Head says Citeh, heart says Wigan

John McCormick: on a mild and bitter day
John McCormick: on a mild and bitter day

It’s a Friday evening during the football season , but here in the Northwest, from where two teams will shortly compete for the most famous knockout trophy in the world, things now seem very muted. What’s it like in the Northeast, where two teams have a really serious weekend coming up?

It’s an FA cup final weekend but not a proper one. How can it be? The league hasn’t finished. There will be Premiership games on the Sunday. The final itself kicks off at 5.15 on Saturday, to suit God knows who, presumably not the thousands of fans who will struggle to get back to Greater Manchester. Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world and bugger the poor supporters, as ABBA could have written.

Of course, it’s not just the timing of the final and the continuance of the Premier league. The Press and TV in the Northwest this week has been full of one manager’s resignation and another’s appointment, not long after covering a Merseyside derby which included a legendary player’s almost last appearance. It’s only now that the TV down here has turned to Wigan and Man City, and it feels quite exhausted in doing so, as if football has been done to death, which maybe it has.

Even so, I’ve managed to pick up a bit of excitement on telleh. I’ve watched Wigan players catching the train to London and seen archive footage of Dave Whelan breaking a leg followed by the man himself speaking about leading Wigan out at Wembley. There have been reporters outside the DW stadium, where police smile and the stewards are friendly, and the Etihad, where I’ve never been even though I helped pay for it (and so did every other taxpayer). But when it came to fans in the pub (not a pie in sight) singing along to a specially written song I gave up ideas of going off to enjoy the atmosphere in Wigan tomorrow.

So I’ll probably spend this Saturday like many other cup final Saturdays since 1973. Keeping one eye on the game but not really all that interested in the result. It won’t make any difference to me who wins, unless something happens which helps Sunderland’s cause. And I really do not wish anyone ill. Another broken leg is the last thing I want.

Which makes things tricky, doesn’t it. Wigan winning could drain their emotion and wreck their chances on Tuesday. Wigan losing could drain their emotion and wreck their chances on Tuesday. Wigan could be so buoyed up by a win they blow Arse and Villa out of the water and… … I could go on but I won’t. You’re reading this, so you’re doing it for yourself anyway. You don’t need me to go on on your behalf.

None of that means I don’t have an opinion, or feelings. My head says Citeh, with their cash, will win. But I don’t know anyone related to Citeh, and even though my taxes helped fit out the Etihad I have no link to the club. That’s not the case with Wigan. There’s a link. It’s tenuous but no less real for that. My former colleague Keith Trencher, a stalwart Wigan fan, told me he was the fourth official at Springfield Park for the mud slide game.

As I retired Keith gave me a present, a football biography – “Mild and Bitter were the days”, by Ken Barlow. It’s the 1970 diary of a teenager who grew up supporting Wigan when they were in the Cheshire League, which they left to become founding members of the NPL. From my reading of it I believe one may have taught the other, although I won’t say which is which. Since then Wigan, founded in 1932, have reached the Premiership, where they play attractive football on a limited budget, and will now appear in an FA cup final. Don’t you want a club like that to succeed? I do.

I want Sunderland to stay up. If that means Wigan have to go down so be it. But best wishes go from an underdog of forty years ago to Dave Whelan, Roberto Martinez and Keith Trencher, and to Ken Barlow, who bunked off school to watch snow being cleared from the pitch. I hope you have a brilliant day and that we meet again in the premiership next season

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9 thoughts on “Head says Citeh, heart says Wigan”

  1. I’m far from convinced that Johnson is better than McManaman, Ian as there is very little evidence on the past 12 months to support that view. Wigan have 4/5 players that would be great acquisitions to a lot of squads in the PL. I would take Maloney in a heart beat. Espinoza had a good game yesterday and was outstanding mid week against Swansea.

    We could do a lot worse than Al-Habsi if Mignolet was to leave in the summer, and Figueroa could be a real solution to the perennial left back problem.

  2. One more thought, – if Wigan go down I can see Mcmanaman being transfered up. What a prospect. That game just put £4m on his price. I was thinking we’d go in and sign him if it wasn’t for the fact that we have someone slightly better in Johnson.

  3. Well, Wigan simply wanted it more. City didn’t turn up. Big stars with bigger pay cheques didn’t have the passion.

    Alarm bells are ringing for me if they play like that v Arsenal. Even one point there and the final day of the season looks nerve wracking for a few teams because I think they can beat Aston Villa.
    We need at LEAST one point v the Saints.

    And if I was a Mags fan right now I’d be feeling even more nervous.

  4. Just to add that it’s a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Cup Final as much as that one. Well done to Wigan, Hope that Salut’s old friend Bernard Ramsdale and his family have been wallowing in the glory of it. It really was marvellous.

  5. John, The Osmonds “Crazy Horses” was the 70s mate. 1973 to be precise. I don’t think they were talking about the late Emlyn Hughes though.

    Just heard the America song on the radio the other day for the first time in ages. “In the Bigg Market they can’t remember your name, when there’s a thick Mag punching a horse with no shame.”

    They used to say that the 60s really happened in the 70s. Clearly true in your house 🙂

    • They also say if you can remember the sixties you weren’t part of it. I did think the Osmonds might have been 70s but what the hell….

      And when it comes to forgetting, there’s not much to remember since August. Such is an SAFCsupporter’s lot

  6. Thanks but I’m happier with the sixties, e.g:

    Petula Clark, “downtown”
    The Osmonds, “crazy horses”

    Not to mention The Small faces and Itchycoo Park:
    “Over the Bridge of Sighs
    To rest my eyes in shades of green
    Under Dreaming Spires
    To Itchycoo Park, that’s where I’ve been

    What did you do there? – I sat high
    What did you see there? – Watched the Mags cry
    But why the tears there? – I’ll tell you why – yyyyy
    ‘cos we’ve got Sessegnon, and Vaughan and John-son
    they play so beautifu-ul….”

    The only 1970s hit I can think of is
    America “a horse with no name”,
    or after it was punched, “a horse with no mane”

  7. Ian said “It gets real interesting if Newcastle lose v QPR.”

    I think you mean “when Newcastle lose v QPR” Ian. The way things have turned out at the bottom of the table over the last 2 to 3 weeks there are probably still a few twists and turns before it’s all done.

    Going back to John’s original piece, this must be the first time I’ve seen Abba quoted in a football piece. There could be a challenge coming for you John, which is to include some reference to 1970’s pop acts in future articles.

    Let’s hope Danny Graham can find his “Tiiger Feet” against Southampton tomorrow. Otherwise it might be PDC’s “Waterloo.”

    It’s alright lads. I’ll get me coat……………………………

  8. Wigan are going to be busier than a barrel full of monkeys against City.
    Hopefully they’ll get tired and lose heavily at Arsenal. But they’ll beat Aston Villa I feel.
    It gets real interesting if Newcastle lose v QPR.

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