For longer than I can remember, Wigan Athletic have had a special relationship with Man City that even George Bush and Tony Blair might recognise as a ‘friendship’. You see, it may be slightly off the radar to newer Latics fans (such as I, in fact), but the Blues have always been there to lend a hand where it’s been needed.
The first competitive game between Man City and a Wigan side was in 1898, when newly-formed Wigan County — the earliest attempt at establishing a football club in the town — unluckily lost 1-0 in an FA Cup Round One match.
As far as Wigan Athletic goes, the on-again, off-again relationship between the two towns can be traced back as far as 1966 when City visited Wigan for the grand opening of newly-installed floodlights at Springfield Park. After a close-fought FA Cup tie at Maine Road in 1971, the Latics would face their Manchester neighbours once more during the Seventies: an illustrious friendly at Springfield Park just one year before Wigan’s inception to the Football League. The rest, as they say, is history, and Manchester City played a big part in making it so.
It wasn’t until the late Nineties that Wigan-City contests became something of a semi-regular occurrence. Perhaps the most memorable of these was a Division 2 playoff match – the final ever game to be played at Springfield Park, which ended in a creditable 1-1 draw. Though Wigan would ultimately lose out in the two-legged tie, they would gain a modicum of revenge by beating City 1-0 in a 2002 Worthington Cup match thanks to a 35th minute Neil Roberts volley.
And that pretty much brings us up-to-date in the potted history of notable Latics-City contests. Monday night’s game sees perhaps the strongest Man City side of recent times take on a club in transition as the Roberto Martinez-led Latics pass and bumble their way to (hopefully) Premier League safety. City’s own Roberto M is looking to push for a Champions League place in what looks to be a competitive end-of-season run-in.
Right, that’s the (shamelessly biased) Wigan perspective. What we need at this point is an expert. Not just an expert, but a Manchester City expert; a lifelong supporter and professional Man United hater. Well, his blog’s URL states that Man U ruined him, so he must be. Paul Doleman of Bert Trautmann’s Neck has very kindly agreed to be interviewed on topics including Monday’s match, his side’s prospects for the season and a few other things too.
JWAW: How long have you been supporting Man City, and what are your favourite/abiding memories of your time as a fan?
Paul: My Mum and Dad signed me up for City Junior Blues before I was born, so there’s never been a time I can remember not supporting City. I was born in Longsight and most kids in our street were City fans.
My first City Game was in the 60s and away (sort of), just down the road at Edgeley Park, where City played Stockport County and I could barely see over the concrete wall at the edge of the pitch. My Mum lifted me up and a nice copper gave me a wink and turned a blind eye to me dangling my legs over the top of it.
I remember Jonny Price, a County winger, dramatically rolling around as I think Tommy Booth put in a crunching tackle. Hearing thousands of travelling City fans singing throughout the game and seeing players like Franny Lee, Colin Bell and Mike Sumberbee up close was pure magic and I spent the next weeks nagging my mum for a Franny Lee poster and to go to Maine Road.
That Christmas the poster was up in my bedroom and I saw City play Everton at Maine Road. My cousin tried to persuade me to support a certain red team, tempting me with a George Best card, but I forcefully declined and so the roller coaster started – it’s definitely on the up now.
So many memories, highs and lows in supporting City, the 76 League Cup final and Dennis Tueart’s overhead goal, Dickov and the emotion of our play off and promotion from League 1, Bananamania, a new manager every week at times and always living in the shadows of illustrious neighbours.
Would you say you’re satisfied with the team’s performance this season, and do you remain optimistic about grabbing that Champions League spot?
Very happy, can’t believe things are happening so quickly, a squad of stars, good cup runs and a realistic chance of the Champions League, which I honestly think, given our run in we’ll clinch, but won’t be upset if we don’t. I’m not one of the foamers who call for the manager’s head when things get tough.
"Why'd you sack me, boss? I was doing a brilliant job..."
Hughes or Mancini?
I’m just behind whoever is in charge. I felt Hughes should have been given more time and now hope that we stick with a manager for 3 seasons with the full support of the owners. Mancini is a proven winner and has what it takes to build a real solid team – I want him to have a longer shot than Hughes, but with so much money behind the club I fear he might be another Avram Grant if we don’t get 4th spot.
What made you take up blogging about City? Were you influenced by fanzines/fan sites/forums/whatever to set up your own site?
I always used to read Chips n Gravy and King of the Kippax outside Maine Road so those had some influence, but I guess we’re all referees, we’re all managers and everyone one of us has kicked a ball. Football is a game of passion and opinion and I thought I’d share them on the blog rather than forums.
Are you confident of a win against Wigan? Who do you see as the key men for Monday’s clash?
Reasonably confident as we have only lost once at Eastlands in 12 months, but unfortunately that was a few days ago to Everton so perhaps confidence has been knocked.
Experience tells me that with City anything can happen and Wigan are well organized and play football. We should have enough with Tevez, Bellamy, Johnson and Barry and we really have to win it to continue a serious quest for 4th – so maybe that desire will be enough.
Wayne Rooney: key man
Couple of wild cards… Any thoughts on this summer’s World Cup, and are you in favour of the introduction of goal line technology?
It so easy to criticize the man in the middle, I know I was screaming at Peter Walton on Wednesday night, it really is a thankless task, but standards don’t seem to be getting any better, so if a piece of technology helps a few critical goal mouth decisions then I’m for it.
For the World Cup, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Rooney stays fit, if he does then we should reach the quarter finals or beyond. I’d love to see Adam Johnson get a late call up and I guess his record means Crouch should be in there.
Guess we’ll lose on penalties somewhere, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Thanks for the invite and all the best to the Latics for the rest of the season.
Cheers, Paul. Good luck for Monday, but not too much.