Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic face probably the most important four days in the history of the club starting today when they face Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in the final of the FA Cup.

Wigan Athletic

Next Tuesday they have a crucial away game at Arsenal at the Emirates where they really need a win or at least a draw to give themselves a fighting chance of retaining their Premier league status with a home game at the DW Stadium against Aston Villa.

This is Wigan's fourth relegation dog-fight in the upper tier of English football since they were promoted to the Premiership in 2005.

Wigan, located on the western outskirts of Manchester, is primarily a rugby town (Wigan share their stadium with Wigan Warriors rugby league team).

The club has to compete for support among a plethora of clubs within 50 miles of their home turf, among them such teams as the two Manchester giants, Everton, Liverpool, Bolton, Blackburn and Burnley, all of which have a longer heritage than the Latics, who were "only" formed in 1932 and entered the old Fourth Division at the end of the 1977-1978 season.

Indeed in the dark days of 1995 Wigan's home gate was a paltry 1,845 when they were relegated from the third to fourth tier. This was to be the nadir of the club, who were then purchased by JJB Sports owner Dave Whelan, who has overseen a meteoric rise in Wigan's fortunes from the old third division to Premiership status.

Since their arrival in the Barclay's Premier League Wigan have confounded expectations and reached the Carling Cup Final (losing 4-0 to Manchester United) and holding their own in mid to lower table until the relegation scares of the last few years.

To survive Wigan have had to sell on their best talent including Winston Palacios to Spurs (now at Stoke), Antonio Valencia to Manchester United, Emile Heskey to Aston Villa (now plying his trade in the Australian A-League), Leighton Baines to Everton and more recently Victor Moses to Chelsea.

Wigan Athletic FC

Indeed, even though Spanish manager and former Wigan player Roberto Martinez is hailed as a bright young coach, often linked with vacancies at the big clubs such as Liverpool and Everton, it is under his guidance that Wigan, who now employ a more "cultured" style than their previous "route one" stuff under Steve Bruce have begun to flirt with relegation despite improving their results against the Premier League's "big" teams.

Wigan's present season got off to a bad start at the DW Stadium when a sloppy first ten minutes cost them two goals (Ivanovic; Lampard, pen) against Chelsea and despite a spirited second half showing, Wigan got nothing from a game, which they really didn't deserve to lose. From then on Wigan have been unable to gain enough points at home to avoid a season-long fight for survival.

Wigan need to tighten up at the back and cut out individual mistakes if they are going to preserve their top flight status in the next week or two, but there is a silver lining - Wigan are guaranteed a place in next season's Europa League.

© Soccerphile.com

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