Manchopper in….Wigan

Result: Wigan Athletic 1-1 Rubin Kazan (UEFA Europa League)

Venue: The Wigan Athletic (DW) Stadium, Thursday 24th October 2013 (8.05pm)

Att: 5,000+

On Tuesday, I saw on twitter Lost Boyos’ Matt Harrison’s open invitation to Wigan Athletic. After slight thought, I decided that I would make the short journey to only my third league ground ever, after Old Trafford and Gigg Lane, albeit the latter is a bit of a cheat, as it was to watch FC United rather than landlords Bury.

So, on Thursday afternoon, I wormed my way out of work at 1pm, to ensure enough time to plan out my journey. I’m a last minute sort. After much researching, I decided that the bus would do on the way, and trains would be used on the return leg. Or, that’s what I hoped….

Grabbing the 22, I reached the Trafford Centre, where I had a 50-minute wait for the 132 SLT service to Wigan. After a mostly untroubled trip, I arrived in the town, and began to pick my way through the town centre, towards the ‘Moon Under Water’ Wetherspoon’s pub, where Matt had informed me he was based. I eventually found the pub, guarded by bouncers, and Matt told me he was sitting upstairs. I went up the stairs, but found only toilets. Not quite the place for a meal, I thought. It transpired however that there was another set at the rear of the pub, and here I found Matt with the remnants of his curry, accompanied by Joe Gibbons, Atherton Collieries publicist, nwcfl columnist (if he remembers!), and blogger. Joe had picked up our tickets earlier in the day, and handed ours out, before we were joined by Danny, er, I never actually learnt his surname….

After a couple of drinks here, and Joe being mocked by the guys on the next table for mentioning ‘programmes’, we set off towards ‘The Anvil’, a small pub, with a welcoming atmosphere which is situated next to the bus station. After a short stay here, where we were entertained by Joe’s stories of despair, we began the short walk towards the D….er, sorry, the Wigan Athletic Stadium, as it has to be known in European competitions.

After cutting down a small back-road, and a footbridge over the canal, the stadium loomed in front of us, and after paying an extra £3 for the night’s programme, we entered the ground through the Springfield (West) Stand. After visiting the public conveniences, the concourses more closely resembled the MEN Arena rather than a football ground.After finding my seat, I also made the acquaintance of Lewis Dunwoody, of in non-league terms, Runcorn Linnets and Town fame.

The DW Stadium is a relatively new ground, that has witnessed the rise of Wigan from a small regional side, to a top-flight force. This sounds like a good time to begin the

History Lesson

Wigan Athletic F.C. were founded as recently as 1932, and played at their original Springfield Park home for 67 years, before moving to the newly constructed JJB Stadium, as it was known, to groundshare with Wigan Warriors RLFC in 1999.

Formed in the aftermath of the winding up of Wigan Borough the previous year, they were the fifth attempt at a Wigan football club, after the demise of Wigan County, Wigan Town and Wigan United as well as borough. Springfield Park, the home of Borough, was purchased for the princely sum of £2,850. They applied for the Cheshire County League, and despite their initial application being turned down, they were soon elected following the resignation pre-season of Manchester Central. Their first game, on 27th August 1932, was played against Port Vale reserves, with the club wearing red and white shirts.

The Latics won their first honours in their second season, finishing champions of the Cheshire League. The following season, the club successfully defended their title, and also entered the FA Cup for the first time, defeating Carlisle United 6-1 in the First Round, a record for the biggest win for a non-league side over a league team in the competition. In 1935-36, they achieved a hat-trick of league titles, and also lifted the Lancashire Junior Cup.

The Second World War came and went, and following the end of hostilities the club adopted their now familiar blue and white strip. However,  they struggled to assemble a competitive side and finished the 46-47 season bottom, and despite their pre-war success, failed to earn re-election, and were replaced by Winsford United. The club then joined the Lancashire Combination for the following season, and won it immediately.In 1950, the club narrowly missed out on election to the Football League to Scunthorpe United, before in 1952, Wigan played Hereford United in an FA Cup tie, in front of 27,526 which is a club record, and also a record for two non-league sides playing at a non-league venue. They won through, being rewarded with an away tie to First Division side Newcastle United. They incredibly held the Magpies to a 2-2 draw at St. James’ Park, before going down valiantly 3-2 in the replay. In 1961, the club rejoined the Cheshire League.

In 1964-65, the club won their first league title since returning to the Cheshire League, with Harry Lyon netting no less than 66 times! The following season, Lyon,  the club’s leading goalscorer, was stretchered off in the 18th minute of an FA Cup game vs Doncaster Rovers with torn ankle ligaments, but returned following treatment and, as legend has it, a swig of whisky, heavily strapped, to score a second-half hat-trick in a 3-1 success. Duringthe 1966-67 season, the first floodlit game was played at Springfield Park, with Crewe Alexandra the visitors, before the lights were officially opened the following week, with the visit of a full strength Manchester City side, who won 4-0. In 1968, the club became founder members of the Northern Premier League.

In the NPL, the club picked up the league title in 1970-71, and once again had the league top scorer in their ranks in 42-goal hitman Geoff Davies. Finally, in 1978, following 34 failed election attempts, including a controversial application to join the Scottish Second Division, Wigan were elected to the Football League. The election duly came about after Wigan finished second to Boston United in the NPL at the end of the 77-78 season. Due to Boston’s ground failing standards, Wigan took full advantage. Up against Southport in the election battle, the two clubs tied in the first round of voting, before the Latics controversially won the second round 29-20.

And so, Wigan’s league campaign began, with a sixth-place finish. Their first league promotion came in 1981-82, saw them move up to Division 3. 10-years followed at this level, which included the club’s first league silverware, the Freight Rover Trophy, in 1984-85. The following year, the club were defeated in the Northern Final of the competition, and finished 4th in the league. This was the last season before the play-offs were introduced, thus Wigan missed out on promotion by just one point. In 1986-87, the club again finished 4th, and took part in the first ever playoffs, losing out to eventual winners Swindon Town. A series of mid-table finishes followed, until 1992-93, when the club suffered their first ever relegation.

1995 saw Dave Whelan take over the club, and within two years had won Division 3. A late change of rule benefitted Wigan, as goals scored was given precedence over goal difference, and so they leapfrogged Fulham on this rule. In 1999, the Football League Trophy was picked up, beating Millwall 1-0 at Wembley. The club also reached the play-offs, but lost 2-1 on aggregate to Manchester City. The following season, the club once again reached the play-offs, this time the final, but lost the last Division Two play-off at the ‘old’ Wembley to Gillingham 3-2. 2000-01 saw further play-off disappointment, under Steve Bruce, who subsequently left the club, for Crystal Palace. Paul Jewell was his replacement. A poor start to his tenure saw Wigan crash out of the FA Cup to Canvey Island in the first round, before in 02-03 the club had a resurgence, reaching the League Cup Quarter-Finals (taking the scalps of Premiership sides West Brom, Man City and Fulham), and winning Division Two, amassing 100 points, suffering just four defeats. In 2004-05, the club confounded all expectations, by beating Reading 3-1 on the final day, to achieve promotion to the Premiership via 2nd place in Division 1.

The club lost their first ever top flight game to champions Chelsea, via Hernan Crespo’s 94th minute strike. Mid-season, Wigan were second in the Premiership! They ended up in 10th place, and lost out in the League Cup final, 4-0, to Manchester United. The club opted to not take part in UEFA’s Intertoto Cup. In 2006-07, a 2-1 win on the last day at Sheffield Utd kept Wigan up at the expense of their hosts, but the following day the club was dealt a blow, as Jewell resigned, with assistant Chris Hutchings taking the reins. In 07-08, Wigan briefly topped the table, before fortunes changed. Hutchings was sacked, and Bruce returned, guiding the club to 14th. 2009-10 saw Bruce again depart, for Sunderland, with Roberto Martinez taking over. They were beaten 9-1 at White Hart Lane by Tottenham Hotspur during this season, a club record league defeat. Three close shaves with relegation followed, including two last day saves, which saw wins over Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers, the latter of whom were relegated. 2012-13 saw both agony and ecstasy, as the club lifted the FA Cup with a late 1-0 win over Manchester City, Ben Watson netting a stoppage time winner, and qualification for the Europa League. But sadly, relegation followed, as did the end of Martinez’ time, as he switched to Everton, with Owen Coyle taking over the hot seat.

So, finally, on to the game. We were sat very close to the neighbouring 15 or so Rubin Kazan fans, who had made the long journey from the Republic of Tartarsan, near Siberia, to tropical Wigan. They were rewarded for their loyalty with an early strike, as striker Aleksandr Prudnikov netted on 14 minutes. This was as good as it got for the Russian emerging giants, as Wigan dominated for most of the remaining 75 minutes, and on 39 minutes, Manchester United loanee Nick Powell struck a thunderous effort past Kazan’s keeper Sergei Ryzhikov. The sides went in level at the break.

Half time consisted of some photos and a read of the programme, as well as discovering none other than Stephen Merchant was sat behind us*,before the second half began. Not much really happened, but what did fell to Wigan, who brought on Marc-Antoine Fortune, and how the Frenchman didn’t keep the three points in Greater Manchester, only he’ll know. First he ended a strong run with a weak effort, struck straight at Ryzhikov, and later saw an effort from point blank range charged down by the Russian goalkeeper. Callum McManaman was also denied late on. Kazan threw on ex-Trabzonspor star Gokdeniz Karadeniz for Prudnikov, and he joined ex-Liverpoll, Rennes and PSG defender Chris Mavinga and France international Yann M’Vila on the pitch, as well as Spanish GIANT Cesar Navas. However, this did little to improve matters, and Scott Carson in the Latics goal was rarely tested, as Kazan would have been happy to escape back to the Federation with a point in their suitcases. Also, after being given the big build up by Lewis, ex-Villareal Mubarak Wakaso made his entrance as a sub, only to have a shocker…..

So, on the way out, a Kazan player made his way over to thank the small band of Russians, one of whom had been thrown out for drinking Budweisers. I know this should happen, but considering the time and expense they had used, surely they could have just had a stern word? Anyway, big respect to the guy who did this (learn something Prem players, Michael Dawson the exception).  Lewis, Matt and myself made our way back to town, as Joe and Danny made their way towards the Kazan player, and after a quick stop-off at a kebab shop for, in my case Chips and Curry, we made our way to the train station, Wallgate, before being told to switch to the other one. This is where we boarded our train back toward Manchester. Lewis got his towards Warrington, and Matt disembarked at Salford Crescent. As I rolled into Deansgate, my connection was already on the other side. I’d like to say a quick sprint enabled me to catch it but, alas, this was not the case, as the b*****d pulled away leaving me looking a square on the platform. A short jog to Oxford Street saw me grab the 86 bus service to Chorlton, where I had to jog up to Stretford. No luck with taxis there so more jogging back to Urmston took place, and by the end my legs.were.done. Good job I’d elected to take my running shoes that night eh?!….

My Wigan Athletic M.o.M.- Ben Watson (8)

My Rubin Kazan M.o.M.- Sergey Ryzhikov (1)


Game:7- Good entertaining game, if lacking in goal threats

Ground:9- Really tidy, nice atmosphere

Programme:9- Really good, and informative, and for £3 you can’t complain

Food:8- Nothing at the ground, but the chips and curry afterwards were fab

Fans:9- Kept up a good atmosphere singing and drumming away for the 90 mins, mention to Kazan’s fans too!

Value For Money:10- £15 entry, £3 for programme, £9 transport, £2 food. Cheap!!

Referee:6- Bit fussy, especially for a German! (or maybe the rating should be nein!….I’ll get my coat…)


Wigan Athletic: 1.Scott Carson, 17.Emmerson Boyce(c),4.Ryan Shotton, 25.Leon Barnett, 3.Stephen Crainey, 8.Ben Watson, 7.Chris McCann, 14.Jordi Gomez, 19.Nick Powell(1), 22.Jean Beausejour, 9.Grant Holt SUBS: 13.Lee Nicholls(GK), 11.James McClean(p), 15.Callum McManaman(p), 16.James McArthur, 18.Roger Espinoza, 24.James Perch, 32.Marc-Antoine Fortune(p) M: Owen Coyle

Rubin Kazan: 1.Sergey Ryzhikov, 2.Oleg Kuzmin, 76.Roman Sharonov, 25.Ivan Marcano, 22.Chris Mavinga, 15.Sergei Kislyak, 90.Yann M’Vila, 10.Dmitri Torbinski, 8.Aleksandr Ryazantsev, 23.Roman Eremenko,  9.Aleksandr Prudnikov(1) SUBS: 31.Aleksei Berezin, 7.Vladislav Kulik, 21.Mubarak Wakaso(p), 44.Cesar Navas(p), 61.Gokdeniz Karadeniz(p), 66.Bebras Natcho, 81.Ruslan Mukhametshin M:Kurban Berdvev

Referees: Florian Meyer(GER), Assistants:  Holger Henschel, Christoph Bornhorst(both GER), Additional Assistants: Bastian Dankert, Robert Hartmann(both GER), 4th Official: Marco Achmuller(GER).

*probably just someone who looked like Stephen Merchant

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