Wigan Athletics’ Houdini act has ensured that they remain the only club in the Premier League who have never been relegated from the top flight of English Football. A statistical quirk, true, but this admirable status seemed destined to end little over a week ago.
Wigan had spent most of the season in the bottom three. They started the year in terrible fashion, losing their first two games, shipping ten goals in the process, but they saved their best form till the end of the season and two remarkable results saved their season.
Before their game against West Ham, Wigan were on the brink of the drop and by half time, facing a two nil deficit, their chances of survival had been written off by all bar the most diehard fan. However an epic fight back which saw the Lactics’ turn their fortunes around; scoring 3 second half goals to claim an unlikely victory, their winner coming deep into injury time.
The result against the Hammers ensured that Wigan were still in with a shout of staying up on ‘Survival Sunday’. Roberto Martinez and his side knew that their best chance was to win the game against Stoke and cross their fingers and hope that their rival’s results would be favourable for the Lactics’ cause.
Wigan could, and maybe should of been out of the game by half time but Stoke were wasteful, but with 15 minutes left to play it was still nil-nil. As time ran out the score line still meant Wigan were in the relegation zone, but Hugo Rodallega rose to score the first and only goal of the game.
It was a remarkable turnaround for a club that had not won back-to-back matches in the league all year. Their best form came at the business end of the season and it was enough to survive, just.
A delighted, yet drained Roberto Martinez spoke after the game; “It’s been a real rollercoaster of emotions, and now we can savour the good moments of football that we have played this campaign…We haven’t chosen the easy route but it’s a great feeling because we’ve been written off many times and we knew the talent we had.
“We were 2-0 down against West Ham and we needed a reaction and people with real responsibility.
“At the end of the season I feel we deserved to stay in the Premier League. We played some fantastic football and the players got their reward for that.
“It’s been an amazing season in the Premier League, the most competitive, and it just shows you why it’s the best league in the world…Somebody has to go down, obviously, but there were no bad teams.”
Martinez believes in playing good football, and will hope he can keep hold of the nucleus of his squad. The Spaniard hopes his young side will overcome their inconstancy and save themselves from the clutches of the relegation battle next season.