The fight for Premier League survival takes a break for Wigan Athletic, as they approach the biggest cup game they’ve faced since the journey to the League Cup final in 2006. The Latics first visit to the new Wembley comes on Saturday with a meeting against Millwall in the FA Cup semi-finals.
Wigan will start as favourites, and have performed professionally throughout the competition. Tense victories against Bournemouth in a replay, and non-league Macclesfield in the early rounds, were preceded by handsome victories over Huddersfield and Everton to reach this stage.
While it is a team effort to make the semi-finals, there have been some outstanding performances from individuals along the way. The goals of Jordi Gomez saved them in January, and took Roberto Martinez’s side past obstacles many felt they could have tripped up on.
Gomez has found the target in three of the four rounds, and whilst Arouna Kone’s quality hasn’t been a surprise, Callum McManaman has used the FA Cup to breakthrough into the starting XI on a regular basis, and goalkeeper Joel has done so well he has managed to displace Ali Al-Habsi as regular first choice in goal.
The club have rarely been out of the headlines of late and on Wednesday, news came through that 10,000 of their allocated tickets had not been sold.
This is disappointing for many football fans to hear. Whilst it could indicate the prices of tickets in modern day football being out of control, it is the semi-final of the FA Cup. Wigan could be back at Wembley for the final itself, but there is no guarantee that they will win on Saturday. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity that hasn’t been snapped up.
Millwall look to have sold their full 31,000 allocation, so Wigan supporters will be outnumbered by the Lions fans. It will be interesting to see how much fan power has an impact on the first semi-final of the weekend.
Owner Dave Whelan has also led the calls for football to pay its tributes to Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday, aged 87 after a lengthy battle with ill health.
Whelan, along with Reading chairman Sir John Madjeski believes all grounds should hold a one-minute silence to remember the former Conservative leader, who led the country from 1979 to 1990.
Thatcher’s stance on several issues did promote controversy. There are those who supported her ideology, and others who disagreed with most of her principles. It has to be said that she wasn’t a great fan of football, and there are some who feel she did little to help the game after the disasters of the 1980s at Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough.
Whelan has his views, and the common ground should be for all players to pay their respect at the semi-finals by wearing a black armband. That would show better respect for the Iron Lady, than hold a silence which has a fair chance of being interrupted by some supporters.
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