a recovered cripple. The crowd partied when they lost to Villa despite being relegated. Evidence based research proves that beer helps win matches. Against all odds and the best efforts of the FA, and the refs – Wigan were in the Prem for 8 consecutive years, which is longer than Newcastle, Sunderland, West Brom, Aston Villa, Fulham, and in fact everybody except Manure, Citeh, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelski and the Spurs. Not bad I reckon.
So, we won the cup, we got relegated and to my wife’s delight the season is over, in her eyes not soon enough and the inter-season break isn’t long enough. There was a hint in her reply when I said, ‘well, the good news for you is the season is over’, to which the emphatic retort with feeling was ‘Yes, but it’s only a month’. She thinks I’m obsessed and maybe I am, but my defence is that it is a lot less harmful than some obsessions she may have (chocolate) and I experience enjoyment. Before the argument starts I blame it on my aspergers.
However, following Wigan has done nothing for my chronic generalised anxiety disorder, which, on a weekly basis becomes ‘acute – on – chronic’. It has also not improved her CFD – chronic Frustration disorder. What to do?
What to do? I’ll have to work out a more substantial coping strategy for next season, especially as some of the games are in Europe, and even though Israel is not in Europe, I won’t be going to Tel Aviv.
So there you go, I hope that describes a bit about my day out to the ‘Church of the Latic Day Saints’ where the devil incarnate dressed in Black (the ref) wasn’t the usual demon we have become accustomed to. The good Lord was in the Royal Box looking down on Jesus and his disciples. We enjoyed a good sing song. A miracle happened. And the sun shone down onto the righteous for a few minutes at the end. The Church of the Latic day Saints
So again I am delighted the Olympics were held here. A phenomenal amount of money was wasted on now redundant stadia and the infamous torch relay. But what we did get was another cliché to add to the lexicon. After every medal ceremony the athlete would be asked ‘and how does it feel’. The unpredictable reply was ‘it’s a once in a life time experience’. And so was WIGAN WINNING THE FA CUP.
Sadly that’s where it all ended; the rest, as they say is history, and the tired legs just couldn’t perform another miracle 3 days later at the Club bank rolled by another Middle Eastern Airline … Emirates.
What else will I remember about 11 May 2013? Returning to Louise to enjoy her beautiful beer. I walked in and was confronted with an ocean of pale blue. In fear of my life I was about to turn tale and leg it, faster than Beasajour could run down the spine of Patagonia. There was no need. Simply for supporting Wigan and beating MCFC to win the FA Cup we got a standing ovation. Even the policeman at Coventry railways station was more positive than Roberto is when he takes the positives. Thanks Folks.