Well, what do you say after an afternoon like that? As little as possible, hopefully, which is why I’ll keep this assessment of the encounter at Stamford Bridge relatively brief.
After all, there isn’t really that much to talk about in the way of Wigan positives: this was, to all intents and purposes, Chelsea’s day. I think we’ll leave it at that.
And so it transpired that a season of dizzy heights and demoralising lows (wait, haven’t I used that phrase, like, ten times in the last week?) would run true to form and conclude with one of the latter, another crushing defeat to add to the spankings at White Hart Lane, Fratton Park, Old Trafford and Bloomfield Road. Yep, a real afternoon to completely wipe from your memory with one of those flashy light things out of Men In Black.
In truth, nobody really expected a result in the favour of Wigan. Many in the North West hoped things might go their way, but in the land of Realism you could count those anticipating a draw or Wigan win on one hand. Even though it turned out to be yet another horrible, horrible hammering you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy (well, maybe Preston), there is significantly less shame (though blame might well be a different matter) to be attributed in this particular case. After all, these were the Premier League champions we came up against.
There was some pre-match hope, swiflty extinguished by the impartial Sky Sports pundits. Quick to state the obvious and stamp the mockers on Latics from the off, the ever-alert Glenn Hoddle so kindly reminded us all — as if we needed to be — of WhiteHartLaneGate. Cheers, Glenn. You don’t need to be a faith healer to count up to ten.
But this was a completely different team to the one that turned up on that faithful evening, in many ways a weaker one, but we shall skate over that point. Unfortunately, the result was much the same, and had a tearful (of pain rather than joy, might I add) Didier Drogba not taken so long to find his shooting boots this could have been even worse an afternoon.
Drogba needed not fret, for the waterworks sparked by a small tiff over who should take a penalty were soon wiped away: he went on to score three. Or was it four? My word, it’s too depressing to recount.
The game was effectively killed as a contest the moment that second goal — a Frank Lampard spot-kick — hit the net. A clumsy challenge by Gary Caldwell led to a slightly harsh red card, but then I suppose by the letter of the law he had to be dismissed for his pull back on Lampard. Frustrating, for up to that point Wigan had competed well and actually dominated possession, which looked quite promising for a close contest. With Manchester United on top in their clash with Stoke, you could have forgiven Chelsea for becoming a bit nervous.
No shots on target would come in the first half, however, and Petr Cech might as well have been sunning himself in Dave Whelan’s Barbadian villa (hmm, there’s a collusion-based conspiracy theory if ever I heard one) as he only had to pick up the ball once, maybe twice; Wigan struggled to make any sort of impact in the final third. Chelsea had done their homework and learned that Latics have had trouble breaking down a defence with more than two people in it. Hmm.
Things would unbelievably get much worse in the second half, so if you plan to watch Match of the Day, I suggest you switch it off after about ten minutes. Actually, for the sake of your sanity, I recommend you not tune in at all and go and have a soothing bath instead. The stress isn’t worth reliving.
Anyway, you could predict the outcome of the match as early as the moment Caldwell tugged on Lampard’s shirt – past experience has told us that after conceding a second goal it really is over as a contest, especially, in this case, with a man short. It would have been a tough ask even with eleven men apiece, but against a team like Chelsea and with almost nothing but a place in the starting lineup for the forthcoming pre-season tour at stake, it was a task far, far beyond this transitional Wigan team.
No matter, however. When we look back on this season, we shall only remember the good times: the mind is a wonderful filter like that. Yes, we’ve been unfeasibly bad far too often, almost Sunday League-esque at times, but at least we’re staying up. That’s a lot more than can be said for Burnley, Hull or Portsmouth.