Saturday night should have been an evening remembered for an amazing feat completed by the remarkable footballers of Wigan Athletic. Instead, football’s darker side was pictured again throughout the world by the sight of Millwall fans fighting each other in the closing stages of the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
The idiots, and that’s the politest term that can be used to describe them, overshadowed a fine achievement by Roberto Martinez and his Latics side, who dealt with the Wembley occasion without any problems. It was a professional performance of self-assurance and efficiency, something that has pushed Wigan on throughout their run to the final.
The Lancashire club might not have the dedicated fan appeal, as shown by the empty seats around Wembley for the 5.15pm kick-off, or have world class players – but if there were awards for team play and team spirit, they’d be looking good to finish in the top four.
Martinez has made some smart moves this season, and one of those was to go down the more modern 3-4-3 approach, rather than the 4-4-2 tradition which has become something of an ancient formation of recent times.
The addition of Paul Scharner in the January transfer window on loan from Hamburg SV was a great move for both player and club. Scharner had left the Premier League in the summer, after failing to agree a new deal at West Brom, but his move to the Bundesliga was hindered by injuries and suspension. When Sunderland stalled over a possible swoop in January, Martinez snapped up the former Latics icon on loan until the end of the season.
Scharner has fitted in fantastically, as if he had never left the club he represented so well in the days of Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce. Losing Ivan Ramis in January for the season to a serious ligament injury was a cruel blow, but Scharner has filled the void without any hassle.
It makes you think that if he’s at home at Wigan then a permanent deal can’t be ruled out, especially as the fans love him and Hamburg might not be able to guarantee him regular first-team football.
In Callum McManaman, Wigan have found one of the best young players of the season. McManaman has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent weeks, but has been a revelation in the second half of the campaign, and that is largely down to his performances in the FA Cup.
He is fast, has the ability to scare the living daylights out of right backs across the country, can deliver a good cross, and can score goals too. With Stewart Downing no longer in Roy Hodgson’s plans, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggling to break into the Arsenal side on a regular basis, McManaman has the potential to make the England ranks in the long term.
Wigan will be back at Wembley on May 11 to play Manchester City. They will play the role of underdog, but the underdog can win on the day. Just ask the Wimbledon side from 1988.
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